Sculptor's Muse: Research


Tracy sketching sculptures at the Met in NYC

What goes hand in hand with being a figurative sculptor? A passion for research and history! Before I begin any sculpture or commission, I find myself researching...something. At times I start by pulling books from my personal library - a collection of art and art history books that I have gathered over the years - half are out of print and are probably considered a 'valuable find' in antique stores. These books have written notations in them (I always use pencil) and sticky notes of various colors sticking out from the top and sides of the pages. Even during moments in the studio when I sit taking a quick coffee break - I will reach for one of these books to peruse, keeping in front of my mind - good sculpture and good compositions. I also have books on philosophy, among my favorites "Great Works of Art and what makes them great" written by sculptor F. W. Ruckstull, a complete set of works by Hans R. Rookmaaker and a recent favorite "The Arts and the Christian Imagination" by Clyde S. Kilby.

In addition to my library, I have a collection of sketch books from various exhibits, museums and sculpture gardens in the USA and Europe. I refer to these sketches time and again, reading my notes scrawled on the side of the pages and going over the sketches.

sketch from an exhibit of Bernini's sculptures

Another valuable part of my research, is three ring binders filled with photographs, sketches and measurements of sculptures - especially over life-size monuments. When we lived in Mississippi, the Vicksburg military park was one of my favorite places to go. Some of my favorite sculptor's works are there, and it's not as well known as Gettysburg, so having the 'park to myself' was more of an option.

Quick sketches that take just a few minutes are referred to as "gestures" and these are what fill most of my sketch books.

Quick sketches that take just a few minutes are referred to as "gestures" and these are what fill most of my sketch books.

Having a strong son is always helpful.  Taking research photos it is always best to be as close to 'eye level' with the figures as possible to avoid subtle distortion.  The extra few feet in height is better than nothing!

Having a strong son is always helpful. Taking research photos it is always best to be as close to 'eye level' with the figures as possible to avoid subtle distortion. The extra few feet in height are better than nothing!

Then there is the research for information. Though the internet is convenient, you have to be very careful as the information found cannot truly be verified. So, in addition to my research via the internet, I also conduct the tried and true method of libraries and archives, making copious notes and copies for my records.

Tracy researching the archives at the USMA West Point for her research on the scultpure of Gen. Kosciuszko

It is safe to say - that for every minute I spend sculpting, there is another minute that has been spent in research of some kind, and it is those moments spent that germinate and blossom into the depth of beauty found in my work.

#sculpture #research #sketch #history

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