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Ways of Knowing

Bob Leverich’s Commission by the Washington State Arts Commission
to create a sculpture on the grounds of Vashon Island High School.
Ravensdale Quarry Boulder SplitVery early on a Saturday back in June, 2017, we loaded my pick-up with a generator and lots of supplies and headed to the Ravensdale gravel quarry to make this successful boulder split.

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We Don't Make Mistakes

Happy Accidents - Bob Ross“We don’t make mistakes, we just make happy accidents.” - Bob Ross


Every writer at some point will experience writer's block. Carvers too can have the experience of feeling as though they have come to a creative dead end. Sometimes facing a new stone is all it takes.

Unless we have A Plan. Often we carve from a maquette. Following the original design precisely. Sometimes we begin with a drawing on paper and transfer it exactly to a grid on a block of dimensional stone.

Or, sometimes, we just direct carve.

We may begin with an idea, or we may just let our mind float. Go on automatic and get lost in the shapes and texture and color of the stone.

Or we might come up with nothing. That’s the time to invite your muse in and listen to what she has to say. Maybe something like this:

Anything you want to do you can do here. Maybe there’s a figure ready to leap from the stone. Maybe there’s an abstract inside. Often it just happens - whether or not you worried about it or tried to plan it.

Isn’t it great to do something you can’t fail at? We spend so much of our life looking - but never seeing. Now’s the chance to see our inner vision and translate it to stone.

Talent is a pursued interest. That is to say, anything you practice you can do. And the more you practice, the better you get.

No pressure. Just relax and watch it happen. The least little curve can do so much.

Don’t hurry. Take your time and enjoy. Let all these things just sort of happen. Chip a little away from here, make a swoop there, create a space.

Grind off a third of the stone. Smooth out bumps. Create bumps.

All you have to do is let your imagination off the leash. There’s really no end to this. Have a little bit of fun.

Come on. Pick up a tool. Let’s get started.

The editors thank Bob Ross for the inspiration for the above suggestions.

4 Culture

4Culture is an organization that provides cultural funding and support in King County, WA. In recent years they have awarded NWSSA two Equipment Grants (which included upgrading our computer equipment), and we were awarded a Sustained Support grant for 2017 and 2018 for $2200 per year.

Grants can be a really wonderful resource for artists, particularly for our members since the startup costs for a stone sculpture studio are greater than for most mediums.As a student, I benefitted indirectly from at least 3 grants when other artists hired me to assist with their grant-funded projects, and as an artist, I have received two invaluable grants to support my own work. It takes time and effort and the risk of rejection, but regardless of the results, the process can help you clarify your goals and learn how to better communicate your ideas.
4culture.org Logo

4Culture.org is a great resource for NWSSA both as an organization and for individuals based in King County, WA. One of my last acts in my thirty-three years as a King County resident was to create my sculpture “KnowTime,” previously highlighted in the July/August 2017 edition of Sculpture NorthWest. I had plenty of help getting that sculpture made, and a primary resource was a $1500 grant I received under the program, “Open 4Culture.” This grant is specifically designed to help those new to the grant process, and it has a rolling deadline so one can apply any time. If you are aKing County resident, I highly encourage you to take advantage of this program - they will help walk you through it if you have questions- they want you to succeed! Once you have successfully navigated this entry level grant program, it gives you an edge in applying to Project Grants. Both programs help you take on the upfront expenses of larger projects so that you can expand into new areas. For me, I wanted to have at least one large-scale portfolio piece for applying to public art projects. For you, it could be any number of possibilities.

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The Egyptian

by Frank Rose
The Egyptian by Frank RoseFrom early grade school, I was interested in art. Although I spent a good part of my early life on the high seas with the US Navy, I always took the opportunity to view art in Asian and European cities and while on shore duty stations, I attended life drawing and painting classes offered at local colleges. My most enjoyable learning experience in life drawing and oil painting took place at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Many of the art teachers working there were highly successful artists.About eight or ten years ago I rented a small space at the Freeland Art Studios on Whidbey Island, primarily to create water-based clay portraiture. 
I began with a water based Clay MaquetteThe clay portraiture process taught me how hard it is to get a likeness and to keep it once found. It also helped me to better understand the construction of the cranium, allowing me to create a very credible portrait of someone that I have never met. 
Working in stone was not completely my idea. As it turned out, about a year and half ago, I was challenged by studio associates Sue Taves, Lloyd Whannell, Woody Morris, Lane Tompkins and Penelope Crittenden to create a life-size portrait, using only hand tools, in one-sixth of a limestone column measuring 13x13 inches x 5 1/2 feet high. It was Texas limestone, soft white, clean and beautiful throughout, a gift to the Freeland Art Studios by the very generous Scott Hackney of the Marenakos Rock Center.

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From Bernini to Brancusi

The dramatic change in Portrait sculpture from Rococo to Minimalist.
By Lane Tompkins
Bust of Duke Freancis I D Este, Bernini 1651The Rococo period in marble portrait sculpture can hardly be better illustrated than by the Italian Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s portrait bust of Francis I D’Este, Duke of Modena, which was completed at the midpoint of the 17th century. This super realistic piece surrounds a face, that looks to be alive, by fantastically long cascades of curled hair, dream-like billowings of fabric in a swirl around his armored torso, with soft touches of crocheted lace at his neck.

Get as close as his minders at the Este Gallery Museum in Modena will allow you or zoom in on any of the large format photos available of him, and you will find it hard to believe that the Duke is stone and not living flesh. 

Moving through many art filled decades, we come to a time early in the 20th century when Constantine Brancusi, a Romanian working in France, began his life’s work on a simpler style, something often referred to as minimalist art. One can hardly find two sculptures more different than Bernini’s Duke of Modena and Brancusi’s Sleeping-Muse. Both are in Carrara marble and both are human heads, but the differences between the two are nothing if not stunning. 

Sleeping Muse, Brancusi 1909Gone are all the marvelous coverings of cloth and metal. Even the hair is reduced to a mere indication of a few strands on the top of the head. Brancusi’s head isn’t even placed upright on a pedestal, but simply lies like and egg on a table. 

It’s a good thing we don’t have to choose between these two schools of art for our enjoyment. We can simply absorb all that we want from each of these vastly different approaches, choosing one (or even both) to be the inspiration for our own next work of art. 

Enjoy your work fellow carvers; finding satisfaction in your own personal style. Bon Appetite for stone!