I prefer to photograph my work in natural daylight.
These dark winter days are a bit thin on providing that, and so my daylight flourescents become the alternative.
My work room has little colour on the walls as I don't want this to reflect (quite literally!) on the statuary.
Yesterday, the " neutral" canvas I use as a backdrop for photographing smaller statuary seemed as dull as the winter outdoors. At this time of year, Blue spring skies and sunny yellow daffodils seem a long way off.
I decided to do something about it, and masked up the canvas backdrop ready for a change of scene.
I don't have a lot of time for private projects, so once I'd got out the paint and brushes, there was no turning back.A
From now on the backdrop for my small statue repairs will certainly be " different! And I will be able to gaze into a summer sky whenever the one outdoors is dark and wintry.
Plaster religious statuary is sometimes associated with substandard art. This beautiful 19th Century corpus which I've been restoring tells me otherwise.
Religious figures were often modeled for mass production by highly skilled sculptors. The fact that they were produced in plaster did not make the work less noteworthy artistically. The sculptor who modeled this figure would have studied anatomy inside and out. He/she shows great sensitivity in the modeling of the musculature and underlying bone structure.
However, commercialism can reduce quality, and I'll explain this further on.
In earlier times, both animal gelatin and rubber were used to make moulds for architectural and figurative pieces.
Gelatin, has a short shelf life, it breaks down fairly quickly, and as the gelatin deteriorates, so does the mould. Its ability to replicate sharp detail is reduced. In commercial terms, few replicas could be produced using this material. Because moulds are expensive and time consuming to make, commercial producers occasionally over-used rubber moulds which were past their best.
While first edition figures would retain all the detail of the original model, those produced using a mould which had lost it elasticity from over -use were substantially different.
I believe it is these latter figures which give religious plaster statuary a bad name. Hardly surprising if one hasn't had the opportunity to view the first editions.
There are still some good examples of plaster statuary which retain all their original details; though sadly, the commercial push to promote resin statuary means that fewer of these figures might be preserved for the future.
The corpus here is depicted with an open mouth, inviting us to contemplation of Christs last words on the cross, "Into your hands I commend my spirit... it is done!""
The figure is not a sentimental representation, but invites us to think deeply about the spiritual significance of these words for us.
It has weathered church devotions for over a century and a half, and hopefully now one hundred more!
I admit that I regard humble plaster figures with some affection. I am sure when God created plaster, he knew that it would serve to build up the church throughout time. Even though mass produced religious statuary has its faults, it did much to further popular devotion during the 19th Century.
Long may our beloved plaster statues continue!
An artist's paintbrushes, are the tools of his trade. I once counted that I had used over 14 different types of brush on one statue.
If you are aware that a posi-drive screwdriver is not suitable for a flat slot screw head- then you will have some appreciation for the virtue of having the right paintbrush for the right job.
A house painter and decorator will agree that choosing the correct brush for the job is important. While house paint brushes are pretty standard in appearance, artists brushes come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and bristle types.
The liner below will produce long thin marks, This one has natural bristles of sable. The gilders tip - used for placing gold sheets onto a surface for gilded decoration, can be made of squirrel or badger hair. While it is not used for painting, it is an important tool in my emporium!
In years gone by, the addition of lead or tin to paints, gave artists the ability to create sinuous lines, and a satisfying opaque finish to works. These heavy metals gave the paints greater longevity. However, they decreased the longevity of the artist's life - (and that of their manufacturers) - so these metals have since been removed.
The result is that the fluidity of the paint has been compromised, and creates more of a challenge for the artist/restorer.
The image above shows, the decorative detail of a Sacred Heart statue I'm currently restoring, I am using two differently shaped brushes with different hair types to replicate the quality of line used in the original.
The Catholic web has been discussing the pros and cons of the current Vatican Nativity. It includes extra figures meant to draw our attention to the corporal works of mercy.
Some have been outraged by the inclusion of a semi-naked male figure sporting a six pack, and others bemoan that they are as expressive as shop mannequins. I think it would be unfair to question the competency of the artists who executed the scene. I do not know what particular constraints they were under to produce the figures, and how much creative input they were allowed. If the tableau is skilfully rendered or not, the main question is whether it works as a piece of religious art.
There is a long tradition in Catholicism that art is a teaching tool, it exists that we should learn some spiritual truth from it.
Sacred art can be a "sermon" in pictures, and Integrity demands that a Nativity scene draw the viewer into the central mystery of Christ Incarnate. It is the contemplation of Christ as a babe, which is key to our treating others with love and respect.
The final battle - Sr. Lucia
Cardinal Caffera of Bologna recorded the prohecy of Sr. Lucia, who wrote that: "The final battle between the Lord and Satan will be about marriage and the family." She said that we mustn't be afraid, because Our Lady had already crushed Satan's head, but the family and the sanctity of Marriage would be the decisive issue. It was due to this that St. Pope John Paul II had urged the Cardinal to establish the Pontifical Institute for marriage and the family.
Eggs over easy
The inclusion of extra figures ministering the corporal works of mercy rather over-eggs the scene. It allows the viewer to take the easy route out; distrcated by the side show. Afer all, contemplating the vulnerability of God made man is immense.
In addition, the Holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was once upheld as a model for married family life. It is their parental virtues which deserve our attention in these times.
With the family unit as the core building block of society, its disintegration has gone hand in hand with the degeneration of our culture.
Society continues to undermine the vulnerability of children and their need for nurture, and guidance. They are too often regarded as a commodity, or a burden, rather than a gift from God. When we think of the attack upon the family in these times, it is essential to keep our focus on the Holy family of the Nativity. Their example, is one of putting unconditional love into practice.
The following link has some clear photos of the scene.
The Catholic Traveler
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