If you have attended some of the annual SKB workshops in Dubois, then you know Christine Knapp. When was the last year one of her sculptures failed to win an award? But during the week, she was always painting or drawing–not sculpting.
One of the great things about the Dubois workshop is that it is a perfect place to stretch as an artist and explore a new medium or process. Studio watercolorists can take their gear out into the field and try plein air painting. Pastel artists can learn about oils from one of several instructors on hand. The SKB workshop has even witnessed a fiber artist dive head-first into oils–and never come back. Knapp has been game for such stretching. And this year she’s giving back that opportunity.
Knapp will be teaching sculpting at this year’s Dubois workshop, which runs from Sept. 15-21, 2013. This is a plum chance for artists to try out sculpting in clay, without investing a lot of money in the experiment. Knapp will be bringing blocks of oil-based clay for participants, plus plenty of boxwood and loop tools. She believes each participant will be able to have his or her own clay and tools for around $50–Knapp’s cost from a sculpting equipment wholesaler.
“If the medium is right for you, once you experiment with sculpture you just can’t stay away from it,” says Knapp. “It seems to suit my expression of my art.”
The Colorado artist got into sculpting in a roundabout way. She found herself making small models to help her understand how to better paint animals. From that vantage point, Knapp says even if the sculpting bug doesn’t bite you, the experience of sculpting a subject proves beneficial. “Sculpting is like drawing over and over and over from different angles,” says Knapp. “You become so shape oriented, and that shows up in your drawing–your drawing is better.”
Knapp says her sculpture instruction will occur indoors, perhaps in the art room of a local high school. There will be plenty of reference material available. She says she will have her two dogs on the trip, and several cowboys involved in SKB will have their horses there, too. Knapp recommends making mental notes, sketches, and photos of the students’ preferred subject matter, then pulling them together in the sculpting studio.
Although Knapp’s work is often realistic, she urges students to be open to the emotion and expressive aspect of a developing sculpture. “Beginners get so caught up in making things picture-perfect and anatomically correct,” she says. “That could be a piece of perfect taxidermy, but that’s not what art is. Stretch reality and make it more believable. Express some kind of emotion. Get some of the basic background in there to ground it and provide some base for the subject, then open up to the dialogue and energy that starts forming. And keep in mind that you can’t have any real ownership of what you have already done; you must be willing to change it. You can’t have any ego about it. You have to be open to letting things grow.”
You can’t fire oil-based clay, but water-based clay is very difficult to work with in Wyoming’s dry environment. But, Knapp says she is going to the foundry she uses in Landers after the workshop, and is willing to take students’ pieces for moulding and firing in bronze if they wish her to do it. She estimates that it would cost about $500 per piece. The artist acknowledges that the cost of firing and materials seems to make sculpture an expensive medium in which to work, but she points out that sculptures usually sell for as much as three times what it costs to cast the piece, and once a sculptor plows that money back into future projects, the initial investment is no longer an issue. “I’m not rich, and I’ve been doing this for years,” she asserts. “You reinvest the money you make off a sculpture into the next one, and eventually you have a cushion.”
Knapp says a few people have already said they would be studying with her in Dubois, and she expects more curious artists at the workshop to give sculpting a try. And she promises that the energy in a room full of working sculptors is a powerful thing to witness.
See examples of Knapp’s work at www.christineknappsculpture.com