Artist of the Month – Béla Simó, Sculptor with a Passion

by Sandra Marshall

Sculptor Béla Simó’s journey began in Transylvania, Romania where he studied industrial millwright and fine instrument making and repair. From a young age, Béla was strongly influenced by his father.  Disillusioned by communism, his father inspired his children to make their own decisions and not rely on dogmas. “His rigour, his quiet strength and his integrity had a major impact on me,” recalls Simó. However, at the age of 25 he left the country on a visitor’s visa intending to illegally cross into Austria. “I tried to pass five times before I was able to cross. The border was guarded by armed Russian soldiers. Many people did not have my good fortune and were shot or beaten to death’’ he explained.

In Austria, he carved. Seeing the work of master sculptor Josef Elter’s monumental wood and stone works changed Béla Simó’s life direction. Elter took Simó under his wing and taught him the art and passion of carving and sculpting wood and stones. Simó’s year as apprentice began his 36 years of sculptural experience in materials like plaster, wood, marble and resin. 

He immigrated to Canada in 1987 touching down in Toronto, then Yukon, Newfoundland and finally in Val des Monts, Quebec in 2013. He started his first art bronze casting foundry in Yukon. Simó moved to Val-des-Mont where he built a studio and started working in aluminum for a commission from the Yukon Workers Compensation Board to commemorate worker deaths. After the six metre tall monument was completed, Simó used the leftover scrap aluminum to create simple sculptures. That’s when he fell in love with the material. It’s malleability was like butter to him. 

Gossypium

He was fascinated by the possibilities of this lightweight, solid and contemporary material that allowed him to convey his vision with stylized, refined lines, shapes and energy. His works in aluminum demonstrate his fine technical skill. The intense brightness of the metal complements his creative vision. He found aluminum to be the perfect medium for combining his simple forms with the chaotic forces of the modern world. He stylizes his unique human subjects, striving to bring them life and movement. The more he worked in that medium, the more complex the sculptures became. He added textures to bring them more life. He is always seeking to improve the form and composition, most important to him. Two symbols recur in Béla’s practice: Closed eyes which represent inner thoughts and feelings and Hands which represent action and achievement, expression and creativity. They are symbols of humanity and the quality of our inter-relationships. Hands and faces reveal how we relate to the world and to others.

To achieve large-scale aluminum sculpture in no simple task. Béla cuts sections from sheet aluminum and bends them to need. He then combines strips and pieces together to construct smooth surfaces with invisible welds. For example, a small face would incorporate over 23 pieces seamlessly welded together. He grinds the welding marks, then chisels them with a pneumatic or manual chisel/hammer. The process continues with more grinding, deburring, brazing, hammering or polishing until the piece achieves the desired effect. Texture may be added by hammering, scratching, brushing and rotary tool. He may also add welding marks without using gas. Layers of welding help create volume or render details such as a nose, lips or eyebrows once sculpted. Sometimes he uses welding impasto to create textures. Finally the piece is cleaned with acetone and waxed.

Pourquoi

He loves to see the form change as concepts evolve and he gives physical presence to an idea. When Béla imagines a new creation, he challenges himself to enliven it. Sometimes finding new ways to meet that challenge. When creating, he enters a creative funnel toward his goal. Thus, his least favourite part of his sculpting process is the end when he returns to the reality of daily life. 

Simó’s desire is that viewers establish a personal relationship with his sculpture through the stories of their own experience. Even if aluminum is a rigid and cold metal, Simó wants the observer to feel fluidity and warmth emanating from his piece.

Béla Simó sees his art as ‘’imprints of humanist spirituality, tinged with the sacred, a way of defining his relationship to a space, real or imagined, and to time, to what precedes and follows us’’. He uses a lot of upward spirals, ubiquitous in the structures of the universe, from the infinitely small to the infinitely large. For Béla, they are the best symbols of life and remind us that they are found both in motion and in completion. The egg and  seed are other oviod motifs, spaces in which life circulates. They represent birth, oneness and centre.

He has no plans for the future, only wanting to speak the truth in his artistic expression. His work needs to be meaningful to himself, not following in others’ footsteps, even though he is following his mentor’s desire and mission to fill the world with beauty and humanism.

He advises those who are first drawn to sculpture to choose art if it is their passion. ‘’Believe in yourself and don’t underestimate the expression of your imagination. When you are learning to make sculpture, find the appropriate teacher or mentor to deepen your understanding of the metier.’’ What sets Béla Simó’s pieces apart is the combination of his understanding of sculptural form, his artistry and mastery acquired during his technical training.

Béla Simó’s work can be found in many permanent and private collections and he has shown his work in countless exhibitions and public art in Canada and abroad.

Pourquoi (2018) welcomes the visitors at the entrance of Béla’s studio and sculpture garden.  

