Second Paper Mache Sculpture Process

I was writing in my sketchbook that I wanted this final sculpture of the term to be geometric. But when I sketched ideas out in my sketchbook I realised that fan faults are the most iconic Cathedral architectural feature, so this is a shape I need to explore! This shape is both simple and intricate and so I thought it would be interesting to see translated back onto the canvas.

I used super tough wire for the armature of this sculpture and it worked so much better than the thin wire I had been using before! I could manipulate one end of the wire without the other being distorted as well, which made the process of getting straight lines and smooth curves so much easier.

The part I struggled with the most for this stage was attaching lots of layers of wire ends to each corner of the octagon frame. It began easily, using thin wire to tie two ends of wire frame together. But I ended up attatching so many ends to each corner that I ran out of wire, but also each corner got unnecessarily bulky.
It would have been better in retrospect to have more wire, because more wraps of wire made for stronger attachments, but also, instead of making each curve as I went and adding the curves one at a time, it may have been better to make all the curves before hand, and tie them all together at once, attaching all of them to each corner of the octagon frame at once. When I make more structures in the future of this kind I’ll try this method.

I did consider just leaving the wire armature as the finished sculpture. The corners of the sculpture were ugly, but the wire on top did look so smooth and pretty. I knew however that I needed to add the paper mache because that meant I could smooth out the corners and paint it white as planned.

Another reason for adding paper mache that I realise only now having completed the sculpture is that covering up the wire and painting the structure white makes the shape look like nothing recognisable. When the structure was wire, the making of the sculpture was obvious – the maker had bent wire and attached it together to make this pretty shape. But when the wire is covered up and painted, the making process is far less obvious and the focus becomes the mystery and weirdness of the object, instead of the familiar artist’s process that made the object.

Painting the paper mache white removed so much of the surface texture and shadows of the piece. It makes the lines look a lot smoother and refined.

Finished sculpture thoughts and next

I’m super happy with how this sculpture turned out!
Structurally it’s very strong. Using thick wire plus the paper mache and a complex set of structures on top means it is sturdy and stands easily on its own.
Visually it looks best from either looking down on the top or looking up from below. The size of the sculpture means it’s tall enough to be explored from all angles (the size also meant it was big and easy to work with the shapes, too small = too fiddly).
The curves of the arches are a great nod to cathedral architecture but the shape is simple and repetitive, and I’m happy that the shapes created by the curves from above or below are fairly symmetrical.

I can’t think of anything I could have done better at this stage, not because I think it’s perfect, but because I need to see how well the sculpture works in my paintings before I can say. Also this is such an explorative branch of my work – making these sculptures, all I want to say is ‘cool, now let’s make another one.’

Now I focus on drawing the sculpture, first in my sketchbook, then onto acetate, then onto a big canvas!

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