The Devil is in the Details: The Evolution of El Diablo at Art VallARTa

I am so happy that Art VallARTa  studio in the Old Town is fully functional now and doing so well. Monday Ty and I went for a visit and Nathalie showed me around what is now a well-equipped large studio and gallery space.

The theatre is also well set up with cushions and blankets for the weekly life drawing sessions held there. The 2nd annual Romance in the Romantic Zone exhibition of art on the theme of love drew four hundred people to its opening night, offering, in addition to framed two dimensional pieces, ceramic and glass wear, and a gigantic wall mural of a heart, a tunnel of love installation through which visitors walked to gain entry to the show – fantastic! wish I could have been there. Nathalie’s piece is the Love Roulette wheel below.

On Monday a large group of folks were painting water colours in one part of the space while a few others worked on clay projects in the high-ceiling multi-media area.

I have decided to take a ceramics course offered by Froyland Hermandez, a Mexican clay maestro, and attended the first class today. Froyland is a very experienced artist who is very patient with newcomers to the medium.

He is able to explain all aspects of the technique clearly and is very patient, particularly with people like me who are not the best students. I have tried wheel-throwing before, and while I really enjoyed Charmian Nimmo’s class, realised soon that it was not for me, given that I don’t really have the arm and shoulder strength necessary to centre and raise the clay higher than about two inches off the wheel. Makes for a rather limited repertoire of objects that can be made, essentially small candy bowls. Although I did make one bowl that I was quite happy with, the only one that did not have walls that were way too thick and heavy.

I decided instead to try hand-building since I am interested in sculpture and particularly like masks. Froyland showed me how to wedge and prepare the clay correctly and how to roll it out like dough ready to be used. After deciding that I wanted to make a mask, Froyland prepared an armature of bubble wrap and tape around which we placed my rolled out piece of clay.

From this humble beginning the mask grew and took shape. After scoring the surface to indicate where the facial features would go, El Diablo, the devil, was begun by pressing indentations for the eyes and mouth, being careful not to press too hard so as to break or crack the clay’s surface.

For the eyes, I rolled two balls of clay which were placed into the indentations, then scored the surface around each eyeball to accommodate the bits of clay that would form the eyelids. These pieces were rolled out and placed above and below the eyeballs then massaged and stroked with wooden tools to create what eventually looked like a pretty decent set of eyeballs.

Next I created a free-standing nose from a separate lump of clay which was kept flexible by being covered with plastic. Two tusks and several teeth followed, each made by rolling out a cone of clay, first using my hands and then the surface of the table.

This process was trickier that I thought it would be; some of the teeth rolled out too long and thin, while others were too big and thick. Getting a few teeth the right size took quite a bit of time, as did getting the two tusks the right dimensions and curvature. These were carefully placed in the mouth indentation so I could get an idea of what the finished mouth would look like. Having decided that they were good, I then scored the bottom of each tooth, and the area of surface on which each would sit, and attached them with slip, very liquid clay.

I was very excited about the horns. These were made with cones of clay rolled out, like the tusks, first with my hands and then on the table top. Froyland and I had a bit of discussion about what kinds of horns would be appropriate. I didn’t really care but he thought bull’s horns would be best so I took his advice.

He believes that, when working on an object from nature, such as a face, one should look at the details of the face, or, in this case, the horns, to see what they are actually like, rather than simply making something up that doesn’t necessary correspond with the actual “thing”. So the horns took a bit of work to get the right dimensions and curvature. Froyland cautioned me not to put the horns on too quickly because they’re heavy and might crack the piece. I am looking forward to completing the mask tomorrow.

While I was crafting El Diablo, Kelly, a former air traffic controller from the States, was working on a wheel-thrown lidded vessel, on top of which she planned to affix a snail and two sea turtles.

To my right Rosemary, from Lethbridge, painted glaze on her projects, a head with small legs on top, and a mask, for her synchronised swimmer grand-daughter.

At another table several others worked with Carol Ann on silk-painting, a process that also looked very interesting. Some of those folks wore beautiful fused glass bracelets made at another workshop with Carol Ann.

Below, El Diablo so far!

After a hard several hours slaving over my clay piece, I met Ty down by the pier and we spent a very pleasant few hours under a palapa at the beach, including a refreshing dip in the ocean, the first one this year. Had the best guacamole and chips with hot salsa ever at the Mahi Mahi Beach bar with excellent service – highly recommended.

See more photos here.

3 Replies to “The Devil is in the Details: The Evolution of El Diablo at Art VallARTa”

  1. Fantastic Lisa! What a wonderful, colourful and inspiring space and experience! Thanks for sharing your mask building, I look forward to further episodes.
    Big hugs to you and Ty

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