Monday, April 25, 2022

A Couple of Decdes Plus a Couple of Years

 Friday 4/22/22

(New flowers, & pups)


Friday morning Mary and I got into the truck, and made the miserable, frustrating drive from here in Whittier, at the foot of the Puente Hills, down to Huntington Beach. Now, Huntington is a regular destination for us, but we seldom park downtown. Usually we leave the truck at the Santa Ana River, and ride our bikes down the bike path to the pier, and Main Street. But today was too cold and windy for a bike ride. Besides, we were celebrating. We planned on cruising into downtown, and leaving the truck in the Main Street parking garage. Spend a few bucks to save a few steps. Indulge a little. 

But Downtown has been  renovated since last we parked there. We turned in to the parking garage at the regular entrance, but instead of going up the old ramp to the open air parking structure, we found ourselves diving down a dark narrow tunnel, that left us trapped at the ticket gate. Rates maxed out at twenty five bucks. No way out except to take the ticket. And even after taking the ticket, and squeezing through the gate, it was so tight in there it took a three point turn to get us pointed to the exit. I told the attendant that we had  pulled in there by accident. He just punched the ticket, and we got out without having to pay.
I don't mind occasionally spending a few bucks for convenience, but twenty five dollars to park at the beach is ridiculous. So we drove a couple blocks inland and parked on the street for free. It wasn't a long walk, either.

 We were celebrating our anniversary. Twenty two years ago we, both of us, gambled on taking a spouse we had known for only a few months. It seemed like the right thing to do, and it was.

Huntington was hazy, windy, and cold. Mary and I walked across the sand to the water's edge, and just stood together taking in the day. South toward Newport the lifeguard towers were lined up like a child's perspective drawing, shrinking in the distance, and fading into the haze. To the north, the tall  buildings in downtown Long Beach floated in silhouette. The wind had a bite to it, and we held each other close. And squeezed. It was a perfect moment, one of many that we've shared over the years.

Then it was lunch at Sandy's Under the Pier. We shared a stacked poke salad. Then it was steak and cabbage tacos for me, and swordfish tacos for Mary. We seldom eat out, but once in a while it's nice to spring for a top of the line restaurant meal. The food was superb, and the portions generous.

It was as perfect a day as we could have asked for.

Sometimes the prayer is just, "Thank You."

I've been making some progress on the stone, too.

You can see how it's shaping up. (the pink lines are just idea sketches) The lower segment that anchors the piece is somewhat egg shaped. Note the simple layout lines on the plywood. Even a free form piece like this needs a whiff of geometry. For the lower piece I want clean, regular curves, and symmetry. Curves are easy. Symmetry is hard.



Still fussing away at it. But it needs the symmetry of a sea shell, not a machine. It doesn't have to be perfect; it has to be right.

 The top piece is a free, irregular form, but it has to balance as well.


Sunday I broke out the drill and the point chisels and began to open up the ravine in the top figure. There should be a cool transition down there from the black and white strata on the right, to the black and red stone on the left of the figure.

More excavation to come. We'll get it dug out this week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Another Late Post

 Another Late Post

Once again, Monday drifted by and I didn't get a post up. It's just after eight O'clock Monday night as I'm sitting here getting started.
I got a few days of work done this last week, and wound it up with a lot of progress today. I did not expect to be shaping on Easter Sunday, but there was one irregularity in a curve, and it just needed a couple of passes with a rasp, and, well... I ended up working anyway. It's strange, the way this piece is progressing. I don't have a very clear picture of the finished product. When I made the first cuts I could see where the first cuts needed to go, but not much further. And so it has been for this whole project: I can see down the road, but not all the way to the destination. Work, stop, plan. Work, stop, plan. The red stone worked just like this, too. It's hard to remember stuff from twenty years back, but this feels like a much more organic process than the way I used to work. It feels like I'm teasing the form out of the raw stone, rather than imposing my design on it.

Years ago, when I was attending a stone carving workshop, I spoke with a woman who worked in clay.  She was doing a pottery class, and dropped by to have a look at what we were doing as we worked in stone. "I don't see how you can do that," was her remark. 
Now, clay is an additive medium. A clay sculptor generally builds a figure by adding pieces of clay to an armature. Stone is purely reductive. All the stone sculptor can do is remove material. She couldn't wrap her mind around a process that goes in only one direction. I never thought about it like that until she mentioned it, but as soon as she did I understood exactly how she felt.
But carving doesn't feel like that. It feels like the shape is slowly emerging from the rock. Or maybe like excavating a million year old fossil, carefully freeing  an ancient skeleton from the petrified mud that encased it. 
Only it's not some crappy fossilized lizard bone; it's a strange new shape that no one ever saw before.

The next several sessions will be working on the base. I can see, now, where I need to go with it, but it's going to be a long trip. There's a lot of stone to be removed, a lot of shaping. 
Winding stuff up with some random notes, here: Check out the Lophophora! 
Twin flowers.

New growth. Soon (a few years down the pike) I'll have over a dozen buttons. Friends have asked if I plan on tripping. Short answer, "No."

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Time to Drill

 Time to Drill


 We're rolling into Spring here in So Cal. That means lots of cool gray weather.  Nothing casts a shadow, and everything seems quiet. And it's April. It has been a year now, since I started back to work. A lot of people hate the gray days. The dull weather makes them feel bleak.  Usually I enjoy this time of the year, but right now it just feels bleak to me as well. My spirits are low, bordering on going into freefall. Tuning in to news and current events is just depressing as hell. Will we see an end to it? Doubtful.

And yet. The quiet routines of daily life here at the suburban hermitage continue almost unaffected by the madness. There is still so much to be grateful for, and I have the blessing of a finely tuned sense of gratitude. I do not, almost cannot take any good fortune for granted. My wife. My home. My two silly cats. The pleasure in simple household tasks, and the  grace of uneventful days. Sometimes, the prayer is simply, "Thank you."
But the bleakness continues, nonetheless.
I didn't get a post up last week because I got nothing much of anything  done the week before. I got in a couple of short sessions, and that was it. Tuesday brought some sunshine, and my spirits picked up enough to get back to the stone.  The figure is shaping up somewhat like the last piece in that it's going to consist of an upper figure cradled in a lower one. The negative space between the two  is going to be as important as the figures that create the negative space. Which is a fancy way of saying I need a nice, smooth opening between the figures. So, that means it's time to break out the drill.
Now, this isn't machine shop work. The tolerances are forgiving. It's more like target practice. The bit goes in the bullseye one side, and the goal is to have it come out somewhere within the target on the exit. If the aim is wrong, the amount of error will be in direct proportion the amount of grief. I used to be good at doing this freehand. To be blunt about it: Now I'm old, and it's hard to hit the target. (In a lot of ways...)
So I invented a super high-tech precision drilling machine. See?

For this drilling I had all kinds of lateral room, but the vertical space was less than an inch. 

Going in with the 1/4" drill:
Daylight through the exit:

Close enough for government work, as they say.
Progress as of this post: