This Blog is Moving

Firstly, I want to thank everyone who is currently following this blog for their support, wonderful comments, and interest in my work. The past content of this blog will remain available but no new posts will be made. This post is to inform my followers that future content for this creative research blog will be posted on my Patreon site.

Patreon is a site that supports creatives like me through a membership platform. Members of my Patreon page are rewarded with exclusive access to behind the scenes research, so for that reason, posts like you have seen here will now be for members only. Hopefully if you have enjoyed this blog, you will consider becoming a patron to further support my work as an artist, and continue to follow along with my creative process. Through my Patreon community you can even become a part of the process by participating in discussions and providing feedback for new ideas.

Patrons will also receive special rewards based on their membership tier, these include exclusive products, early access to new products, discounts in my website shop, and much more. Capture

Posts be made more often on Patreon, so people can follow along with new series, and even see videos of my technical process posted each month. Patrons will also have access to Lens, an app for live stream video content that will share things from the studio as they happen. Be the first to see new sculptures, exhibition previews, and installation shots. Special booklets and coffee table books dedicated to different series will also be made available only to patrons.

This membership community will help support me as a full time studio artist, allowing me to make more complex pieces that involve more time and materials to make. With member support I will be able to expand my research through travel, and increase the visibility and reach of my artwork. I am excited to have the opportunity to share my art with fans and friends in a whole new way, and I hope that you can join me in this new and exciting chapter of my artistic career!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where Science and Art Intersect: Working with the Florida Museum

Wondrous Creatures Exhibition now on view at the Florida Natural History Museum until September 16th 2018

My thesis exhibition Wondrous Creatures is now on view at the Florida Museum of Natural History! Below you can see images of the exhibition and learn more about the process and ideas behind each work.

The Florida Museum is an amazing place to learn about the world around us. The talented artists and designers and passionate people who work there make it a very special place for both art and science. My thesis exhibition being shown at the museum is a dream come true, and a way for my work to truly bridge the gap between art and science.

While I was completing my graduate work at UF I spent a lot of time volunteering with the museum. I worked in fossil preparation and also with exhibits. During my time with exhibits I was asked to sculpt a model of the Humpback Whale from the skeleton that is now on permanent display.

The whale sculpture on display in the Hope For Humpbacks Exhibit

The Hope for Humpbacks exhibit is currently on view and gives an up close look at the lives and conservation efforts for humback whales. You can also see how the whale skeleton was articulated and reassembled by the museum exhibits team.

I sculpted the model during the exhibit Rare Beautiful and Fascinating: 100years @FloridaMuseum. This was a great exhibit that showcased the best of the museums collections over the last 100 years. Cases included fossils, skeletons, and man made objects, much like the earliest curiosity cabinets.

Demonstrating the sculpture for the public gave me the opportunity to explain the ceramic building process, and the ways that art can be used to enhance science exhibits.

I also sculpted the Columbian Mammoth, the large skeleton of which is a main focus in the entry hall of the museum. I was able to demonstrate paleoart at events like National Fossil Day and Drink with the Extinct. The sculptures of the whale and mammoth will be on permanent display with the exhibits in the museum.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Wondrous Creatures in the Works

These are the animals that I am planning to create for my Thesis project Wondrous Creatures. Each of them has distinctly strange features that speak to their amazing ability to adapt and evolve. I recently saw a few of them in person in the exhibition Extreme Mammals, currently on display at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. These animals are each from different time periods and places. My thesis exhibition will arrange these sculptures so that the viewer is able to move further back in time, and across the world with each prehistoric beast they encounter.


Image result for uintatherium



Uintatherium was one of the earliest mammals living 40-50 million years ago in North America. It belongs to a group known as odd toed ungulates which includes both rhinos and horses. Uintatherium was 11 feet long, and 5 feet high at the shoulder. Its strangest feature are the multiple bony horns that protrude from top of the skull. It also had dagger like canine teeth, even though it only ate plants.




Stegotetrabelodon is a prehistoric elephant that lived 7-5 million years ago in Eurasia and Africa. It was over 13 feet high at the shoulder, and its strangest feature is a set of 4 tusks. Two long tusks curved upward from an elongated lower jaw, and two longer tusks curved downward from the upper jaw.

Image result for andrewsarchus reconstruction



All that was discovered of Andrewsarchus was the top of its 2 foot skull. Believed to be a large scavenger, Andrewsarchus was 6 feet high at the shoulder based on its skull. It is believed that its teeth would be able to bite through bone. It lived 48-37 million years ago in Mongolia. This is a particularly strange creature because it is actually related to whales, hippos and other artiodactyls.

