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Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight - John Thompson

AND NOW THERE BE STONE…..  1. Scafti and me

For the last 25 years I have been sculpting and carving almost daily, but I came to this via a love of art and rocks in my childhood and then intaglio etching. I did the formal education thing, getting a Bachelor of Arts. I tried many things: drawing, painting, ceramics and photography. I have a 2000-pound etching press that was my artistic outlet, and for several decades I was a printmaker. Then an opportunity opened up, and now the press sits with dust on it and I am a dedicated and happy sculptor.

My introduction to sculpting came through wood carving. I began by drawing the horses that were to become the wooden ponies for the Missoula Carousel Project in 1991. I was the carousel “artist” with the opportunity to help design the more than forty carousel critters. I couldn’t resist the lure of carving and joined in the efforts to create the horses as well as designing them. I was hooked. Great carousels always have a ring machine to allow the riders to get the brass ring, and I decided ours needed to be a dragon. Since the carousel’s inception, I have added a 6’ x 6’ square Indiana limestone relief sculpture to the outside of the carousel building.

In 2008, I attended a stone sculpture symposium in Marble, Colorado and put a chisel to a piece of marble. WOWZA!! Since then, I have participated in a number of other symposiums—Silver Falls, Suttle Lake, California Sculpture—where I have taught wood carving and learned more about stone carving. Through these events, the NWSSA has been a great connection to amazing folks with a vast treasure trove of knowledge and skills. It is a wonderful gift that these people are all willing to share their knowledge and love of stone work.

To sculpt year-round in Missoula, Montana requires an indoor space, and so the Stone Studio came to life. My good friend and fellow sculptor Adrian and I found a space that was perfect for the need. With some great tools acquired (thank you Rick), we are busy making stone dust. I have discovered that my wood carving skills are applicable to stone. I go back and forth between marble, limestone, alabaster, and soapstone and am not sure which is most enjoyable. I have a love of hand tools, but find the air hammer and Dremel are my preferred methods at this time. I’m currently using the Dremel for detail carving.

My work with the carousel influences my stone carving. I love whimsy and humor. I like to make fun critters, real or imagined, and my wood carving has morphed into dragons and funny birds and funky creatures. I carve rocking critters for family, and upon commission, am now going to try to make a marble rocking critter from Carrara marble (thank you Carl). I don’t lack for ideas. I move from project to project. Some are simply to learn a skill and will not ever be a finished piece. There is always something either to learn or that needs to be created, and I “art” daily.

The work I did for and on the Missoula Carousel is my legacy to my children and grandchildren. As the first hand-carved wooden carousel created in the United States in 60 years, it is the largest public art project in the state of Montana. It was the inspiration for over fifteen other new carousel projects across the country. It also has been a tremendous inspiration to hundreds of people that they too can create and be artistic.

I enjoy teaching and sharing the skills I have. I have had the privilege to teach at many workshops and schools and have passed on the skills and wisdom from others who have taught me. I want everyone to see the value and joy of art in the world. It is my belief that if we are making Art, we will be happier and better people.

“Scafti and Me”  Actual size (I am about 5’7”) Photo at heading of this article
Scafti was designed and carved for the Missoula Carousel. It is the last critter I carved that will ride the carousel in Missoula. It was created after I had carved the dragon for our ring machine. The ring machine dragon is about 9 feet long and sits in a hand carved tree so that the riders reach for the brass ring as they are riding. As I was carving the ring-dragon, kids would want to know when they could ride it. Well who wouldn’t want to ride a dragon? Thus, Scafti happened. Scafti was carved from laminated basswood, all with hand chisels and gouges. It was painted by some of the carousel’s other great volunteers. I am proud to say it soon became one of the favorite critters on the carousel.

2. Gutter Goyle“Gutter Goyle”   L 29 " X H 8.5” X D 10”Gutter Goyle print
This was carved from a piece of Kansas limestone fence post. I cut a channel in the bottom for the gutter with an angle grinder and chisels. I then roughed out the critter with an air hammer. It was “finished” with hand chisels, files and scrapers. It sits proudly in the flower bed waiting for rain.

“Stone Hinge”   L 9” X H 6” X D 5”
This was carved from a piece of Wenatchee soapstone as a demo-piece for one of my workshops I was teaching in Washington. It of course happened after a trip to England—not sure what the inspiration was.  The hinge is painted with acrylic, and the stone was painted with a clear wax and a tinted floor wax.

