Monday, September 28, 2009

Spirit of the Wild Things, the Art of Sandy Scott

Summer is over, and I have time to return to the book I most enjoyed reading at camp. As I have noted before, I invested in some art this summer,two moose head book ends by Sandy Scott. I found them at the Wilcox Gallery in Jackson Hole. When I bought them, Jeff Wilcox, acting as his father’s manager, called Ms. Scott on the phone to get me a discount; how kind. He also gave me Sandy Scott’s autobiography. I have enjoyed it immensely.

Here are some highlights.

1. Sculpture is an experience rather than an object. p26

2. Style is personal truth. p26

3. Artist is seeing, feeling, understanding, expressing. p26

4. CUSS -- Clarify, unify, simplify, and solidify. p30

Sandy Scott writes of how her life is recorded in work books and journals – they are the source of her commentary – she believes she has a compulsion to write it down. So do I!!!

5. Drawing is the foundation of all art, and in a drawing the artiest defines something that cannot be described in words. . . it would be like describing the taste of gooseberry pie. p62

6. On page 64 she describes using a Stevens Shot gun. The first thing of material value I ever saved money to buy was my Stevens Savage shot gun. I worked all my last summer at home picking fruit to earn the $78.00 it cost me. Today, it hangs in my “Art Room” across from Scotts sculptures. As a girl she had gone hunting with her father and his friends, but she did not have a gun. A fellow lent her one.

“He offered to let me use his old Stevens 12-gage double-barrel with slugs for shells. I was in heaven, so I polished the shotgun and lined it up next to the rifles.”

7. Her first adventure with nature – like my perpetual one – was tied to Yellowstone. I remember visiting Yellowstone as a boy; in some ways I am always a boy there and in some ways I am always there. She recounts her first visit on pg 70:

“The first great event of my life was a summer vacation to Wyoming in 1958 with my parents and sister Nancy. I was fourteen years of age and spending tow weeks camping below the wild peaks of the Grand Tetons and in the geyser basins of Yellowstone plunged me into a rich adventure that changed my life forever. It was the beginning of a spell that the West has had on me to this day.”
Having never traveled beyond Oklahoma or northwestern Arkansas, this event presented many “firsts” in my young life:
Dear Diary: Slept in a bedroll under a starry sky for the first time; first time in a boat; caught my first fish, a cutthroat trout; saw my first antelope, bear, buffalo, elk, golden eagle and moose.
Pretty heady stuff in retrospect. The experience was of incalculable value because it revealed the treasure and possibilities that lay ahead of me in life.”

8. I have written before of the humming bird feeders outside my office window at camp, and have often thought of that broad porch on the second story of the lodge as the deck of a ship that plows through giant green waves of fir and spruce. It was a great pleasure to find Ms. Scott also shares these pleasures with me. On page 78 she writes:

“I had a deck built onto the front of my cabin, which sits on a point and is close to the water. When I’m on the deck, I feel as though I’, on the flying bridge of a ship.
When I arrive to open up in May, I can’t wait to put geraniums on the deck, and since springtime is for planting, I se tout tomatoes in a sunny spot on the south corner.
I place red sugar-water feeders under the eaves and watch ruby-throated humming-birds as they dart from feeder to birch branch then to their wee nest, high in a big poplar tree. They look like jewels flashing in the sun with their red bibs and brilliant metallic sheen.
How I love the deck! Dazzling with splashes of color: cadmium red geraniums, hearty bright tomatoes and sparkling ruby-throated hummers against the complementary greens of summer.
When snow blankets my home in Colorado, I think of summertime at the cabin on Lake of the Woods, and I see red.”

My lake is also called Lake of the Woods, and my memories of copper and ruby ruffas hummers fill my winter dreams with red summer fire.

9. The moment we think of animals as human, we are lost. p86

10. Tolstoy’s definition of Art:

“Art is a human activity, whose purpose is the transmission of the highest and best feelings to which human being have attained.” p94

11. A quote from Robert Henri on following rules to be made free:

“Take any man and develop his mind and soul and heart to the fullest by the right work and right study and then let him find through his training the utmost freedom of expression. For a man ceases to imitate when he has achieved the power to express fully and freely his own ideas.” P97

Robert Henri was a “great American artiest” and admirer of Thomas Ekins.

12. On following the examples of the past, and learning the Truths about art:

“It is inexcusable for any artist working today not to know and study the finest examples of sculpture handed down through the ages – to be aware of what was done before. Basic and time-honored artistic principles will always stand up as the taste of the times and look of the day change.” P104

13. On anatomy for [drawing] and sculpting:

“There is nothing random in nature; everything is structured. Though an animal sculptor does not need to be a scientist he must know and understand the important bones, joints and muscles, not only where they attach but how they articulate, In addition to this knowledge the bird sculptor must know the major feather groups, individual feather construction and the mechanics of flight. Birds in flight don’t pose, therefore this understanding is a must” p112

14. On the need to have a knowledge of the subject:

“The sculptor’s knowledge of their subjects is more important than the technical ability to mold clay.” p126

15. On medium:

The medium is an extension of the artist’s personality, the channel through which the mind connects to the fingers.” p135

16. On the connection between spontaneity and structure:

“Spontaneity is not possible with out planning and structure. . . There must be meaningful strong and understood structure and shape – only then can one edit and simplify. The more that is know, the more that can be eliminated” p140

17. On the simple shapes:

“Simple shapes are the foundation of all drawing, and to drawing, and to draw accurately we must use all these shapes – circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, ovals, etc. – in correct relation to each other.” p144

18. Three rule of composition from Mrs. DuCoin:

“1. Composition is a harmonious arrangement of two or more elements, one of which dominates all others in interest. The dominate element becomes the focal point or center of interest.

2. There should be as few secondary elements as possible and these should be arranged to support the man interest.

3. The position of the center of interest depends upon the feeling of balance created by the distribution of the different elements in the composition.”

19. A definition of Art by Sandy Scott:

“Art is not an imitation of nature. Art is surrounded by the artist’s personal evaluation and response to nature, and great art has an eternal and universal appeal.” p146

20. On the Academy and the master:

In years past, art students learned in academies and continued their education under the direction of a master in ateliers and working studios. In the academic tradition the student would assist the master by making plaster casts fro life, taking endless measurements and making accurate drawing. He would learn mold-making, resizing, point-up, and carving. His responsibilities would surely include keeping the clay models covered and moist as well as sweeping the floors, watering the plants and looking after the studio cats.
In exchange, the apprentice received a small amount of money, if any, and an occasional critique of his own work by the master. Most would advance no further than a technician and would have to be content with their lot in the studio.
The Italian Renaissance masters encouraged their students to “Imparp l’arte e mettila da parte.” (Learn you art and then put it aside.) The artist should know sound technique but never stop experimenting, seeking and taking chances.”

21. On my living with her art:

“When I sign my work and send it out into the world, I think of a bird leaving the nest or perhaps a child leaving home. I wonder how what I saw, felt, understood and expressed will affect the viewer. The most profound realization of my life is that there are people I have never met who live with my art, and therefore I share with them a personal, if not intimate relationship." p166

Sandy, thank you for sharing.


Reach Upward said...

I have been looking forward to this post since July. Thanks.

I note that many of the principles Ms. Scott defines can also be applied to working with words.

Lysis said...


Thank you for your comment. I agree with you, on the words and on everything else in life. I found myself thinking how Ms. Scott's ideas applies to running a Scout Camp; now I am in school, I see how she taught how to teach.

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