getting somewhere now

i’ve got to get ready to go to an art opening.  i’ve got acrylic modeling paste all over my fingers, and i’ve just wiped it on my black pants (another reason to wear that apron!).  i’m going to wait until the last minute, then throw on a charcoal gray poncho and go.  tomorrow i’m attending a gala opening in the same clothes, with paint on my hands once again.

i don’t like breaking work to go do things.  jim will quit hours early, go make dinner, and read, or take a nap.  but then, he’s been working since right after breakfast, every day.  i’m just getting into my stride around tea time, and tend to get up in the middle of the night and come down to do some more work.  like now.

today was a stop and start kind of day.  mainly what i did was to go around all the items i’ve glued on and seal them with an edge of modeling paste.  like running a bead of caulk.  and it serves the same purpose.

if the fingernail can’t get under the attachment, it won’t get peeled off.

if water can’t get into and behind the assemblage, the statue won’t deteriorate.  so i went around with a finger full of modeling paste, dabbing here and there, and wiping with one of the other four fingers, changing frequently.  once the acrylic started drying on my fingers, they became unable to feel the surface, and then things got gooky and sloppy and i started laying it on carelessly.

i’m afraid i left some streaks and glops of acrylic to harden and mar the surface even with the best of intentions.  and since acrylic is a very soft, stretchy plastic, it’s hard to sand without rolling it up like sticky magazine insert gum.  i kept trying to wipe it off, but if it was a used finger, then it had glops of its own to leave behind.  i used various planes of my palm to wipe off areas around belts and seams.  i should have used a damp cloth but ran out of hands.  i’ll have to lightly sand some later.

i must be getting old.  old people don’t notice the mess, do a poor job of something and because it tires them out, think it’s good enough and stop.  when i was in my 20s i’d be up all night making it perfect.  now i go to sleep and let the fairies work on it.  they keep the dog company.

* * *

back from the opening.  i have two basic responses to art openings. with most contemporary work, i want to throw away my brushes and never paint again.  but when i go to a national museum and see really good work, i want to paint and paint and paint.  i’m not usually left with no opinion, but that’s just me.

tonight’s gallery walk was wonderful because one of the studios was showing a bunch of encaustics, and i find wax painting very thrilling, so i was very enthusiastic and energetic.  so i’m exhausted now, but never mind.  the thing that got me tonight was texture.

because when you’re painting a 6 foot fiberglass sculpture, you have color and shape and line and dimension, but you also have texture.  and like all art, texture is an illusion, a representation, a fake good enough to pass.

because i’m looking at sculpture, everything i see challenges me to see it as a raw material.  i walked into one studio where the artist was doing interesting things with a glue gun and wire, and it gave me wonderful ideas.

it feels like i’m getting somewhere now.  all i’m really doing is stalling.  at least i’m not doing nothing; i’m doing something, and it’s not aimless, and i won’t have to rip it out and do it over, and after it’s done i can go on to something else.

which is why i feel guilty, even tho i’ve been working on it all day long, in little pieces.  i feel guilty because i’m not focusing on the pipes, which is my big technical problem on this dolphin.

now, jim assures me that even sitting there doing nothing is working when you’re an artist.  artists, unlike corporate droids, have a charge center called fucking off on their timesheets, and we get unlimited charges to it.  of course, as artists, we are our own human resources department, and if the deliverable is going to get delivered, it doesn’t matter who sees your timesheet.  it’s up to you to get off your butt and finish the work.

so, because i was doing productive work, necessary work, i wasn’t wasting my time even tho i was avoiding doing what would make the most sense to concentrate on right now.  oh well.

smoothing the edges of the fabric with modeling paste

and what am i doing?  i’m taking acrylic, in this case white acrylic molding paste, and i’m laying a caulking bead (so to speak) on the edges of all my previously applied surfaces, to fill and seal them.

filling all the gaps between belt and body, and around the buckle

and to provide a smooth surface that it will be harder to pry off.  there are two reasons.  the first is vandalism.

the second is weather.  rain.  rain pooling and seeping and swelling and rotting and softening and molding underneath the professional automotive uv topcoating.  even tho the fabric is going to get primer and paint and my own topcoat underneath that, the better i can seal the original join, the better.  the topcoating is going to crack, at least on a microscopic level, and aging will happen no matter what precautions you take.  like life.

stuck on with bondo, many edges

sealed in with modeling paste

of course, i don’t bother moisturizing or sunscreening or a whole bunch of other medical-cosmetic prescriptions, so why take this kind of care for a public art project?  because it’s my gift to atlanta and the sponsors who deserve something special.  i want it to last longer than i’m going to, and i’m supposed to get decrepit and wrinkly, fiberglass sculptures are not.  not for donkey’s years.

under the collar, epoxy to the left, paste to the right

i had built up a bit of the collar with epoxy, but it wasn’t enough.  it ended too abruptly.  so i needed to build it out.  i’d already discovered that plain gel medium shrinks up a bit when it dries.  but modeling paste has loads of fillers and doesn’t shrink, or isn’t supposed to.  so i slathered a bunch on, folded the collar over on it and pressed and squeezed gently until it smoothed out.

the thing about gluing things on is that you think you have a smooth bond, flat and beautiful.  but the moment you put paint on it, or anything shiny, all the hills and valleys show up, things you couldn’t see and could only barely feel with your fingers.  and so you said, nah, and went on to the next step.

this is a mistake.  you need to take especial care with the surface, because it’s going to be what people see.  not the surface decoration, the surface shine, the surface reflection quality that says smooth or rough at a distance.

the collar pressed and filled, the buttons further fastened

the collar folded down and pressed, a nice thick bead run where the collar meets the neck, and slathered around the loose buttons.  i tried rolling out a very thin bondo snake yesterday and filling in behind the button with that, but it didn’t really take, so i forced as much acrylic as i could in there today, and it’s holding nicely.

can’t you just see someone like me going up to one of these statues and wiggling something to see if it’ll come loose?  you’ve got to fasten everything down, seal everything six times.

the bead of acrylic looks like a white highlight but is finger-smoothed

at first i went only around the top parts of the attachments, because rain tends to fall from above and collect down below.  so i wanted to get rid of any collection points, any low spots or dips.  i’ll go back and do more if it shrinks in, because not having standing water on the fabric is really important.

then i decided i had to do all sides of everything stuck onto the fiberglass.  so i went around with a dab of modeling paste and four painted up fingers, and sealed top and bottom edges.  the webbing of the belt, the edges of the phone, the badge, the hems around flippers and fin.

and because this war horribly tedious, it took all day, because i’d do half an hour of this, and then sit down and do stuff on the computer for awhile, and then work for awhile, and have another cup of coffee, and then walk the dogs, and so on all day.

but now the edges are all sealed.

and i’ve found a great way to put off the pipe problem for another day or so.  tomorrow i can move my dolphin outside and prime all the stuff i sealed today, while moving the other dolphin in here to start sticking bits of clothing on him.

with any luck i can put off my pipe problems until the middle of next week.


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