October 10 is the birthday of Thelonious Monk, jazz composer & pianist. Coincidentally, just yesterday I picked up two new bronze casts from my foundry of my sculptures inspired by Monk. (Their patinas are different than the ones pictured here.) First, six views of “Monk Solos in 3D, III”, then five views of “Monk Solos in 3D, II” . ( The first version has sold out.) The sculptures are what Monk’s music “looks” like to me—off-tilt, angular, & surprising, but always gracefully resolved. Of all my works these two really give you a whole new visual experience each time you see them from a different angle.
Here is a link to my recent appearance on WCPO’s Cincy Lifestyles program, which aired live, using up three of my fifteen minutes of fame! The pictures were shown while I was on and I had no idea what was being shown. The programmers had gone to the web to glean pictures (even though I had sent them many) and ended up showing some of my students’ works along with mine, so you get to see some of the nice results of their efforts as well.
Sorry, but the show cannot be embedded in my post, so to see it you must cut & paste the URL below.
Today is Duke Ellington’s birthday (1899). He must be counted as one of a handful of the most relevant and influential musicians, not only in Jazz, but in all 20th Century music. His compositions, and the way he tailored them to the specific strengths of his big band musicians, were innovative and masterful.
So, when I decided to make a bas-relief sculpture of a big band I chose to make “Duke” its pianist. Most of the players in the band are generic faces, but I also put Charles Mingus on bass; Max Roach on drums; Charlie Parker on alto sax; Sidney Bechet on soprano sax; and Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax. I consider them the quintessential and/or most historically important players on their respective instruments (I know! Lots of room for debate and I welcome it).
Someday I will do another big band sculpture and make every player a specific portrait. Who would you choose to be the best representatives on their axes? Ya gotta have Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis in the trumpet section, but there is room for two more (Chet Baker? Lester Bowie? Clifford Brown? Wynton Marsalis?) The two tenor saxes are a big challenge too: Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Sonny Rollins, and John Coltrane, are the most obvious candidates. And I don’t know where to begin with trombonists! Feel free to chime in with your candidates for the ultimate big band.
This Thursday, April 25 at Cafe Vivace, https://www.facebook.com/pg/caffevivace/posts/ there will be a screening of a new documentary on the life of the late, great Cincinnati saxophonist, Jimmy McGary. As part of the festivities I will be displaying the portrait sculpture I did of him in 1990. We were friends. I went to hear Jimmy often in the jazz venues he played in around town. He played beautifully, especially at difficult times in his life, and his playing inspired & moved me. My portrait of him is about that ability—the ability of artists to rise above the trials and tribulations of their lives and to inspire others through their work. The big hands represent his deeds; his well-defined face, his individuality & character; and the turbulently textured body, the painful, temporal aspects of life that we all must rise above.
He had a look about him, even when he was not playing, that I can best describe as having been chiseled by the wind. I could picture him on the prow of a ship. He had that look.
If you’d like to make a sculpture like this see my Teaching link above.
My first week of newly formed sculpture classes started this week with sessions on Wednesday morning and Thursday evening. There were both beginning and experienced sculptors—some carved stone; some worked in oil-based or water-based (ceramic) clay. I really enjoyed the camaraderie and the mental stimulation of being in the midst of people with an interest (dare I say passion) for making sculpture!
If you’d like to join in see my teaching page: https://www.johnleon.com/teaching-and-consulting
On this day Greeks all over the world celebrate the start of the Greek War of Independence in 1821 that ended 400 years of Ottoman Turk rule, and lead to the formation of the modern nation of Greece (recognized in 1830). So, joining in, here are some of my sculptures inspired by Greek dances—dances that are usually joyful, but they can also express sorrow, dignity, defiance, or unity (and conversely, independence). It’s the spirit of communal freedom.
A previous culpture class at work.Read More
Let’s begin to talk about the process of sculpting. There are many possible approaches to take and topics to cover, so I will just begin, and hopefully it will all come together in a useful and interesting way.
