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figurative work


Mark Strom

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As promised here is the different twist from the rabbits. I do figurative work on occasion usually for churches in a realistic format.

 

This piece differs greatly from almost anything I have done. There was no real concept, drawing or plan. There was a block of wood. The piece started only with the idea of being figurative and it evolved into this. You can see where I had to glue wood to the base to get the feet carved. This was one of those "flow" pieces where the work just took place. The entire piece was carved to the sanding point in one night, roughly 6 hours.

 

Sorry for the photo work but the piece has sold and this is what I had. I thought black and white suited the work better than color and helped with the grainy photo work. Please feel free to compliment or kill as you see fit.

 

Mark

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Thanks Fred I greatly appreciate the feedback. I was beginning to think as Mike Ruslander said that the most effective critique is "no reply", had me nervous.

 

I realize this is not typical work for this forum but I really wanted to see what my peers opinions would be.

 

Thanks again.

 

Mark

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Guest ford hallam

Hi Mark,

 

sorry for not taking the time to reply earlier. It wasn't a "no comment" by me, on purpose.

 

When I first saw the piece I must admit I was left feeling a little unsettled. Don't get me wrong, I think the sensitivity in the form, the way you've defined the volumes etc is very well done. The black and white images though, seem to render the sculpture as a graphic work, and it works very well in this way too. I think this made it difficult for me to "read" it as 3D piece and this odd discord bothered me.

 

If I'm brutally honest, I will admit that this very stylized and angular treatment of the human form, particularly female form, doesn't do much for me. Perhaps for me it is to do with an apparent reduction of the human spirit to something mechanically defined, almost like something that I'd expect to have come out of the old Soviet blok. What is interesting though, is that you have, never the less, managed to convey a certain degree of cocqettishness in the shaping of the hair, the attitude of the head and shoulders and the position of the hand behind the back. The feet do seem a little small though and the fact that they are on tip toe makes the whole figure appear a little strained to me.

 

I realise that so much of the figures effect would also come from the changing play of light and shadow as one moved around it or the light changed and that this effect is not available to us. Clearly the person who bought it from you got to see the whole effect.....and loved it. :)

 

 

I hope you don't mind too much, my comments, I did'nt want to insult you with platitudes but would rather risk being honest about what I think and feel.

 

regards, Ford

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I've just not been home enough, and am again away.

 

Hmmm, I interpreted this as a lithe male, perhaps a dancer. My son and I went to a Teen Children's Theater production last weekend, to see "Fashion 47". Most of the actors-as models of rather strange clothing in a competition between designers...really not a guy audience show... most of the actors were male dancers, and did the transgender/gay presentation remarkably well. Regardless of persuasion of actor or character, the dancer's bodies were lithe, young, slim and very expressive, sporting a variety of contemporary and possibly feminine hair styles. The characters were meant to be confusing, and did their parts with dancing very effectively. Since I can not see the contour of the torso of this expressive sculpture, the chest may be pectoral muscles rather than feminine breasts on the long, broad shouldered, triangular upper torso, with slim hips on long strong legs. The face, with or without hair style, is an enigma, which I perceive as male. The form reminds me of a male swimmer, or a dancer who is in an expressive, searching posture.

 

OK, I don't know the vernacular of critique, or art speak. Not trained in that regard. I do know movement, light/shadow, etc., and would be comfortable one on one or in small thoughtful groups (I am a rather shy and private person) discussing what I see, yes, and feel, from what I am hoping to comment about.

 

This piece causes me to return to it, which means it holds intrigue. Its answers are not clear, opening the way for consideration between those of us who are moved by it, in any way.

 

I keep returning, and imagine him in a grouping of other sculptures, setting up a posturing communication, connected by their eyes, or what else each of them might be focused on with the others. Human stories we each would write in our minds.

 

Thanks Mark for sharing this small sculpture. Would you also describe how you accomplished carving this, the tools and smoothing part?

 

Janel

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Thanks for all the comments and I appreciate all the dancing being done to avoid stepping on my toes. I put the piece out asking for critique knowing full well that there are problems with it. I want and expect honesty, please do not think that by being so you will crush my delicate nature causing me lay down my carving tools and live the rest of my life as a wounded hermit. Found another view also.

 

I will respond to your posts tonight when I have more time. Again, thanks for all your honesty and reviews.

 

Mark

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Again, thank you fro all your comments and criticisms. That for me was the whole point of posting.

