Some Clay Works this Spring

Here are most of the whosits and whatsits I made in my pottery class this past Spring. Some of them I like a lot, while others, not so much. But I think they have interesting qualities regardless of how they turned out.

The first piece I made this spring was a vase. It was meant to look as though it was wiggling around and then flail out a bit at the top. I wanted the top more open so that the flowers have room to breathe. It’s a deep black inside and a jade green outside.

The second piece was a jar with a lid. I liked the deep blue it ended up being with the bits of scattered white. It almost makes it look like the ocean, and the top like ripples.

This one is meant too look like water coming up around the figure. I thought it might look interesting with a plant growing all around it inside. I experimented with wax under the glaze on the side and got this strange speckled effect.

This is a triangular pot done with coils. It’s face looks completely tortured and contorted. It’s mean to go along with another vase that I made (it’s still on display so I haven’t taken pictures).

This was intended to go into a small animals cage, somewhere that a hamster or ferret would snuggled up with a matching bowl. It was mildly inspired by the Flintstones.

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These plates were made with two completely different techniques. The whitish one was done with coils and the green one was done on a wheel.

And those are all my miscellaneous pottery pieces from this year! My favorites will be up in another post.

Until next time!

damian alexander

Disposable Childhood – A Sculpture

Imagine a bedroom floor coated with the flesh of a couple dozen nude Barbie dolls, or the missing piece from the board game that’s coated in lint under the living room couch, the pieces that get lost and prevent you from completing your LEGO airplane, or the dollhouse furniture that broke when you shoved your brother into them, the doll head pulled from its body or the tiny green soldiers you experimented the melting process with.

That was the inspiration for this piece.

When given the assignment of a piece that needed to be bound together my instant though was that I would use toys. For anyone who knows me, I collect toys, even broken ones. I always figure they’ll come in handy later and well…they did!

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I grew up through the 90s and 00s and it was a good portion of the generation that got an explosion of media shoved in their faces. Somewhere in the 80s TV stations were created that specifically targeted children, dozens of commercials advertising toys were on and off, toy stores were stuffed to the brim with must-have toys. Kids got several movies in a year aimed just at them with marketing schemes and billboards, characters covering bedsheets and accompanying action figures, dolls, clothes. You bought a Happy Meal and then there was another toy when you were just trying to eat. Most kids don’t keep them around forever. It’s disposable. They’re all disposable.

With so many bits of media, so many toys and objects coated in hot pink and metallic blue, made each one worth a lot less than it might have years before. Even the poorest kids I knew had ten Barbies when they only needed 1, they had videogames coming and going like cheeseburgers and it just never ended. You walk into any thrift store and you’ll find a naked doll with the hand chewed off from a dog, a dollhouse coated in dirt from when it was left outside, action figures with the faces scuffed off from being abused, teddy bears with bursts and holes and a smell of mildew.

That’s what this piece is about. An ode to nostalgia and the waste of childhood, the forgotten bits and pieces that broke off when it met its end.

[when looking through the photographs below play this tune in a separate tab for added effect].

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Disposable Childhood will be on display at the Arno Maris gallery at Westfield State University on April 27th.

Until next time!

damian alexander

Sculpting a Face

As strange as this may sound, one of my favorite things to do within art is create a face. I feel like every artist has their thing. Some love drawing dogs over and over or working with flowers or extreme lines or bright colors. My thing is faces.

There’s just something I love about creating a human face. It’s just so indescribably exciting.

I find myself at any given time, staring at people and gathering in the idea of them. Their eyes, mouth and nose, lips, freckles, cheekbones, skin tone, the ears or neck or jawline. Every face is so fascinating. And while I don’t often use references in print (as in photos) for my work I do find myself referencing the people I’ve seen, from memory. Of course, these are generally exaggerated references and stylized artistically, which has become apparent throughout my work.

I find it so exciting when I first see this new person peaking though, when all those dabs of paint or scratched in lines start to come alive. It’s probably the most exciting thing about painting and why I have a hard time branching out into other subjects, like plants or scenery. I get so thrilled when I see the sparkle in their eye and they become real to me.

Sculpting a face garners a similar reaction. When I choose to sculpt a face instead of a flowerpot or cookie jar I find myself unable to stop working until they are completed. I will keep working and working until I see the nose and eyes poking through that wad of clay. The hours melt away. Next thing I know I’m looking at the clock and four hours have past and I look back at my hand and I’m holding a person I could only see in my head.

