Wednesday, September 5, 2012

WiPs: Abstract Perspectives (In the round) | Subtractive sculpting with foam

I am never sure what I want to do as a first project for 3D Design but inevitably I always end up picking something that is a bit of a throw-away if it needs to be and all too often it ends up being just that.

(I know... *sigh*... I cannot believe that I am even admitting this.)

Well, all of that is a thing of the past because
This year there shall be NO throwaways!!! 

I can't remember where I came across the idea (Probably my blogroll? Maybe pinterest? I have no clue) but the basic jist of it is to take a block of foam and carve it in an abstract way with organic shaping and then mount it on a wooden pedestal so it looks like it is a miniature version of a large modern art sculpture that might be found in a sculpture garden or at the Hirshorn maybe.

I liked the idea immediately because it was abstract and modern. When it comes to the foundational kids especially I ALWAYS try and start them up with something that is abstract. This is because it immediately pushes them outside of their comfort zones and forces them to seek out other such things that are a little more familiar - like color, shape/form, etc. - that also just happen to be the elements of art  and inevitably push them to start learning the principles of design without hardly realizing it is happening. Confusing? I promise it's not nearly so in class with my students. (I have verified this even.)

For this endeavor, I started out the 3D class (there is only one this semester) with plasticine clay as a way for them to just plain get their hands on modeling material already. (They are ALWAYS itching for it to happen but they don't care what I give them. For these reasons, plasticine is the ideal material.) I encouraged them to get an idea in their minds - could be anything - and just attempt to make it with the clay. Many of them immediately launched into making things like snakes, snowmen, and other such expected things.

The next day I had them use the clay AND some drawing paper and attempt to draw something in at least three different views - front, side, back, aerial, etc. - and then try and sculpt it. I encouraged them to think of large shapes versus small detailed elements and I push them to be inspired by things found in nature. I also did a demonstration of how a creative thought process could work in terms of taking something tangible/familiar - like a landscape of a mountain range - and turn it into an abstracted sculpture that also made a statement/expressed an opinion about their worldview.

The third day (when I took all of the pictures in this posting), I had them start experimenting and exploring a bit of the modeling medium (foam block for carving) that they would be using and I instructed them to attempt to sculpt a heart - they could choose to do a stylized puffy one OR do an anatomically correct one. (Surprise, surprise, nobody chose to do an anatomically correct on. Haha!) I hypothesized that the girls would be better at this particular exercise than the boys because they were more inclined to know what a "puffy" heart looked like in order to properly sculpt it to begin with.

As it happened? I was right. The girls were MUCH better overall with this exercise. Now, the boys definitely enjoyed the sculpting and carving because we were using knives but they very challenged with the subtractive element of the process. All of them dug in too quickly, cut too much away as soon as they could and ended up with hearts that were much smaller than they needed to be. This is despite the fact that I was circulating the classroom and having 1:1 conversations with them about the importance pacing yourself and perhaps allowing yourself a little more material to carve and not just cut out their shape right off the bat because it would end up smaller than their cut shape.

When all was said and done for the third day's work? One of the senior student artists (who I have had already in three, maybe even four classes before this one and who I know is just exceptional both in her technique, self-pacing, general understanding of art and design) made the best one overall.

No matter how or what each of the students did though with each of their practice pieces, I have them packaged up for us to return to them to continue using them for practice in an effort to gain insight and understanding about how we will prime/seal them so that they can be painted and eventually mounted so they can be viewed in the round.

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