Posts tagged with ‘Sakura Electric Eraser’

  • Making of #63

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    Making process is never straight forward.  Any way that works is the right way
    for me. With #63, it wasn’t an exception. I’ve gone through lots of trials and
    errors and finding and getting lost.  And it lasted about 4 years.

    The first step is usually getting the core idea of the piece.  It’s an impression of
    the work, or a glimpse of what it can be; it’s the backbone of the piece I can hang
    onto during the making process.  It might be a quick find with a strong conviction,
    or I might get it through numerous sessions of brain storming in my sketchbook.
    Either way, it usually ends up as a very rough sketch on a piece of paper.


    One of the roughest sketches!

    So this is the seed of the piece (above).  It’s a crude memo to remember what ticked
    me about the piece.  Depending on the piece, it can be refined more before I work on
    the actual shape.  With #63, I did make a few more, just to have rough idea of working
    with actual materials.

    #63 was made in five sections, partly because of the practicality (to make it manageable
    in my studio, because of the weight issue basically), and partly, I wanted to incorporate
    the dividing lines as part of the piece.  Each section’s core was made with foam and wood.


    Here is how the core looked at its rough stage (below).


    I usually paint the core white to see the shape without the colors of the foam and
    wood.  The form just has to click into the right place before I go on to the next phase.


    Next, the five sections were covered with plaster shells.  In order to extend some
    dividing lines to the individual sections, plaster was applied in sections.



    After going through numerous adjustments, the basic form is decided.  Having
    the actual shape in front of me helps me to see what has to happen in grasping
    the essence of the piece.  For instance, compared to the initial plan, I gave more
    volume to the top part (upper right in the picture below) and the opposite end also
    received a wider top than the lower bottom.



    Working with surface is a big part of my process.  I like a natural, realistic
    appearance that immediately draws me in.  Some sculptors might achieve this by
    meticulous observations of the materials they use.  Or some might chose to focus
    on the forms by minimizing the surface variations.  With my painting background,
    I seem to naturally lean toward making up the whole surface, inch by inch basically.

    For this piece, I put down 8 to 10 layers of flat white enamel to start.  The plaster
    surface was sealed prior to being painted.


    The clean surface is covered with a mixture of wax, resin and tar.  The thick mixture
    is spread slowly with a heat gun.  This layer allows me to see what the surface is
    doing.  The imperfections left in the plastering stage and in the painting stage
    become active elements for the work.


    rough application of plaster

    Marks left by rough application of plaster

    Coarse electric sanding can leave marks

    Marks left by coarse electric sanding

    rough spots around the edge

    Rough spots around the edge

    #63 brought me into a new territory on a few levels.  It’s a first freestanding piece
    with a rather complex shape (compared to the other ones I worked on!).  I wanted
    to fully utilize various views with their own appeals.  I wanted to give the front view
    a certain visual drama, and if you walk around to the side, you would be greeted by
    a different sensation and so on.  Also, I wanted to pull the piece together with a
    freestyle paint job instead of relying too much on textures or repeating patterns.
    Working in this fashion on a 3D surface was a new challenge for me.  The surface
    would be rough and raw.  Simple shapes, lines, subtle tone shifts, contrasts and
    etc. can totally energize, and give significance to a blank field.  An example of this
    approach would be #8 which I finished in 1996:

    #8, 39.5 x 32 x 1.75 inches, 1996, collection of Edward Albee

    #8, 39.5 x 32 x 1.75 inches, 1996, collection of Edward Albee

    The sensation of getting to that point is rather ecstatic.   And with #63, I wanted to
    activate the whole 3D shape:  Give it a sense of all charged up object with its own
    character and history.  It was a piece to throw my euphoric desperation of being in
    my 40s at (you can read a bit about it here), and dig away and explore.

    The decisions in the process are made intuitively.  By intuitive, I don’t mean to be
    random or aimlessly shooting in the dark.  I believe our brains can make certain
    tasks automatic with accumulated experiences and knowledge.  Sometimes in
    our daily lives we feel certain things to be right or wrong just by glancing at them.
    And we try to figure out what logic went into that feeling.  The intuitive step in
    my process is a lot like that.  It’s not a particular reasoning skill or a theory that
    decides the next step but it’s the flash of impulse that strikes when your mind is
    empty yet totally alert to every possible step.  I value this method since it simply
    works in reaching the convincing, realistic presence of the piece, and also it’s a
    totally personal and honest step that comes right out of who you are.  I also
    suspect that the intuitive process would not only encompass our learned skills
    and knowledge but it also reflects our instinctive, physiological tendencies.
    For instance, people have been asking me if they can touch the piece at shows.
    And I gently tell them that the surfaces are fragile. But I really have to admit
    that the sense of touch is a real and important component of our experiences.
    One interesting aspect of this is that recent studies are revealing an intriguing
    mechanism of our lives being influenced by the world of microorganisms.
    Our bodies, inside and outside, are surrounded by layers of bacterial colonies
    which have been influencing our existence in unknown ways. Who knows
    what visual elements trigger our sense of touch which affects the populations
    of those invisible layers around us and in turn influences our physiological
    beings. The intuitive process must go quite deep on many levels.