Dance With Me

3,10 x 2,20 x 0,60 cm.  The  address is 1375, route du Carrefour, Val-des-Monts, Qc, J8N 5C5

phone: (819) 328-3380

Gossypium (2021) was recently exhibited at Centre d’art de La Sarre (La Sarre), Espace Pierre-Debain (Gatineau), Centre Materia (Quebec City) and Quebec Fine Crafts Fair (Montreal) as part of the Triennial of Fine Crafts. 2,45 x 6,60 x 6,60 m

The Watchers – triptych (2019) were exhibited in Bela’s solo show at the Espace Pierre-Debain,museum gallery (Gatineau). 2,43 x 1,10 x 0,60 m each.

Dance with me (2022) Béla’s most recent creation. 2,54 x 1,27 x 1,27 m

To see more of Béla’s work and learn more about him, please visit his social media:
https://www.facebook.com/artBelaSimohttps://www.artblr.com/belasimo

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SPRING SCULPTURE SHOW

The National Capital Network of Sculptors (NCNS) Spring Sculpture Show has arrived!

In collaboration with The NAK Gallery we are presenting our group Spring Sculpture Show April 7-10th. We are very excited about this opportunity to showcase the work of our sculptors in this group show and the opportunity to reach a new group of collectors and art enthusiasts. More than 20 NCNS members will showcase their works. The NAK Gallery is located at 1285 Wellington Street West in the heart of Westboro.

Drop in and meet the dynamic NAK Gallery team! It’s going to be a great show!

SHOW HOURS

Thursday, April 7th, 10:00am to 5:00pm
Friday, April 8th, 10:00am to 9:00pm
Saturday, April 9th, 10:00am to 4:00 pm
Sunday, April 10th, 10:00am to 4:00 pm

“The National Capital Network of Sculptors is a non-profit corporation founded in 1984, with a mandate to increase awareness and appreciation for the sculptural arts in the National Capital region. It draws its membership from a wide artistic community in the greater Ottawa area, which consists of both professional and talented amateur sculptors. Our member’s work ranges from figurative to abstract to installation art and incorporates such mediums as glass, stone, wood, bronze, steel, plaster, clay and mixed media.”

“The NAK Gallery was founded in 2020. Located in the heart of Westboro at 1285 Wellington Street. the gallery is erected in a bustling neighborhood where small cafes, shops, boutiques and people are on the lookout for new things, various arts, culture and the desire to share their discoveries. A cute and trendy area of Ottawa! Our mission is to showcase and promote contemporary visual artists from Canada and around the world to visitors and residents in the National Capital Region.”

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Artist of the Month – Carolyn Sandor-Weston

By Sandra Marshall

Carolyn Sandor-Weston hails from the small northern Alberta town of High Prairie. In the 60s, the town bloomed as a destination for immigrants of many nationalities, joining the First Nations residents in surrounding reserves and bringing together a unique mix of multi-ethnic languages, beliefs, and ideas. 

Being the daughter of immigrant parents and her early childhood years in High Prairie widened Carolyn’s perspectives and taught her to see the world with more empathy and feeling. Carolyn’s taste for world travel grew from this multitude of cultures and she has travelled widely before arriving with her husband and family in Ottawa in 2004. 

Sandor-Weston’s art began with poetry and prose, filling books with her writings. She went on to discover photography, wanting to capture atmosphere in the images, as do her words which create an image in one’s mind.  She entered the Alberta College of Arts in the 80s by way of her photography but was seduced by the drawing and printmaking in those fine arts departments. Here, her two-dimensional work used all variety of media to create impactful pieces. It was during this time that Carolyn realized that she was trying to express a story with her art. Today, her art is still about story telling, whether in carved stone or acrylic painting. They are reflections of how Carolyn feels and sees the world.

Awaiting Birth

During printmaking studies, Carolyn became enthused by the lithography process of etching on stone slabs. The resulting prints were not what excited her, but rather the etched stone. Her life has always included stone, from photo images to collecting stones and pebbles. She soaks up the energy they bring her. One Christmas a gift from her husband transformed her pockets-full-of-pebbles to a 25pound soapstone ready to carve. Rasps, rifflers, chisel, and mallet soon followed. Sandor-Weston’s artistic perception has guided her carving from the start, allowing the stone to tell its story and inspiring her creative energy. She sees carving as a trusting dialogue with the stone.

Her first carvings were of soft Brazilian soapstone, but she has expanded her work with harder Quebec soapstone and is experimenting with white alabaster and translucent selenite.  Bones, antlers, fur and gut, all gifts from family and friends that were collected during hikes, have found homes in Carolyn’s sculpture creations. She is now playing with bases for her sculpture and is very excited about carving bone and antler, an exploration for the coming year. 

