Pam, my Wife, the Final Helper
My wife Pam was the final helper, filling minor imperfections with Winterstone icing. Our focus was on the princess' legs and bag. We were tempted to use a broad spatula to smooth the bag and remove all indents from sculptor's fingers but that would make the bag too perfect for a princess wearing it as clothing so we left most of the finger indents intact.
The next day I worked alone, sanding the entire sculpture except for the hair, making final adjustments along the way. I discovered some clumps of Winterstone on the princess' face near the hairline. Since they were too stubborn to be sanded away, I used a file to shave them off then sanded the area to remove scrape lines made by the file.
Using the same file, I deepened the contours between the fingers and toes and shaped the nails. It felt like I was giving the princess a manicure and pedicure.
The face is the most critical part of the sculpture. Human nature will cause people to study the face to see the characteristics and emotions. Subconsciously they will notice unnatural imbalances and instantly know whether the face is nice or odd. To avoid making a critical mistake, I used a pencil to draw the eyes and mouth on the sculpture. The circle for the left eye looked good but the right one was a bit too large and needed erased and redrawn twice. The left side of the mouth curved down in a beautiful smile but the right side was ragged. Erase and redraw. Repeat until it looked balanced. I stepped back to get a better look and decided that the centre of the mouth was too close to the nose. Erasing and redrawing it lower gave the princess a more emphatic smile. I drew small dimple arches at both ends of the mouth. They were too horizontal, making the princess' smile look wry. After being redrawn they were too vertical and unnatural looking. A few attempts later they were perfect.
For the next few days I sprayed the sculpture with water to help the Winterstone cure harder. Meanwhile, I studied the smile and compared it to two pictures that Michael Martchenko had drawn in the storybook. The picture of the princess waving goodbye to the dragon had very simple facial lines. The first picture in the book showed a beautiful face with more complex details. The face drawn on the sculpture was an ideal midpoint. With the utmost care, I attached a diamond bit to the end of my Dremmel rotary tool and slowly carved the face using light lines first then gradually deepening them with repeated gentle passes. The princess looks perfect but I'm not posting a picture of her here on the web site. I'm keeping it a secret until the unveiling at the library.
Ceramic Decor Sponsor
Now that the base was bigger, I needed more slate to cover it so off I went to Ceramic Decor to buy twenty more tiles. While there I asked if they would be interested in sponsoring the project. I'm willing to cover all costs for the sculpture but with the slate supplies around two hundred dollars, any help would be appreciated. They handed me a business card for Angle Inglis, their Retail Operations Manger who wasn't there at the time and and suggested that I follow up with her. Later I sent an email to Angel explaining the Paper Bag Princess sculpture and within minutes after pressing the send button my phone rang. It was Angel saying that Ceramic Decor would be happy to contribute the tiles plus supplies. She too was a Robert Munsch fan plus Ceramic Decor had done work for him in the past and they were very willing to participate in this tribute.
When I stopped by to drop off ten tiles needing cut and to pick up free glue and grout, Angle refunded my previous costs for slate tiles. Thanks! I left the scale model of the sculpture at Ceramic Decor for a few weeks for them to display and receive credit for their contribution. It has been wonderful to have Ceramic Decor step up and help with this tribute.
A Bigger Base
One day while working on the sculpture I realized that the base was too small. It needed to be slightly higher to give the princess a greater visual impact and it needed to be wider to protect her from people passing by and inadvertently bumping her. I decided to add a lower base piece, the same height as the top base piece but one foot wider on all sides. This would create a sitting ledge for children wanting the be near the princess.
Digging through the stack of wood inventory in my basement I found an old sheet of plywood that the developer had used for a sign when the neighbourhood was being developed. He had discarded it many years ago once the development was complete and I had dragged it into my basement for possible future use. It leaned against the wall doing nothing but collect dust for more than a decade, waiting to be called into duty. It was large enough to use for the sculpture's base and as a bonus, it had a map of the neighbourhood painted on one side. How symbolic! I took a permanent marker and drew a tiny sketch of the sculpture on the lot showing where our house was built, then made a note saying, "This is where the Paper Bag Princess Sculpture was created.
I turned the board so that the map faced down, cut it to size then glued and screwed two by four boards around the edges. Someday, maybe far in the future, someone will be moving the sculpture, tip the base onto its side and discover the map and note written on the bottom. I love the hidden message.