    OK, let’s try to go over the process by showing you the basic steps I took.  Once
    I got to know the general feel of the surface by browning the entire surface
    (putting the thin tar wax layer), I started to divide the surface with fine lines.


    This further deepens my understanding of the shape and it also gives the suggestion
    of an organized whole with a sense of weight and structural integrity.  It is also
    effective in emphasizing the gestural quality of the shape or suggestion of the
    movement.  Natural, effortless application of lines at the right spots is often needed
    to ensure  an intuitive impression of the surface as opposed to a contrived, manipulative
    impression.  What’s been effective in achieving this is the following technique:


    First, two masking tapes are put side by side real close leaving a very tight gap.


    Second, I prepare either thick paint (I usually use mixtures of Oil Bars which
    has a good ratio of wax and paint for the purpose) or the above mentioned tar,
    wax and resin mixture on a cloth.


    After applying the paint.  I go over the surface with dry cloth.  This will ensure
    the right amount of paint in the gap.


    The straight line you can see above is the result.  You can see how fine it can be
    compared to the pencil lines next to it.  It can be even sharper if I demonstrated
    it on a painted surface.  Unfortunately, for this, I used a cardboard.  The
    transparency of the line can also be adjusted by lifting some paint by putting
    masking tape directly over it before it gets dried.  The wiping process above is
    important since excessive paint would smudge the line during the transparency
    adjustment.  By using ultra thin flexible tapes, it’s possible to draw any sort of
    perfect lines or shapes.

    The divided surface often guides the intuitive placement of patterns and marks,
    which leads to imply tension, balance, gravity and etc. for the piece, just as a
    successful figure drawing would imply all of those with underlining bone
    structures and flexing muscles.



    In addition to the contrasty black patterns, very subtle tone shifts and marks are
    painted.  Although they seem accidental and spontaneus, they are applied in a
    very controlled manner.  Following is an example of applying a small smudge:


    First, the area to be altered is carefully masked.


    Second, paint is applied.


    The opacity of the paint is controlled by lifting some paint with the clear tape.
    The smooth surface of the tape and the even amount of adhesive is great for
    adjusting the strength of the tone consistently.


    First layer removed.


    Second layer removed.


    The third removal achieved the desired tone shift for the area.  This method
    enables bold, spontaneous strokes in a very controlled fashion.  It’s sort of like
    a localized, instant print making technique.  This tape print method can be
    done on much larger areas.  It often produces unexpectedly beautiful tone shifts
    and textures just as you might in mono prints.

    Some areas are treated with sanding and waxing resulting in varied smoothness
    in addition to the tone shift.  You can see an example below (circled area with red).


    Following example shows the combination of controlled smoothness and tone
    shift resulting in an inlay effect:


    An area to have the inlay effect is masked.


    The area is sanded with steel wool (very fine water proof sand paper is also
    used depending on the area).


    You can see the difference in the smoothness by the slight reflection.


    Paint is prepared.


    The excess paint is taken with steel wool.


    Here, unfortunately, the steel wool removed too much paint.  I will have to go
    in again for another try.


    More paint is applied…


    Here, the paint is being removed by kneaded eraser.  It’s a great tool in the
    subtle removal of paint.  A regular eraser is also effective depending on the area.
    I particularly like an electric eraser for detailed removal of paint (my choice is
    the Sakura Electric Eraser.  It’s also a great drawing tool).

    The inlay technique was also used in making the intricate surface of #62 which I
    finished in 2009.  Here is the detail of #62:

    #62 (detail view), 2007-09, 44 x 23 1/2 inches

    #62 (detail view), 2007-09, 44 x 23 1/2 inches

    One of the keys to the intuitive process is to have a fresh perspective that doesn’t
    rule out any possibilities.  However, it’s a tough thing to have, especially when you
    are struggling to see what should be the next step.  It gets particularly tougher
    when you are going into new territories.  You are learning as you go along.  There
    will be more trials and errors.  The harder you try to think, the more likely you are
    to disturb the automatic thinking process that let your visions appear for you…
    I think one effective approach to counter this is to tackle the issue from as many
    ways as possible.  For #63, I set up a computer with a digital camera tethered in
    order to see the piece on screen.  This enabled me to see the piece with different
    lights, color casts, through various filters and etc. in addition to seeing it flipped
    or turned.  Also this allowed me to simulate certain paint jobs before I actually
    worked on the piece. The speed and efficiency is quite useful in making me see
    what is going on with the piece.  The digital files are also good thinking aids
    outside of my studio.


    So after a few years of pushing and pulling, digging and burying, the piece is
    finally done.  One question I get asked often at talks I give is”when do you know
    that the piece is done?”.  To me, it’s done when the piece has an impression of
    simplicity. No matter how complex the piece is, I can grasp the wholeness of
    the mass without making the piece fall apart.  Every element in the piece has its
    function and it is working toward building the solid presence of the piece.  It’s a
    great feeling to have when the piece is done.  Here are some images of the finished
    #63.  The full picture set with large view options can be found at main part of the site.
    Once you go to the site, please click on the bottom icons that say #63.  The set is
    separated into #63 (page 1) and #63 (page 2).

    #63, 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63, 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63, 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63, 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63, 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63, 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63, 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63, 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63, 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63, 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63, 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63, 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63, 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches

    #63 (detail), 2006-10, 45 x 40 x 24 inches