Two…

A second wall sculpture done today — WIP — wet clay stage. Got the other one hollowed out and drying.

Steve Eichenberger sculpture WIP

Steve Eichenberger sculpture WIP2

Admittedly kind of strange…no rational explanation for the shape of the face…it’s just what my hands roughed in without me thinking about it.

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Ran across this quote today on the web: “Serov believed that the artist ought to be adept in every available medium because nature itself is infinitely diverse and inimitable, just as the artist’s mood and feelings differ from one day to another: today he wants to work in one way, tomorrow in another.” I like it! I identify with it. It’s not a trait conducive to creating a marketable “body of work” but it serves to keep my inner artist engaged. Just today I was reviewing past projects, in disparate media, and a part of me wishes I could incorporate ALL those media into my current repertoire. I guess there’s nothing stopping me from becoming a “mixed media artist” but I’d need to amalgamate them in such a way that the resulting body of work has a coherence about it…a signature look and feel.

Hammer formed metal is my most recent media addition, and I think it’s a keeper. I’m happy with its versatility, the patination process I’ve come up with, its look & feel, its permanence, and I enjoy the processes involved in forming it. Today I was wishing I could try yet another medium: gouache. Another one I’d like to add is mache; I wish I could find a suitable use for it in my work — where it would seem to “fit” the work, and not “cheapen” it… A major problem with 2D work, for my constitution anyway, is that it’s sedentary. Standing or sitting at an easel for hours on end is not good for me. I get to feeling “toxic” from the inactivity. Small scale clay sculpture (like I’m working on now) is pretty sedentary too…I stand in one place to sculpt them, then sit to hollow them out. At least with metal work I’m hammering, moving around the studio from anvil to buck to bench shear to vises and so on…the process of distressing the metal preparatory to patination is good exercise…overall it’s about right: not too taxing to the point of potential injury yet not too sedentary either.

I realize I could schedule constitutionals every hour or so during lengthy 2D sessions, but the paints would dry out, and I’d lose the “flow.”

Overarching all these “wishes” is the need to make a living from the way I spend my time!

So enough rambling for now…gotta go put ears on another proto-human head before the clay dries too much.

Back to Clay

Steve Eichenberger wall sculpture in progress

Jackie just decided to have a studio sale later this month, so I irrationally decided to try to make a sculpture or two in time for it. There’s virtually no chance of getting any ceramic sculpture done by then due to the necessary drying times and the pesky laws of physics…but I’ll ride the motivation wave anyway and see how far I get. This guy will hang on the wall, and he’ll have a funny pointy hat made from ………. riveted aluminum, of course!

He looks like he does because I have a thing about looking waaaaay back into our collective past(s?) to when we were proto-humans…with occasional blips of intelligence and understanding rising briefly above the baseline of animalistic inner and outer experience — as our knuckle dragging forebears gradually evolved brains capable of self awareness, reasoning, complex language, the arts, and a voracious curiosity to make sense of their surroundings…and of their very existence. With them began the mystery of how I know I’m “me” and you know you’re “you.” It’s that mystery that each and every human animal, all around the world, shares in common. And that commonality is so much greater than any “differences” we think we have! “The ghost in the machine” is the most amazing phenomenon in the known universe. I’m grateful for the privilege of experiencing it firsthand! I wish we could all focus on *that* for our eyeblink lives…

The Urge to Create

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During yesterday’s ________ time, I figured out how to make aluminum mounts for glass goat eyes for new sculpture I’m working on.

It’s hard to describe in words the drive I have to __________. First of all, what words do I use for ________??? I haven’t been able to come up with a concise descriptive term for it…I’ll try jotting down some candidate words & phrases, as fast as they come to mind:

free sculpt

follow the energy

experiment/discover

freedom of expression

creative outlet

self actualization

what I’m on the planet for ::: vocation

positivity

self image, identity, self respect, letting my inner artist out to play

play…with tools/methods/materials/concepts/combinations

expand vocabulary (of a particular medium) to the max

mastery

see what comes out ::: be surprised ::: off the wall

get lost in the *process* of making

let ideas run wild, sidelining the inner critic

suspending the cares of life for a little while, focusing all my energies in a positive/creative direction

Okay, that felt good to walk a circle around the urge and try to describe the salient aspects of it…but I can’t write all that every time I want to talk about “it” in a sentence…and I’m aware that this very act of trying to figure out words is robbing me of time I could be spending doing the actual thing I’m trying to describe, but I’m also aware of the value of putting my motivations into comprehensible form so I can better understand them and align all my inner energies in support of those goals…

I sometimes feel vaguely embarrassed/guilty about the intensity of the drive I have to indulge my inner artist. It seems to be asking for a level of priority that is impractical in relation to everyday life’s realities. It sometimes comes across as wanting to “do whatever I want” all day, every day, which is of course absurd.

It’s really not all that unusual, though; you hear it all the time from musicians, artists, dancers, actors who want to quit their day job and do ________ full time. In fact, I just saw a documentary in which a woman wanted more than anything to be a dancer, and then actually became the principal dancer in a national ballet company, but then got so tired of performing Swan Lake over and over that she quit to do her own thing: interpretive, self-expressive dance.