Image result for sivatherium


Image result for sivatherium fossils

Sivatherium is a prehistoric giraffe closely related to the okapi that was 7 feet tall and lived in Africa and India around 5 million years ago. Its strangest features are large antler-like ossicones as well as being much bulkier and shorter in the neck than the modern giraffe.

Image result for thalassocnus



Thalassocnus is an extinct genus of semi-aquatic giant sloth that lived in South America 6 million years ago. Specimens have been found in Peru and Chile, which in the Miocene was a desert landscape with little plant life for sloths to eat. Over time, this sloth evolved a spoon like jaw in order to eat the marine plant life off the coast. It had increased bone thickness as well, and more elongated limbs, and was an unexpectedly good swimmer much like the modern polar bear.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Summer Research

This summer I have been doing a lot of reading and research to prepare for writing my thesis. Here are some of the great sources I have found that relate to the topics of natural history, the age of wonder, nostalgia, animals in art, and theories of illusion in art.


This book provides a narrative account of the many voyages and explorations that led to the founding of theories of natural selection, evolution, and the origin of species. This book is giving me some ideas of animal species that are connected to the most crucial evidence of evolution, like the giraffe.

Related image

This book provides a biography and overview of the collection of David Wilson, who founded the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles. The author compares the collection of Mr. Wilson to the 16th century “Cabinets of Wonder” to reveal the imaginative connections between art and science. I will be visiting the Museum of Jurassic Technology this summer while I am in California to see this amazing collection for myself.

Related image

This book gave biographical accounts of various scientists that made important discoveries during the Age of Wonder (1750-1900). This has always been one of my favorite time periods in history, and it was great to see so many connections between my work and the ideas of this time period. Wonder was seen as the spark for scientific invention and advancement, and it was during this time that prehistoric animals were discovered along with many other natural wonders.

Image result for the future of nostalgia

This book is mostly about the author’s nostalgic connection to her home in Russia. However, she explains the history of nostalgia in a way that made a lot of sense to me. She also speculates on the importance of nostalgia as a part of society and history. This is always an element in my work, and it was great to find out that the kind of nostalgia that I use is called reflective nostalgia. This type of nostalgia is meant to reference a place and time that does not exist, and calls the idea of absolute truth into question.

Image result for why we look at animals john berger

This is a section of John Berger’s book About Looking. This was a great read for anyone making art with animal subject matter. He talks a lot about the animal gaze, as well as how humans have lost touch with animals since the industrial revolution. I found a great connection to the 18th century in that the disappearance of animals and wilderness during the industrial revolution caused people to become nostalgic towards them.

Image result for object of art book hobson

This is a complex study of the different types of illusion used in art, with an emphasis on French Rococo art. I found this to be helpful in explaining some of the impacts that illusion in art can have on the viewer.

Image result for Picturing the beast

Image result for the postmodern animal book

Steve Baker’s books review the animal as subject and metaphor in postmodern art. Picturing the Beast had a great section about the pleasure that people take in animal imagery, and how this connects to childhood movies and literature.

I have also been listing to some great TED Talks:


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Messing with Model Building

To better plan for my thesis show, and see multiple possibilities, I have created a variety of small scale models using the laser cutter and 3D printer. Some of these models have been enlarged like the ones below, using wood and plexi glass. These larger models can support small maquette sculptures and allow me to see more possible ideas.


Here, I have laid out all the laser cut parts of the wood model to stain them. I then glued the sections together, and added plexi glass to one version. These displays are influenced by natural history museum displays that use walnut pedestals with molding, and glass display cases.


The Paris Natural History Museum, Hall of Vertebrate Paleontology

Here, you can see the way I have started to use these traditional displays to create more opportunities for discovery and wonder. Cutting the windows in the molding of the pedestal has provided a new and unexpected place to create context for the animals. I use some of my animal toys as place holders for the future sculptures, as well as the maquettes I have been working on. These slightly larger models also allow me to play with 3D prints, grass flocking, bones, and other objects.



This is one of my first attempts at designing the gallery space for my thesis exhibition. After conferences with my committee members, and chair Nan Smith, I have made some interesting discoveries. The pedestals and the furniture which I first thought to be very different forms of display, seem to be able to work together in the same space. I have also found that the display cases do not have to exist on their own, but could interact with the pedestals.