The Feet are Complete
In this busy season of Christmas, I took a few weeks off sculpting to free up time for shopping and a multitude of festive activities. Now I'm back at it.
The legs and feet were completed except for minor touch ups and so were the arms and hands.
During these final stages I often had flash-back memories of events that happened along the way. While applying a thin layer of Winterstone icing to the crown I recalled Evan Lew telling me about a big problem with the crown's prongs. The memory made me smile.
While applying a thin-as-skin layer of icing to the princess' face to cover small blemishes I recalled Peyton Clarke's natural abilities smoothing the clay with her finger tips. She, along with many other helpers demonstrated amazing artistic abilities. I smiled again.
As I looked at the shortening list of things to do, I see the end in sight. I contacted Kitty Pope at the Library to pick an unveiling date. We tentatively picked February 19th at 5:00, just before a board meeting. The media will be invited along with some special guests. I hope that all of the volunteers who helped build the Paper Bag Princess sculpture can join us for the unveiling. We will send each of them an invitation once the details are settled.
Each day spent working on the sculpture focuses on a different part such as shaping the legs or smoothing the arms. I start by sanding it with coarse sandpaper to remove sand-like clumps on the surface and remove high spots. Sandpaper works wonders by making the high spots appear slightly lighter in colour than the untouched low spots. It instantly shows how bumpy the surfaces are even though they were smoothed as best as possible with my fingertips when the clay was soft. As I continue sanding, the light coloured high spots grow in size until eventually the low dark spots disappear. However, I have to be careful because not all high spots are unwanted. For example, throughout the process I have to keep reshaping features such as ankle bones so that they are not lost.
There are also areas where insufficient clay is present. If I sand it all the way down to the bottom of the low spot then the shape will become unbalanced. For example, if one leg has too deep of a low spot on a thigh and I sand it all the way down to the bottom, this thigh will be smaller than the one on the other leg. To keep the princess balanced these areas that are too low have to be left for now and once the entire sculpture is sanded I'll go over it and add a thin layer of clay to them.
Throughout the building of the sculpture, the hair has had many layers added by people helping out. I completed the forshape by adding a few more layers of Winterstone in specific areas to bring it into the proper final shape then added a layer of icing and dragged my putty knife through it to create hair-like swoops. It created a nice dragon-burned look. Perfect! The hair is complete.
The Final Helpers
Lee Lyon and her two daughters Chloe and Gracie offered to help build the princess sculpture months ago but the time slots available were already filled so they waited patiently for an opportunity to arise. They had the privilege of being the first group to apply an icing layer to the bag. They particularly enjoyed using their fingers to smooth the icing.
As the sculpture approached its final form, the icing had to be applied very carefully because there are few future layers to fix accidental oh-oh's. My daughters Ashley McCarl-Palmer and Sondra Burrows-Wolting along with her husband Justin Wolting-Burrows stepped up to the challenge. Knowing how much I love my creations and how important details are, they were filled with trepidation at the start but by the end it had evolved into a typical family adventure filled with chatter, laughter and goofing around.
The base coat of the crown was complete and ready from me to begin forming details. After applying a smoother coat the crown's prongs I added a blob of clay to the end of each and formed them into tiny balls. Once they were dry I added a second coat to the balls to make them rounder. Finally I added a rim around the base of the crown to make it look more regal.
To give the bag character, I built up the Winterstone around the neck and arms to create the appearance of holes in the bag.
Next I applied the first layer of Winterstone icing to the face. Icing is similar to clay but is less grainy when dry and can be sanded into a beautifully smooth surface. I applied the icing with a knife, shaped and smoothed it as much as possible then smoothed and shaped it with my fingers. After shaping her forehead I used my right index finger to shape her left eyebrow then with my left index finger I shaped her right eyebrow. I find that I achieve better symmetry when using whichever hand has the best angle. Fortunately I'm ambidextrous and my left hand is almost as good as my right when sculpting.
Travelling down I shaped her nose to look cuter, built up her cheeks to look happier, shaped her chin to be longer and smoothed the lines of her neck. Over and over, my fingers traveled up and down her face, removing imperfections and accentuating details. When the clay on my index fingers dried and started scratching the sculpture I switched to using my middle fingers, then ring fingers, then little fingers, then thumbs. By the time I was finished, each finger was covered in dry icing. While smoothing the back of her neck, my fingers were too fat to reach up under the hair. Too bad of my young helpers with small fingers wasn't here to help out.