Jubilance

Carolyn begins her carving process through feeling the stone, first softening edges with a rasp, talking to it and creating a relationship with it. She is searching for the direction that the stone pulls her. nce she has decided her direction, she uses rifflers, small hand files, and chisels to cut away. For small delicate work, Carolyn uses dental tools. Pins and epoxy may be used to set antlers or bone. Once the image starts to reveal itself, she observes the whole stone, taking time to identify the flow of the form. The movement in the finished piece is vital to her. She wants to feel that form, such as a bear’s swayback and belly. 

The free-flowing process of carving is what she loves best. ‘’Just trusting the stone and letting the stone guide you –it’s almost like breathing. Or maybe like surfing …You just go with the stone and enjoy the ride.’’ Carolyn delights in the intricacy of details, adding little surprises, like a beautiful wattle on a thick, sagging bear’s neck, or the expression on a face. They are moments of beauty where the eye can linger. ‘’Of course, the final denouement comes when I rub wax onto the stone and all its amazing colours come to life.’’ 

To achieve high polished stone requires hours of wet sanding, starting with 400 grit and slowly moving up to 3000 grit. This process can take her six to ten hours depending on the size and detail of the carving. Her love of detail requires extra time working the crevasses and grooves. After sanding, the stone is heated and then buffed with wax for a deep shine. Whether to apply a base is her final consideration when observing the finished stone. 

Head First

Carolyn’s inspirations often draw from her childhood in the north, in particular her relationships with Indigenous communities’ folklore. She respects the continuity of storytelling and lessons.

When living in Australia she felt honoured to sit in a dried riverbed with Aborigine companions listening to their stories, symbolism, and history. For many Indigenous peoples, animals represent the land and the evolution of the human story. Sandor-Weston appreciates this interconnection, often the basis of much folklore. This is why animals and humans find their way out of her stones. Employing antler, bone or fur helps to evoke the story that the earth melded in the stone and brings to life a unique connection for the viewer. She wants to further explore this connectivity that humans share with animals and the land. She respects the Indigenous community and does not want to be seen as infringing on an area that some feel she should not occupy. As she moves forward, she believes that she needs to consider this in her future work.

Carolyn Sandor-Weston is a member of the National Capital Network of Sculptors.

For beginner soapstone carvers Carolyn’s recipe is: 

Start with a small piece of Brazilian Soapstone, a couple of rifflers, one good rasp, a respirator and just play!

Carolyn Sandor-Weston Art | Facebook

@carolynsandorweston.art • Instagram photos and videos

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Artist of the Month

As a youngster in Windsor Ontario,  Rosemary Breault-Landry had tasted the infinite possibilities of art in two and three dimensions through colour, form, gesture and tactile expression in many media  – paint, clay, canvas and paper.  Along with art, her love of cottage life and the shore of Lake Huron remains part of her psyche. 

Her art interests were sidelined when she began nursing training at the Hotel Dieu Hospital in Windsor.  At the time she took up her vocation as a  registered nurse, she met her future husband Ken at the University of Windsor. After completing their degress, the newly wed couple moved to Quebec City where he could further his studies at Université Laval , and RBL joined the nursing staff of Jeffrey Hale Hospital. Their first born arrived three years later.  Life was busy for her – working full time and eventually raising two children.

Once the kids were in grade school, the routine had been established and Rosemary was able to take art classes at local art centres. 

 Her sculpture instructor Yvonne Dorion was from Montreal’s UQUAM. Dorion opened RBL’s eyes to this new experience and encouraged her to get serious about art and enroll in a professional art school. She began with a 3-week summer courses at OCADU in Toronto to fulfill her desire for figurative art. She loved her experience there – the teachers, students and inspiration that was ever present. At age 35, after taking several part-time credits, Breault-Landry wanted to continue her studies in earnest. A family discussion ensued with her husband and two kids, who encouraged her. ‘’ Go for it Mum!’’ She realized that art expression was where she felt most at home and graduated with honours in 1992.  

 In 1996, she retired from nursing and followed her art muse. She began by teaching figurative drawing,  sculpture and mould making at the Maison des métiers d’arts in downtown Quebec. With her knowledge of clay sculpture, she was asked to demonstrate and comment on Rodin’s clay modelling techniques during the 1998 Rodin Exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Quebec City. 

 After moving to the national capital region in the Outaouais in 2007, she has continued teaching at the Ottawa School of Art in Orleans and connecting with fellow sculptors. She has set up a studio for making her sculpture, moulds and developing patinas to finish her bronze and hydrocal pieces. Multi-tasker, she also took on the presidency of the National Capital Network of Sculptors between 2009 and 2011. She continues to participate in many sculpture exhibitions and galleries since 2000.