“Column Fragment”  L 10” X H 8.25” X D 7.5”
Carousel limestone panelsThis is carved from Wenatchee soapstone. I try to convince folks that it is something I found on one of my trips to Europe and managed to bring it home hidden in my carry-on. I really enjoy looking at all the fragments and minute carvings that all of our previous stone artists have left us to find. The critter design on this piece is from a sketch of some carvings I saw on a cathedral wall in France. It was carved with hand chisels and files.
Column fragment
“Carousel Limestone Panels”  L 6’ X H 6’ X D 2.5”
I was able to convince the other folks on the carousel advisory board that we should have a “small” limestone panel on the outside of our new addition to the carousel building. I thought something about the carousel might be good. I told them we could probably find someone willing to do the carving. Yep! I roughed out the six individual panels (Indiana limestone) in the garage studio using my air hammer and chisels. We then installed the panels on the building and I “finished” carving them in place. This was to let folks watch and advise (tell me what I was doing wrong). It was carved using air hammer and hand chisels, files, scrapers. It was a very enjoyable project. I could pick my and my grandkids’ favorite critters from the carousel to carve. It is also very humbling when I walk by the building and see where I could improve and tweak the carving. Well who knows—I still have my tools and may do some after-hours work. 
6b. Carousel limestone panels relief

 “Sleepy Dragon-Boring Book”   L 22” X H 14” D 14” Sleepy dragon boring book
This is a piece of Colorado marble. I was able to attend the symposium at Marble, Colorado last summer. I actually had a plan of what I was going to carve. Yep—registered late and the stone I needed was not available. I chose a different, smaller stone, and after an afternoon of playing with my air hammer, this critter started appearing. This stone was in the truck with us as we drove to Suttle Lake a couple weeks later. So I worked on it there too. It followed me to our new carving studio in Missoula. I have been carving and finishing it up in our new digs.  I am working with air hammer and using the Dremel for detail carving.

The New Studio
This is a photo of Adrian and my new work space. It is the front half of a friend’s quonset. We are pretty excited and are now carving stone about three days a week. It is a work in progress but already proving to be a great space. We are not sure where this is going, but it sure is going to be fun.
In April, I will be getting a 3600-pound piece of Carrara marble delivered (thanks Carl). That should help keep me off the streets and out of trouble.

Photo of me working on the panels at the carousel. Life size. I am 5’7” tall (taller when I am on the ladder, shorter when I am sitting down)

Limestone Relief Critter”   L 12” X H 12.25” X D 1.25” limestone relief critter
This was a practice piece out of Indiana limestone started before I was to carve the relief carving for the carousel. It was carved using my small air hammer and hand tools. I am finishing it up with the Dremel and some scrapers.

Prometheus Dragon by John Thompson“Prometheus Dragon”     L 12.5” X H 9.5” X D 7.5”
This was carved from Wenatchee soapstone using hand tools and files. This was carved as a sample for a workshop I was teaching. I wanted to try to get more detail in the soapstone carvings folks were doing.

Group photo: Renda Greene, John Thompson & Adrian Hoye

Artist Spotlight: Eirene Blomberg

Transfiguration 2012 Carrara Marble and Black Onyx 18.5in tall 2nd            I am a maker and creative being to the core. I have painted, woven, felted, sculpted, sketched, and more, but still hadn't thought of myself as an artist. I knew that I needed to create in order to stay balanced and centered in my life. Art was more of a by-product of what I was doing — whether that was cooking, baking, gardening, or basket-weaving, art would infiltrate in as a driving philosophy, both consciously and subconsciously. Growing up in California, I took art classes in high school and entered college as an art major. Intimidated by the art world, I quickly switched majors and ended up getting a degree in Cultural Ecology with an emphasis in agriculture and became a gardener and herbalist by trade.

           Eirene sketching on stone I spent the next few years working on Organic and Biodynamic farms in Indiana, New Jersey, and Tennessee. Eventually I landed on 150 acres in the backwoods of Tennessee where a lifelong dream of homesteading with a small community of friends was brought to fruition. Five years later, yearning for the waters and mountains of the Pacific Northwest, I ended up settling in Washington State on Lopez Island. I still live there today with my husband and daughter in the home we built. I did a lot of exploring and creating during this period but I didn’t do much classic ‘art.’

            It was not until I was dealing with a medical condition in 2012 that I really opened up to  art again. In the process surrounding my condition I thought a lot about the finite reality of life, and the dreams I still wanted to manifest. Sculpting stone was high on that list, so I contacted Tamara Buchanan, a local stone sculptor and long time NWSSA member. We scheduled a class a few weeks out. As soon as I put chisel to stone I was hooked, and have been carving stone ever since. Tamara has been my teacher, mentor and dear friend, sharing her studio, tools, and wisdom. Working with Tamara Buchanan, taking classes, participating in Symposiums and being a member of the NWSSA have all played very key roles in my development as a stone sculptor. 

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Artist Spotlight: Kirk McLean

Seedling Kirk McLeanMy first serious encounter with stone was a mixed-materials piece in 1982, featuring a 300-pound granite glacial erratic that I had dragged from the woods. Working on this piece got me totally hooked on stone and particularly on granite. Since my training was in metal casting and fabrication and I knew nothing about carving stone, I naturally decided to become a stone sculptor.

My art in the three-and-a-half decades since divides into three phases: eighteen years of abstract granite and basalt sculptures in human scale, a decade of chasing the metaphor of a tree growing from rock, and my recent series using visual metaphors autobiographically. My process has always started from a vision that pops into my mind suddenly, although often after I’ve been thinking about a subject for some time. I work the design further in my head and on the stone, rarely using drawings or maquettes. When I did the Rock Becoming Tree series, the essence of my sculpture became conveying the metaphor using a limited number of symbols. In the Love & Loss series that I just finished, the most important feature was communicating emotion."New World" Soapstone 2014 Kirk McLean

The recent change in my work came from my wife Judy’s illness and death from Alzheimer’s Disease. Family caregivers for someone with dementia die at a rate sixty-three percent higher than the general population, because the experience is so exhausting and traumatic. After her death, I felt totally crushed and floundering in a world with no meaning. Caregivers are encouraged to write about their experience in order to process their grief. I decided, instead, I would use my years of training to make sculptures about it.

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Artist Spotlight - Cyra Jane Hobson

My identity as an artist is embedded deep in my psyche; for me there is no choice and there is nothing else. Yeah, I do other things, but creation is a primary force of my personality, and the narrative I live is entwined with my artwork in a way that it is the literal visual record of my experience. I use art to purge, to define paths, and to embark on new journeys.

As a child growing up in the stark farmland of Illinois, surrounded by fields of corn and soybeans, I dreamt of growing up to be a published poet, performing opera singer, or professional visual artist. In higher education I trained in the first two, up through degrees in writing and choral competitions while painting secretly in my room. I refused teachers in visual art until much later, intent on developing my voice first. And while I had always considered visual art to be the least strong of the three for me, it’s what ended up becoming my dominant path over the course of my 20s.

Partly, the reason for that is how my narrative, my personality, and my creativity melded. For me, my art is my breath. I wither and suffocate without paints, stone, or tools. I have nightmares of losing my hands and won’t ski or ice skate or otherwise put them in danger.

I painted almost exclusively until 2009, until coming home from a 3 month walkabout to 11 major cities in Europe and North America. I went to every art museum, letting myself be drawn where the magnets were. The stone statues in particular—I was so mad they wouldn’t let me touch them. So at some point, I gave myself permission to make my own so that I could: I gave myself permission to sculpt. the Knife

So I came home and dove into whatever I could learn. I joined a Burning Man blacksmithing collective where we made large-scale pyrotechnic art. I interned at Pillow Studios with a kinetic steel and glass artist. I was accepted to a residency at The James Washington Foundation, initially for steel fabrication, but they let me switch to stone work and make a huge dusty mess in his studio. Stone work… it felt like medicine. And I needed medicine, so I ran toward it.

My first major piece was “The Knife,” and through the process of working on it for 175 hours (the initial sculpture 120, the bronze castings 55), I discovered something of a drawn–out process of mapping my subconscious on a particular theme. I already knew I could manipulate my experience with reality through what I was making, but this was something different: I could actually dive into my thoughts without reacting to them and just observe while my hands were busy doing detail work with X-acto knives and dental picks. Like most of my major works, the end image of “The Knife” came to me fully formed: in a flash second, my eyes white over and there, the construction (or substruction) of the piece crystallizes in front of me. I know every moment of the surface before I even begin. Then, I just have to make it.

“The Knife” was a study of emotional defenses, in short, a hard look at everything I was doing to misguidedly “protect” the emotional, soft sides of me that I’d locked away somewhere. A katabasis journey into the dark, seeking out those parts of me and looking at which behavioral guardians jumped up in the way to distract me from finding them. Every feeling and thought on this was mapped onto the surface of that sculpture.

"The Dragonfly on my Shoulder" Brucite. 2018. #7 of the Katabasis Series. The final shedding of the exoskeleton; A molting. The result of that really captured me, and I created seven major works with this particular method, choosing themes that could take me somewhere stronger, somewhere more open. Chlorite was perfect for it. Smooth and consistent, working with the stone wasn’t a struggle. I love brucite and this crazy old marble I’m working in now, but surfacing and detailing is a serious challenge because of inconsistent densities that need too much attention. I’m moving into basalt, which is also nicely consistent, as I’m looking to work in life–size figurative. I’d also like to get back on track for public work, so the durability is very attractive, too. Still, the last piece of the series was in brucite, as it couldn’t be in anything else. “The Dragonfly on My Shoulder” (2018) was the final molting, as a new me, whole and integrated, shed its last skin. A lot of people react to the imagery with the little alien bug face crawling out of the back of a dragonfly nymph as creepy, but all I remember is that first breath of fresh air and the intense beauty of becoming. 

But let’s talk here of some of the side missions I’ve gone on with stone carving. Not every piece could be that kind of intense psycho-emotional journey, and often those would take me well over a year to get through, so I’d take a month or so off to explore another theme. Plus, I could fill a book with that narrative (ooh, foreshadowing!) Still, I have such a method built in now that each of these proved rather intense experiences as well.
"Something of a Shearing" Chlorite, bronze, mahogany. 2014-2017. The quite literal journey of moving to an island and building a studio; the sculpture began first.
“Something of a Shearing” was a fairly long term side story, and the full narrative of it was published in this journal a few years ago after it was finished in 2016. It first came into being when I decided to start working in 3D—for months my entire perception of the world was from inside the top of a lighthouse, the gears moving it slowly as my focus and visualizations shifted. At first it was a painting; then I determined to make it a stone carving. It quite literally became the story of building my studio. I started it at Pillow Studios, where my boss was kind enough to let me do stone work outside the metal shop, and worked on it at eight different places, taking it with me through my travels and journeys that led me to Vashon. The last little part of it was turning on the light in my greenhouse when I had finally landed on Vashon for good. The weeks leading up to finishing it were mostly up at Studiostone in Vancouver (all the fitting and polishing), then at Tom Small’s place (where I made the base), and during this time as it was coming to life it started to walk beside me rather than up on my shoulder. It pulled off of me like some sort of budding and became its own little creature.

"Foremother" Australian ring marble, uranium glass. 2017. “Foremother” (cover image) was the next side–mission in 2017, and perhaps the first that was truly a concept piece from the start. I had this ancient marble from Neolithic, with some of the earliest fossils in it and the opportunity to cast some uranium glass. I’d been feeling the idea of offerings lately and decided to do a piece about cyclical reproduction—the unstoppable drive for renewal. What it will feel like for Gaia to repopulate life after we destroy it. And part of what it feels like to be being flayed open right now. I spent about two months on this, all told, and it was incredibly intense. I hadn’t really known where I was going to go emotionally with it. At one point we got into a fight when I found out she had no skin. I fell head-first into her anger and the ground beneath me turned solvent; I ended up in the woods, charging overdressed and overheated, the trees pulsing and guttural screaming around me. It was coursing through me. So what do you do with that? Shower, eat, self care, and listen. Then finish the piece and kind of decide not to go back there again.

Yeah, it’s kind of like method acting. 
icanbreathinthiswater.jpg - "I Can Breathe in this Water" Marble. 2018. A wash in the feminine.
“I Can Breathe in this Water” was a piece done in translucent marble for the Seattle Erotic Art Festival in 2018. She was based on a commission by a woman who was moving across the country, pulled from her lover, as a parting gift. The figure is based entirely in hearts and exudes femininity, submission, and seductive power. This was really a fun one. It was spring in the studio, and I spent every day just awash in my feminine side. I bought dresses and makeup. I danced. I really loved working on her, and this particular marble is such a joy. This stone was quite sugary, so I was released from sharp edges, and the curves all had to be so soft. It filed like a dream, and the metal veins ended up emphasizing the contours better than I could have planned.
"Reconcile (the Mother)" Marble. 2019. Pulling out my bloodline
“Reconcile (The Mother)” is a terrible title, but I haven’t come up with a better one yet. It’s one of my best pieces so far though. Made this spring, 2019, I initially thought it would be about my own relationship with my mother, though going into that didn’t really thrill me. It’s the same marble from above, and a solid piece of it. So gorgeous to work on—there were moments it took my breath away and I cried in joy. After having spent something like 350 hours already carving hands, this entire sculpture happened quite quickly, 83 hours overall. What I didn’t expect was for it to be more about my own decision not to have children. First of all, when I started, it opened up this tunnel back to my birth, and all my memories were happening kind of at once. I’m having to do things like go to the grocery store and be ‘normal’, while wide open so far that, inside, I’m reliving screaming at birth and the intensity of pure infant emotions and looking through wounds, stitching them together. My arms were searing. And then my body decided it was pregnant. This hasn’t ever happened to me before, and of course I wasn’t. I’m an adult with an IUD. But my body was convinced, and I had all the signs. I went through all the “what ifs” the “how would I handle it” the “would I want this?” to the “if so would I change my lifestyle while I still have time?” Oh lord. It was a lot. I ended up taking a test to just stop the questions. I went back to living in the portal until the sculpture was complete and did in fact make some peace with my mother. I got a pair of kittens. And then all that receded into the distance. In progress. Australian ring marble.

I’ve started working on another piece of the ancient marble now; a piece about the acceptance of failure and moving on with grace and dignity. It may not turn out. The surface is a struggle, so the anatomy isn’t ending up correctly. I’m ok with it. It will do what it wants with my narrative and that will be the truth.
Overcurrents(cover)(actualized)" Chlorite, marble, steel, silk. 2015-2018. #3 in the Katabasis Series. Also in the Kinesics series. The release of anger.

Artist Spotlight: Bruce Kleeberger

“Blushing Rose” Alabaster 12″ h x 14″ w x 12″ d  Bruce KleebergerFirst of All
Many thanks to Penelope Crittenden, Lane Tompkins, and Ben Mefford for the opportunity to share my sculpture experience with Sculpture NorthWest readers. The NWSSA is the most welcoming and supportive organization in art I have ever experienced. I am an “emerging” artist, in my second career: my first being a satisfying and rewarding career as a dentist.

BS (Before Stone)
Although I have dabbled in drawing and three-dimensional art for twenty-five years, I no longer “live by the clock” or have the responsibility of raising my children. Now I focus on satisfying my curiosity through working with stone. If ten thousand hours is a measure of mastery of a skill, I am about one-third of the way up this learning curve. Although I also sculpt wood and clay, I keep returning to stone. My association with the NWSSA is no small part of that.

Art and Science: Discovering Stone
When discussing my art with me, people often assume a correlation between my experience in dentistry and sculpting. Actually, I think competence in dentistry depends on right brain skills and art more from left brain skills. Certainly both require technical skill and ability to work with and understand materials and tool science.
Dentistry is a highly technical skill which requires careful application of rules for mate-rials and equipment usage. Parameters for design are limited by the variations of human anatomy and aesthetics. The real “art” of dentistry is the diagnostic phase which often requires innovation and imaginative thinking.
Three dimensional art (sculpture) however, requires experience with an unlimited variety of materials and technique. Even if limiting oneself to sculpting in stone, there are no two stones which are alike. What really makes every sculpture unique is the imaginative process that can conceive and then implement a design. Expressing imagination through art is a very left brained skill!

El Camino de Scultura - Sculptural Journey
In the absence of a formal study in fine arts, I am continually seeking opportunities to develop my imagination and skills. Ideally, my skill and my creativity are growing in tandem! My mentors are key to my development and I am honoured to include among my influencers established artists like Michael Binkley (and by extension George Pratt), figurative sculptors Linda Lindsay, Gabriele Vicari, Melanie Furtado, David Hunwick, Alexandra Morosco, Sampa Lhundup and all those whom I have met at two NWSSA symposia so far. I have a small library of literature focusing on sculpture, am developing my online presence, and am focusing my on-line education through technology. Podcasts as developed by Jason Arkles (who is guest presenter to the NWSSA in Pilgrim Firs during July, 2019) and online education offered by the New Masters Academy offer extensive resources to the curious neophyte artist.
To grow as an artist I participate in the art world, in addition to my home-study. I have travelled in Europe for many years, recently being dedicated to viewing and studying art. I have competed in juried shows in Canada and the USA. Showing in commercial and pop-up galleries and participating in community art tours extends the experience of connecting with art consumers, my intended audience. During summer 2019 I am proud to be invited by the San Juan Islands Museum of Art (Friday Harbor) to participate in their exhibit Deep Dive. By writing for art publications I must reflect on my process and product and learn to explain them clearly. By participating in public art calls and art critique forums I am learning to accept criticism. The most valued part of my learning is my association with other artists such as the members of the NWSSA. I hope some day to teach, because I believe this can be the most powerful learning experience.

Figurative/Realism/Representational vs. Abstract/Contemporary?
Perfect symbiosis for me would be the ability to move back and forth between figurative and abstract styles. My journey is dedicated to continually working, producing and advancing. It is only through dedication to push the limits of creativity that skills and imagination develop. This also keeps the mind open to new permutations of a current pro-ject. Both require technical ability, but to think abstractly is more than technical ability. By seeking exposure to other art and artists, I hope to develop my own ability to see out-side and around the edges of my projects.
I am seeking to take my highly representational experience to the next level by creating a story with each sculpture which can be conveyed to my audience, leaving an “impression” of the meaning, and a need to interact with the work. I love it when my audience wants to touch my sculpture.

Why Sculpture?
The impetus for me to sculpt is to create and then have the creation appreciated. To create what my mind can conceive and produce a tangible representation of what I can imagine. At this point in my development, I need to produce art which serves a purpose: attract an audience, have a practical application (such as to memorialize, or meet a need such as a commission), or serve as inspirational, attractive or functional public art.

Most of my work is “breadbox” size or slightly larger and each piece takes, on average one hundred hours to create. I am fortunate to have a workspace, separate from my living space, and far enough from neighbours so that dust and noise are not an irritant to them. I work 25-30 hours per week on my art: 1/3 in study, research, and design, 1/3 in creation, and 1/3 in marketing. My long term goal is to move the balance towards creation at the expense of marketing as I continue to “emerge” as an artist.
Most of my work has been in soft stone such as limestone, chlorite, alabaster, and soap-stone, but I prefer working in marble. During a trip to study figurative sculpture in Pietrasanta, Italy last spring, I was able to personally select 1200 pounds of Bianco/Statuario marble from Carrara.
I take inspiration from my environment, my family, friends and fellow artists (gallery work or personal association). Sometimes the concept of a project comes to my imagination as a fully developed three-dimensional form ready to be created. Often the project requires additional development. This may require a sketch in order to be able to scale and fully understand the subject. The sketch might be two dimensional such as pencil drawing, or increasingly, digital drawing. Sometimes I can skip the two-dimensional sketch and move directly to the three-dimensional maquette of oil-based clay in sufficient detail to use as a proportional model.
My process is to record inspirations on a mobile device with photos and notebook sketches and notes. I research the subject fully, mostly with web searches, and begin design using a digital drawing tool. Then, I seek a stone to fit the project: col-our/texture/size/shape are all important. Sometimes I use the drawing tool to superimpose the drawing over photographs of the stone and then print out the superimposed pictures to simplify the rough out.
I use power tools as much as possible, including diamond chainsaw and angle grinders for the rough-out. I have chosen not to use air tools at this time, but instead have a large selection of angle grinder attachments and the industrial power Foredom tools and accessories and a micro-motor. I imagine this dependence on power tools comes from my experience in dentistry of over 30 years. I would like to supplement my power tools and develop ability with hand tools more extensively, especially in the final carving stages.
Generally, I have a 2-3 pieces in progress at any one time. I find it necessary to leave a piece to rest sometimes, and then revisit to avoid errors. It is important to step away, and return to see with fresh eyes. Also, sometimes it is necessary to allow a piece to dry out, or glue to set, or cool down. If I have other works in progress, it is a good time to turn to them.
One of the greatest difficulties I have as a less experienced artist is the maturity to know when a work is finished. Sometimes, the enemy of good is attempting to make it better. Often before I have reached the stages of finishing, my interest in the project is waning: the concept I had envisioned is realized and now the finishing is a process that is necessary but less appealing to me. I have both under finished and/or damaged by over finish-ing. I have yet to figure out the balance between too much finishing or too little…
Ever since my work has been sought by galleries, I have documented, photographed and numbered them. By cataloguing each sculpture sequentially, I can assess my growth as a sculptor.

As with most things it isn’t the destination, but the journey. My journey in art is fully underway but the stage when I can consider myself accomplished is not yet in sight. I don’t interact intellectually with the stone or my art and am still learning how to do that. I look forward to be able to create art from my imagination which conveys my intent: humour, emotion or an appreciation of familiar forms and inviting textures or at least inspire the viewer to interpret in their own way.

