Monday, September 25, 2023

Cracks n' Stuff

 Cracks n' Stuff

Alabaster is gypsum, which is a soft stone. It comes in at just a notch above soapstone at #2 on the mohs scale, although some alabasters are harder, and other alabasters are downright mushy. The Anza Borrego stone comes from the US Gypsum quarries, way deep in the Anza Borrego Desert in the wilds of San Diego County. It is not quarried out for sculpting. The colors in the material I've been working on for the last couple of years are impurities in the gypsum that render the stone unfit for crushing into powder to be used as the matrix for drywall. The stuff does not get careful treatment. Rather, it is plowed out of the mountainside with huge earth moving machines, broken up, scooped up, and dumped. Even alabaster that is quarried for sculpting is full of cracks. It's just a natural feature. These pieces are fragments of broken rock. Sometimes the cracking is the aforementioned natural property of alabaster, but just as often a piece may be shot through with fissures. Usually, that means just getting out the five pound mallet, and smacking a big chunk out of the stone before beginning work.
It sometimes happens that the fissures don't show up until a carving is well underway, and when that happens, it causes problems.
You might guess that this is what I'm dealing with right now. At least, with an abstract figure this means adjusting the shape in progress. There is always some room for improvisation. You can't do that with a bust, or a statue.

Uh, well, umm, yeah it's supposed to be a guy with no arm, and right shoulder. I planned that way to uhh- make a statement, that's it!

Enter Starbond. The super-glue that you get at the grocery store is watered down. Starbond is the real deal. It comes from Japan, and it's a little bit treacherous to work with. You can easily weld your fingertips to each other, or anything they may touch. It come with needle fine dispensing tips so you can drip it into a crack with some precision. Even so, the fluid is very thin and it runs all over the place before it sets up. If the fissure is fine enough, the Starbond can keep the edges from flaking, and keep the fissure from spreading and causing a chunk to fall out of the stone.
In this case, the crack is on the left side near the bottom where I've been shaping the butt end of the rock into a wedge. The Starbond is the wet looking patches. You can see the drip in the top pic as well. We'll just have to see how it works out. I may have the fissure under control here. If it continues to give me trouble I have the option of cutting much of the tail end away.

  Again, this is the freedom that you have when working an abstract form. It doesn't mean anything goes. It is entirely possible to wreck the composition by hacking the wrong way. So now, it is time to slow down a little, give attention to other parts of the figure, and as always, spend a lot of time just staring at the stone.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Drawing on the Stone

Drawing on the Stone

I haven't put up a post in a few days, because up until today there wasn't any sort of progress to show. I have been working, but this part of the project is simply staring at the stone. Truth to tell, I don't draw vey well. I seldom make sketches on paper, because I do poorly trying to translate a three dimensional idea onto a two dimensional plane. It is much easier for me to sketch directly onto the stone. It's not exactly a spectator sport. I did have an idea, and I drew it out on the face of the rock, but somehow, it just didn't seem right. I messed with it for a few days, but ended up just saying, "No." Maybe something more simple, more elegant. 
Of course, opting for a more simple design sets off the nagging inner voice I call the Carp. Carp will say, "You're just too lazy to do a difficult design. You've lost your touch. It'll look like something you already did. People will see it and say, "Anyone could do that. What's the big deal?" And on, and on. 

I sketched out the design on one side of the stone, then flipped the rock over to put the mirror image on the other side. It's surprising how difficult that can be, even with a simple design. I kept making the same mistakes over and over. I'd look, and say, "That isn't right," then had the devil's own time figuring out what was wrong. 

Eventually I got it down, but it took an inordinate amount of time to do it. Of course, the sketch just looks like a big "S"curve, because that's what it is. There will be more to it than just a big "S".

I got the point chisels out today. and started cutting, then drew a line for a base, and scribed it in.