I have enjoyed thinking about the space for my thesis in terms of a natural history museum display, or room of dioramas. This would be a rectilinear space, with pieces along the sides in a U-shape, with a focal piece at the back in the center. I will continue to develop my plans using these models as I move forward with the ideas for each piece.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Playing with Porcelain

This week I am testing casting slip as part of investigating porcelain as an option for my ceramic furniture. First, I tested the casting slip to see how it fired using these furniture molds.


The tests revealed that the NS-124 Antique White Porcelain Slip by Laguna had the best surface at cone six. The table leg molds I had needed to be re-made because they were designed for press molding, not slip casting. I pressed the the table leg again, and made it in one piece to set up for molding. Here, the table leg is set up with clay to make sure that the plaster only casts one section.


After one side is cast, the mold is keyed and soaped with release agent so that the next piece can be cast. With these carvings I have to be careful not to make them too deep or complex so that the plaster doesn’t lock onto the forms.


The mold of the complete table leg is much larger and heavier than the press molds. I had to use heavy duty straps to keep it tight enough to hold the amount of slip that had to be poured in to fill it. I filled the mold with it inside a bucket just in case of a leak.


Here you can see the finished cast ready to remove from the mold. The cast will have to be cleaned up and have the seam lines removed, but this process will allow me to create detailed porcelain table legs very quickly.


The next stages of problem solving will involve creating a table top that is also slip cast and works with the legs. I will also have to deal with possible slumping of the porcelain during firing, and maybe create some firing supports to combat this. I will have to re-mold the figure heads like the dodo, and other small sprig pieces to work with the casting slip.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Laser Cutting Display Models

20170529_173556I used the laser cutter to create scale models of different display method ideas. Some were larger (about 6-8” versions) to allow for clay maquettes to interact with the display option. These were made of 1/4” plywood and plexi glass.


The laser cutter allows me to quickly cut out scale models in different materials of the designs that I create in AutoCad. These models are life scale in AutoCad, but can be easily changed to any scale in proportion.


20170518_002234I also created small scale models of these pedestals to be used in the gallery model. Here are some shots showing how the different display options work in the gallery model. To create the woodgrain texture on the mat board I create a photoshop file of the texture/image and then spray adhesive the color prints onto the mat board before cutting.




Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Animal Attitude

As part of planning my thesis show I am creating gesture studies of different prehistoric mammals to help me decide which to use as subjects.

This process starts with sketching particular animals in different gestures. I often base these gestures on observing modern day animals and drawing from life at zoos and natural history museums.


Asian Elephant drinking at the San Diego Zoo


From these sketches and reference images I practice the proportions and musculature of each animal while investigating different expressions in gestures. These are very quick, timed studies that are made solid and then carved and refined once the clay has stiffened.


Ground Sloth Skeleton at the San Diego Natural History Museum


These gestures and animals lead to ideas for ways to introduce a human object. Here are some gesture and expression studies for this piece which features a semi-aquatic sloth enjoying a rococo style bath tub.


These maquettes are sometimes larger and more detailed. This allows me to get an idea  of how I might build a larger version and allows for plans to scale up the gesture.


I often make larger studies of an animal’s head to work out different facial expressions and the gaze of the animal.


I am specifically choosing to work with animals that have very strange features. I find that this increases the viewer’s curiosity about the animal. These features also speak to the animals’ amazing ability to evolve and adapt. Sivatherium is a prehistoric giraffe that exhibits the evolution of the long neck over millions of years.


The Evolution of the Giraffe


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Setting the Scene: Graduate Research on the Picturesque Aesthetic

This year I have been researching the picturesque aesthetic as applied to displays for my ceramic sculptures. At first, the term picturesque was applied to both a real landscape that was “fit to be made into a picture”, and the painting that depicted that landscape.

Lake with Dead Trees (Catskill)_Cole_1825

Dioramas use many elements of the picturesque aesthetic to create a scene. They create a natural artifice, a man made landscape that seems natural, even the animals are posed by the taxidermist to seem to be performing natural behaviors. I also discovered in reading about the picturesque aesthetic, that certain animals are more picturesque than others. The deer for instance, is one of the most picturesque animals because of the delicacy in their legs and antlers, and its connection to the woods. Other animals become picturesque with age. A pristine muscled stallion is smooth and beautiful, while a weathered work horse is seen as rougher, and therefore more picturesque.

20160630_121712The intention of dioramas in natural history museums is to educate and entertain, while preserving a snapshot a specific animal and its habitat. The history of the diorama is a long one, and the earliest dioramas were connected with the first movements in environmentalism, and the creation of the national parks.