I deeply resonate with the following as well: In an interview with British artist Nicola Hicks, the questioner asks, “How do you balance life between living, working and loving?” and she responds, “I’m completely useless at it. I never feel I’ve got the paths right. The one thing that is never allowed to suffer is the work, which is a very hard decision to make, but I’ve found that for me that’s the way it has to be. If the studio work suffers there is no hope of anything else working. So other things have to be dropped. (…) All I know is, if you let the work go you have no hope, so there are sacrifices.” (excerpt from Flowers East: Nicola Hicks, The Pale Green Press, 1996 edition, ISBN 1 873362 315)

For the past couple years (up until recently) it’s been a struggle to get *any* free studio time, for weeks/months at a stretch. I chose to let other priorities take precedence. During those stretches, I literally felt like my life was on hold…which made me feel guilty, because I really have a good life! But right or wrong, it *feels* like I’m not truly living when I’m separated from making art (i.e., unconstrained studio time).

I’ve written a fair amount on this blog about the (self indulgent?) seemingly monumental struggle it’s been to rearrange my life just to free up a few minutes or an hour or two per day of unconstrained studio time — in the hope that someone else out there might identify with my experience, and find encouragement to keep on keeping on!

Back to Life!

After a year of voluntary banishment (see previous post), my inner artist is now finally re-inhabiting my corporeal body! My goal was for this to happen by April 15, so: mission accomplished. Glad I did the remodel, glad it’s over.

First fun project: figure out how to make lightweight, break-resistant goat horns from non-toxic materials, for a faux taxidermy wall sculpture. The photo shows some of my trial & error steps toward a solution:Steve Eichenberger artistNote the principal & interest bar graph…kind of a non sequiter you may think…but an online interest calculator seemed as quick a way as any to generate a logarithmic progression, which I then used to mark off the lengths of horn segments on left. That was fine for two dimensions, but how to get sweet compound curves in three dimensions? So I then messed around with stapling a paper model, thinking I might be able to make horns from three cutout pieces of sheet metal or similar, joined along their three common edges. But I wouldn’t be able to freeform / fine tune the curves if the sheet material were pre-cut…so combining the two ideas — segments + three shared edges  — led to my favorite idea so far: solid segments joined by three flexible edges (hand carved wood segments with wire struts). Whether or not I ever actually use this particular idea, the “getting there” is a perfect example of my favorite part of the process: conceptualization > exploration > experimentation > discovery!

My return to freedom won’t be like stepping through a door, but more like fording a wide stream; because I need to make more than 100 crows/ravens to replenish my exhausted inventory and for gallery orders, which will consume the majority of my energy for the next four to six weeks. But “after that”  …    (I’ve been promising myself “after that” for so long that it’s hard to believe I’ll ever arrive, but I’m clinging to the likelihood that I will…)

Hopefully I can find an hour or two for experimentation here and there even in the midst of crow-making.

Overall, I’m very aware how fortunate I am, and am living my life immersed in constant gratitude.

 

Patina Crisis Resolved

“Exploring Happiness” series, “Orangutan” by Steve Eichenberger

20″h x 15″w x 7″d

Fired ceramic, rubbed pigment and wax patina, wall mount.

I’ve been working on publicity for our Valentines season double weekend show in our new Venetian Red Gallery space, so haven’t had much time to sculpt recently, but I did accomplish something, something I’ve been stressing over for months — figuring out how to patina my new series. I experimented on a couple of small test heads, then got up my nerve and patinaed the above pictured “Orangutan.”

Feb 22 addendum: Now I’m painting. Yes, painting…painting faces, on cardboard. Um hm, I did say cardboard. As in corrugated. Because I just wanted something to quickly experiment on, and there was a nice box at hand.  And now I kind of like the mid-tone ground, the absorbency, the repurposing. Not sure if I’ll post photos (which would only serve to document my current state of digression from whatever trajectory I was on before).

After watching myself from afar…well, not that far…for many decades, I’ve noticed some patterns within my disorganization. My current position in the creative cycle I call “scrabbling.” Like what you would do if you were stuck in a mud bog…try to scrabble your way forward. Or what you would do to the side walls of a pit you’re stuck in: try to scrabble your way out. Scrabbling is unsettling because there’s no way of knowing if all the frenetic energy expended will ever move me in any beneficial direction, or just exhaust me. But I also have an underlying current of enigmatic expectation, that anything can happen. My critic grumbles nothing probably will, but my 17-year-old core-self says Some Big Thing Just Might.

I experience the full gamut of emotions simultaneously during scrabbling, resulting in an over-cooked internal stew that tastes kind of gray, but nevertheless provides abundant energy to keep on scrabbling. And I do feel highly motivated to keep on scrabbling, no matter what, no matter if there’s no known why (yet). The afar part of me is entertained watching myself scrabble. I’m curious to see where it will take me this time — where it will lead me artistically.

Untitled

Untitled, ceramic sculpture by Steve Eichenberger

SOLD

A little smaller than life size. Sculpted solid, hollowed out, pieces cut out and glazed separately, then black grouted back together. It doesn’t translate in the photo, but the mid-toned portions have exquisite patterns of shiny black nubbins smaller than the head of a pin; visually and tactilely mesmerizing. The lightest section looks and feels like ivory — not white — but it’s virtually impossible to photograph pieces with extreme lights and darks without over- or under-exposing one or the other.

I think this piece has something to do with the ever-present background/subconscious weighing of issues that have no clear answers.

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“Strange Bird” in process. (5/11 addendum: SOLD!)

I’ve been invited by White Bird Gallery in Cannon Beach, Oregon to be in their Animals show this spring. This is a possible piece for that show, if the human ears don’t disqualify it from the “animal” category.