Whether it's a stainless steel or mild steel welded metal figure sculpture I'm starting, it all begins with the armature. It's very helpful to have accurate anatomical measurements for the bone structure. It will look awkward if this is not done right.
I TIG weld the stainless, which is very finicky to get to weld. the steel gets oxyacetylene welded which is fairly easy but took allot of practice.
Here you see a new sculpture being started. There is about 2 hrs work done. I have developed the habit of diligently clocking my sculpting time so I can look back when it is finished to see how long it actually took to make.
The computer screen shows my subject matter. I am careful not to shoot hot metal onto the screen and damage it.
I have used the MIG welder and oxyacetylene welding torch here to suggest movement, muscle and mass as I build up the material.
The first application of material is crude and bulky held together with tack welds. The next phase is to use the torch. by making the metal parts red hot and ductile I can bend in, twist, hammer and shape the form to resemble the character I'm looking for,
The foot or base of the pose must be strong enough to withstand the manipulation to come.
Here is a brief slideshow of some images of how i create a large welded metal sculpture.
I first chose an illustration i could enlarge and transfer to my work table.
I then bend metal pieces to conform to the drawing and construct a 3D metal framework of the face and head. The structure shows the basic planes of the head that i use as a reference when adding metal to construct a face. My armature is the framework that i built from the drawing. this I use as a guide when starting to sculpt a large metal face. I have attached the armature to a stable steel base that is a good working height. later on in the sculpting process when the new sculpted form has enough strength to stand on its own, i remove the under-structure or armature and set aside for another time.
The sculpture is starting to take shape.
Now for some buffalo horns and feather head-dress and off to the sculpture park.
This painted metal wall art sculpture is hand painted with colorful enamel paint. Since 1992 I have been sculpting welded metal figure sculpture. Durring this time i would clean the finished metal sculpture the best i could with wire brushes or sandblasting. I would then apply a good quality clear enamel spraypaint. This protected the metal sculpture from the elements, made it clean to touch and gave it a glossy apearance. It also let the nice natural color of the raw metal show through.
It was'nt untill 1997 that i decided to paint two large outdoor commissioned sculptures. They turned out realy well but i wasnt committed to the process for some reason. I continued to leave my sculpted artworks colorless to keep the integrity of the bare metal look and to not be distracted away fro form with color.
An artist painted canvas that hangs on the wall is one artistic discipline. Sculpture is very different in the sense that the artist is dealing with A volumetric three dimentional object as oposed to a flat surface. Its much more difficult to compose paint on A sculpture than it is to paint a flat painting. I realy needed to study what i was doing sculpturaly and adding paint just threw me off. It was sort of like breaking a hunger fast with a twinkie. It didnt sit right.
This artwork titled "Mystery" was intended right from the start to have a colorful painting on it. I thought about it for a long time and finaly figured out how to make it work.
Direct metal sculpting is a sculpting process that requires hands on manipulation of metal that directly effects a sculpture form. It involves a combination of different welding, cutting, heating, forming and grinding techniques that create direct results in the sculptures outcome.
Direct metal sculpting is not the lost wax bronze casting sculpture process. In this process the artists create a sculpture usually in clay or wax and then hands it off to a foundry for it to be cast in metal.
It is not the assemblage sculpting technique either. This process relies on other means and materials other than welding and metals to create sculptural forms. Welded metals can sometimes be used in this process but it more often strays away from metal to achieve its results.
I usually just work from a printed image when sculpting a figure but sometimes i spend the time to sculpt in clay first. I do this if i think i need more of a 3 dimensional reference. This clay is water based ciln fire clay unfired. If i want to reuse it i just throw it in water and let it get soft again. I prefer to use oil based plastalene clay.
This sculpture i titled "Where's my dog?" if you squint your eyes and look at the image on the left you might find the dog.
I use different methods for sculpting my large faces. This one process uses an armature or understructure to build a form over. This sculpting technique requires the use of an original form to work on. Most of the time I will have to build the underlying armature first. this form will be modeled to reflect the appearance of the mold that’s sculpted over it. In other words the sculpture i build over the top of the original form will look almost exactly like the original.
Once i have the original all welded together i can then start making a duplicate. In this case here i constructed a 10 ft tall mild steel fece from rusted scrap metal. I then laid the face down facing up and proceeded to weld a stainless steel duplicate over the top of it. I clamped the metal to the original to follow its form tightly and welded it together piece by piece.
When it was complete i built a stainless steel frame for the duplicate sculpture to be supported by. Here you can see the original displayed in a NY. Gallery and the stainless steel sculpture duplicate that was made from it. Sorry for the blurry image of the rusted one.
For sculpting the large faces I have found that i can sculpt the likeness in clay first. I can then transfer that image to metal. Its a very crude way to transfer an image but it works. you can’t always find the model your looking for so to sculpt it in clay the way you want works well.
I sculpt the clay face on a scale of one inch equals one foot. So an 8 inch tall clay face can be built into an 8ft. tall steel face. the face is then sliced vertically. these 1 inch thick slices are placed down on a square grid and the contour is traced. The same is done horizontally. after i have all my contour lines drawn on a grid I draw another grid with 1 ft squares. Then i transfer by eye the 1 inch contour drawings to the 1 ft. graph. I then start laying out and bending 1/4” metal bar to conform to the contour drawings. After all the contour drawings are made in steel bar i weld them together where the horizontal and vertical bars cross and vualla, instant large grid face. Now that i have a rough idea of where the surface is soppesed to lay i can start applying material and making it a solid structure.
Welded metal figure sculpting is more complicated than you think. Sure anyone can grab a welder and weld up some scrap metal to resemble the human form but if you want it to be anatomicaly convincing and look realistic, that's another story.
In the following posts in this catagory i'm going to talk about the process i go through from start to finish to create a welded metal figure sculpture.