So the project is underway. I know right from the gate that, unless I get some really brilliant flash of inspiration, it's probably not going to be one of my prize-winning pieces. I need to work, and I'm happy to feel well enough to do it, but I don't have much in the way of creative fire just now.
My energy level, physical, mental, and psychic is still uncomfortably low. I've made the observation before, that we do not age on a bell curve. The faculties do not decline in a gradual slope. They fall off like a series of stair steps, sometimes small steps, but more often in big ones. I'm realizing, and none too graciously, that the illness of this last summer kicked me down a solid step or two. I won't come back all the way from it. I need to accept that there has been a decline, and it isn't a temporary setback. It's a decline.

I'm realizing, too, that my efforts with The Lost Canyon Project may come to naught as well. I refer the "The Lost Canyon Project" as the overall effort to see my late friend Pete Hampton's work recognized for its greatness.

The Lost Era blog, book, and now movie are the vehicles for that effort. The blog gets very little traffic except for the Singapore scumbags trawling through Blogger to plant scams, and viruses. I have not made too much effort toward trying to publish the book, but the queries I've sent out haven't been fruitful. The Lost Era got off to an encouraging start at the Arkhaven Comic site, but traffic has fallen way off, and now it's running about the same number of views as The Little Red Hen which is simply scans of an old children's book. I've sent out quite a few downloads of the slideshow movie, and given out a few SD cards, and thumb drives. This has had mixed results. All but a couple of people who have seen it were very impressed. The flip side of that is that over half the people I've given it out to haven't bothered to watch it.
The next effort will be the show at Whittier Historic Museum. This will take place on November 11. I'll be giving an afternoon, and an early evening show. Hope I don't end up sitting there all alone. We'll see.

Thursday, September 14, 2023



Remember I mentioned getting a lot of "visits" from Singapore? Last night I was checking the Blogger dashboard, and just happened to click on the comments button. This shows a neat list of all the comments that have been posted on the blog since day one. Guess what I found? The comments were littered with spam, and phishing attempts. I nuked close to a hundred of them. Those Singapore web crawlers are cyber cockroaches that drop their nasty eggs all over where you won't see them. They are products of the human roaches in Singapore who do this out of malice, or do it in hopes of being able to get hold of your data, and ultimately, your money. I wish them the fate of cockroaches everywhere when the exterminator shows up with his spray tanks.

Anyway. Let's get on with the post

Now how's that for a fancy, high-tech, super scientific sounding title? You'd think I was engaged in some sort of highly mathematical nuclear atomic physics  engineering project that could blow up at any moment, and send us all to kingdom come.

What it really means is that the base cut that I made the other day left the stone leaning awkwardly to one side. Now sometimes a little asymmetry is a good thing. Sometimes a little awkwardness can be endearing. But just as often it means that it just doesn't look right.  

I don't always see it at first glance. I did not really notice it until I began rounding some corners, and working the raw rock into a basic shape that will grow into a  finished composition. Nothing precise, or mathematical about it. It either looks right, or it doesn't. It didn't.

 What this meant is that I had to do another base cut. This is not the first time I've had to do this with a project. Even so, it feels like a mistake that I could have, and should have avoided.

But the making the cut was surprisingly easy. A new blade in the bow saw certainly helped. Then, a return to the sanding board, which also went much easier than I thought it would. (hooray!)





Add a little water:

Ready to Rock n' Roll! (note most clever pun!)