In her art experience she observed the work of sculptors from Michelangelo and Rodin to Giacometti and Henry Moore who have interpreted their visions of the essence of human body and spirit. Realism continues to challenge post-modernist artists.  Drawing and sculpting fellow humans allows her to explore the complexity of sculpture – the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual planes, and of course the effects of gravity.  Each gesture and movement in her sculpture attempts to communicate our common humanity to the observer.  She is a spontaneous teacher telling her students that ‘‘Drawing from live models is the key to comprehending form and movement as well as anatomy and expression.’’ RBL believes that success in this domain will reflect immediately in sculpture.

RBL’s bronze sculptures are made using complex technical procedures. They include ̈making rubber molds, plaster ‘mother-molds’ over the clay, and layered Aquaresin processes. Her favourite time in the process is the start of a piece, especially with a live model, when she considers the most appropriate pose for the feeling she wants to convey. Then when adding clay to the piece, observing the interesting movement of lines she considers to be great fun. She also enjoys applying the patina at the end. Remember that she started out as a painter, and loves colour.  RBL says that the passion for it keeps her young at heart, and her enthusiasm is testimony to that!

She has sculpted many public and private commissioned works which demonstrate her talents, some of which you can see on the Sculpture Ottawa Facebook pages.

You can feast on her many works by visiting her Facebook page and also her newest works at the Sculpture Expo, Pop Up Show this weekend at Lansdowne Park right next door to Goodlife Fitness. Sculpture Expo is open Thursday, October 7th to Sunday, October 10th from 10am to 6pm.

http://www.Sculptures.rbl@gmail.com

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DOORS OPEN AT 10:00am TODAY!

SHOW HOURS

Thursday to Sunday – 10am to 6pm

900 Exhibition Way #108

Lansdowne Park

We’re located in the former South Street Burger location (between Goodlife Fitness and the Cigar Shop)

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SCULPTURE EXPO Pop-Up Show

What a roller-coaster ride we’ve been on this past year and a half. The pandemic has certainly changed the way a lot of businesses operate. Many, including some art galleries have switched to online or semi-online business models with varying degrees of success. But, for sculpture, a photo doesn’t always do justice to the three dimensional aspect of this art form. Sculpture is something you have to experience by moving around it . . . by looking at it at different times of the day under different lighting . . . even by touch.

As sculptural artists, the members of the National Capital Network of Sculptors have missed being able to show our work in person. Our inspiration and motivation is fuelled by our interaction with our audience. We miss you!

That’s why we are so happy to announce our feature exhibition, Sculpture EXPO is BACK! But this time as a Pop-Up Show in one of the empty retail spaces at Lansdowne Park. There were many factors that didn’t make going back to the Horticulture Building feasible this year – the biggest being the last minute availability of the space which didn’t give us enough time to put on a show of that size. We were facing another cancelled show – BUT – gratefully and thanks to the Trinity Group we were able to secure the retail space formerly occupied by South Street Burger. Located on the stadium side of Exhibition Way at Lansdowne, the space is sandwiched between Goodlife Fitness and the Cigar Shop, across from Joey’s Restaurant.

The great thing is that we will be there for 10 days. September 30 to October 10th!

Over 20 artists and over 60 sculpture works will be on display over the first weekend and new works will be added over the second weekend. We will be open to the public Thursday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm. The full schedule is shown below.

With all that said, we want to cordially invite you to visit our Sculpture EXPO Pop-Up Show. We can’t tell you enough how much we are looking forward to seeing you and showing you what we have been creating. See you in a couple of weeks!

900 Exhibition Way, #108

Stadium Side (Formerly South Street Burger)

Thursday, September 30th to Sunday, October 3rd – 10am to 6pm

Thursday, October 7th to Saturday, October 9 – 10am to 6pm

Sunday, October 10th – 10am to 5pm

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Artist of the Month – Uwe Foehring – Stone & Cement Artist

Uwe Foehring moved to Ottawa 25 years ago, he lived an adventurous life in international development, living and working in many countries which he found more meaningful than in private industry.  He was influenced and amazed by the new cultures that he encountered.  He saw art was a common language that is cherished in every society, regardless of riches or development. His first placement in Malawi, southern Africa, was rich in beautiful people who have integrated art in their daily lives, applying pictures and reliefs on their clay houses. Foehring says he never really learned the local language, but surely understood their art.

In his earlier years, he had a friend in Germany, Ludwig Brumme, who was a successful stone sculptor. Their conversations and interactions planted ideas and shapes in Foehring’s head that he drew upon many years later. He turned those dormant ideas into stone when he started carving about 15 years ago.  Although he had not received any formal training in the arts, he looked to courses to improve certain skills, whenever he felt the need to refine his craft.

Working in stone has a powerful emotional connection for him.  He has also tried his hand at building sculpture in cement, and more recently in ice and snow. Each of these mediums requires a different set of skills and experience, but Foehring remains focused on stone carving.