 

Ford: I purposely changed the photos to b/w to bring the forms out. My intent was to eliminate the background and wood color reducing the image to nothing but the piece. I can see your point concerning portraying the human form in such a manner, it does indeed reduce the humanity of it. I posted another photo which shows the feet from a different perspective, I think they are more in scale from this view. That the work appeared strained to you shows to some degree that the piece is successful. The title to the work is "Never Give an Inch". Almost all of my figurative work that I do for myself is in response to deep emotional strain, most times anger, frustration or sadness. There is a reason for the feet which will be addressed shortly.

 

Janel: The figure was meant to be ambiguous. Due to the abstract nature I think the gender can be interpreted by the viewer. The shape of the hips, shoulders and elongation of the body all serve to further the ambiguity. This is not uncommon with my sculpture either. The expression in the piece is one of confrontation or communication with something out of the viewers frame of vision. I do not think that one has to trained in the method of critique or art speak. I think honest heartfelt words are more important and true than any formal language or training. The piece was first roughed out to some degree on a bandsaw. Most of the carving was done with flat chisels (1/4" to 1") with the details done with various small gouges. A fine cabinet makers file followed by riffler files defined the forms. All this was followed by more sanding than I care to do.

 

Katfen: In hindsight this piece is very reminiscent of a piece called "The Rock Drill" by British sculptor Jacob Epstien. The stance is a captured moment not a long stance...it would have your feet hurting like hell in a minute not to mention the balance issue. It served the purpose of capturing an instant before the figure moves forward and added a tenseness to the posture. I would like to know what the anatomical errors are that you see. I'm afraid I can't see the forest for the trees if you know what I mean. These are the details that help me move forward, so please elaborate. There is a lot of distortion and exaggeration taking place in the form so I am not sure what to look for.

 

Please do not view these explanations as defensive (as in a hostile defense). I am only trying to explain my intent and attempt at conveying a message with the carving. As to whether the carving is a success is ultimately not up to me but to you the viewer. For me to invite criticism and then try argue to prove right or wrong would be the height of arrogance. I sincerely thank you for your comments and you can count on the fact the next time I start a piece they will be in my thoughts.

 

Mark

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Hi Mark,

 

Thanks for the good information above and additional view. Ambiguity, ambiguous, yes you have succeeded, as I look at it. I am reminded of some of the young people I have met in the recent few years, who are facing their own complicated gender issues as they struggle for identity and acceptance. Humans are not just one or the other always. Altering a human form (well, any subject), elongating or shortening, twisting unnaturally, redefining proportion, etc., are all techniques to involve and guide the viewer. It is up to us to infer its message through our own filters.

 

Janel

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Hi Mark,

 

Sorry for jumping in late, it's Thanksgiving weekend up here, and I've also been busy putting the finishing touches on a piece of my own.

 

It is very difficult to offer any sort of meaningful critique, based exclusively on a low-res photo. I saw your posting a couple of days ago, and was waiting until I had the time to offer a real response. I will say, since you invited comments, that I agree with much of what Kathleen said about this piece. It does leave me with a sort of a sense of defiance though, which I kind of like, and I am not the least bit surprised by the title.

 

I have seen the Rock Drill. The National Gallery here in Ottawa has a casting on semi-permanent exhibit, and I see your connection. Your piece immediately reminded me of the work from this era, in particular the Republic sculpture group by Oskar J.W. Hansen at the Hoover Dam. link But this may be only because I was there exactly 1 month ago. There was a lot of elongation in the sculptures from this genre, which I do find quite pleasing.

 

What I like most about it is the fact that it was done so spontaneously, and quickly. That this could be created by looking at a block of wood, and simply going for it to see what happens is great, and your spontaneous energy comes out in the piece in a very good way. You should really persue this approach more.

 

I think it is great that you put this piece out there, even if it isn't the usual sort of work that we see here, or perhaps especially for that reason.

 

Phil

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"I think it is great that you put this piece out there, even if it isn't the usual sort of work that we see here, or perhaps especially for that reason."

 

Doing work that is not our usual, either by style or speed of work being done, are ways which encourage growth.

 

Happy Thanks Giving Phil!

 

Janel

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Kathleen,

Thanks for the feed back. I do understand what you mean by being visual first. You have given me a starting point to start from in correcting this piece. Most of my research for figurative work starts with books, moves to pictures, followed by watching people and looking at my own body (not always easy or pleasant for a man my age). Occasionally I am lucky enough to have a model.

 

I will follow your advice as time and circumstance allows then we will see how the next one comes out.

 

Thanks,

 

Mark

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Hi Mark

 

Just like to say that I like this piece AS IS, and feel that you don't need to change the shape/feel or pose in any way, my reasoning behind this is simply that it would be taking away your own personal touch, and making it into something that appeals to others. Which in turn takes away some of your own passion imparted in the piece.

