March 24, 2016

Two New Clay Reliefs: "Convergence" and "Lines and Curves"

Convergence, porcelain with acrylic paint, 8 1/8 x 9 x 7/8 in.

I'm beginning to get a better sense of where I'm heading with low relief sculpture. A big change with this piece, Convergence, is that I have eliminated the framing panel, which is part of the second piece below. When I posted about my last reliefs, I included a photo of them hanging on the wall in my studio, alongside some paintings; you can see that photo here. I played with the image in Photoshop, erasing the frame panels, then posted both images, with and without, on Facebook, asking which version people preferred. The overwhelming response was that I should eliminate the frame, which pleased me because I liked them better that way too. Convergence is my first attempt at a piece whose image stands alone on the wall, with no frame. A benefit of the no-frame is that I can make the image panel larger: the kiln has size limitations.

Convergence detail

As with previous work, I am fascinated by line, by the meeting of one plane with another and the different ways that can be described.

Lines and Curves, porcelain with acrylic paint, 9 3/4 x 8 7/8 x 7/8 in.

For the compositions of my clay reliefs I've been alternating abstractions based on small thumbnail sketches, such as Lines and Curves, and abstractions inspired by photo images of farm machinery, similar to those I use for my paintings, as in Convergence above. I like going back and forth between the two, as they provide different kinds of forms and structure. 

Lines and Curves detail

I begin with a full-size line drawing, which I trace onto the slab of clay. I have just line and shape, and overlapping shapes, in the drawing; my carving into the clay, and sometimes adding clay, is a fluid process. I don't know ahead of time that I will use a deep sloping edge for that lower curve, or that I will draw a thin line in the clay with a rubber shaper, repeating the curve of the upper form; or that a certain line will be sharp and another rounded. I have an idea, that idea leads to another. There is a constant reassessment of relationships during the working of the piece; the initial sculpting takes place over a couple of days, then there is refinement at the leather hard stage and sanding when it's bone dry. I paint the piece after it's fired, and choosing a color is intuitive, with lots of color mixing involved.

Here are the two new pieces on my studio wall, hanging next to two paintings. It's easier to see the difference between the unframed and framed reliefs. I feel that the low reliefs are a good companion to my paintings, and they are also a bridge to my textile works.


  1. I love where these are going and would be very interested in seeing the clay pieces done in multiple colors. In seeing them next to the paintings, I found myself wishing that the paintings were clay relief pieces. Might be interesting for you to look back at Stella's early relief work, some of which had fabric or felting on them. This is a great development.

    1. Thanks, Leslie.
      I'm not interested in painting the pieces multiple colors; I want to keep the focus on the form. I am also not interested in Frank Stella's work, except for his early paintings; it is too baroque for my taste.

  2. I am really liking these ceramics. The first one is my favorite of these two. I do love that color blue.

  3. Anyone wanting to see the piece done differently could buy it and alter it.
    I know....some artists get all offended at the thought of someone changing their work...some of my customers effectively put a velvet rope around my work(mostly 18th-century-style furniture and folk-art)...others fake age on it. One customer had a fantastic miniature walnut blanket-chest with sulfur-inlay suspended in the smoke above his burn-barrel when his phone rang...he answered it, and when he returned the thing was ON FIRE! He spent an additional $400 for my restoration-work, so their messing with it can pay off...and supply fun stories to boot.
    It's all going to burn up anyway.

    1. The porcelains have already passed through the fire!

    2. No, the collector SHOULD NOT alter the work. Some of my work gets altered enough when it's framed even though I don't want it framed, but changing the actual work is an act of vandalism.

    3. I knew that this would be your response, and it is fine with me. Opinions can never be "wrong".
      Mine is informed by my understanding of gifts and giving; if I have not left-go of the thing, I have not truly given it. If the recipient gives it away, am I offended? Or have I found a way to value their gift of something originating from me?
      My customers understand that the thing will always be "mine". I have accepted their money; they are mere custodians. If they want to destroy the value of a JBS-original, boy, will they be sorry!

    4. AS a teacher, you have been, and continue to be, quite a giver.
      The excellence of your art will endure. There will be those who copy, alter, even vandalize your work, and that is out-of-your-control, in time, if not space.
      There are those who will not share, will not teach, who say, "I'll take my technique with me to the grave", and to those I respond, "Fine. Would you mind hurrying-up?"
      My view is that "if you are interested, if you are willing to pay the dues, endure the discipline, if you have the ability to do what-I-do, and if I can help you to advance beyond what-I-can-do, then I am willing to help. Knock yourself out."
      Off-topic, probably way-off...but I do covet your perspective...copyright-law must favor it...

    5. I think that collectors realize, when they buy a work of art, that it is a whole and complete thing, not to be changed unless the artist specifies it.

      And thanks for coveting my perspective.