30dayCollageI learned a lot of things while making art every day for a month.

One day is both more and less time than I thought. I can do so much more if I use every minute, and don’t procrastinate or worry about what to make and how it’s going to come out, and whether I should do it this way, or that way…

Making a piece a day gets me past the perfection paralysis, and gets my mind and fingers limber again. Just Do It isn’t a half bad mantra ;)

Sometimes I just need to start… I may end up sculpting something ugly or completely different, but just the process of putting clay down gets me headed in the right direction, and I often end up with something really cool.

It also really helps if I have my sculpting area organized, clay pre-conditioned and laid out on the tiles ready to go.

But there were times that I really needed to take a few days or a week and a half including 2 full weekends (the kraken or the sea turtle) and then I felt rushed, or had to whip out a quick experiment for the days in between. I’d like to do this again, but allow myself more time. I’m thinking progress every day, but allowing a week to complete a piece.

For one thing, I have a day job, and you have to go grocery shopping and do laundry eventually ;)

I found I do my best work when I don’t force it. If I take a subject as it comes to me naturally, and don’t try to go too simple or too complicated, or a specific style, it seems to flow better.

There were a couple times where I tried to go cute and almost cartoonish (due to time crunch and trying to hurry) and it simply didn’t work out because it didn’t suit my style or the subject. If it ends up that way naturally, like the flying pig, it’s fine, but even then I ended up adding more detail to the pig than I had planned, and it came out better that way.

I need to make sure that I either finish or scrape things periodically.

I got a lot of satisfaction from finishing work. Especially work that had been hanging around in a “limbo” stage while I thought about it.

And I found out that I had lost a piece I really liked – it was 90% done but I’d put it on top of the oven, out of the way while I thought about how I wanted to finish it. I didn’t realize the top of the oven gets hot enough to partially bake the clay and it cracked all over like a dry mud flat…

So… It was a very good experience and I will do it again. And I’m going to try to apply some of these lessons to my day to day art practice.


img_6114So, in case you were wondering, I did not immediately collapse from exhaustion after the 30 day challenge.

But we did fly out the very next day on vacation to St. Thomas – where even when it rains for 10 minutes you end up with a rainbow.

img_6104We spent a lot of time snorkeling, did 4 dives, and got to see sea turtles like this one – both Green and Hawksbills.

I also got to dive with my very first sharks :) A baby bull shark and a couple of reef sharks. None of them were over four feet, and only one checked us out, but it was still awesome – and not scary at all.

We also saw spotted eagle rays (Really cool – I need to sculpt one), regular manta rays, an octopus, barracuda, and lots and lots of cool fish and coral.

We even got underwater flashlights and went out for a couple night snorkels – it was rather weird and disorienting but very cool. We saw giant tarpon fish, spiny lobsters, star fish, and some really interesting arrow crabs that look just like hard shelled spiders.

This week will be mainly catch up and recovery – I still haven’t unpacked the suitcases – but I’ll be back to the clay soon.

And I’m sure some of the ocean creatures will be showing up in my work soon – I got some underwater GoPro video that I can use for sculpting references. :)


So, as a wrap-up… This is everything I’ve made this month.


I think I’ve learned a few things too… And not just about using pan pastels. I want to think about that a bit more and I’ll post some thoughts later.

But all in all, I’m really glad I did it. It was a fun, if occasionally stressful, experience and it got me into a regular rhythm of sculpting and thinking about clay.


Done painting the sea turtle. I used layers built up of Genesis Heat Set Oils.

This is the last day of the challenge, but only piece 29. So…


Since Dave (my husband) implied that I was being a slacker by not doing an actual 30 pieces, here’s piece 30.

6×6″ dragon colored with pan pastels then highlighted with Pearlex mica powders.

So now… I am officially done with the challenge!

I’ll post a wrap up later on but I made it :)


This is what I spent most of the day working on… So here’s a couple more “work in progress” shots.

It’s not painted yet, but it is baked now.


3×6″ pan pastels on black polymer.

This was a fun one since I really didn’t have anything in mind other than a dragon. It was probably working on the sea turtle that made me think of a water dragon.

The interesting thing is that it didn’t turn out much like a dragon… I started with a dolphin head, and it just went on from there, ending up looking more like a sleek prehistoric beast instead. That’s the great thing about sculpting fantasy creatures, you can let the clay take over, without worrying about making it look like anything specific.

I went fairly light on the pastels – just a bit of white and two shades of blue to highlight the shape.

If you like this sort of sculpture, and you’re in the RI area, I’ll be teaching a class April 8th on sculpting dragons at the Wickford Art Association.


For the first time during this challenge, I’m invoking my flexibility rule. I still didn’t finish my piece today, but it was going so well, I didn’t want to rush it or take a break and work on something else.

And since the whole point of this challenge is to be more creative and productive, I figure that’s ok.

So, here are some of the early stages of a sculpture.

First I sketch out the design on the clay, then I usually lay down the eye, because at that point it starts looking like a real creature.

Then I build up the basic forms. And work on refining them – adding clay, carving it away and texturing as needed.

If I’m working on a real animal, I make sure I have one or more good reference images. This one isn’t mine, (it’s from MorgueFile.com) even though I have some gopro videos of similar turtles from a couple dives and snorkel excursions that we did.

They’re really amazing.

This is where I’m at now… Still quite a ways to go, but it’s really coming along.


I’ve started a more complex piece, but it’s nowhere near done, so tonight is another experiment.

This time, translucent clay and pan pastels. I formed shallow bubbles using thin Premo translucent (#9 on Atlas pasta machine) then adhered those to a raw translucent over white background using diluent.

This is a good example of how differently the pastels stick to baked and unbaked clay.

Once the clay was fully baked, I ran it under water to cool it slightly, then rubbed some of the background blue off with paper towel.

Interesting… But I’m not sure what I’d do with this technique yet.


Tangled briars and a rose in the center. I was curious how something like this would come out with the pan pastels.

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