I Posted My 30th Video on YouTube by Mike McCarthy

For the more tech savvy folks in the cloud, posting 35 videos may seem like small potatoes, but some of you will understand that this is quite the accomplishment. It has taken several years to get to get to this mark. Although, over the last month, I have posted 21 of the 35, so I am on a roll.

I find it fascinating that some people enjoy seeing the carving process as much as I do. Now, keep in mind that when I say some people, I really mean some!! I have a grand total of 1 subscriber and the most views of one of my videos currently sits at 221 views. (I am sure a lot of them are my own views.). All that aside, I really enjoy doing them as I love seeing the progression of a sculpture. My favorite type is the time-lapse. You can really see the progression of a day of carving, something you don't really experience as you are actually carving. So, take a look at the attached video, this is number 35!

Progress on the Fountain From a Different View by Mike McCarthy

I have put together another view of the progress of my commissioned Indiana Limestone fountain. I typically do both a GoPro video as well as a time lapse video from a set point. They give two totally different experiences. In my last post, I shared a GoPro of this same project. This video is from the set camera. As you will see, the face started out with a stolen left eye and no mouth. Over the night of carving, she started to get a little definition into her eye area and started forming a mouth.

Ready to Get a Little Dizzy? Fast Motion Carving Video by Mike McCarthy

I am working on a new commission. This one is an Indiana Limestone fountain that will be a similar theme as a bench this client bought from me a few years back. This is the first fountain I have done, so it will be interesting. This video shows about 6 hours of work shortened down to a little over 4 minutes. If you get motion sickness, it might give you a bit of that. I took this with a GoPro camera on my head. I think it is pretty fun to see all of the motion!

Not Often, But Every Once in a While a Sculpture Does Not Make it. by Mike McCarthy

When I used to carve wood, if a piece was not working out, off to the burn pile it went. Now that I have moved primarily back to stone, burning my mistakes is no longer an option. In general this is a good thing. After a while of sitting there mocking me, I am able to wrangle most pieces into submission and they become a viable work. However, that is not always the case.

IMG_0560.jpg

Over that last few months, I have been working on a good sized sculpture that I had planned on submitting to a show at Josephine Sculpture Park. Lately, I have been working on getting my sculptures to be as thin as I can to emphasize visual lightness. I like the dichotomy of the weight of stone with that visual lightness. I was really starting to like the piece and had begun the sanding process. This is where I spend a lot of time using a sander to further thin the stone. I sent use the hammer here because I can break the stone.

All was going well until the sander got caught in a curve and skipped out. As soon as that happened, I heard the worst sound a sculptor can hear...the clink of stone breaking. This sound is a very distinct sound that gives sculptors a chill down their back. If you want it to happen, it is the coolest sound in the world. If you don't want it to happen, it is the worst sound you can hear. Needless to say, I did not want it to happen.

IMG_0571.jpg

As the piece that broke fell to the floor, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. The piece that broke really tied the two sides of the sculpture together. I was in panic mode and was looking around the piece to see if it could be salvaged. I grabbed the top of the sculpture to turn it and the top section cam off in my hands. I hand realized that it too had broken in the process. I was so disappointed that had it been a wood piece it would have gone into the burn pile. Since this was stone, it went into the trash!

Starting a New Sculpture Using Feathers and Wedges to Size the Block by Mike McCarthy

So what do you do when you have a 12" thick block and need about 6"? Simple, use feathers and wedges to cleanly split the block and get it down to a reasonable size. In the video below, I show an easy way to very quickly split a block by drilling a few holes and then letting pressure do its work.

When I first started carving, If I needed to get rid of a lot of stone, I would get my point out and start chipping away. It would take me a great deal of time and I would waste a bunch of stone. Now, I break out a hammer drill and some feathers and wedges and I am able to cut the block in half and I have two useable pieces. 

Carving an Indiana Limestone Fountain - Day 1 by Mike McCarthy

I started a new commission a few weeks ago. However, the first 3 weeks have Baan digging the stone out from under a bunch of other stone, then flattening the bottom so I could stand it up. Last night, I finally got the piece stood up and started carving.

The block started out around 3000 pounds. I took a little off of it to get the bottom flat. Now I will be removing a bunch of weight. To start I used feathers and wedges to split the corners off the top to begin shaping the roundness of the head. I left a lot more than a typical head as this piece will have foliage rather than hair. It is going to compliment a piece that I did several years ago for the same folks. 

After I got the corners knocked off, I used a diamond saw to remove basic material. I cut kerfs in the stone then use a hammer drill to quickly remove the pieces to the score line, I used to just start carving with my air hammer. If I were to still work that way, this project would take aver a year to complete. Hy hope is that this will be completed by the end of the year.

Once I remove a lot of the basic material, I alternate between the air hammer and the diamond blade to rough in the shapes. The air hammer allows me to start creating the forms and then I can come back with the saw to remove any waste. In the video below, you will see the progress I made in just a few hours.