For the final layer of Winerstone on the feet I created tiny knobs on the sides where the ankle bones are and elongated the backs of the heels to create the Achilles tendons. I added clay to the underside, top and instep of each foot to create strength and proportion. Next I thickened the big toes and once they had dried I used a Dremmel tool (a small electrical grinder) to cut slices between the toes.
With the Dremmel tool I also carved fingers onto the hands. These slits will guide me when applying icing layers to the hands and feet.
My Parents Help Out
My father, Dave McCarl helped out with Celebration, my first WInterstone sculpture so it was important to me that he make a return appearance to help build the Princess sculpture too. My mother, Norma also pitched in as we thickened the top of the bag and built up the crown.
Without thinking much about it, I assigned my mother the task of building up the top left side of the bag. She quietly worked away then confessed that it wasn't going well and asked what she was doing wrong. I looked and saw that she was packing clay where it belonged but wasn't spreading it out properly. I tried to smooth it and instantly discovered the problem. The Princess' arm was in the way and blocked me from positioning the knife at the necessary angle. The only way I could get proper access was by kneeling on the floor and holding the knife in my left hand. Sorry Mom! Fortunately she'll still love me despite being assigned such a difficult task.
After a week of vacation at the cottage I decided to spend some time working alone on the sculpture to make adjustments that improve her character. The bag was too thin at the top, giving the Princess too tailored of a look. I could either add Winterstone to the back of the top which would make her lean slightly backwards or add clay to the front and make her lean slightly forward. I decided to opt for the leaning forward pose to make the princess look more eager when greeting people at the library.
Her head was tipped too far upwards. It was positioned great for watching a dragon fly around the world but too high to "look at" people entering and exiting the library. My challenge was to tip the head more straight ahead without making it unnaturally deep. Here's something that you readers can try to help visualize the challenge. Tip your head back and notice where the indents for your eyes are compared to where your protruding cheek bones are. Now tip your head straight ahead and notice how the indents for your eyes have shifted down into the space where your protruding cheek bones used to be. I had to add Winterstone to create new cheeks and eye indents while also bringing the forehead forwards and extending the chin downward to maintain the overall shape of the face.
Her hair needed to be more substantial and rounder, rather than hanging straight down the back so I added clay to the middle of the back. I also brought the hair forward to cover her ears (or rather where the ears would be) and extended the lower front hair tips to hook more to the front.
Then it was ready for the wire crown to be installed. While cutting and bending the wire mesh into shape I smiled, recalling my seven year old helper Evan Lew telling me that the prongs in the scale model were not crooked enough. Well Evan, I made the ones on the life size sculpture especially crooked and look forward to hearing your thoughts about them.
Her stance was too symmetrical so I tipped her right foot inward by adding clay to the inside of the toe area while tipping the left foot outward by adding clay to the outside of the toe area. This created a more casual pose for the princess.
Finally I extended the fingers on her hands and added thumbs. I have not carved detailed fingers and toes on the princess yet but now have sufficient material to work with.
My "Helpful" Dog Sarah
I have a dog, Sarah who is about three years old and full of energy. The breeder said she was a Sheltie but I am are sure there is something bigger and more energetic mixed inside. Perhaps she is part Border Collie. Her self proclaimed job is to bark and greet people whenever they arrive then bark to say goodbye when they leave. She was very busy announcing the arrivals and departures of the many sculpture building volunteers.
Fortunately most of the volunteers were dog lovers. Unfortunately some of the children were more excited seeing the dog than helping build the Princess. My wife Pam took on dog distraction duty by luring Sarah outside with baked beef bones where she could chew to her heart's content. We went through a lot of bones and in the process made Sarah extra happy along with a bit extra heavy.
However, there were some days such as during this one with Sofia when we sculptors focused on the Princess and Sarah wandered around freely. While we knelt on the floor to work on the sculpture's legs, Sarah decided to curl up in my lap and be close to the action. I am used to her being involved in anything I do around the house so I simply worked around her.
At one point she tried nibbling on bits of dried Winterstone that had fallen on the floor and I suspect she would have eaten more if we had not told her to stop.
Thousands of potential sculptures lie within each and every uncut stone. Sometimes the destiny is obvious when I see a stone and sometimes releasing the sculpture within is a long journey following countless hints and inspirations.