Alabaster Heron with Bronze Beak and Plume and Verde Marble Grass
I was given some large pieces of alabaster by a former art teacher at Patriot High School. I am very grateful as I was honestly uncertain what medium I would finally end up sculpting in.
This particular piece was around 80lbs and very tall and narrow. I knew that I would like to do something that lifted the eye from the base upward. I had completed a Chinese Pagoda in clay during the spring and I was very interested in continuing with an Asian series. I also had sculpted the Asian Elephant for Dawn that same semester. I have been told that I would be advised to try and complete works in a series as they would be more likely to be ready for a gallery showing. I thought that a Chinese dragon spiraling upward around a stone monolith would be great. As I had never worked on stone, I was not sure that I could even do it. But, I am finding that I always go all in or nothing, so I started hammering away. I tried a variety of tools: Hammer and chisel, Grinder with diamond cutting blade, and an Italian sculpting chisel. The dragon was actually proceeding very well, but I began to see large fissures in the stone. I kept going but knew I was going to lose some stone. I decided to attack the cracks to see where they led and about 20lbs of stone fell vertically off the rock.
At that point I decided that a dragon was not going to happen. I was thinking about the Egyptian Heron Bowl and how much I liked the birds. I felt that if I stylized the bird and elongated the shape into more of a silhouette of the bird, it would work with the stone I had left. As the bird took shape I saw that I did not have enough width to include a beak and plume. I sculpted each out of wax and casted them in bronze. I would figure out how to attach them in the end. I had an idea, but no actual evidence to suggest that it would work.
As I shaped the bird I found that I had about 5-6 in of stone left for the base. I wanted to keep with the suggestion of form, rather than accuracy and contrasted the smooth curves of the bird with sharp angles of water reeds and grass. I had researched a place to find marble up north of Victorville and went out with Dawn one day to mine some antique verde marble from an abandoned quarry. I was able to hammer and chisel a couple of 10-20 pound chunks out of the mountain and thought it would be neat to incorporate the green stone into the design as extended blades of water grass from the base. I wanted the grass to carry the eye upward as the heron is very thin and the sides are very vertical. I curved the blades and asymmetrically placed them to create a movement up and around the bird.
The beak, plume, and grass we all countersunk and epoxied in place. The bonze plume was accented in green patina and the beak was polished to a gloss. The completion of this piece has been the most fulfilling of all my works so far and I know I intend to make stone my main focus of sculpture. I still intend on using mixed media of metals and other stones. I am working on a wood base right now that is challenging me, so I am not sure about the future of wood in my designs.