Artist Masterclass: Transformations

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Artist Masterclass is a series of conversations between myself and visual artist Sara Bloem.

CL:  In your images this week, I feel like you’re really moving beyond your photo references.  You’re really manipulating, shifting, and transforming things.

SB: I’ve been thinking about a number of things this week.  Number one is subtlety. I was actually considering something you said during my final crit last spring: you pointed out how an edge appeared and disappeared into darkness on this one particular portrait drawing.  More subtlety, paying attention to edges. It really stuck. I also worked on developing cohesion, fine-tuning the value range, and trying to decide what I wanted for the overall series.  And I’ve been thinking about what exactly these images depict. Am I approaching it more like a dream? More like a collection of symbols? Or is it more grounded in realism, like a diorama?

CL:  The images feel quite dream-like to me.  I think the work you’re doing in Blender was the key to bringing the work to the next level.  It’s much more sophisticated than just making collages from the reference photos.

SB: Last time we talked, you gave me “permission” to pursue the work in Blender.  I was unsure! But it’s turned out to be crucial, you were right. I’ve also been thinking: would I enjoy sculpting in real life as much? I don’t have a lot of experience to compare.  But I think the computer allows me to make these 3D sketches quickly, so the process is low-mess and very fluid.

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CL: I’ve always thought that sculpting the figure is one big power trip.  I think you would really enjoying sculpting, I would love to see you pursue it in the future.  The problem is that sculpture a huge logistical pain. The mess… the storage problems… the expense… I’m so glad I decided to never go full throttle with being a sculptor. It’s awful… building crates to store your work, bubble wrap hell…

SB:  I feel like sculpting has helped me solidify the world I’m working in, if that makes sense.  I can believe it more.   Sculpture is such a direct intervention into the world we live in.  If it weren’t such a pain, do you think you would be a sculptor full-time?

CL: Even if I had all of the money and facilities in the world to fund being a sculptor I doubt I would have done it.  I love atmosphere and things emerging out of darkness too much.  So what’s the next step with these images?

SB: I will do more work with Blender and complete the rest of the set (8 more images). Actually, I did have a question:  I’m wondering about source material.  So, in sketch 3, the collection of limbs at the bottom is the person who was posing in the original archival photograph. While I was (very slowly) messing around with the composition in Photoshop this week they reappeared, and I liked how it looked. The solid people are a nice contrast to my models.  Sketch 1 went through the same process. But I’m concerned – these are not my photographs and even though I’m not going to publish these sketches as my finished work,  it still feels wrong. I feel like I need to reshoot my own reference.

CL: If it feels wrong to you, then I would shoot your own images, that way you will truly “own” the project. Being the control freak I am, that’s what I would recommend.  I like being able to dictate every single detail of a project. I think there are plenty of botanical gardens in NY that you could easily visit for the backgrounds.

SB:  Maybe being a control freak is the source of all originality.

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