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Rough or Smooth?
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Luke Shepherd



Joined: 01 Mar 2010
Posts: 29
Location: UK

PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2010 6:33 am    Post subject: Rough or Smooth? Reply with quote

I was reading Tamara's comments on her lovely little sketch of lady with umbrella, which I adored in the clay Very Happy and found somehow sickly in the ceramic Confused

So I was pondering on why I have these preferences (as this isn't a reflection on her work in any way) and thought to write a few lines and post a few images. This is not a reflection on Tamara's work, so I thought to add it as a new post rather than take hers into a different direction. I'm not aware if there has been a discussion on Rough or Smooth on the forum?? but wished to provoke a discussion for thoughts on the matter Question

I'm always fascinated by the idea that leaving the surface rough is somehow inaccurate or sloppy. There seem to be a propensity towards a smoothly modelled surface. Is this something that is especially true in the States? Any ideas why this cultural preference may have develloped?

The accuracy of modelling is to do with true perception. The style to do with preference of mark making.
If the whole bust has the same sculptural language, the brain will "read" it correctly. It's when rough and smooth exist in the same sculpture that perceptual confusion occurs.

The range of marks carry the visual language. By limiting the marks to being smooth, the range of visual language is severely reduced. Differing tones of skin cannot be well defined using smooth modelling as all that can be used is the undulation of form. A wider use of marks can give visual clues to pressure, weight, movement, vitality and many more aspects of personality.

Hee are a few images of my most roughly modelled and my most smooth. I use both styles depending upon the sitter.


My most recent bust of Christopher Biggins - with marks showing. Thi sis the caly as I've just collected the bronze from my foundry to work on and patinate myself


Probably my most smooth bust of Barri Webb. Looks tight to me, which was the feel I was after for the portrait and the shine of the bronze adds to that.



George Thomas - the late Viscount Tonypandy. A bust I did 25 years ago before I had the necessary perceptual skills to work smoothly! Video of this sitting is on Youtube. Gosh... do I look young! Laughing
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHEM1A-AtgA&feature=channel




My father - modelled last year - quite roughly which I really enjoyed. It took over 2 month to make it look like it was done quickly!

Post note. As an end thought, here's a link to an image of Jon Edgar's. Just wanted to include it is its an example of what I would call a finish that is rough - but it doesn't use the sculptural language to full effect, in that all the surfaces have been given equal attention, in a similar fashion to many who smooth their work?
Thought to post URL rather than the image for copyright reasons.
http://www.jonedgar.co.uk/portrait_Chris_Rapley.jpg


What do you think Question
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Toby Mendez



Joined: 29 Mar 2010
Posts: 205
Location: Frederick, Maryland

PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Luke,
Interesting thoughts. I'm not sure if we Americans have a trend towards the smooth. I suppose that we all go through phases, like fashion. Jo Davidson is a fine example of a sculptor who would work fluidly in different textures depending on the subject. Lately I tend to model relatively smooth, but allot of my earlier work had quite a bit of texture, Giacometti was a great influence as well as Manzu. I will attach a detail photo of one of my maquette figures, there is subtle texture in the face. I will also attach a Davidson, just to cleanse the palette.


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Toby Mendez



Joined: 29 Mar 2010
Posts: 205
Location: Frederick, Maryland

PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Luke,
I thought I would also post this portrait of Gandhi. It is fairly smooth, but then I would use a more modeled texture in certain areas to show the softness of the skin (as can be seen in the neck).
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Heidi Maiers
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Joined: 23 Feb 2005
Posts: 1223
Location: Near Portland OR

PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2010 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wonderful examples you two. The subject of rough and smooth has come up quite often in various threads throughout the forum - sometimes quite heatedly. People tend to have a definite opinion about this question/choice/expression.
I think for the most part, the American public prefers smooth to rough - and the more detailed and realistic the better. I say yuck to that. Some of it I do really like a lot, but most of it I find much too busy and leaves little to the imagination. This is my biggest gripe about my own work in fact. I would really love to be able to sculpt free and loose, but always end up overworking my pieces and that drives me insane. To top it off, I've never had a client (USA or otherwise) who didn't want the piece "tight and refined" - and as "smooth" as possible. To me, a rough piece has much more life and energy than any piece that is trying to be lifelike doen to the pores! (Sorry all you waxmaking guys).
I also like a combination treatment where parts of the portrait is left rough (hair, neck, etc) and the focal points (features) are more refined. Makes for a nice balance I think. Reality fading into abstraction or something...

Here's an example of one client piece that wanted it perfectly smooth. For the subject and material it was cast in however (diamond granite) the smoothness was appropriate in this case.


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Cris



Joined: 14 May 2007
Posts: 48
Location: Washington, DC

PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I recently watched a documentary about Giacometti. The narrator referred to his work as having an "open" surface - rather than a rough one. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the "closed surface" fellows such as Arp, Brincusi, Botero, and many others. I found this distinction very intriguing - from a philosophical standpoint. In this light, the “open” surface of Giacommetti’s pieces seems to interact more with the universe, and the viewer. The sculpture offers more surface to its surroundings, it protrudes into the air as if to grip on to its environment. The sculpture is open and vulnerable, viewer is invited in. Another great example is the JFK portrait by Robert Berks located in the Kennedy Center (or most of his work really).
In comparison, the works of Arp or Brincusi appear focused inward, self contained and shrinking onto themselves.
I like both approaches equally, they resonate differently however.
As far as my sculpture goes, I always end up with a “closed” surface. A recent attempt to emulate the Giacometti texture failed miserably. Could this be something reflective of the sculptor’s personality / psyche, or is it just a phase that beginners must traverse on their way to master the surface?
Thoughts?
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Jeanette Lewis



Joined: 13 Oct 2009
Posts: 595
Location: Merseyside U.K.

PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a couple of thoughts, because I am not sure if we are talking satisfying viewer or pleasing the artist? Both maybe?

Perhaps a rough or open surface allows the viewers imagination to interact by "filling in the gaps." and complete the "expressions" perceived in the portrait. In this way they can add their own perceptions, and it can be more stimulating for the viewer;

However a smooth or tight surface can also satisfy the viewer who wants to admire the artists skill in reproducing such refined detail.
As in Heidi's portrait, the skin on a childs face is so pert and new it can be like a pearl - wax or marble, which is beautiful in itself, and so in that sense a smooth surface is reflecting that attribute - its inherent beauty.

I find that an artists skills taken to the extreme as in super -realism certainly produces a " wow" response; but somehow they don't holdl the attention in the same way, perhaps a little of the "mystery" (Muck and magic) is lost . Can't say exactly what that factor is though...

John Edgar's treatment was interesting but I found it counterproductive for the reason that the even application of clay overpowered the subject. One was begining to see pattern instead of form.
Jeanette
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Toby Mendez



Joined: 29 Mar 2010
Posts: 205
Location: Frederick, Maryland

PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 5:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Smooth or Textural, I never thought it was something that would be debated. It is interesting, I guess the more I think about it, I use a combination. What I have always liked about rougher texture work is it shows the thought process of the sculptor, it reminds me of a jazz improvisation or interpretation. I never thought that one was superior to the other, only that good sculpture is good sculpture no matter what the texture is. If I want someone to commission me to do something in a particular style, I realize I have to start to work in this style in my personal gallery work. My clients have to see what I can do so that they can start to envision what the final work would be like. Good discussion Luke.
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Jeanette Lewis



Joined: 13 Oct 2009
Posts: 595
Location: Merseyside U.K.

PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 7:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi,
I agree Toby, one isn't superior to the other -
I would say that even if we don't elevate each daub to a work of art in itself;they are a necessary means to an end.
Bottom line -we all like to sculpt -and hope others will enjoy it too. It helps if there is a meeting of minds and a satisfactory financial element in the equation! Smile
There are as many styles and applications of media as there are artists. Clients too; what one person might find "sickly" in one context could give great pleasure to another in a different setting.
Vive la difference!
Jeanette
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Luke Shepherd



Joined: 01 Mar 2010
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Location: UK

PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like the idea of describing it as open and closed rather than rough and smooth. Seems to describe more.