These distinctions can also be made about the picturesque and the sublime. Zdeněk Burian is one of my favorite paleoartists, he was Czech, and illustrated many books on prehistoric life in the 1940’s. His reconstructions had a major impact on paleontology at the time, they gave visual clues that helped inform scientific theories. The idea of a prehistoric world at first seems more sublime, nature run wild, unchecked, enormous, and overwhelming, even terrifying to a human. But Burian’s work is in the picturesque mode.

These are pleasurable windows into the past. The wildness has been softened, idealized, and made to be inviting. The scene frames the action of animals, as though they are actors in a play. The animals are intelligent, realistic, and wonderfully strange. The illusion is convincing, as if you could dream yourself there, and strolling through the ancient past would be like strolling through a meadow. The idea of picturesque travel in the eighteenth century was meant to arouse emotion through nature, and suspend thought. This experience of nature is felt, not analyzed.


Pierre-Denis Martin, 1714
The Fountain of Apollo and the Grand Canal at Versailles 

This way of viewing nature came about in the eighteenth century, along with the influence of the English garden in France. At first, nature at Versailles was controlled, as was everything in the world, by the king and the ancient regime. Geometry, symmetry, and parallel lines ruled over all. But as the picturesque view of nature gained popularity with the new regime, it led to gardens that were full of surprise and greenery allowed to grow freely, and aligned itself with the freedom and fantasy of the Rococo style. Theaters gained popularity as a mode of escape from daily life. Claude-Henri Watelet said, “The garden was valuable to the extent that it sustained a state of wonder.”

As the popularity of extravagance and distraction grew, the aristocracy lost control, and fell to revolution.


Hubert Robert, 1802                                                                   The Tomb of Jean-Jacques Rousseau at Ermenonville

The overgrown classical ruins and fabriques used in the picturesque style idealize the past, but at the same time foreshadow the cyclical nature of history and time, and the inevitable rise and fall of civilization. They represent the idea of nostalgia that was popularized during the eighteenth century.


Frederick Edwin Church, 1873
Syra by the Sea


Hubert Robert, 1753
The Bathing Pool

These partially hidden structures are designed to trigger the imagination, and a longing for the past. This in itself is an illusion, because while the past may seem glorious, it often was not. There is an interesting contradiction that happens in picturesque gardens when ruins are fabricated to create a sense of this longing, and purposefully overgrown by nature to seem like remains of grand human achievement. This use of ruins also causes the viewer to question their own existence, and as Diderot states, “reminds us of the instability of human things”.

This piece attempts to use furniture to frame a three dimensional picturesque scene. I am interested in the way this removes the animal sculpture from the pedestal, and gives it an environment with more context and meaning. Here, the candles in the chandelier symbolize the passage of time, while the overgrown marble floor provides the same feelings as the picturesque ruins that have been reclaimed by nature.


Passé Doré
Ceramic, Flocking, Gold Leaf, Wax
30’’h x 24’’w x 18’’d


There is an anticipatory narrative in this piece, allowing the viewer to make up the story for themselves. I think that this provides a deeper connection with the animal. The strange features of this prehistoric elephant called a gomphothere also inspire curiosity and fascination in order to spark the imagination.


Merveilles Perdues
Ceramic, Flocking, Gold Leaf
36’’h x 22’’w x 12’’d

MerveillesPerdues_Detail1This fantastical rock formation was another way of framing a scene, and separating the animal from the pedestal. The miniature scale of the carriage gives a grand scale to the animal, while his comical interaction reveals the humor in the paradox of the scene. Making the carriage seem buried in the earth was also a nice visual connection to the way fossils emerge, and the excitement when they are recovered.


Red in Tooth and Claw
Ceramic, Wood, Gold Leaf, Fabric, Resin
54’’h x 42’’w x 20’’d

Tooth&Claw_Detail1Thylacosmilus was a prehistoric marsupial predator that lived in South America. I wanted to make an animal that had more of an impact on its environment. I chose this gesture so that the cat could be clawing into a Rococo cushion.

This piece uses the ceramic furniture to display the animal instead of the pedestal. These ceramic table legs are attached to a CNC milled wooden top. The traditional rococo carvings are replaced with natural history motifs. I used ferns instead of acanthus leaves, nautilus shells, horseshoe crabs, and prehistory icons like the dodo. The viewer’s close attention is rewarded with these details.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Material Research

In my second year of graduate school, I researched the use of non ceramic materials as a way to create non-fragile table legs. I learned to make two-piece silicone molds for cast resin.


