I enjoy writing. It helps me clarify my thoughts. Every sculpture I create is really a story I find irresistible that finds expression in stone.

I usually have a lot of excess brain space when I am sanding and finishing a stone sculpture so I begin to write the blog for that piece in my mind. Having done quite a bit of research for each sculpture, I start by riffing on ideas.

I define the most important aspect of the creation process. Sometimes it is the story of the animal. Sometimes it is an experience I had with a particular individual. Often it is the story of the making of the sculpture. Every picture is worth at least a thousand words.

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Alaskan wolves, so defined in this stone sculpture by their Inuit-inspired design, pose in two animation extremes of the run—the maximum storing of energy (anticipation or squash) and the maximum release of energy (stretch.)

My concern for the safety and future of wolves inspired me to make Run! It is now legal to kill wolves (and grizzly bears) in Alaska’s wildlife refuges.

Design-The Challenge of Thin Legs

Thin legs have always been a fun challenge for me. I love four-legged animals and have developed several ways of achieving the illusion of thin legs: for horses (Sassy) I bunched the legs together into a column; for zebras (A Matter of Opinion) I made a low relief form on a high relief form; for the African wild dog (One For All) I made the extended leg a recessed high relief.

Creative Webbing

For Run! I used what I call “creative webbing” to insure safe thin legs.  Webbing is the stone left between small forms during the carving process to protect the thin, little forms from breaking during the carving process. Usually the webbing is carved away near the end of the creative process.

I designed the snow forms to act as protective webbing for the legs, which are essentially in high relief, and strengthen the directional energy of the poses. The wolf in maximum anticipation of the stride has lots of round forms and the snow shapes echo the roundness. On the reverse of the sculpture the snow has long horizontal lines to strengthen the stretch pose of the second wolf.

The Stone

The stone is Ravina Azul Marble from Portugal. This is a new stone for me and was full of surprises. Very crumbly—I did not understand the reason at first. It fell apart while cutting with a blade, stripped the diamonds from my blade, and dulled my burrs. It wore out my rifflers and files in the finishing stages with little effect on the stone I wanted to remove. Hmmm.

The reason was lots of tiny inclusions of something extraordinarily hard. Perhaps another block of Ravina Azul would have none of this. I hope this is true because the marble itself is beautiful to work and gorgeous to view.

The Finish

The finish required the exclusive use of diamond pads. While this does not sound tricky in words, it was very tricky in reality.  Imagine not being able to use any file to refine the forms.  Imagine a stone matrix mixed with something so hard it takes the diamonds off the small files.  Think of small forms like legs and noses and ears that need to be refined and all you have is big sponge-like diamond sanding pads.

Creative Problem-Solving

I love a challenge. Mostly I love solving a problem and realizing my vision for a sculpture. Run! provides the ultimate satisfaction to date.

I cut the diamond sanding pads into little, thin pieces that would fit into the small crevices to refine the small forms. This required a lot of squishing of my fingers and creation of finger-extending tools, but I made it work. As I sanded up through the increasingly finer grits of diamond pads I saw the colors and patterns emerge from the stone. There were more patterns and more shades of grey with successive grits. The stone itself was gorgeous! Were it not for the “titanium bits” in the stone it would be a wonderful carving experience.

After sanding, I carefully added color enhancer to the wolves, masking off the snow forms. Then I carefully textured the snow to make it as light as possible. Dark wolves and light snow was most satisfying.

Your Weakness Becomes Your Strength

However, since my files were completely useless in refining the edges of the forms of the wolves, I did not have as much definition to the forms as I wanted. Cuts were not deep enough and edges were not sharp enough.

Here is the brilliant part—Inuit-inspired surface design. I needed to recognize these wolves as Alaskan. Inuit design is graphically bold, so I adapted the design shapes to work with and accentuate my wolf forms. Without that surface application they would not be seen as Alaskan wolves. It fits, and the vision becomes real.

Success at a Price

My mantra goes something like this: great color in stone comes at the expense of great energy. One must work for color. In the process, it is a challenge. In the end, it is a joy!

Excerpts of Other Recent Entries

Inspiration My little mare, Kentucky, is now about 32 years old, and continues to inspire my stone sculpture (“Pretty-Girl“, “Moon Horse” ). “Sassy” is another aspect of her kaleidoscopic personality. Horses are as varied and complex as people, and Kentucky is exceptionally so—smart, generous, enthusiastic, opinionated, grateful, eager to please, and boundlessly determined.  She saved herself twice from the LA slaughter yards, a huge accomplishment for a little horse. Design I love horses and I love to improvise on the . . .

Symbiosis is defined as a cooperative relationship between two dissimilar organisms for the mutual benefit of both.   This sounds a bit sterile, but the stories this word describes are fascinating and irresistible.  This stone sculpture, “A Tree Needs A Bird”, is about the very cool relationship between the Clark’s nutcracker and the whitebark pine, two high-altitude species in western mountain ranges. Inspiration Whitebark pine trees grow at the tree line in small stands in the Canadian Rockies and farther west . . .

I have been a horse person for most of my life. When my horses retired from riding I was concerned that I might not be a horse person anymore. Happily, this is not the case. I still completely enjoy looking at, thinking about, and being in the company of horses. I know horse anatomy and proportions from my 15+ years of horse keeping, and from my experience creating and animating Pegasus in Disney’s “Hercules”.  I have been designing and carving . . .

Inspiration The snowy owl is one of the predator kings of the arctic tundra. Few studies have been made of these birds because they live where we can’t survive for much of the year  This is a profound revelation when you think about it. Snowy owls are built for winter with extremely thick insulating feathers; large tufts of feathers surround their beaks and serve to warm the frigid air before they breathe it into their lungs. They have telescopic eyes . . .

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