Bruce Kleeberger
2653 Country Woods Drive, Surrey, BC, Canada V3Z 0E6
(604) 536 7324
Instagram: bruce.kleeberger
Facebook: bruce.kleeberger.5

Artist Spotlight: James Horan

James Horan with BIRTHRIGHTI currently work in Co County Waterford (South East Ireland). Art is my main occupation, it is what I spend most of my work-time doing. It is not always my main income. Like many artists I have had many jobs to enable my sculpture habit. I was encouraged, artistically, as a kid. I don’t know if I was any good at art then, it didn’t matter. I loved coloring, drawing and making. I think my parents’ philosophy was “go and be happy.” Art School was the next step in that process, and lots of luck. There is a saying, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.” Without hard work, I think it is impossible to be a professional artist. I’m not sure there was a conscious “why” to becoming an artist, I just was and am an artist. I don’t remember ever not wanting to be an artist. One of my earliest artistic influences was the great illustrator of Roald Dahl’s children’s books, Quentin Blake. For me, those stories are inextricably linked with Blake’s illustrations. Those characters came alive in my imagination. Perhaps that is where my loose interpretation of human form stems from.

"Scuba Explorer" limestone 2016 30x 8 x 10 inch held over kilkenny marble base using perspex rodsWhen I first attended art school I thought figurative clay and bronze was what I wanted to do. Realistic figure modeling was it; I wanted to be like Rodin. But the art school had a stone carving area…. It did not take long to find my way there. The older students, equipped with hammers and chisels, were a frenzy of dust and noise. Their forms emerging from rocks. I was hooked. I remember my tutor asking, “Do you know Eric Gill’s work?” I said no and his eyes lit up, “you’re in for a treat.” He brought me straight to the library and found a book about Gill, then Jacob Epstein. It was an awakening. Gill, Epstein, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska are still the strongest influence on the form and style of my sculpture. I have also found inspiration in my contemporaries, even the ones that don’t carve! In terms of themes and motif, I can find inspiration in anything from a Mother with a child, drunks fighting in the street and our species’ insistence on being at war. Swimmers and Icarus figures are currently holding my interest, they defy gravity. To make a stone look weightless is a wonderful challenge.

James Horan "Reclining Female" 30 x 15 x15h cm I think our life experience pushes and pulls us from one place to another; it doesn’t immediately influence my work. I think life’s influence is more subconscious. Ideas take time to filter through. Mostly my inspiration comes from a chance encounter or a glimpse of the unusual in the everyday. There are, however, two things that clearly stand out as a push in a certain direction. Firstly, an exhibition, in my 3rd year of art school. Michael Quane a well-known Irish sculptor had a solo exhibition in a gallery beside the art school. He works in stone. He also went to the same art school as I did 15 years previous. I was amazed by the sculpture. I visited the exhibition several times. More importantly, he was a living Irish figure sculptor, working in my local area. Becoming a professional artist went from dream to a real possibility. A more recent influence inspired a full exhibition in 2015. In fact, I am still making pieces inspired by two books I read in 2014. The first book was “Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Uganda,” by Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire. The second was “Whistleblower, Soldier, Spy: A Journey into the Dark Heart of the Global War on Terror,” by Tom Clonan. These books had a common theme: war. One book highlighted the specific horrors of war, the other that we as a species were constantly at war, conflict, rebellion, etc. This will be a recurring theme.James Horan "The Mighty Oak" 2018 Kilkenny Marble 36inch h 2