Carving Stone is Always a Negotiation by Mike McCarthy

 “Baboon Mask” - 10”w x 9”d x 14”t -  Contemporary Soapstone Sculpture

“Baboon Mask” - 10”w x 9”d x 14”t -  Contemporary Soapstone Sculpture

I approach a new sculpture in two very different ways depending on the result I am trying to achieve. The first is to go in with no idea in mind. I just start by removing stone and see where the piece wants to take me. This tends to be my approach with my abstract pieces. The second way is how I start in with realistic work. I have a specific piece in mind and to work towards that in a more methodical way. Both methods have their plusses and minuses, and they are very different ways of thinking and negotiating my way to a completed piece. As you will note, I said this is how I approach the start of a new sculpture. Once started, things don't always go as planned!

In my most recent sculpture, I started with the second approach. I had a very specific piece in mind. It was to be a realistic baboon face and was to be part of a show I did two years ago on all animal heads. (Yes, I started this piece over two years ago.) I quickly realized this would not work as the stone and I clearly had different agendas! The stone was a very odd shape that did not allow for as much depth for the eyes as I originally wanted. I stopped working on the piece and set the stone aside.

When I set a stone aside, I typically go back after a few months and look at it to see if I can solve the problems it has presented. Some times they continue to mock me and they go back on the shelf. Other times, we talk a little and a new idea comes up. 

With "Baboon Mask" we agreed that I would drill all the way through the eyes and create an abstract piece that was totally unrelated to the original idea. So essentially, I took the approach that this was a new sculpture and had planned to complete a freeform piece now. I was pretty clear with the stone, that that was the direction I wanted to go and I thought it had agreed. It didn't.

I drilled all the way through the eyes and was surprised to see that I was really happy with the depth it created. It was no longer a realistic baboon, but it did not want to be a freeform piece wither, so we agreed that it would be more of a contemporary "mask" of a baboon. The stone and I were happy, and after over two years, I completed the piece last night. This was quite the journey to get to the completed piece, but carving stone is always a negotiation!

Finally...The "Born From The Broken" And Some Others Are Finished by Mike McCarthy

 Untitled Bordiglio Marble Contemporary Sculpture

Untitled Bordiglio Marble Contemporary Sculpture

Over the last few weeks is I have been unable to work down in the studio on my larger work because of a sick dog. The only good things about this is that I have had time to work on some of the small pieces that I can do in the house.

 Stained Indiana Limestone Sculpture - "Born from the Broken"

Stained Indiana Limestone Sculpture - "Born from the Broken"

Since February last year, I spent the vast majority of my time on a large public commission for Norton Hospital. The sculpture was too large and complex to have time to work on anything other than this one piece. I had other commissioned work, but could never feel confident to get to that, much less the myriad of ideas I have in my head just waiting to find their way into a piece of stone. That commission installed in April. Once complete, I immediately began work on the two larger pieces that have been delayed. I started carving a fountain that is a commissions well as an abstract piece for a show later this summer. While it was great to start in on some fresh ideas and pieces, I still had some small work that I had started prior to starting the Norton commission, as well as the many ideas that are just waiting to burst out of my head. I really thought that after the Norton sculpture was completed I would have time for both the larger work and the smaller pieces. It just hasn't happened. 

 Tortoise Shell Alabaster Contemporary Sculpture

Tortoise Shell Alabaster Contemporary Sculpture

So, two weeks ago one of our dogs got sick. Because of the nature of the illness, she needed constant supervision. That meant that I couldnt work in the studio. While that has put some stress on finishing the larger work, it has provided the room in the schedule to complete a few of the smaller pieces that I has already started as well as get some ideas out of my head.

The untitled tortoise shell alabaster piece that is pictured here is one of the pieces I started over a year ago. Because of the difficulty of the stone to carve, I had set it aside in favor of other pieces several times. That piece is now complete.

I also had started a soapstone baboon that was not going in the right direction. I set that one aside as well and had not been able to return to it. I have started back into this one as well. (You can also see my dog is up and moving now!!)

Not only did I have the two (and many others) that I started and have been unable to get back to, I also have been looking at so many of the pieces of stone in my studio that I have not been able to start. That has now changed.

IMG_0524.jpg

I have started and completed two other small pieces. The first was a piece that actually broke off of the large figure from my Norton commission. When it broke off, I was devastated. Several times I started to throw the piece out because it disgusted me. For some reason I never did. I am glad I did not, as I feel it turned out into a pretty nice piece.  I also started and finished a piece of Bordiglio Marble. This is a piece of marble that has been split off of a 3/4 life-size figure I am in progress on. It was a thin piece and I thought I saw something else in it, but it changed its mind and we ended up with the nice little piece that is on the double poles. 

So, the good news is that my dog is on the mend and next week I will be able to get back into the studio. But what it taught me is that I still need to take a bit of time to work on the small pieces that have provided such a great sense of accomplishment this past two weeks.