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

September Stone

 September Stone

I come up with these snazzy titles in hopes of drawing the zillions of viewers who are surely out there just waiting to hear what I have to say. Actually I've been getting a whole bunch of views, but they're all from Singapore. Singapore? I cannot imagine that anyone in Singapore gives a crap about some cranky old fart like me pecking away at a vanity blog here in So Cal. Furthermore, I have slightly less than zero interest in cultivating a readership there. The only way it makes any sense is if the visits from Asia are bots of some sort scouring the web for something to steal, or feed into some AI program, the better to respond to image prompts, or mimic American speech patterns. In any case, I'd block them, or tell them to piss off if I could.
 Now that that is out of the way...
This has been a good day, and it started with that most rare of occurrences, a very pleasant dream in the early hours of the morning. One of the things I like about smoking dope is that when you go to bed with a buzz, you don't dream, you just sleep. The dream energy is used up fueling the flight of  imagination when the weed kicks in. I like that aspect of smoking because most all of my dreams are some degree of unpleasant, and often fall into night terrors.
But I haven't had a buzz since June, and I really don't want to catch one. Kinda' done with it, y'know? To everything there is a season, and all that.
Today is the first day since I got sick that I feel like I'm running on something like my normal level of energy, so I got to work on a new stone. The pics up top are the raw material. It's a forty pound chunk of Anza Borrego Alabaster, mostly black but with some white layered in, and maybe even some red. Some of the white on the face has some translucence. Maybe the inner layers, too. We'll see. 

The first step is what I call the take down. I got out the angle grinder with a 50 grit disc, shaved all the weathered material off the face, and ground it smooth enough to sketch on. Then I stood it on end, found the point of balance, scribed a pencil line around the stone and cut the base with a bow saw. The base cut is done by sawing along the pencil line, going slowly around and around the stone.
Add a little water to bring up the color:

Next is the sanding board. The base has to, of course, sit perfectly flat on a table without wobbling. This next part is tedious, but necessary...

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Post Screed Post

 Post Screed Post

I tossed up a very angry post the other day, and took it down the next morning. Glad I did. Fortunately it had only a few views. I let fly out of frustration and impatience that had fused like resin and catalyst into a lump of toxic anger.

I have not been in a good frame of mind as of late. Not at all. The root of this is physical. I am still running on very low energy, very poor stamina, and very irregular sleep. I'll have a good day where I feel like I'm getting my strength back, then toss and turn all night, and get out of bed feeling shitty again. Wake up at 3:00, get out of bed at  4:00. By 10:00 I'm exhausted. Sometimes I can catch a doze late in the morning, and awaken with enough energy to get some small stuff done, but it fades pretty fast.

 Small irritations become major affronts. The news of the day kills off any optimism I  can muster. I want to get to work on something, anything other than sitting at the keyboard, but I just don't have the juice to do it. 

The San Pedro bloom was spectacular this summer. Clouds of bees, and those big, metallic green June Beetles showed up to feast on the pollen. We have a bush in the back yard that has attracted thousands of bright yellow butterflies. The bush is alive with stripped yellow caterpillars, and pink and green chrysalids are hanging all over the place. 

I've been taking the camera out back, and snapping photos of the worms, and chrysalids, but the butterflies are maddeningly elusive. 

They come individually, and in clusters, and clouds, but they move fast, and never alight for as much as a second. When they do pause on a stem, or a tree trunk they do so with their wings folded. 

But photography isn't my thing. I like to snap a good shot as much as the next guy, but I don't have any passion for it. It's just something to do to kill time.

Forbearance isn't easy right now. It seems like a luxury afforded only to the very fortunate, and I'm not in that club. I can still acknowledge that I am, indeed very richly blessed in  many things, but acknowledgement resides way up in the intellect. Emotions, and physical states charge up from deep in the gut, and they swamp acknowledgement and reason every time. I can count my blessings, but all too often, I can't quite feel them.

But there is good stuff. My latest stone project took second place at the fall show at Whittier Art Association. The  competition (if you want to call it that) was stiff. Whittier Art Gallery is not amateur hour. I'm very happy with this.

I finally got some of the feedback I was waiting for on The Lost Era movie. It was overwhelmingly good. This, too, makes me happy. It reassures me that the work I have done has not been an empty effort. But, of course, there is still work to be done. Dion gave me a good suggestion. Maybe try to approach the public television network. I had not thought of that. We'll see. I have to call Nick at the Whittier museum as well. I may not have the juice to wrestle a big stone, but standing up to introduce the film takes little effort. That I can do, and I'm looking forward to doing it.