What is of primary importance to me is neither of these in fact, but to capture my perception.

In the 1950's Yarbus did a lot of research into Saccadic eye movements



Yarbus demonstrated that human beings, as these pictures show us, do not scan a scene in a raster-like fashion. They rather perform jumps, known as saccades, between the different points of interest, on which fixation is maintained for a short period.

To understand how the the eye sees and how this is interpreted by the brain becomes the key to the surface of the portrait.

For example, if I am to capture the perception of what the viewer sees, then I have to take Saccadic eye movement into account. I know that the viewer will pay more attention to certain areas. If my work pays more attention to these areas then I am beginning to capture a correct perception.

If I create a bust with an all over similarity ( smooth or roughness / open or closed) then this doesnt correspond to the Saccadic eye movements.
In this way of thinking, if the surface is smooth (visually aiming to represent how the skin seems), the sculptural language doesnt allow for anything but smoothness all over... therefore missing something about perception, but gaining something about representation.


Interesting to see that the images of Gandhi and Davidson both have closed surfaces and so are smooth, not rough.

I am also interested in the effect that remains with us (memory / feeling) after we have seen a bust. As with a great bust this can be very strong and last a long time.
When I see a super realistic bust, true, I am marvelled by the ability of the sculptor, and this can be the overriding impression that remains. Also alongside this marvel is the equal and opposite sense that my talent is lesser in comparison. It throws me into a competative mind state. Maybe this is personal and I have to see my own competativeness, but I believe that if the aim is to create something more and more refined and realistic then the goal has to be super refined - which sets up a striving for perfection. This is what I am left with when I see a bust that strives for photographic tightness.

I think it has been said before and I cant remember by whom, what is left out of a portrait is equally important as what is included. A bust that is aiming for super realism doesnt hold to this suggeestion. apply if

Contrary to this is the effect when one sees a bunch of knobbly modelled bits that somehow hang together and give an impression of something far greater than the mess they appear to be made of. To me that is marvelous as the wonder lasts.



As a post thought. There is a difference between the work I do for myself and work for the client.
I strive to understand my own relationship to the bust in my own work. In a commission however, I try to do both this and what the client requires. If I am lucky the client gets on board with the problem I am trying to resolve and the work can progress with all 3 of us in harmony (me, the client and the clay). Some clients don't want to engage in the sculptural aspects and just want a likeness... then its just 2 of us playing ball. Not better or worse ... a different dynamic.

I could write more on this but maybe later as its getting quite dense.
Luke
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Toby Mendez



Joined: 29 Mar 2010
Posts: 205
Location: Frederick, Maryland

PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very thoughtful Luke. My assistant was reminding me of the drawings by Ingres, where the portraits and hands are highly rendered and the clothing and the rest of the figure are just suggested by line. Where to focus the movement of the eye?
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Tamara



Joined: 20 Oct 2005
Posts: 954
Location: Northern California

PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 2:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Luke,

Interesting subject and one that I think often about. Your comments about my Luisa are okay as I like to have everyone's opinions. I think that for me, I love the ceramic the best with all the glazes and color. As a ceramic artist I've developed an attraction to glazes in general. I remember that I used to be bored by looking at potter's glazed mugs and bowls etc. but now I really enjoy examining all the pretty nuances of colors. So for me, I don't mind that detail was lost with adding the glaze and Luisa may be my favorite work. And she was so much more quickly made.

Your sculpture you did of your Dad is wonderful. It does take skill to make something look like it is fresh and maintain all the necessary detail for a good portrait.
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Luke Shepherd



Joined: 01 Mar 2010
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Location: UK

PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2010 1:39 am    Post subject: for Tamara Reply with quote

Hi Tamara
Further to your comment... My reflection about your piece Luisa was intended to be self-examining and started off by me asking myself why I have preferences for this or that. It was never intended to be an objective comment on your piece. Had it been so, I would have qualified my comment that I find the ceramic sickly and given some reasons to back this up.