 

I respect the other comments submitted thus far and agree that every little bit of information helps us along the path of creation, and gives us an insight on different approaches that others would take, but, to change something for the sake of pleasing others is not the way to go.

 

I feel it does not matter if a piece is created on the spare of the moment, or thought out over time, what we create is a personal journey and should remain so and the suggestions and comments can stand us in good stead for future work.

 

Regards

 

Mike Mc

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Guest ford hallam

Hi Mike,

 

I think you may slightly have missed the intention behind the various comments that have been offered by way of critique. Offering considered critique is not about trying to impose one's own opinions with regard to style or even aesthetic. It's about trying to get to a more objective view of the work. Sometimes we can get too close to a piece and ( to quote Mark ) " can't see the forest for the trees". Hearing a more objective response can be very helpful at times.

 

I don't know whether Kathleen personally enjoys this sort of abstraction at all, her own work is quite different, but her comments and suggestions, are in my opinion, very valid and may ultimately prove to be quite valuable to Mark.

 

Having said all that, I suspect that nothing that has been said is new to Mark. I think most of us are often our own harshest critics. The skill in recieving critique is to evaluate it's source and it's use to you should you feel there is something worthwhile to be teased out.

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On the other hand Mark... one could believe that "considered critique" of a sculpture based on nothing more than a few photographs to be a complete absurdity and take it all with a rather big pinch of salt.... (.....but perhaps thats being a little too "objective") :unsure:

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It seems that this posting of the figurative piece has been quite a success. There are several points I think need to be made.

 

First, when I first joined it was with the intent of critiquing a posted piece. A debated was raised about wanted and unwanted critiques and should there be a criteria for posting critiques. My argument was that you post whether you want comments or not and that the civility of the membership would regulate itself. The process demonstrated here proves that it can be done in a constructive and civilized manner. I think the comments offered have been well thought out and constructive.

 

Although I may not agree with some of the points made about the piece they did raise questions that I think need to be considered and answered in my own processes. I do not have a full comprehension of the human figure and to some that was obvious. I posted the piece for several reasons and one of them was for a review of the technical aspects, including the anatomy, of the work. The other side was to see how people reacted to the sculpture on its own thus the black and white format. No distractions only the work presented in a fashion where color etc. did not influence the emotions. I got what I needed in both areas.

 

As for reviewing work from photographs. Sure photographs limit your experience and interaction with the sculpture but not so much so that a critique cannot be given. For my purposes this method (here on this forum) is exceptional. The limitations worked to my advantage. Comments were based on initial impact without sitting with the piece and walking around it analyzing it. There was not the opportunity to become connected with the work, it could not "grow" on you. First impressions made all the impact and those who posted critiques had to explain those impressions. I think I got more honest results due to these limitations.

 

Of course all comments are taken with a grain of salt. Overall I want to express my thanks to all for the consideration this piece was given. It was constructive, positive and I believe will only serve to help me produce better work.

 

Mark

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I'd say you have a point about photos. However, being as you don't shoot your work at all and obviously have your reasons for doing so, do you not think that is a rather subjective way of looking at the situation based in your own way of thinking?

 

Of course its a subjective way of thinking... all thinking is on that basis subjective.... even thinking that we are being objective. Subjectivity being the cognative constant and objectivity the aspiration as any attempt at objectivity by its very nature has to be.

 

Being as it's rather impossible to avoid photos in order to share, discuss, etc. what we are working on, don't you think that's rather shutting down the whole process? Personally, I prefer to see work in person and have time to sit with it...but that's just not possible most of the time in this type of situation.

 

No I don't think its shutting down the "whole process" at all.. as this continued discussion proves. I offered Mark an alternative way of considering the crique offered.. as others did before me and will no doubt after me.

 

Now... should the objectivety of an appreciation of photography when offering a considered critique of a sculpture be determined by the needs of this forum?

I would certainly hope not... but that just might be me being a little too subjective. :unsure:

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From what you say, you seem to come from an extreme point of view rooted in an 'either/or' way of perception. It is impossible for anything that exists in this world to remain constant. All life is perpetually in a state of flux. I would suggest that if this is the constant, than stagnation is the illness.

 

In my experience, the manner in which you spoke created a disconnect that was quite like "shutting down the whole process", or at least suggestive of such. That would be my reason for that statement. I think it's quite obvious to Mark (as it should be to anyone), that they may choose whatever path they wish, regardless of what others may say or suggest. In fact, I do believe he has stated this on more than one occasion in this thread. As a result, I fail to see you offering him any alternative way of considering critique.

 

As to your last point, I'm not quite clear on what you mean. Would you kindly clarify? Thank you.

 

Regards,

 

Kathleen

 

"I cannee hold her anymore captain... the warp engines just cannee take it sir." ;)

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