During my resent stay in Germany I decided to participate in yet another course of stone sculpting at the European Academy of Fine Arts in Trier.
The academy (www.eka-trier.de) was founded in 1977 and offers a large selection of courses in the wide spectrum of Fine Arts.
I have always been fascinated by the three-dimensional creation in the field of stone sculpting, one of the oldest ways of mankind to express art work.
This two-week course was guided by Peter Rübsam (www.peterruebsam.de), a well-known German sculptor and musician with a long experience in stone-sculpting. He is teaching at the EKA since 1988.
The material used for sculpting was local sandstone from the Mosel region in Germany, a variously colored sedimentary rock composed predominantly of sandlike quartz grains cemented by lime, silica, or other materials.
Each student could choose his or her block of sandstone in consideration of the size or shape of the future sculpture.
In some cases the huge rocks had to be split in two parts to achieve the more or less desired size, and also to reduce any unnecessary weight.
The usual procedure before starting with stone or wood sculpting is to prepare a small clay model of the planned sculpture and then to draw lines of orientation on the rock to indicate where the material has to be chiseled off.
It is a quite difficult intellectual process since when doing stone or wood sculpting, the shape is created by taking away material instead of adding on which is the common technique when modeling in clay.
So, once the material is chiseled off, it is gone forever and no more creative corrections can be made…
I picked out a block that already featured an unusual natural shape, i.e. not rectangular but with a prolonged, peak-like front part.
That was when, in my artistic imagination, an idea was born:
I would use the given natural shape of the upper and frontal part of the sandstone to create an abstract head/face without destroying too much of the original shape and texture of the rock.
So, in my case, no clay model could be used for guidance. The shaping would be realized only by the power of my imagination, which made the whole creational process even more difficult.
And then the exciting exchange started between the natural shape of the sandstone block and my artistic fantasy, i.e. a challenging intellectual interaction between rock and sculptor…
My sandstone rock in its original shape:
Besides the very complex creative process of stone sculpting, it takes a huge amount of hard manual work to shape the rock into the desired sculpture.
Mainly two different types of chisels of different sizes are used:
A pointed chisel to give the general shape and a plane-one to smooth out. These chisels have to be re-sharpened often during sculpting since sandstone is a rather abrasive material.
During the long chiseling process the sculpture has be turned over and around various times to allow an ergonomic working position and to control the proportions. Due to the heavy weight of the sandstone blocks, the moving is done with the help of a special crane.
The first week of the course unfortunately started with very bad weather: max. temperature of 10º C, heavy winds and lots of rainfall.
Since the stone sculpting course was taking place in the outside area of the academy under a big tent, it took lots of artistic enthusiasm and plenty of layers of warm clothing for the group to face reality…
Starting with my hard chiseling work:
Lots of action in our open-air studio:
Hannes and Ursula preparing a working platform for her sculpture
Peter Rübsam carefully moving Ursulas’ heavy sculpture that she had been working on for many weeks before
Ute and Hannes at work
Peter Rübsam, Gabor and Bärbel doing some creative brainstorming
Bärbels’ finished fairy-tale “Birdhouse”:
Peter Rübsam in the complicated process of splitting another sandstone rock for Bärbels’ next project
Lunch break: Warming up with a delicious hot Goulasch soup
The second week of stone and wood sculpting had started and remained with good weather, cold, but sunny and dry.
Some participants of the first weeks’ group were still joining the course, and some new students had arrived.
Jochen and Anaïs at work with wood sculpting
My sculpture, slowly taken on shape
The base part of the sandstone rock had to be flattened in order to give the sculpture a solid standing position. Therefore, it had to be turned on its side with the help of the crane.
Preparations for changing the rocks’ position
Peter Rübsam helping me to chisel off large chunks of the base part
And finally, the finishing sculpting touch-ups…
On the afternoon prior to the last day of the courses it is tradition at the European Academy of Fine Arts in Trier to do an Open Studio.
The public is invited to visit the different ateliers and to appreciate the art work done during the two-week term.
After a lot of pretty dusty and messy cleaning of our studio the sculptures (finished or in some cases unfinished) were nicely displayed.
And, after all the long hard work, we joined in a well-earned bit of “Vie Bohème”…
And so this great stone sculpting course had come to its end.
My sculpture will be professionally prepared and packed for the transportation to its final destination, the beautiful garden of our Quinta do Cerroverde in Portugal…
The fruit of my passion
“Metamorphosis” by Peggy Berghaeuser-Rottler