James Horan "Little Miracle" 2006 irish limestone father and child 26inch h 1I make expressive, figurative, sculpture. I exaggerate the proportion of the figure, large hands and feet usually. This started almost by accident but grew into a style and useful compositional tool. Adding weight to an area or focusing the attention on a certain section. I use negative space, to ensure a sculpture inhabits rather than invades the space it’s in. To be able to see through the stone helps make the stone feel malleable. I have heard my sculptures described as sketches in marble. I want the work to have potential energy, not be too refined. As a result I think my work borders on an unfinished look sometimes. I don’t like to high polish everything and refine it to infinity. When I decide a piece is finished, it can feel arbitrary, but I tell myself it’s a subconscious experience. I see a block of stone as 100% potential, each time the chisel hits the stone I remove some of the potential, I go further down a path to a specific destination. Eventually I pass the point of no return, where the form is there, but very rough. After this point I am refining the shape. Too little work and the piece looks unfinished. Too much and it can look flat and even lifeless. I want to express myself with every sculpture. I am not sure I have an overall expressive goal, at least not a permanent one. The most consistent aim I have is honesty. To be making sculpture for me, because I love to do it. I think this is at the core of all art, the art I admire and aspire to, at least.
James Horan "Game Over Generation Alpha" 105 x 100 x 40cm
I make sculpture that is purely about aesthetics too. Taking a block of stone and transforming it into a figure that is compositionally balanced. This balance comes at the expense of realism through distortions of proportion and exaggerated movement. Every few years I get focused on a more serious theme. Usually a social commentary idea, often dark humored. These narrative ideas overwhelm my practice for six to twelve months, culminating in an exhibition. Afterwards, I usually make a few very simple compositional pieces again. It seems to be cyclical. The same happens with scale. I will long to make a big sculpture, once I do, I relish making smaller work again. For now I have abandoned very small work. I am curating a sculpture exhibition due to open at the end of May and also currently designing for a large private commission for a garden which I hope will take up most of the summer.
James Horan "Swimmer" 2017 Irish Limestone
James Horan "Don't Push The Red Button" Cevec Marble 50 x 20 x 25hcm 1Direct carving is my method, and this certainly influences the final form. With direct carving, the ideas grow or change in a very organic manner. Some direct cavers let the stone dictate the design or start point but I mostly use cut stone, which means shape is rarely suggested unless through strong veining. I feel I need to know my design, fully in the round before I start, I then need to set about re-producing the idea exactly. Most importantly I must be willing to change the design at any moment. I use air hammers and tungsten tip chisels, and an array of small hand hammers for delicate work. Occasionally I have access to softer limestones, alabaster or soapstone but I prefer the medium hardness of marble and Irish limestone. They are very versatile, having the hardness to take great detail and be sited outdoors and the softness to carve by hand with hammer and chisel. I work on two or three pieces at a time. One being finished while the next is half way and the next just starting. Each of these stages requires a different energy level. Heavy physical work at the beginning gives way to delicate decision making and finally almost meditative surface finishing.
James Horan Father child and Maternity child 6 inches high
The Icarus legend has inspired several of my sculptures since around 2006, I think. The most recent one was simply called “Icarus,” an Irish limestone piece I completed in Dec 2018. This piece really shows the variety of finish available in the stone. Polished, the stone turns almost black. Rough tooling shows a great texture and lighter color. It is very satisfying to create a sculpture with minimal contact with the base/ground. Aiming to achieve weightlessness and movement takes a little planning. I drilled the holes for the dowel pins before starting to carve the sculpture. I felt the piece would be too delicate to drill once completed. “Icarus” required a lot of drilling to get the negative spaces right (It’s hard to know if the drill or the chisel is best sometimes). I also began to add extra elements to sculpture. I first did this after returning from Pilgrim Firs with some jade!

James Horan "For a better world press play" 2017 carrara marble 25 x 18 x 12 inchesI made a sculpture called “The Mighty Oak” from Kilkenny marble (a darker variant of Irish limestone). This piece was a female figure holding a jade acorn. I left the stone honed in this case, suitable for outdoors. I also used a round base which helped with the circular flow of movement. Both “Icarus” and “The Mighty Oak” are based around compositional challenges and simple beauty. In contrast, an ongoing theme of warfare (anti-war,) has preoccupied me since 2014. “Game Over, Generation Alpha” is an Italian marble sculpture of a male figure sitting on a predator drone flying it via games console. This was one of six pieces in an exhibition called “Behold Man: Apes with Guns.” Each piece dealt with a different aspect of modern warfare. Spending seven or eight months thinking about war and its effect on society was a real drain. Although I designed a couple more pieces after the exhibition in late 2015 it is only now I am starting to make them.

James Horan Exhibition 2006 5 large limestone figuresI organize sculpture exhibitions to promote 3-D art in Ireland, in doing so I have exhibited with many people who inspired and encouraged me early in my career. I have also managed to swap art works with some exceptional artists too! The social aspect of these exhibitions is important to me. I joined NWSSA at the first Camp Pilgrim Firs. Surrounded by stone, and enthusiastic carvers, I had the time of my life and met some great carvers and new friends; also new carvers and great friends. The experience helped me remember that stone is fun. That the joy of stone carving is why I use stone over any other medium. To continuously learn as I work is part of what drives me. Joining NWSSA at Pilgrim Firs reminded me there are many techniques to be learned from the honed masters or the beginner with vigorous energy and fresh eyes. I felt the welcome of the group. I felt at home, united by a passion for stone sculpting. I look forward to seeing my NWSSA friends again soon!

James Horan