Monday, September 17, 2018

The making of "On the way to the Jollity Fair..." - part 1

I love antique and vintage book illustrations. I recently remembered that I had wanted to illustrate books. Unfortunately, I get very bored drawing, I'm not a two dimensional artist, I visualize in three dimensions and I create in three dimensions, I'm a maker of things.

There is always a story that my sculptures are illustrating. Book illustration from a hundred years ago and earlier would have the main illustration and then off to the side or at the bottom there would be a scene depicting another part of the the story. I have been experimenting with this technique in my sculptures for the last couple of years.




This illustration of Hansel and Gretel is by a German artist, Hermann Vogel (1854 - 1921) and shows what I am talking about. I discovered Hermann Vogel on this blog, I highly recommend it.


Hermann Vogel is all but forgotten now and if I hadn't started following this blog I would never have known about him. He has become one of my top ten artists. His draughtsmanship and the detail in his work is amazing, and there is humour in his work, that is a plus in my books.




"On the way to the Jollity Fair.." was originally titled "Off to the Jollity Fair" and was going to feature a midway in the bottom section, more about that in second blog post about this sculpture.




The body of the sculpture is a small mantle clock case turned upside down. A large base for the main part of the sculpture has been added to what used to be the bottom of the clock case. Thin plywood roughly cut to shape has been glued in place ready to have composition added.




This back shot shows a long strip of wood at the top that will have self levelling hangers attached once the sculpture is finished. The shorter strip of wood above the opening is there to keep the sculpture hanging squarely on the wall and not tipping down at the front.




The composition has been built up and is now dry, ready to paint. The raised pieces at the back, once they are painted, I hope will look like rolling fields in the distance.




The back has been filled in with composition, ready to paint. Black felt will cover the back area touching the wall, so as not to leave any marks.




This top view showing the path and the raised background.




When I was putting this blog post together I realized that the raised areas on the sculpture were very similar to the hillocks in this drawing. I had forgotten this image was even in my inspiration folder, it
 is from an early school reader in my book collection. There are about thirty other photos and drawings in the folder for this sculpture. Once the file is assembled I seldom look at it, the images are sitting in my mind percolating.




Building the tree for the top section was more of a challenge than expected. My treasure trove of vintage millinery leaves and vintage craft leaves were all too big. I needed, about 1/2" size leaves. I decided to punch leaves from my hand painted rice paper. The maple leaves were the obvious choice but I wanted to see what the star would look like. 





Surprisingly, the maple leaf didn't look good at all and the star won hands down.




I had to add a small tail so that I could attach them to the branch wire.




The maple leaves, shown here, and the stars were daubed on each side with orange, red, and yellow paint. This was a lot of unexpected work put into building the tree, but it was worth it. 




The painted stars are transformed from tiny handmade leaves on the left, to individual branches, to larger limbs, to painting the branches. 




The tree has been securely attached to the sculpture, the trunk has dried and is ready to be painted.




The tree is painted, the path and hills are painted with the first of many coats of paint and various debris glued in place.




This is what the paint job was supposed to look like, I hated it. The blue divided the sculpture into two separate areas and demanded your attention. Quite often an initial paint colour doesn't work and the area in question is repainted until it looks correct.

I remember reading in an interior design book that walls look better the more that they are painted, the same is true for any painted surface. I never see mistakes when I'm working on a sculpture; I see opportunity and depth of character developing.





This is another photo from my file that I had forgotten about, my tree looks very similar to these trees.




The baskets turned into another make work project. None of the baskets that are in my stash were small enough or looked correct.

I wanted the baskets to have a rustic handmade look, as though they were made from twisted branches.


Three foot lengths of wire were wrapped with tissue paper and glue. The wire, as it got longer and difficult to manage, was wrapped around my finger to create different size loops. The looped wire was then wrapped around itself so as not to get in the way. The completed tissue wrapped wire was gently undone keeping most of the kinks in place and wrapped around my fingers for storage. I made five bundles of wrapped wire and then wove the baskets.




During the weaving of the basket a lot of the kinks were removed but it gives the basket a very natural relaxed look. The basket is finished and ready to be painted.

I haven't made baskets for many years. I used to use basketry and off-loom weaving techniques to create sculptural forms. I think that I may be making my own baskets more often, I love the rustic look.





This is Cyril at his most undignified moment, waiting for his body and appendages to take shape.




Sparky, Cyril, and Quentin now have their cotton batting bodies tightly bound with crochet cotton. Sparky was originally going to be kneeling.

You may have noticed the tissue that I use for trees, baskets, hands, feet, and anything else that requires detail, is torn up sewing patterns. The tissue paper used in sewing patterns is much stronger than regular tissue paper, so it doesn't fall apart as easily when you work with it. It holds up well when dipped into water thinned glue. I use regular tissue when I want a wad of glue and paper to build up tree trunks or any other area quickly.





The top half of the sculpture with Quentin and his grandsons Sparky and Cyril.



The finished sculpture, "On the way to the Jollity Fair...", is available to purchase here.

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