Sculpting With Ashes- Works In Progress

While I’ve been waiting for “Verdant Form” to cure before I paint it I’ve been experimenting with using ashes as a sculpting medium-So I first tried making a batch of sculpting “clay” using the same recipe as I do for paper clay and just switched out the paper pulp with coarse wood ash. As soon as I added the glue to the whetted ashes the entire mixture gelled up into clumpy and strangely rubbery mass.The Blob

I added more water and set it aside thinking maybe it just needed to rest a bit. Letting it sit in the fridge for a few days had little effect but I went ahead and sculpted a small bowl out of it to see if would actually hold up. Once the bowl dried up it was fairly stable and held together strongly. This ash “rubber” would not work for what I had in mind but would be usable for another project-I’ve had this idea for a sculpture of a prostrate humanoid form carrying a book like a shell-I just wasn’t sure what materials I would use. When I saw what I could do with the clumpy ash clay I decided it would be a perfect sculpting medium for this piece. Since I the word “penitent” came to mind with this form and thought I would build up the sculpture over an underlying armature of sack cloth- sack cloth and ashes being associated with acts of penitence.
First I crudely stitched a stuffed dummy from burlap coffee bags. I soaked the dummy in glue water to stiffen it up and set it aside to dry.

After the burlap dried out I glued clumps of the ash blob onto it and fashioned a crude humanoid face out of what was left. The texture is interesting and the clay will be great for what will be a very primitive looking sculpture. It will need a little more work though.

While the wood ashes wouldn’t work with my usual sculpting techniques they could still give some interesting texture to my pieces if I applied them like gesso. So I crushed down some pre-soaked ashes to a fine paste with a pigment muller and mixed them with painting medium and plenty of water. This formed a chunky paste about the consistency of thin gesso.I then poured this ash paste onto some leafy shapes I made from old paintings on paper. As the ash paste dried it developed a beautiful, granular, leather-like texture.

After the ashes had dried on like a skin I applied paper clay along the edges to give the “leaves” a little more strength. I then attached the leaves to some old paintings on canvas that were going nowhere that now will become more “Verdant Forms”-

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