I resumed work on something from a while ago, renewed with energy from my vacation to Spain and Portugal. I knew now what I wanted to do with that iconic "Venus" construction, oh so minimal and cool. Now, I would adorn it to excess by hand-working the surface with bright colors and free shapes derived from nature. Flowers. You must know that those three things, excess, color, and natural forms, shaped my experiences in Spain and opened a way for me to relax my creative process. As a sculptor, inevitably a deal of "design" comes into play when building things; they must have integrity as real objects. But I also want the pleasure of creating with illusion and ornamentation, like when I draw in a sketchbook, creating a picture which may not need semblance to anything real in my vision. Shaping, modifying, without clearly knowing the outcome, without clearly knowing what it is desired to be. Creating with small marks and scribbles the image of something else, as a mirage or a feeling, transient in the mind and to the eye. This is the effort to do this in sculpture.
The construction is sketchy itself. The method is used for parade floats, mardi gras decorations, and the Fallas de Valencia. They’re not meant to be permanent, and they are large and need to be lightweight, cheap, and quick. Build a core armature to the shape of your sculpture of whatever light and impermanent materials you have on-hand; foam, bubble wrap, wire mesh, cardboard, wood, paper.
Begin to cover it with masking tape, layer upon layer, until the shape you want begins to have firmness and integrity. Something not right? Add more paper, packing peanuts, fiberglass insulation, and tape, tape, tape. Keep taping. Then add more tape. Finally, if it still doesn’t quite seem right, add more tape. And then, put a nice smooth finish layer of tape on top. This really works. Have faith. I used at least ten rolls of 60 yard masking tape. To get to this. She’s about 30"x30"x30" which is a large as will fit through a doorway.
Next, prepare quantities of paper mache clay according to the popular way it is done now on the "internets". See: ultimatepapermache.com. There’s no point over thinking this; it has been figured out by very many creative "crafters" and you won’t find a better way, or at least any more well-tested way to do it. It is a strange mix of toilet paper pulp, drywall compound, Elmers glue, flour and linseed oil, and none of these things necessarily dry or cure in the same way, so I don’t know why it should work, but it does. Smear it on over your taped shape, just exactly like frosting a cake. Go in several thin layers, and dry it thoroughly between layers, by using large fans; this makes a big difference in the curing time. I used altogether 16(?) rolls of toilet paper, a gallon of drywall compound, and ¾ gallon of Elmers glue, or many small batches (16+). Take your time, play music, enjoy yourself, explore the details of troweling-on the mush; Spending time working in the studio is why you want to be an artist.
Finally, I guess I’m done. There’s no more soft spots. The material dries hard with a nice texture that looks like stone or cement. Congratulate yourself for not using some awful shit like Bondo or fiberglass like some idiots would do.
I’m ready for the adornment to begin. I had thought of all the ways I could machine cut paper flowers in great quantities until I realized what an opportunity for improvisation and play I’d be missing out on if I didn’t simply cut them out by hand with a pair of scissors, as well as free handing the drawing of the flower shapes in many varieties.
The choice of colors, was for me, as usual, a challenge. I asked my trusted color advisor about this and she, as usual, immediately suggested the right combo of colors which would work well for this idea. She is flawless, really.
..Until it finally feels right