The Art of Salvage

Sometimes despite your time invested, you just have to walk away and start something else.  Sometimes there is some part of a project that still has some intrigue.  Sometimes those parts keep you working on a piece far beyond its merits.  And occasionally those parts become happy accidents.

It is dangerous to recycle work and my teachers strongly discouraged it.  And it is something that I would discourage beginners from doing as well.  Very quickly you have to decide what was correct in the original pose may no longer be relevant with a new model.  Proportions change, anatomy changes.  Age and body type change.  So, sometimes you leave something that you really like from the first model, only to realize that it is forcing you to make incorrect observations with the new one.  That said, I have found that if you are willing to look at your new piece with a bit of ruthlessness, you save a lot of time in the basic construction.  Most beginners lack the confidence to make fundamental changes and tend to be too precious about things that need to be changed or thrown out.

But like so many things, much of what I do now is breaking the rules of my teachers and not how I would teach others.  At this point, I am finding what works for me whether or not it is a ‘good idea’. Sometimes these experiments turn out to be train wrecks.  So far, for this sculpture, that has not been the case.
I am two sessions into working on this sculpture of Belle.  It feels like it is going in the right direction.  This is not the pose that she is actually modeling in.  In reality, her left arm is laying across her leg on her lap, and her right arm is more forward.  And her head is more upright.

For reference, below is a picture of the sculpture of Hannah that I repurposed into the sculpture of Belle.  The part that I liked was how her shoulders pulled back, which defined the back muscles and shoulder blades.  It created an interesting tension.  However, the rest of the pose just felt boring.  I experimented with changing the gesture of the arms, hands, and the angle of the head.  I often will make minor tweaks to the sculpture from what the model actually did to exaggerate the pose or make it more expressive.  Holding a pose for hours, days, and weeks is hard work and it forces the model to sometimes take more neutral positions.  Tweaking things allow me to sculpt things that the model would not be able to hold for any duration.

Sometimes when you salvage previous works, you make minor changes that fundamentally change the pose.  Other times you make major changes that obliterate what you started from.  The trick is to not spend more time fixing than creating.  In software development, there is an adage, “build a prototype, then throw it away’.  You solve a lot of problems in trying to define something by making something and then recognizing how it is not working.  At some point you have to decide whether to build on what you have started, start from scratch, or reuse pieces.  That is the art, whether it is sculpture or software.