Friday, December 29, 2017
The gnome character is the most animated character in the scene and because it is a human-like character he is the hero, or more probably the anti-hero of the automata’s story. He is there to be identified with, as the automata’s little narrative unwinds.
However there is not much going on in this automata’s story really, just a repetitive turning and to-ing and fro-ing until - it - slows - and - stops. A lot of action - but nothing really happening. 'A show about nothing'...
Or as Ecclesiastes 1:1-3 reads...
And as it goes in Don McLean's lyrics for 'Dreidel'
And as you grow, each thread of life that you leave
Will spin around your deeds and dictate your needs
as you sell your soul and you sow your seeds
and you wound yourself and your loved one bleeds
And your habits grow, and your conscience feeds
on all that you thought you should be
I never thought this could happen to me
Don McLean - 'Dreidel'
Gnome seems to desire more than his toilsome bondage to cranking provides. Even the decorative repairs to his worn coverings attest to the meagre aspirations he projects beyond his immediate experience. Unwilling compliance shapes his demeanour in a demonstration of 'Jagger-esque' dis-s-satisfaction.
Gno-me is so absorbed by his toil – or the circumstance of it, that he is oblivious to what surrounds him:
The faithful dog happily focused on his master.
The chameleon happily doing what he ought to, wanting nothing more.
And so too the bird.
Only the cat strays from kind virtue – Observing him with supercilious derision.
Empires come and empires go.
Civilisations come and civilisations go.
We come and we go - in ‘this present evil age’- 'under the sun'.
Christmas has now come and Christmas has now gone.
A year is going and a new year coming.
An age is passing and a new age coming.
As much as this passing ‘festive season’ is constructed by us and cranked around by us, in pursuit of our meagre aspirations, it arises from a more substantial narrative. A true Narrative that beckons, invites, promises and provides – Purpose, meaning and life. In the words of the Messiah (Christ), Son of David, King in the Heavenly Jerusalem;
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Matthew 11:28
The real Christ-celebration (Christ-mass) is the whole history of humankind from expulsion to reconciliation. From rejecting faithful focus on our maker - being self-absorbed with the toil of meagre aspiration, perchance to escape dis-satisfaction. Doing what we ought not do and by straying from kind virtue - We needed rescue from ‘this present evil age’, and.., then...
'pleased as man with men to dwell - Jesus our Emmanuel... Came... Risen with healing in His wings'.
The Rescuer, Jesus, has come - Lived and did all things well - Died and killed death - Rose and brought life - He sent - He left and sent and still remained - And will yet come.
This narrative, the oldest narrative, is His-story and the invitation for us to belong to Him. Finding ourselves purchased by Him for our everlasting-meaningful-pleasure in eternal enjoyment of
our Creator, for His Glory.
Yes, I know I have appropriated this automata and its elements as an illustration of the Redemptive History Narrative – 'after the fact'. But not entirely. It is a true story that we who believe it have not authored.
Instead we have become ambassadors of The King of Kings and as such have no business doing less, when we pass on His terms of peace and invitation, than assert His words.
Part of the invitation is to 'believe that you may understand' (credo ut intelligam) and by believing, belong.
Paring back layers of added meaning now, we get to the bare wood, the shavings and chips and some of the more mundane reasons for making a gnome the chief character.
Firstly what else comes to mind so easily, that could be attached to a gear train and appear to make it go? A steam engine perhaps? No, that implies some kind of 'real life' imitation of actual industry. A armed and legged puppet – A little man! Yes! He has to be little for some reason and has to be a bit ridiculous to go with the nonsense of this whole machine.
So the whole design has proceeded from carved lettering to automata. To ridiculous little man in automata – A decorative ridiculous little man. A Mr Punch like, decorative ridiculous little man is what he ends up looking like, because my 'go-to' compositional device, is the relating of fast and slow curves. His resultant cresent-moon shaped head compliments the circular gear wheels and his hunched gait and motion will do so too. Thus he looks a bit like Mr Punch – A very, very bad character.
Too bad a character for the part however. No one identifies with a smiling psychopath (I hope) but the personal calligraphy of related curves turns his mouth glumly down. He'll be a 'bad' character still, but likably safe – because he loses, always loses. He will be like a George Castanza, a Basil Fawlty, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, a Wiley Coyote.
It isn't far for the designing-as-you-go mind to wander from here, to the human condition and your own participation in it. And an allegory builds around whims and that which lies ready at hand, as hours pass – shaping, carving, designing, drawing and thinking. Thinking about how and thinking about when. But very often thinking about why.
Sunday, December 10, 2017
After refining and sanding to 400 and 600 grit the process for 'carving' the raised bumps on the chameleon's body could be commenced.
To produce the raised bumps on the chameleon I used a technique outlined in an earlier post on carving 'The Desolation of Smug' dragon. The process is a Japanese carving technique which begins with the actual punching of concave depressions wherever a raised bump is to be. An ordinary nail makes a suitable punch when it is shaped, smoothed and polished, pretty much to the size and form of the desired bump you want to produce.
Thursday, November 23, 2017
I will show and describe the carving and finishing of some of the individual elements of the automata in some following posts.
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Like a lot of people, I am fascinated by the sight uof the pre-digital, the pre-miniaturised-electrical-hidden-mechanism, devices in action. My comprehension of 'what makes them tick' is slight enough to allow mystery to enhance the experience.
When I was young steam trains still ran. They had moving parts that were not just wheels. They had visible moving parts. Lots of visible moving parts. They had many turning bits and linkages, choreographed to the exuberance of their exhilarating sounds. Riveted rhinoceros hiss-thundered past and then into the enveloping, billowing and dissipating doppler-effected past, they quickly went, while Into the wake of their memory, followed the slick, the smooth, the concealed and the 'less is more'. And in their wake we began to mourn the loss of mystery and wonder, their performance evoked.
The sealed unit might be more mysterious in one sense, without visible locomotion, but it's movement is easily taken for granted, it just goes. Visible mechanisms that achieve by complicated means captivate because work fascinates us.., we can sit and watch it for hours.
Perhaps mechanically minded people are just as fascinated with the visible workings of early machine age constructions because they can see and understand what they are doing and could be made to do. I can only see what they are doing already as a visual experience, an aesthetic rather than an understanding of the physics. I just like the way machines look.
So so back to the digital age. Mechanically minded people have made animations of the mechanical devices from the Industrial Age and there are sites that can generate gears to be printed, cut and used in a functioning machine. For a whimsical automata such as I envisaged for Whimsical Wood. I only needed to see what each mechanical element was already doing and if it looked nice and looked interesting it was a candidate for participating in the final construction. Plenty of time to figure out what it might do when it's finished.., so long as it looks good.
So with with a supply of print-outs that could be cut and assembled I mocked up a working pattern to begin the automata. My lack of mechanical ability meant simply assembling a chain of mechanical events with some characters tacked on here and there. The characters would include an elf-like character to drudgingly do the winding, a Cheshire Cat, an attentive dog meant to contrast with the disaffected elf, a chameleon and whatever else could be made to work.
Not a lot in the way of add-on characters could be made to work in this long chain-of-events whimsical automata I found. So I have kept it to its purpose as a complex looking simple automata useful for generating visual interest with movement both on the web and at shows. It's other purpose is to learn a bit about automata construction through experiment and perhaps design and build simpler more narrative based automata in the future.
From the beginning of this project I realised that any automata I built would depend on visual appeal rather than mechanical ingenuity. So I decided to make the larger gear wheels and pinions with heavily carved decorative spokes and to complete the whole construction with a high finish.
In the next post I will describe the process of cutting the decorative but still functional gears and other mechanisms for this automata.
Sunday, November 12, 2017
After the completion of the carving, mostly with the hooked knives, the work has been sanded up to 800 grit on the more accessible surfaces ready for a wipe-on polyurethane finish. When the thinned polyurethane has been wiped off I prefer to have it ready for a final wax polish and or tinting with colour, in a single session without waiting for drying.
To accomplish this a very fine dusting with some rotten stone on the 'wipe-off rag', is used to further, dry and thin, the oil finish to a dry lustre. An old tooth brush also dipped in a little rotten stone powder works the same effect into all the recesses.
The carved lettering now has the thinnest of polyurethane coatings, virtually invisible except for the enhancement of colour and grain. This surface is the sympathetic to coloured pencil and artist's oils for colouring. I have used water soluble oil paint and coloured pencil to colour parts of the carving.
Using oil paint means there is time to put on applications of paint washes and remove some, until the desired effect appears.
The lettering, carved, finished and coloured is ready to be photographed for title graphics on the whimsical wood website and for fitting to the whimsical wood automata. The Automata, being a kinetic sculpture, is intended to attract interest at shows with its animation and likewise useful as video linked to the website.
My my main carving interest is Lovespoons but I find mechanical movements to be fascinating to watch and though I have not much native mechanical ability or understanding I intend to make some simple automata with carved elements.