Category Archives: Sculpting Progress

Progess updates of what I’m working on now

lotus flower

I made a lotus flower base for the Blue Pearl Bodhisattva (Horse Buddha) to sit upon. Details take a lot of work, although they aren’t significant, it still matters to do them. Bases are important of course. So is time-consuming to video like this. Also showing some techniques of working with foam and papier-mâché.

foam progression

Having built-up enough volume of foam over the month, I’m ready to start carving back, and get some shape happening. I can see this will take a while. It’s good though to feel the materials and have the pleasure of working them with hands-on and tools. This is, after all, the good part.

For a minute I’d optimistically thought I was half-way on this: that I’d move onto the larger final version sooner. But  now I want to take the time to enjoy working on this; what I’d been thinking of as the model, taking on an outcome of it’s own, and experimenting with form, contours, and especially surface details. Can I do both at once? Ooooh…?? I should work out the surface detail now, before I have to do it on the large final version. If I were smart about it. But I’m not. I’m careless , and frivolous, and it appears, unconcerned with technique and process.


Get ready. Now I reveal the Futurist Gothic finish for this piece, gold vinyl wrap of my dreams. 3M 1080 Car Wrap. This stuff is great, used to wrap cars instead of painting them now, comes in a lot of colors and finishes. Applying it has a knack, so I’ll  record something.

The material is paper-backed sticky vinyl, and can be warmed to stretch and conform to complex surfaces. You can learn a lot about using it on a popular video streaming site, but that will be about wrapping cars. I’m going to cut it into triangles mostly, and apply it like trencadis tile. I’ll make paper templates to fit the large flat tail piece and head piece. Not waste any material.


Remove the backing from half the material, and arrange on the piece. Then remove the rest and apply pressure with squeegee to smooth.


Using gentle heat to smooth the creases.


Full coverage.


I’m using a slightly different texture of wrap, “brushed metal” to create a highlight on the large flat sections.


So there, done at last and ready to deliver to the show I’m invited to. About six months from the conception. Everything about the materials of this piece were new to me, a big experiment in a process used somewhat to make movie props and parade floats, but especially Fallas sculptures. The finished work is only about 25 lbs. A way to work at larger scale without out the weight, cost and labor of traditional materials like plaster or fiberglass; a way to realize extravagant designs without too much commitment of $, time and effort. Definitely enjoying this freedom these materials permit.


Surface-finish work begins. Patching with papier-mâché clay, sand, and then paint with appropriate primer for plastic foam (polystyrene). Then, overcoat with a high quality acrylic paint. All this helps strengthens the surface a bit, so it’s not so fragile to dents and nicks as the bare foam is. Getting somewhere like people think of real sculpture.




Sketches and models

I make fewer measurements, and use sharper tools; Less power tools, less machine tools, less design tools. Sharper hand tools, and working by Eye, and not from plans; with less accuracy and with more details. Plans reduce precision to generalities. The eye creates detail wherever it wanders; produces variation and adornment and complexity. Is why, when you close your eyes, you see patterns and images, instead of simply darkness.

I will take a sketch and build directly to the model and then directly to the full scale. No intermediate designs, templates or tools. Free-Hand, by hand.

I’m not going to scan a sketch, scale it, grid it out in Illustrator, build a model, photograph and adjust for front-side-and-top views, enlarge to a template, print out a 1:1 pattern, cut materials, and build at full scale, No, but I have done that sometimes.

Napkin sketch, and notebook draft drawing.




Foam-core cutouts, and flat-model hot-glued, eyeball’d from sketches, about 35”








Using plywood from around the place, freehand with chalk the sized-up patterns. Trying for an 8 foot tall finished work, so, roughly multiply by 2.67 from the model.










Notch-and-slot together, skipping some steps, and this is just the armature for a sculpture to be built-out upon it. Nice by itself, if it were done in steel maybe. Can still come apart for the work to come still.











Just the work of a weekend.

Mujer de las Flores



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: 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