Sculpture: The Probe


Paper mache, size 16″x6″.
This was a very interesting project for me as it evolved from a simple concept to a more involved process that unexpectedly demanded the inclusion of found objects and painting. My experiments in assemblage and mixed media painting lead me there and I was very excited to be able to compile all that I learned in one piece. Another objective of mine was to produce something surreal and satirical that allowed for weird and bizarre ideas. Maybe this will be a good direction for me. Time will tell.
I thought I would show a little bit of the process in this post.
I wanted an elevated base, but wasn’t sure where could I get one, so I decided to make my own by pouring plaster in a cardboard. I had some mixed plaster from years ago, somewhat hardened to a consistency of soft clay which was great because the paper didn’t get too soggy. The other good thing about plaster is that it adds much needed weight.


For armatures I usually use galvanized wire from the hardware store and use aluminum foil as filler. Masking tape holds the foil together.

It’s very important to get the gesture right on the armature and get as much detail in as possible. If not, a good part of the later steps will be spent on adjusting and fixing and lots of frustration. I learned this the hard way.
As you can see on the next picture I don’t use armature support because I like to look at the piece from as many angles as possible. If the paper mache gets soggy, I let it dry for half a day and continue when it’s strong enough to hold the piece together.

I usually start by putting on lumps of soft paper mache around the waist area, as this helps with estimating proportions. Yes– since I do elongated figures most of the tim–I do eyeball a lot. This also may be due to my aversion to mathematical and geometrical measurements. It makes things harder but that’s the way I like to do it.

As mentioned above, sometimes I just need to let some body parts air dry before I can continue. If so, I cover the other parts with plastic to keep them soft. Sorry about the pose on the next pic, it was purely coincidental. Really.

I needed to see how the figure would look on the base and what adjustments were needed for keep the pose as natural as possible.

On the next picture you can see the hardened paper mache. Although I like to keep the consistency of the material the same, and progress at the same pace, sometimes unforseen and unpredictable events halt the process. In this case I knew the break was going to be longer than desireable, and the mache would be dry by the time I would be back to it for full sessions, so I decided to work on small areas, manageable in short sessions. One arm, one leg at the time. It was much harder to work this way, but had no choice.

The finished figure on the next picture:

At this stage I decided the figure was a bit bland, it needed more. I knew I wanted to paint it but wasn’t sure how. I used a watercolour sketch for my next idea, and I decided to go ahead with it, though it seemed risky in many ways.

I was weary of the painting overtaking the form, so I kept the pattern only on the head, one shoulder and arm, which added the needed interest but didn’t get in the way of the overall form.

Now my attention turned to the base itself, that needed to be connected more with the figure and the action of the hands. Since the title was The Probe, I thought electronic, digital references would make sense:

As a last step I added the black tie and decided the work was finished. All I had to do epoxy all the parts on the base.
Here is the finished work:

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