Here, the finished sculpted wet clay table legs are set up with a clay coddle that extends to the halfway point of the form. I use plastic button keys here as a way of making sure the finished mold locks together well. A section of all thread bolt at the top of the leg can be molded as part of the leg for attaching the cast resin to a ceramic table top using a nut. When making silicone molds, undercuts and complex forms do not impede the mold being removed from the cast because the mold material is flexible. Some silicone rubbers are able to even turn inside out to release a cast, and return to original shape.

For my molds I used Reynold’s Advanced MaterialsRebound 40 silicone. This is a platinum cure silicone, which is more durable and lasts longer than a tin cure. It can be easily measured and mixed by a volume ratio of equal parts A and B. The Rebound 40 product is slightly more rigid than the Rebound 25, again allowing for more durability and strength with less possibility of tearing.


The first layer of rubber that is applied is called a print coat, or stipple coat. This is because it is the thinnest, and most liquid state of the rubber, meant to capture all details and reduce the amount of air bubbles on the surface. A cut off chip brush can be a useful tool for stippling the rubber to reduce air bubbles. This coat is often very runny, and flows easily over details, but can become thick in lower places if not carefully controlled.


With each successive coat, a thickener called THI-VEX is added to the silicone. Only a few drops is necessary to thicken the rubber so it stays on the high points of the original being molded. Coats can be applied about every 20-30 minutes once the rubber becomes tacky to the touch. Once 3-4 coats are applied, the mother mold can be applied to the first side. For a mother mold material I used Free Form Air. This is a two part kneedable epoxy dough, which when mixed together hardens to a durable rock hard shell that supports the rubber in its original form for casting. Free Form Air is also very lightweight and can even float in water after hardening. The benefit of this is that large molds are not heavy or cumbersome as they would be with a plaster mother mold. This is also a safer, easier material to use than a resin fiberglass mother mold.


A release called Sonite Wax is used as a barrier between the silicone and the epoxy mother mold. This prevents the epoxy from sticking to the silicone, or anything else it touches. The epoxy can be pancaked out into thin, even slabs to reduce the weight of the mother mold even further. As the epoxy sets, it can be smoothed with isopropyl alcohol. It can also be surformed, sanded, and drilled after setting. This can allow the use of bolts to tighten the mold halves together, and removal of sharp edges on the mother mold.


After 24 hours, the epoxy is set, and the process is able to be repeated on the other side. I used Sonite Wax as a release between the two silicone halves of the mold. Silicone releases from almost any other material easily, except it always sticks to itself. If you forget the release between the silicone halves of the mold it will not come apart. There are two types of silicone bonds to other materials, mechanical and chemical. In a potential mechanical bond, Sonite Wax can seal a porous material to prevent the silicone from locking into it. With a chemical bond, such as silicone to silicone, a release spray may be needed to seal the material, such as Ease Release 200.


A second mother mold of epoxy is added to this side once the silicone has set. If too thin, the epoxy will always stick to itself, and can be applied once the first layer has set up.


Once the molds were complete, I used rubber bands to bind the two halves, and poured liquid resin into them. The resin I used is called Smooth Cast Onyx and has an opaque black color. Resin always takes on the surface of the original molded material. If the original material is glossy or shiny, the resin cast will be also. Because my table legs were made of wet clay, the resin takes on that wet clay sheen, but is not shiny.


Smooth Cast Onyx FAST sets hard in about 15 minutes and has a pot life of about 2.5 minutes. With this material I was able to replicate the table leg forms very quickly. Each leg is cast in two parts (top and bottom), and had to be attached. First, I used a dremel tool and sandpaper to remove the resin seam lines from the side of the legs, and a band saw to cut off the blocks on the ends created by the pouring gates on the molds. I drilled holes in each section and glued metal pins between them. The seam was filled in with Apoxie Sculpt (Black) to match the resin. This sculptable, kneadable epoxy smooths with water, and can be easily carved and textured to match the carvings at the seam line.


Here you can see how the legs are designed to accompany a ceramic table top. Holes were drilled in the clay to allow the threaded bolts on the legs to push through and be attached securely to the fired ceramic with a nut.


The finished result. The ceramic glaze matched the resin table legs well, but the length, and thinness of the legs caused them to be springy, and not hold up any weight besides the table top. This was a good experiment to see how far I could push these thin, curvilinear legs with another material that is not as fragile as clay.


I also experimented with the same materials to make a mold of a cow vertebrae bone. I cast this in resin mixed with Reynold’s Bronze Powder to create a cold cast bronze effect. Real bronze powder is mixed with resin and painted in each half of the mold as a gel coat. The mold can be put together and the gel coat backed with the Onyx resin. The finished cast can be polished to look like cast bronze.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment