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Friday Evening Sculpture – with Brandt Junceau
Some of us consider the head the basic unit of sculpture. It’s the one piece of the body that can stand in for the rest, and, in the Western tradition, the head alone may be taken for a likeness of the whole person.
How did Rodin do it? And what did he get from Carpeaux, Houdon and the Romans?
In this class, we will make a life-size head in clay, from a model. It will be fired. You will have a terra cotta, and we’ll discuss how raw terra cottas can be finished and mounted. The technique is nuts and bolts, as basic as possible. Taking the measure of the model by eye, calipers, and comparison. The head is a big place. Without basic arithmetic, you can get lost in there. Rodin, famously, stuck to the arithmetic, and he was fast. Not so artsy, very effective.
While we’re working, I’ll tell a few stories, and week by week bring in pictures. We are dealing the head “as seen,” but as seen in the western tradition of naturalism. We’ll talk about what our naturalism is, and isn’t. We learn to “make an eye,” but there are as many naturalisms and as many eyes as times, places and artists. We’ll demonstrate the Houdon eye and the Rodin eye. We’ll look at many eyes, more than one mouth and more than one idea of character, attitude, and “life.”
The takeaway is your first run-through, mapping the head face-front and profile, making features that look right, and working up to the point of life-likeness. We do not copy the model. But when the geometry is right and things are in their place, there comes a glimpse of likeness, like recognizing someone in the street; ah, that’s him.
That “glimpse” makes a portrait. The glimpse is the target. Always has been. It might be nearly intangible, but having got it once, you have the touchstone for any head you try hereafter.