My last bog entry dealt with Naia, the 15 year old dating from almost 13,000 years in the past and her facial reconstruction. Another reconstruction that I mentioned was “Spirit Cave Man,” whose reconstruction I also worked on in consultation with Dr. Chatters. I’m going to use him as an example of the layering of facial tissues interpreted with modeling clay. Once the 3D print or plastic cast of the original skull is set up in a neutral position on a sculpting stand, and the soft tissue thicknesses determined, (these are designated with eraser markers here.) then the muscles of the face are built up in the proper sequence. After that is cross-checked for anatomical accuracy, then the skin and fatty tissue layer is modeled into place to give us a face. Finally, the age of the individual at the time of death is created with lines of age and environmental influences taken into account.
As I stated in an earlier blog, I was invited to work in partnership with Dr. James Chatters to create a forensic facial reconstruction of “Naia,” a 15 year old girl, who died 12,800 years ago and whose skeletal remains were discovered in the Yucatan, Mexico in 2007. As Jim and I worked on the reconstruction, we were photographed by the National Geographic Society and filmed for an upcoming documentary by NOVA. Jim and I worked together on the reconstruction of Kennewick Man in 1997, and on a couple of other facial reconstructions, including Spirit Cave Man. The process of facial reconstruction is a complicated and tightly controlled effort, involving a system of interpreting the facial tissue layers with clay over a 3D digital reproduction of the persons skull. The National Geographic Society just published their article, “First Americans,” in the January, 2015 issue. More on this later. Stay tuned.
The totally recycled and rebuilt “The News!” sculpture is now finished and ready for exhibiting and purchase. It is now entitled “The Word.” If you look at the pictures, you’ll see why. With the rebuild, the piece took on an altered content from the earlier sculpture, but the general idea is very similar, since the content has always been about the history of written language from earliest pictographs to modern digital symbols. I like the physical form of this new piece better than the older form, as it is simpler and includes the stainless digital symbols. The coloration is also changed as the patina was completely altered from the earlier sculpture. So, I have this new piece to offer to you collectors out there. Come one, come all! P.O.R.
I have been working on several new sculptures lately, as mentioned in my last entry. I completed a couple of them and have another under development, which is entitled “An Open Mind.” It is still in the clay stage, and will be cast into bronze at a later date. I have included a picture here of the piece in process. The book forms you see will be developed in clay, like the head of the woman, and then I will mold the piece to produce waxes for casting into metal. This sculpture was inspired by my own on-going interest in book learning and education and has a twist of humor to it. The head is approximately 3/4 life size. I think “An Open Mind” would make a great piece for a library, educational center, or private home. If anyone is interested in commissioning a bronze edition of this sculpture, please let me know through this web site, and I will work up a quote on the cost.
I mentioned, a while back, that I was reworking the old “The News!” piece. It is finally completed and, as you can see from the pictures, has changed considerably. The new look has come closer to conveying my original intentions with this sculpture. It has a more direct presentation to the content. I am still working on a new title, since the old title doesn’t fit the piece anymore, and I’m not sure it ever did. Titles are important to me, as they go to the heart of content, and show a solid commitment on my part. Sometimes, they come to me before I even start the physical assembly, and sometimes they come slowly, usually when I’m not looking. Look for my work in the field of forensic facial reconstruction in the upcoming January issue of National Geographic. I will have more on that story after this publication.
As October unfolds, and we get closer to All Hollows Eve, I’m reminded of the stories of Ray Bradbury and his brand of introspection. With the harvesting all around me, including the grape crushing I help my friend, Larry Oates with at Sleeping Dog Wines, I sense the winding down of the year, and I find myself pondering life, death and renewal. I’ve been working on some facial reconstruction sculpting of ancient individuals, who very likely built their belief systems around seasonal changes and the planting and harvesting of crops, changes in the cosmos overhead, and, in turn, created visual symbolism that related to the flow of nature and how it effected them. When I study long periods of history, I tend to feel humbled at the scope of natural forces surrounding me and respond accordingly.
Fall is here, and the light outdoors is getting that wonderful low angle to it. Along with the crisp edges and shadows, objects stand out in contrast and appear even more three dimensional. Although it is still warm here in the Columbia Basin area- close to 90 degrees as the high- most of the day is pleasant to be out, which feeds my hiking hobby, and the resulting nature observations fuel my art making. I have several new ideas I am working on in my noggin, and a few are becoming tangible, as well. More on all that to come very soon.
There’s a lot to communicate about the “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” (20KLUS) series of illustrations, since it has developed over about 50 years of my life. Verne’s novel was the first book I read all the way through from my grade school library- and that was a really poor translation with half of the content left out! The Disney movie certainly grabbed me visually, and many other versions of the story over the years. When I finally got to read Miller’s translation, with all the original content in place, I could pull all the pieces together into my own visual interpretations. Why black and white? Probably because the novel is a story of the opposition of forces and extremes. I also wanted to give a tip of the hat to the original illustrations, which were wood engravings and printed in B&W.
I guess, being “old school,” I was trained and developed my abilities in two dimensional art forms, along with the 3D stuff. One of the more recent outcomes of a lifetime of drawing, is my illustrations of Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” I grew up with Jules Verne’s masterwork, and have always been intrigued with his vision as a creator of fantastic adventure fiction based on scientific theory. After reading Walter Miller’s translation, and finding out how inaccurate previous translations have been, I decided to pursue my own set of illustrations. These drawings are, in no way, an attempt to compete with the original engravings by Riou, Neuville, and Hildibrand, but rather represent my personal interpretation of the events put forth by Verne in his novel.
So…natural landscape not only influences my work as an artist, but often become the artwork itself. Sometimes it surfaces through a romanticized version, such as my recent “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” illustration series, where the sea and the submarine become the landscape. I find the concept of human-made technology inserted into the natural world to be endlessly inspiring because it can be interpreted as either a good marriage of forces, or a bad one, depending on the artist’s and the viewer’s points of view. How far do we engineer our world, and how far do we preserve nature in its raw state? How do we humans balance our needs for survival with those of naturally occurring species?