Rather, I intended to open up a debate through which all can reflect on reasons for the relationship between observation, perception and how this equates to finish.

I don't feel we have to be nice to one another or add happy comments here to each other. Likewise being rude is also not necessary.
Penetration of reality through portrait sculpture is my aim - and there are many reasons for making portait sculpture. This means directly looking at oneself, ones habits and ones intentions as much as the sitter in front of me. I come from a martial arts / meditation background which helps to inform my approach. Unfortunately unless one is a poet or a wordster then language is a very rough tool to communicate and I apologize if I leave a trace of offense.

I appreciate your comment on the work of my father, which is one of my most favourite . I had to con him into sitting as he was obstinate that he would not sit. He has always been very supportive in my work. I told him I had a new technique (having been on a master class given by the Society of Portrait Sculptors) that I needed to explore and would he sit... just for a few hours one weekend when I was visiting! The result is the bronze which I presented him with 4 months later. It was accepted for the Welsh Artist of the Year Exhibition in 2009. But its not any of the that I am pleased with , but the level of exploration that occurred in its making. Above all it also enabled me to have a few quality hours with my dad.

I trust this thread can continue with the topic of rough or smooth and not move too much into other areas.

Luke
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Joel Levinson



Joined: 18 Apr 2009
Posts: 111
Location: Long Branch, New Jersey

PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2010 9:49 am    Post subject: Super Real Reply with quote

Luke,
I have a similiar reaction to these works.A few days ago I was online and found a web site of one of these artists.Judging from photos of the sculpture and the subjects she may have been the most dead-on-accurate that I've seen and it rocked me.Then I realized that the work was absolutely photographic,a fraction of a second frozen in time.There was no interpretation,life,or,suggestion of time,and,again, other than the signature on the work how do you tell one artist from another as they become masters of this form.They have,or,are on the way to perfecting their ability to sculpt anatomically.However,these are perhaps,incomplete works given the absense of other attributes...
Joel
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Jeanette Lewis



Joined: 13 Oct 2009
Posts: 595
Location: Merseyside U.K.

PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2010 4:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Luke,
Thank you for clarifying your reasons for the (uninvited) comments re; Luisa. I for one appreciate that very much.
I have found other forums to be battlegrounds rather than producing anything constructive; and so I was bewildered as to the usefulness of the particular example you gave.
Everyone stumbles over words at times, but they are powerful things, more powerful than art as to how they affect those around them.
I believe that members here appreciate constructive criticism, and that can be offered with kindness should one have the good will to do so.
Its about making a conscious personal choice to avoid negativity and ill will.
Just to get the thread back on track as to mark-making - I will say that it is one thing to leave an innate object (portrait) with a rough surface, and another to leave a unique work of art like a precious soul with a dented head! Smile How great would the world be if we spent this much attention on others as we do our own work and needs. ( Forgive me, it's the mum in me rather than the artist who comes out sometimes.)
This is my last one on this thread...
Jeanette
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Thaine Sprenger



Joined: 28 Feb 2009
Posts: 103
Location: Coolidge AZ

PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2010 7:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not rude, but not polite to the point of being useless....

I guess we all want encouragement. But the teacher who told me I was getting technique OK, but my overall work just wasn't 'cool'. That was a gift.
And I'm signing up for another class from a guy who is brutal in always pointing out what is wrong with what I do.
But once he says it, I see what he means, and he's right. I want to get better, what they are doing helps me grow faster.

They are all working on developing this 'open/closed' thing too...
I guess it's part of picking out what story we want to tell in the piece, and having life in the piece, a kind of magic or energy that sticks with you. What you put in, leave out, and emphasize... Doing all that well takes a lot more than it looks!

Thanks for the topic
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