To obtain raw stone can be quite costly. When living in Sri Lanka for 3 years in various work assignments, Foehring admired beautiful Sri Lankan works made from cheap cement. Naturally, being a creative soul, he tested the skills needed to build up a work in cement, so different from carving which requires removing stone. However, cement was a good alternative for him, especially for larger sculptures.  At a Colombo art school, he found a teacher for large cement sculptures, Upali Ananda, who agreed to have the students build a Moai. Although the teacher didn’t speak any English and Foehring doesn’t speak Sinhala, they connected. Working with ones’ hands and the language of art doesn’t necessarily require words.

He often visualizes a final outcome before starting. But the longer he ruminates on that image the more it changes.  But that’s only the first step in the artistic process. Another is to adapt the image to paper or stone or a musical instrument, where again it is changed by the tools and media we use, our personality, the mood of the day and who knows what else…. This, in essence, is ‘Expressionism. An expressionist will accept all these influences as part of reality and as part of their art pieces. For Uwe Foehring, art is a language that expresses things that he cannot say verbally.  Even if the viewer does not understand the meaning right away, she will see that he has a message. He does not carve stone to show his beautiful skills. Foehring appreciates the freedom to do his own thing. He loves the crazy and comical – Marx Brothers and Freewheeling Franklin. He has no big ambitions or plans – until a new idea sparks his imagination.

When Foehring starts a stone carving, he usually has a rough idea of what he wants to create, but he says that at some point in the process his hands take over from his brain in the shaping process.  Sometimes too, news events, injustices, nature or other factors may influence the outcome. Cement sculpture requires more planning and preparation – setting up the form work using wire of different strengthsand internal fill to reduce the thickness and weight of the cement while still providing the needed structural stability. Then he needs to mix the cement ingredients and apply it to the work at the right time so that it doesn’t end up sliding onto the floor.

For anyone wanting to start on the sculpture pathway, he is clear – practice, practice, practice, as with any skill. Foehring explains that skills and art are two different things – you can be the most skilful craftsman without being an artist. Art is in the urge to bring a message across while craft is the vehicle, however imperfect, to deliver the message. No matter what the art form, music, acting, painting, the message can be the same, but the skill-set will be different.

Uwe’s final message is ‘’Be in charge of your own training – don’t let market forces or fashion or teachers tell you what is good and proper art.’’

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Artist of the Month – Taunyee Robbins – Sculptor of Emotions

By Sandra Marshall

Taunyee Robbins was raised by the sea in the small town of Rockport, Massachusetts. She lived in Cape Ann, an artist’s community with a long tradition of famous painters who came to represent the beautiful scenery en plein air. Her mother, Mary Robbins, was a fabulous watercolour painter and taught Taunyee how to paint when she was around ten years old. She was surrounded by an appreciation for all the arts, and continued her studies at the Massachusetts College of Art.

One summer while she was waitressing, she served a family who were speaking French, of which she had a beginner’s knowledge. Taunyee wondered if they were from France, but they responded that no, they were from Quebec. “Quebec?” she queried.  “Canada”, they replied. During her school years, Canada was shown as entirely white on the map… snow obviously, she had imagined. Obviously not! She wanted to know more, so asked a girlfriend to join her on a road trip to a place called Quebec City, and off they drove. That little road trip in the summer of 1969 introduced her to a whole new culture and a whole new country.

River

She fell in love with all of it and returned home to announce that she was going to go live in Quebec for a while. But she told her family not to worry, she would be still connected by land so she could always find her way home! 

On New Year’s Eve, of that year Taunyee became a landed immigrant in Canada and changed the whole course of her life in the blink of an eye. However, when she arrived in Quebec, she quickly realized that, her high school French skill was not going to get her far! As a new immigrant she was offered French classes with all the other immigrants. They had a terrific teacher and enjoyed that time. She became a Canadian citizen around 1980 and holds dual citizenship.

Taunyee has wanderlust -She says that she prefers the more exotic countries such as Morocco, Jordan and Egypt, as well as some of the Caribbean islands. They stir her imagination with their colors, fragrances and music! But over the years she has lived in Montreal, St. John’s, and Roddickton Newfoundland (a village on the Great Northern Peninsula) and rural Quebec.

The Journey

When she arrived in Montreal, she was fortunate to land a job with The Montreal Star newspaper. They taught her how to paste-up, design ads, and do graphic design. She continued in that field for a couple of years before she married and started a family.

In 1985, after her marriage ended, Taunyee moved to Ottawa with her three children. She also met Allen Stanish then, who would become her future husband in 1990, at a Centretown community center where aspiring jugglers and unicyclists practiced.

Taunyee re-entered the field of graphic design at Maruska Studios in Ottawa’s lively Market area. What a wonderful creative job! She designed, created colour mock-ups, cut and pasted… everything was hands on. Then in 1986 the company design work ‘transitioned’ to a square box called an Apple computer.

