Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Art 1- Styrofoam Sculpture- A+

The final unit in Art Foundations is the 3D unit, with our first project being a styrofoam sculpture. The styrofoam we used was extremely light and easy to carve, but before we proceeded to this stage, we first spent a couple of lessons planning out what we wanted our carving to be. The theme of this project was to create a sculpture that somehow represented different cultures, and in addition to this, we had to demonstrate our understanding of four different 3D concepts: cultural connection, surface treatment, mass, and volume.

Part I: Brainstorming & Planning

The materials used for this part are as follows: A3 paper, B pencil, and computer for reference photos and research.

Firstly, we took an A3 piece of paper, divided it into four quadrants, and then designated each quadrant into each of the 3D concepts. To fill out the cultural connection part, I researched online about different Maori, Celtic, Egyptian, and Chinese symbols. In the end, I decided to include two variants of the Maori swirl, a Celtic square loop, my own version of the Egyptian ankh, Chinese characters, and a few other symbols. I drew out these symbols and ideas onto my first quadrant.

In the second quadrant, I had to brainstorm surface treatment, which is essentially what I wanted to carve onto the surface of my sculpture. I knew I wanted to carve cultural symbols on the surface, so before this step, I finished a few sketches of my sculpture's mass. Mass means what physical shape my sculpture was going to be, and I made sketches of a whale and dolphin. Now that I knew what possible shapes my sculpture was to be, I drew two sketches of each shape with my chosen cultural symbols on the surface treatment quadrant.

Finally, the last quadrant was volume, and in this case, volume means: where does air penetrate the inside of the piece? In other words, where are the holes in your piece going to be? The requirements were to have at least one hole that went all the way through the sculpture, so I decided to add three holes on the top of my chosen shape: the whale.

Below is a picture of my brainstorm, and some of the challenges during this process were deciding on what shape to use. At first, I really wanted to create a dolphin jumping out of the water with a sphere on its snout, but eventually, I realized this would be way to complicated to carve in the given time. That is why in the end, I settled for a whale.

Part II: Carving

The materials used for this part are as follows: carving foam blocks, newspaper, carving tools, running water, bamboo skewers, elmer's glue.

The foam that we used was extremely easy to carve, however this also makes the carving space very messy. That is why we first laid down a sheet of newspaper on our worktable. I wanted my whale to be a little taller than the width of the pre-cut foam block, so to solve this, I used two foam blocks and carved them separately. First, I used a fine-tipped carving tool to outline the general shape of my whale onto the first block. Then, on the other block, I decided to carve my whale's top and tail. To do this, I used a flat carving tool with bumps on it, and it served as something similar sandpaper or a nail filer. 

Once I filed away the general outline of my whale, top, and tail, I used the same tipped tool from earlier to outline the designs and symbols onto the foam. Then, depending on whether I wanted the designs to pop like a relieve sculpture or not, I carved away my chosen negative space. For the smaller designs like my Yin and Yang, I used the tipped tool, but for the larger designs like my combination of the ankh and wing, I used the filing tool to carve away the space around it. After a while, it got difficult to remove the bits of carved foam away from my piece, but then Mr. Laurence recommended we lightly rinse our sculptures with running water. Immediately after I did this, all of the remaining bits of foam were washed away, and the foam felt firmer to the touch! This really helped keep my carving sharp and detailed.

Once most of my surface treatment was done, I broke off two small piece of bamboo skewer and used them to connect my whale and its top. This was because I wanted there to be three holes penetrating the whale from the top to the bottom. With the two separate pieces now connected, I then used thick screw-driver-like tool to carve out these holes. Now that all of my carving was complete, all I had to do was properly connect all of the separate pieces. I did this by applying elmer's glue to each end of a piece of bamboo skewer and stabbing them through the space between the two pieces, successfully connecting them. After this, I let the glue dry and moved on the the painting step.

Some challenges I faced during this process was making sure I didn't carve away anything I wanted to keep. Unlike clay, you can't add anything back on. That is why I had to be especially careful, making sure that I wasn't too aggressive with my carving. When I was carving the whale's back, I actually went further than I anticipated, but then later decided to incorporate this "mistake" by increasing the whale's back curvature. Additionally, the surface area connecting my whale's tail fin with the rest of its body was really tiny. That is why I could only fit in two tiny skewers between them. Even after I applied glue however, it was still wobbly and unstable. However, later on in the next part of the process, I solved this with gesso paint.

Part III: Painting

The materials used for this part are as follows: carved styrofoam sculpture, acrylic paint, gesso paint, small flat brushes, fine-tipped brushes, and disposable palette.

Before I began painting with colors, Mr. Laurence explained that if we wanted the colors we painted on to be more vibrant, it really helped to first apply a layer of white paint. However, instead of using regular white paint, I opted to use gesso. Gesso paint is different from acrylic paint because when it dries, it hardens the surface beneath it even more. I knew that I wanted my piece to be firmer to the touch, so my first step was to paint my entire sculpture with gesso. After this, I then decided to make an ombre of colors with a mixture of blue, green, purple, and white paint. Once this base on top of the gesso was complete, I then painted the remaining symbols green, gold, black, and white. 

Some of the challenges I faced in this process included touching up the paint. What this meant was that, for the different colored paints I used on top of the ombre blue, I sometimes got some paint on places I wanted to remain blue. The only way to cover this up would be to use more blue on top of that. However, since I had mixed all of the paint gradually, I couldn't mix the exact same blue again. To solve this, I just mixed the paints until I got a color similar enough, and then lightly touched up that one spot. Then, I would wipe off mu paint brush and carefully blend that paint with its surroundings, successfully camouflaging the spot. Because of this, I was able to create the desired paint job I wanted, and my final sculpture was more than satisfactory!

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