A Matter of Opinion

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"A Matter of Opinion" is a one-of-a-kind stone sculpture made of Cottonwood Limestone standing on a granite base. The piece measures 21.5 by 20 by 16 inches. This sculpture is currently on display in our Vail art gallery.

From the artist:

Limestone comes in many different colors and consistencies of classic beige. It is a fairly soft stone, easy to carve and holds an edge beautifully–I have heard many stone sculptors say, “it carves like buttah’ . . .” and it really does when compared with marble. I believe my particular kind of limestone is called Cottonwood and comes from the ancient inland sea which is now Kansas. It is a rugged stone, full of vugs (porosities, remember?), and the matrix itself is not completely mixed to a uniform consistency and color, so there are swirls of brown, black, grey, and white. My particular piece of limestone was also generously mixed with fossilized foraminifera, a species of protozoa, which provide a beautiful texture something like billions of miniature rice kernals. However neat, these single-celled creatures presented a challenge in the filing and sanding phase of creation as they are extremely hard when compared with the limestone matrix in which they are embedded, which is soft. The stone certainly did not sand like buttah’, but the effort was well worth it as the little “forams” provide much interest and character in the final look of the stone.

If you look closely at the photo you will see that the zebra in the foreground is light with darker stripes while the zebra in back is darker with light stripes. This was a theme I wanted to present in this sculpture, although at the time I dreamed it up I had no idea how I was going to achieve that effect. I began early in the carving process to experiment with inert pigment mixed with a variety of chemicals commonly used on stone for enhancing color and sealing. I found out from a fellow stone sculptor about pigments used in the monument industry to paint designs on tombstones. I asked several of my mentors about the product, called Lithichrome, found where to get it, and proceeded with more experiments. Ultimately, nothing worked to give me the effect I was looking for. At that point I decided that the piece didn’t need different colors and I would simply change the title and move on. After that, I decided to give plain color enhancer a try. I meticulously applied the color enhancer with a teeny brush to the areas on the zebras I wanted to be different values and, after 5 coats, when the stone (which is enormously porous) wouldn’t accept any more chemical, I had a subtle differentiation in the stripes, manes, tail tips, noses, and the outlines around the ears. Victory! More color would have been annoying and upstaged the forms, less would have been unnoticeable.

The poses in “A Matter of Opinion” are a result of my 20 years of experience animating for Disney. Strong silhouettes need to read in an instant and the poses of the characters must reflect how they are thinking and feeling at that moment. Two very different attitudes are presented and they must be visually clear and narratively understandable.

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