She missed hands-on creating and enrolled at the Ottawa School of Art in a sculpture class. Her first oeuvre was a life size bust in solid clay and she needed a forklift to move the head around. She created a plaster mold of her work and cast it in concrete. She says that she never had so much fun in her life! So, that was the beginning…  

The Messenger
The Poet

Garden sculpture had always appealed to her and she decided, with her newfound skills, to make some for herself. She designed a series of sculptures based on mythic creatures, gargoyles, lions, Greek gods, the Sun, the Windman, the Green man… Friends and family were taken by them and wanted her sculptures too. That was the start of Taunyee’s own business, Cosmoz Design (Capricious Compositions of a Peculiar Nature). Her husband Allen learned how to make molds and cast the pieces in concrete, accompanying each sculpture with a fable or story. They continued the business until 1999, when they moved back to Massachusetts to stay with her mother for a while. They were prepared to return to Canada in 2008 after her mother passed away, but then the American financial market crashed and they only made it back in 2014.Two years later Allen passed away.

The Sun

In time, Taunyee began to work in clay again, only this time in fired ceramics. It was a whole different ballgame! It was a challenge to create a hollow clay sculpture and to learn the different techniques of fabrication and firing. She discovered the engineering side of her brain! She had to keep the sculpture from blowing up in the kiln and discover the million different ways to finish the piece. She began using simple oxides and has recently been experimenting with underglazes and a scratched design technique called sgraffito. Cold finishes such as acrylic paint and even pastel were also explored. Taunyee feels that she just touched the surface of what is possible.

Over the years she has worked in every medium she could find: oil and acrylic painting, print and paper making, pastel, ink, multimedia, concrete and clay. Each experiment in these media has contributed to her creative expression.

Totem

In her clay work, Taunyee is moved by an idea first, and then determines how to express that idea in clay. She makes a number of loose sketches to capture the attitude or flow of the piece. If it is a face, the expression is the most important to her.  However, a sketch doesn’t take you very far in the three dimensional world. After the idea, she must figure out how to construct it, which is the most difficult part and challenging for her. It’s called trial and error! However, once things are settled, she allows the clay to express itself. Taunyee loves how her animal and human characters take shape. They seem to emerge out of the clay by their own volition, a sign of her receptivity to new ideas.

Her only plan for her future work is to carry on exploring. She has really just begun and there is so much she wants to learn and try.

The advice she has for anyone starting out is to take some classes for the basics, and then just keep working at it.  Taunyee quotes the poet Rumi “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

Taunyee wants to touch people on an emotional level, to uplift their hearts or invite them to look deeper.  That is her special skill.

She joined the National Capital Network of Sculptors in September 2017, where she found like-minded artists and has exhibited at the annual sculpture show since then. She also sells work when people contact her from her Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Taunyeesculptor

Taunyee is a member of the Ottawa Guild of Potters as well and you can find her profile at www.ottawaguildofpotters.ca 

Don’t forget to check out Taunyee’s work in our Online Gallery at https://sculptureottawa.ca/online-gallery-2/

Two Wise

Posted in art classes, Art Shows, Art Workshops, Artist of the Month, ceramic, Ceramic Sculpture, clay artists, clay sculpture, Exhibition Opportunities, Member Event, Member Profiles, Miscellaneous, Network Show, Online Art Gallery, sculpting workshops, Sculpture Atelier, Sculpture events, sculpture show, workshops | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Artist of the Month, Patrick Imai, Stone Carver

 By Sandra Marshall

Patrick Imai carves stone bears.

His passion for art matches his enthusiasm for travel. He served 34 years with the Canadian Armed Forces and has been to all provinces of Canada. Having visited over 48 countries on five continents, so why does he specialize in stone bear carving?

While living in Rome, Patrick was moved by its great sculptures and was captured by Bernini’s and Michelangelo’s abilities to make stone come alive.  In nearby Carrara he took a workshop in carving a new stone – marble.

Over his lifetime, he has experimented in many artistic media and all types of glasswork, but he has been hooked on carving stone bears – elegant or whimsey, depending on what the stone tells him it should become. It was in his youth that Patrick began to whittle wood as a pastime and developed his skill as a wood carver. A stampede theme of bronco riding tested his wood carving abilities while Calgary was home.  Then In Quebec City, Patrick’s interest in stone carving was piqued by delightful Inuit soapstone dancing bears. He was intrigued by their liveliness and challenged himself to learn soapstone carving. By roaming the internet, he learned these techniques and enthusiastically explored that material before working in other soft stones. Patrick carved bears at first because they had drawn him to stonework. He loves the soft curves that make his stone sculpture so appealing. Carving bears is a passion that focuses his attention and takes him to an inner place. After trying to carve other subjects, he found the soft stone did not hold small details and he returned to carving bears with their smooth round forms.  We often imbue animals with human characteristics.  Building on this association, Patrick evokes human emotions and movement in some of his pieces.In others, he seeks to capture the grace and majesty of the bears.  He has highlighted the tragedy of shrinking arctic ice and climate change in several works but does not see his artwork as a political statement.  Patrick loves the process and thanks those who acquire his sculptures.