Almost all my sculptures, whether cast bronze or cast stone, or caved stone or wood, begin with clay. So, over the course of these blogs I will show how one goes from this:
I’ll tell you about the types of clay and how to sculpt them—supporting the clay; modeling tools and how to use them; what to do with the finished sculpture; and everything else involved in making moving & engaging art out of earth. Stay tuned.
The Cincinnati Reds Opening Day is just over three weeks away, reminding me of these three bronze baseball sculptures I made to celebrate America’s past-time. The batter, pitcher, and fielder (“POW!”, “The Un-Wind-Up”, & “Run It Down”, respectively) are my stylized interpretations of the powerful grace of the action in baseball. The minimal detail makes us focus on the movement and balance, not only of the depicted players, but also of the bronzes as pure sculptural form. I had proposed giant versions of these sculptures—big enough for you to walk underneath their arms & legs as you walk to the games for the Reds’ stadium and I still want to do that somewhere deserving.
I have made them in signed & numbered editions of 12 each, and there are only 3 left of each. The current set is now at an exhibition at the Fitton Center for the Arts in Hamilton, Ohio, but will be available as of April 6. The prices are $1850 each, or get the set of three for $4500—they look great posed around each other, a very energetic feel.
In late March or April I will be increasing the number of sculpture classes I teach at my studio. My intended times will be Wednesday & Thursday mornings from 9:00 to 12:00 and Wednesday & Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 9:30 (although I may make adjustments to satisfy demand). I will cover all aspects of sculpture in clay, stone, and wood for all levels of experience. I’ll start beginners with basic projects that will acquaint them with the tools and materials to build their abilities, and for more seasoned sculptors I’ll help you to break through to your next level of accomplishment—in the arts we (including me) never stop learning & improving. If there is enough interest I will also hold classes for children.
Contact me for more details. (JLSculptor@gmail.com or 513-777-1862) I will recommend the basic tools, materials, and sources to get you started. And you will be able to try out more advanced tools in the classes before purchasing.
A 3-week trip to Greece this summer was moving and inspiring. How could it not be, surrounded by the natural beauty of the landscape, and the man made beauty of art (mostly sculpture) and architecture. I will be looking into arranging a "sculpture tour of Greece" which will be a tour that I will lead in Greece whose main focus will be on the great examples and highlights of Greek sculpture, the place where it all began to flourish. It will include places relevant to sculpture in Greece today. I'll keep you posted.
Since my last entry I have completed 2 commissioned pieces: a bronze portrait bust for a private client and a portrait of Mother Teresa holding a baby for the Museum of Spirituality in Art in Franklin, Ohio.
During a short respite in a six year string of commissions I was able to complete a small abstract piano player (that I started over 6 years ago). I felt like a gem cutter while working on all of its many small facets.
After a six year hibernation, I hope to bring my blog back to life with more regular entries. So what have I been up to? I’m in the process of creating a new website. It, too, is long overdue, but I’ve happily had a 4-year, steady stream of commissions keeping me from it. Here’s the list:
- an 8 x 4 foot Indiana Limestone bas-relief for My Favorite Pet veterinary clinic in Vandalia, Ohio.
- a life sized bronze portrait figure of Paul Flory for the Western & Southern Tennis Open’s Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.
- a 4 x 4 foot cast stone relief portrait of Neil Armstrong for the University of Cincinnati.
- a bronze portrait bust of Dave Allen, music director for Elder & Seaton High Schools and Saint Williams Cathedral in Cincinnati, Ohio.
- a one-and-a-quarter times life sized bronze bust of General Alvin Ungerlieder for the city of Carbondale, Pennsylvania.
- a cast stone bust of author Frances Trollope for the Mercantile Library in Cincinnati.
- a cast stone miniature replica of a Harriet Beecher Stowe bust to serve as the annual Freedom Writers Award for the Mercantile Library in Cincinnati.
- a 12-foot tall stainless steel abstract piece for Community First Solutions corporate headquarters in Hamilton, Ohio.
- a life sized bronze running back for Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati.
- an Indiana Limestone eagle for the Walnut Hills High School class of 2015.
In addition to all that I’ve kept up with bronzes, carvings, and plaques that I’ve been selling through the 5th Street Gallery.