Never deny the art

The process of sculpting May

mayclayOK, really not going to get too awfully philosophical here but over the weekend a realization was slammed home that should have been obvious and somehow was not: Once you get art into your head, one way or another, it’s gotta come out. 😉

Between my dad’s accident, work, broken cars, kilns, cameras and computers, I haven’t had a heckuva lot of time or space for simply making art, so I’ve pretty much put it aside for now. Didn’t think twice about that decision until I noticed that I seemed to be running in place.

My well of ideas, usually overflowing, had dried up. And I was turning the studio into–eeek–a storeroom.

Mind you, I can describe my next three sculptures with absolute certainty because in my head they’re already finished. Clear as crystal. Weird. (And wouldn’t it be great if I figured out a direct-to-glass neurotransmitter for this stuff? Faster. Save a lot of messing about.)

So Friday night I dug through the stacks to my last box of Hanjiki porcelain, dusted off my tools, and fired up Matthew White’s latest CD. Sculpture #1 popped out of the clay in a bit less than ten hours.

(The full 10-hour sequence used to appear in a slideshow on the home page of this blog but I lost it in the blog migration. I’ll see if I can get it back.) She appeared almost preternatually fast, and her brother and sister are crowding behind her, glaring at me to get on with it.

mayclay2May, above, still needs some things but she’s just about ready for the mold. Not saying she’s the greatest art I’ve ever done but making her literally popped the cork.

Suddenly my neurons are flowing again. Impossible problems are merely difficult, solutions are obvious, and ideas are coming fast and thick.

Go figure. Maybe once you commit to the art, it won’t be denied.  Doesn’t matter if it’s great or drek, it’ll demand its share of your time and if you don’t comply, it chomps your brain instead.

As I said, weird. But at least I know where I’ll be spending my free time…

P.S. By the way, this is part of a series of posts I’m making to describe the construction of one of my deep bas-relief portraits. If you’d like to see the whole series, click on these links:

  • The inspiration for the sculpture “May”
  • The constructing of May’s clay model (this post)
  • The making of a silicone mold of May
  • Planning May’s mold
  • Making May’s mold
  • Packing May’s mold
  • Decanting May’s test run
  • May the second (final version)
  • Taking the girls for a stroll


  1. G Ryan June 7, 2009 at 10:26 am - Reply

    Perhaps you could put the slide show on YouTube, so it wouldn’t affect download times on your site.

    Thanks, G

  2. cynthia June 1, 2009 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    Hi, Georgia.

    Well, that blogpost was written awhile back; I used to have a little rotating video playing on the home page and at some point the slideshow for this part of May’s creation played there. I took it down, though, because it was slowing down loading times.

    So…I’ll see if I can repost some of those slideshows with their blogposts over the next couple of weeks. And thanks for the very kind words.


  3. G Ryan May 31, 2009 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    I stumbled on your blog the other night, and am fascinated. Your work is inspiring, as is your documenting of the process (both the technical process and the emotional/creative spark/drive process). Thank you so much for your generousity in sharing the results of your successes and flubs – I think we learn as much from one as the other.
    You reference a slide show of the creation of the clay model for May, but computer dummy that I am, I don’t seem to be able to find it. Could you please give me specific instructions on how to access it?
    Thanks! Georgia


  4. cynthia May 26, 2009 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    Hey, Sylvia, and welcome! May’s fairly far along now–I finished her test run, know what I need to correct, and hopefully will get a new mold made this week. (You can see the test run at She’s taught me a great deal about how these portraits should be done, and I think subsequent pieces will go much faster.

    In the interim, everything’s fallen into place on turning the garage into a REAL casting and coldworking studio, my brother-in-law’s coming Friday to build in a workbench, Mom and I are painting everything and I’m constructing little wagons and bins for glass, investment, etc…I’m aching to get back in and finish May and the others but it’ll be SO much easier with the garage finished so…back on hold again.

  5. Sylvia May 26, 2009 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    Cynthia as usual I find your work awesome, but also your commitment to not second guessing your inspiration for a piece whether it is angry or otherwise or infact like I would do try to guess what perhaps the buying public want before I went further, but just stay true yourself and your piece–I love that.
    I find May so interesting and expressive and look forward to seeing her completed

  6. cynthia February 9, 2009 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    FYI, sculpture #2 is taking shape in the studio now, and you can see the point I’ve gotten to in the currently running slideshow on the front page of the blog.

    Have fun!

  7. Guts. Yeah. I got ‘em. | Cynthia February 8, 2009 at 12:29 am - Reply

    […] way of explanation, this is one of the sculptures I’m working on right now, May, which I mentioned earlier. At the point you see it below, I’ve got about 16 hours’ worth of work into it and […]

  8. db February 7, 2009 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    ‘(And wouldn’t it be great if I figured out a direct-to-glass neurotransmitter for this stuff? Faster. Save a lot of messing about.) ‘

    I don’t think I’d use it. I can’t pinpoint the limits to which I embrace technology, but I’m sure I have limits. The handcraft is part of the deal.

    Sometimes when I commit to a piece, it will not be denied, like you said. The energy is unrepressabe, start to finish. Sometimes a piece takes a long time though and requires a shot of energy along the way from somewhere outside.

  9. cynthia February 4, 2009 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Kathleen. Yeah, May’s face just kind of hangs there in your mind. I showed the clay version to an artist I met today and she said “that is a very hard, angry woman. Someone has betrayed her.” Kind of took me aback for a sec.

    Gary I know what you mean about snow. I personally like it, but it’s sure a different game in Portland–NOBODY can handle the snow and it pretty much shuts down the city. I’m going to resign myself to this semitropical stuff. (And I hope you’re feeling better)

  10. Kathleen Krucoff February 3, 2009 at 11:32 am - Reply

    Great insight Cynthia. I wondered if you would do a piece with May; after reading your recent post about her….it just seemed to me like it might be natural for you to incorporate her into glass. Glad you are doing this. Your story about her is heart wrenching and enlightening.

    I also find that just starting your creative process tends to get the juices/ideas flowing and you just can’t work fast enough to get them done. At least they keep bouncing around inside my head and that helps to improve them when I finally start working on one.

    Anxious to see the other two you’ve mentioned AND how May evolves as she becomes glass. Great stuff.

  11. gary February 3, 2009 at 11:05 am - Reply

    Snow? Boring… not enough. Down to -10F last night after being at +41F this weekend. Back up to +35F by Wednesday.

    I’m trying to get my creative juices going after being laid low by my own internal gastric juices this weekend. Don’t Ask. Messy. Let’s just say I became a localized WMD and a HazMat site all in one 24 hour period.

  12. cynthia February 3, 2009 at 10:13 am - Reply

    Thanks, Gary. Yeah, I hear that bronze thing a bit, especially from my sculptor buddies who work in bronze. The ones who work in clay look at me as if I’m crazy when I don’t just fire the clay model.

    I’ve got a bit more to do on May–go back in and make the wrinkles relate to gravity a bit better, do something about that left eye now that the clay’s firmed up a bit. I love Hanjiki porcelain for its butter-like texture but it means that carving the clay has to wait until a second (or third) session when things dry out a bit.

    I’m debating pulling an RTV mold from May (which means that before I can make the pate de verre mold I need to do her all over again in wax). That would allow me to make a wax for bronze later on. If I do a direct glass piece I’d need to give it to someone to create an RTV later; I’m not sure I trust myself on that score.

    Anyway, thanks for the compliment! Hope you’re not getting snowed under…

  13. gary February 3, 2009 at 7:29 am - Reply

    Wooo… scary cool. As much as I like glass… that would look amazing in bronze.

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