More recently in a cruise port in Alaska, a small bear carved in selenite was spied.  Sunlight illuminated the little bear’s movement in the gleaming crystalline stone.  Patrick was intrigued, so after the cruise, he searched for selenite pieces large enough to carve.  Although it is a challenging stone to carve, its shimmering whiteness makes it a perfect material for carving polar bears.

Patrick’s work in many other mediums helps him to integrate them into his stone sculpture. Glass fish, Muskoka chairs and wooden kayak paddles have served as whimsical props for his humanised bears.  He is always on the lookout for other materials to integrate into his sculptures.

Patrick has plenty of stone waiting to inspire him to carve.  At times he has an idea and searches for the right stone.  When idea and stone converge, carving begins.  First, he rough cuts the stone with a hand saw or angle grinder, then hand files and rasps to shape the stone. The process requires a lot of sanding – first dry sanding, then wet sanding and polishing using different grits of abrasive. The final finish is usually a hot wax – Patrick oven heats the stone, and then applies paraffin wax to it.  After cooling, he buffs with a soft cloth to give it a satiny finish.  At any point in the process, even after waxing, if dissatisfied, Patrick may rework the carving and repeat the process. Until the work is signed, it is not finished. 

Patrick’s favorite part of the process is the wet sanding- when the stone reveals its true colours and character.  This is the point when the stone comes alive. The rough carving start is his least favorite activity.  Although he is enthused to capture his original idea, he also sees other possibilities in the stone as he works.  

Aficionados of his work may have tried their hands at these techniques during his many workshops, such as those as the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa.  His carving workshop is also a popular event at the fall Sculpture Show of the National Capital Network of Sculptors at Lansdowne Park. His fans also appreciate his participation in the annual Canadian Stone Carving Festival which raises funds for the Ottawa Innercity Ministries.

His future plans include taking the challenge of tackling hard stone– jade, lapis lazuli and fluorite which involve messy wet grinding.  He also looks toward making larger outdoor pieces in harder stone.

For people who may wish to take up sculpture, Patrick recommends workshops.  He suggests trying different mediums to find a connection with your personal affinities.  Workshops are a way to experience different mediums without the cost or burden of the tools or special equipment.  You will also get insight and discover tricks of the trade from an experienced artist.  All in all, you will have a better experience, saving time and frustration.

Join a group, like the National Capital Network of Sculptors, where there is a range of artists working in different mediums, using different techniques and are at different points in their artistic endeavours from hobby to professional.

Patrick Imai’s work can be seen on his website www.patrickimai.ca,

His Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/patrick.imai.1

The National Capital Network of Sculptors https://www.facebook.com/SculptureOttawa/

The Gordon Harrison Gallery http://gordonharrisongallery.com/artist/patrick-imai/#btn_readmore

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Artist of the Month – Maria Saracino, Polymer Clay Artist

by Sandra Marshall

Maria Saracino is a bold and energetic artist. She is community-minded and generous, brimming with project ideas. Her artistic accomplishments are many and inspiring. She is also a calm but energizing teacher of her craft. Her abilities as a character sculptor are admired everywhere that it is on display and her work is in high demand.

Maria was born in Ottawa of an Italian immigrant family, one of the first to reside in The Glebe. In 1962 she started kindergarten although she did not yet speak English. She was shy and introverted- even self-conscious of her dark hair among so many blondes and redheads. But Grade One was a blossoming for her, when her teacher became enthralled by Maria’s drawing of a family picnic- astounded by the fact that Maria’s people were drawn in perspective with the children growing progressively smaller the further away they were in the scene.  This was a life-changing moment for Maria as her teacher admired her work and invited others to acknowledge it. She was no longer invisible and became known as the class artist, the go-to person for classroom art projects, an identity that followed her into high school.

She dreamed of becoming an artist, but her parents saw little value there for her. For her immigrant parents, life was about survival and an artist’s life didn’t make sense to them. As a result, she went to Carleton University with a major in Political Science, which was not a good fit for her. The only course that she truly enjoyed was Art History. One other bright spot was that Maria met her husband Leo there and because of him, she found herself working as an artist. In marketing and sales, he found her a few jobs designing and creating illustrations for restaurant menus, then ads for the travel and bridal market. Although she had no formal training, she had the gift of visualisation.  Maria took classes and workshops whenever she could and began to work closely with the graphics department of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper. She learned typesetting with a darkroom wet processor and was hand-drawing the graphics before technology changed the industry.