Below is a sculpture I worked on this Saturday. She is a character from a children’s book I’ve been working on. I guess it might be harder for others to see, because I can envision her in full color (she’ll be painted soon) and I can see her cuteness and spunk shining through and she feels almost real to me now, a way she hadn’t exactly felt before. I’ll be making more characters as soon as I can.

I’m not sure if other artists feel this way but it’s one of the things that ­keeps me creating. To an extent, it feels like another way of creating life.

I guess it is.

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Until next time!

damian alexander

How I Make a Puppet [Part I: Sculpting Kieren’s Head]

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People often ask how exactly it is that I make my dolls…or as I call them, puppets, as I often use them for animation.

In this post I will go over brief steps of how I made my recent Kieren Walker puppet (a character from the BBC Three series In the Flesh). Learn more about the series here: [What is ‘In the Flesh’?]. Kieren Walker is played by actor Luke Newberry and so of course the doll is in his likeness. (fun fact! I chose to post this today on February 19th because it is in fact both of our birthday! I thought that was neat.).

These steps will be loose as they’re not really meant to follow along like a DIY but rather give some insight on how I do what I do.

We start with a sketch. This puppet was one of my easier ones because I had a subject to work from as it was a character from a pre-existing television program, rather than something entirely from scratch like I’ve done with previous puppets of mine. Luckily I had already done a few drawings of characters from the series beforehand to see what they would look like in my style.

Then I went and found a few images of the character from the series to work from like this one below.

In the Flesh ©2013-2014 BBC Three and Dominic Mitchell

Then I begin the puppet. I start with the head. The first step involves forming essentially a ball out of tin foil. I use baking clay for the head so foil is great because it can be cooked. The wad of foil also saves clay and gives you a basic structure to work around.

After I have the ball of tin foil mashed into the shape of the face and neck I begin to work on the clay. I take small pinches of the clay and begin to mold it onto the foil. I mush a good layer over the foil and then add up on top of that with more clay to form out the facial features, nose, brows, lips, eyelids. I was very drawn to sculpting this character because of how prominent the actors facial features are, high cheek bones, sharp nose, noticeable ears and furrowed brow. I sculpt the face back to the ears and then stop.

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sculpey clay over foil (for the face)

 

Once that is created it is time to bake. For this amount of clay I gave it ten minutes in the oven at 275°F. After that is done I give it just a little bit to cool enough so that I wouldn’t burn my hands but not enough to get rock hard.

I then work from the back and sculpt in the hair, where I move to the front and sides to add in the front swoop and sideburns. I wanted the face to be hard enough that I wouldn’t mess it up while working on the hair, but soft enough that the clay would merge on the second bake. I then have what you see below.

Next step is the paint! …for those of you who don’t know, Kieren Walker is a zombie. Or as they call them in the series “Partially Deceased Syndrome Sufferers.” This means I didn’t have to add too much color as he’s very pale and washed out to begin with. I did however need to add eyes, brows, hair color, and shading.

It started with some light washes a cream tone on the face. Then I painted in the hair, brows and crevices with a nice light coffee brown.

After the paint of the face and hair had dried I worked in some white for the eyes. Kieren has two different colors shown on screen at times, one with his brown contact and one with his exposed zombie eye. The pupils and brown I drew in with pen after the white paint dried.

The end result of the head is below as well as the final head attached to his body and comparison.

I hope you enjoyed this little journey, and I’ll be sure to go over how I create the body and clothes eventually! Until next time check out a few clips from In the Flesh, which is one of my favorite television programs.

The series is centered on a zombie apocalypse, but is approached differently than most other zombie rising stories. It follows a recently risen zombie, Kieren Walker (a gay, 18-year-old who committed suicide) as he is rehabilitated into regular society where he experiences bigotry and isolation due to his zombie status. As more and more zombies begin to be rehabilitate we meet an interesting array of characters, both living and dead. The series involves many social issues, from mass panic, to suicide, depression, PTSD, gay relationships and family issues. It is definitely worth checking out.

I’ll leave you with two of my favorite scenes:

You can purchase the first and second seasons on amazon.com

Tell me what you think of my puppet and In the Flesh below!

Until next time!

damian alexander