After 18 years in the advertising business, both Maria and Leo were burned out. Technology had exploded and they had to decide whether to invest in new equipment and training or move on to a second career. Leo made a lateral move in sales but encouraged Maria to follow her dream of becoming a full-time artist. This was about the time that she first discovered polymer clay. In 1995 polymer clay was relatively new as an art medium. Over the years, Maria had taken painting and drawing courses, print making and even dabbled in some pottery, but discovering polymer was an ah-ha moment for her. The 3-dimensional aspect of creating figures enthralled her and allowed her to incorporate some of her other passions such as sewing fabrics. Another plus was that her techniques did not require any expensive equipment.

Weihnactsmann

Some of Maria’s first pieces seem somewhat primitive to her, but soon her work improved to the point that people started to notice it. Her first big breakthrough was a special piece for the cover of Lee Valley Tools. That piece also won an American competition One of a Kind Classic. Maria was creating Doll Art at that time and subsequently won a DOTY, Doll Of The Year award which was like the Oscars of the Doll world. This award changed her career direction and led to the creation of limited editions for the seasonal Christmas market. This 10-year period was lucrative but also very stressful and required lots of travel, competitiveness and the legal battles of copyright theft. After 10 years, the fun had disappeared and once again Maria found herself burned out. At this point she took a few years off to regroup and rethink what she wanted to do.

What she recognized was that she feels best when creating – it gives her pleasure, satisfaction and sense of purpose. At that point she pivoted from doll artist to figurative artist. She wanted acceptance as a fine artist in the medium of polymer clay that was traditionally seen as a craft rather than an art form.

Figureworks 2013, The Bath 1st place

Maria has worked in watercolours, acrylics, portraiture, pen and ink -almost everything! But probably if she was not doing what she is now, her other passion is fashion design and sewing. She creates her own patterns and sews all the clothes and bodies of her character sculptures.

The Figureworks art show in 2013 was a pivotal moment for her. Winning 1st place in this competition opened the doors to representation by the Orange Art Gallery as well as other galleries over the years.  “For me, this was the moment I stepped out of the craft and doll world into the fine art world.”

Her process in developing her expressive Norman Rockwell-esque characters starts with sculpting the head and face. From that Maria scales the character’s body proportions. The body is constructed of wood, wire and fabric. A two way stretch fabric is the final skin which she can augment and contour for the final shape. Next, she creates the costumes and hair. Finally, the hands and feet are sculpted and set in the appropriate position. During the body construction, if any props or a setting needs to be created, she starts this process as well and uses it to position the figure.

Her favourite part of the process is sculpting the head and face. “I try to capture an emotion or a sense of the moment in time. “ Sometimes it’s the tilt of the head or the position of the eyes. Subtle little details can make such a difference in the final work and the reaction by the audience. Her least favorite part is sculpting feet and shoes, for no reason other than it is tedious work and by that point she is anxious to see the piece finished.

Maria has always loved the work of American illustrator, Norman Rockwell and Quebec painter, John Der. They capture moments in time, like snapshots in your mind. Serious moments, humorous moments, everyday moments that evoke a sense of familiarity and nostalgia. “I hope to capture in sculpture what they did through their illustrations and paintings.”

Maria often works in series with a topic that appeals or interests her. Fathers and their children, Moments in Time, Seniors, Hockey, Circus Pieces, Drag Queens are just a few that she has explored. She enjoys portraiture and continues to take commissions for that work. It’s a little more stressful to her, but very satisfying especially when she receives an emotional response from the client.

Maria has other interests too. She teaches sculpting in polymer clay both at the Orange Art School, in-studio and online. But now with Covid19 she has more involved in creating online workshops. She is also teaching two new workshops in an international online conference called Art Connection Summit. You can learn more about it at www.artconnection.gallery or on her blog www.mariasaracino.com

As she has done, Maria believes you should follow your passion. Take as many classes or workshops as you can. Learn what other artists have to offer and from that, develop your own style. Never stop learning and developing. Put the hours and the work in and just keep creating art. Don’t get attached to your work, your new favorite piece will be the next thing you work on. Also, don’t wait for someone to notice you – develop a thick skin and keep putting your work out there, there’s room for everyone.

And last but not least, Maria Saracino is president of the National Capital Network of       Sculptors and is helping to guide this diverse group of sculptors through the year of         COVID19! You can see more of Maria’s work at

www.saracinocollection.com

www.mariasaracino.com

www.facebook.com/saracinocollection.com

or check out the National Capital Network of Sculptors Online Gallery at https://sculptureottawa.ca/online-gallery-2/

Posted in art classes, Art Shows, Art Workshops, Artist of the Month, Canadian Stone Carving Festival, clay artists, clay sculpture, Exhibition Opportunities, learn how to sculpt, Online Art Gallery, polymer clay, sculpting workshops, Sculpture Atelier, Sculpture events, sculpture show, The Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, The national capital network of sculptors, workshops | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment