George Pratt, Sculptor in Stone
May 23, 2017
The Great Haller Park Frog (final post)
When I left off after last blog, I knew that The Frog was within a day or so of being loaded up to head south for Arlington. It duly reached Haller Park, where it sat looking very dignified on the newly sodded green area. Even a couple of pesky kids cavorting over it could not disturb its serene composure. When the little girl began using it for a trampoline, it just sat there in regal dignity.
Today, I ventured back to my studio, to the site where over latter months I had built such a close relationship with that Frog as it emerged from the stone where it had been hiding since the earth was young. I can tell you, there is nothing more forlorn than a few timbers and some stone debris where once resided such a regal presence. How sad. Froggonit, how I miss that Frog.
April 8, 2017
This photo will not seem too different than previous images; but if you look closely, you can see that the ‘fore-belly’ of the frog is now trimmed down and instead of looking bloated, it depicts a frog that pays attention to its diet and looks after its physique. A fastidious frog. As well, I’ve ‘stretched’ the eye to get it looking right. There’s very little left to do now . . .
March 21, 2017 The Great Haller Park Frog
When I left off after last progress report, the eyes remained just two nondescript bumps on the frog’s head. Time now to get them looking like proper frog’s eyes. I’ve marked them out with a china marker, putting a dot where I think the centre of the left eye should be. But now there’s a problem; I can’t see both eyes at once, so how do I get their centres exactly opposed, so that we don’t end up with a cockeyed frog??! There is a simple trick to get the centres of the both eyes in exactly the right place (exactly opposed), when you can’t actually see both eyes at once: Standing at the front of the frog, I place my right index finger on centre of the eye I’ve marked; then I wet the tip of my left index finger and holding it just off the frog’s other eye, point it at the right one as if I were going to bring those fingers together. Bingo! The tips of one’s fingers will always come exactly together, even in the dark. In this case, of course, they can’t come together but the left index finger will leave its wet mark exactly in the centre of the frog’s unmarked right eye. The eyes will therefore be symmetric.
After an hour of carving with the 1/2-inch chisel you see here, the left eye is now incised into the stone. It is perhaps a bit small; frogs have very big eyes and I’ll stretch it a bit later.
I’ve now carved the right eye, getting it almost the correct size, but it seems to be a bit small as well. I’ll think about it for awhile and stretch it later if I still feel the same way.
You can see that the ‘wave’s supporting the frog have developed very nicely since last update. But in carving them out, I’ve become unhappy with the contour of the frog’s belly; it’s too taut. Seems to me it should have a more pronounced sag i.e., like me and most of my friends . . .
. . . so another couple of hours with an air hammer and how about that handsome ‘love handle’ ??
The process of creating that sag draws my eye to the chin/forebelly area.
I think you’ll agree it’s just a bit too fat. Next order of business is to trim it down.
March 5, 2017 Another Grueling Day at the Office Brings it Chip by Chip to Looking Right!
Each morning before starting, I take stock of the whole thing and assess what is bothering me and should have some attention. That chin/belly bulge is yet too fat and I’ll have to get on to that. Waves along the right side are developing nicely.
. . but first things first—when I left off after last update, I was bothered by the area back edge of the right foot not being concave enough i.e., still clunky and far from graceful. So here I’ve put a series of vertical frets around it and am about to knock them off . . .
Here I’ve hammered those frets off and it’s now looking more conducive to forming a simulated ‘wave’. I’m not sure that it’s enough, though, so I’ll leave it for a few days and maybe hollow it out a bit more. More concave would be more pleasing, I think. Gotta be careful not to weaken the whole section though. Remember, George, kids will be climbing on this . .
Moving around to the frog’s left side, time to get the webbing in that foot roughed out. As mentioned, the length of the toes will be like human fingers in relationship to one another. My glove has about had it from scraping it against the stone as I hammer off frets.
Got the webs marked out here by my oh my, how it draws your eye to that square heel! Gotta fix that up pretty quick before it bothers me to death . .
So I’ve rounded the heel up with close sawcuts which I can now hammer off. At the same time, I’ve undercut that foot a bit to make it ‘lift’ off the stone. Imagine a smooth ‘S’ scribed right down the centre of the leg, jamb and webbed foot. That’s the line it should all follow—so a bit of trimming will get it looking more graceful.
. . and here’s the web all roughed out. Just as with the right foot, the baby toe and the one in from it (ring finger/toe?) are still too long. Oh, well, tomorrow . . .
March 2, 2017 A Day in the Life of the Frog
I’m pleased with the way the waves are developing along the right side of the frog . . . but turning the corner at the back end under the foot is still problematic . . .
. but before working at that problem, it’s time to get the webbed foot looking somewhat right. To get started, I’ve skinned off the cross-hatching marks with a flush-cut diamond blade, revealing a bit of unfairness in the outside heel curve that bothers me . . .
The crayon marks show what needs to be trimmed. It seems like a minor, fiddly thing, but the success of the frog will depend on fair, graceful lines and at this point I gotta get started on being critical. The eye of the beholder will be drawn to any unpleasant bumps I leave behind!
After a half-hour of judicious sawing, the curve looks graceful—except for one little bump where the curved foot meets the back of the leg, which I’ll correct when I tidy up the leg.
Now mark out (roughly) the toes and web in between.
Another hour and I have achieved a good rough-out of the webbing. For this, I used that very thick diamond blade. The inverse arch of each web follows the curve of that blade. I’ll use a smaller diameter blade when I get to making the webs deeper. Frogs have five fingers and five toes, just like us, the length of which bear the same relationship as on humans. On this first rough-out, the frog’s ‘thumb’ and ‘forefinger’ are both too long. I’ll correct them later.
Knowing that the web is mostly resolved allows me to continue to scribe (with close-up diamond blade cuts) the way the ‘water’ or ‘waves’ as you wish to call them, will curl around the back end while supporting that foot. Moving right to left, it’s taking on ‘flow’ up to the halfway point directly under the web, but you can see it’s still clunky and unresolved past that point. It needs to be severely inward arched there. I’ll leave that for tomorrow.
The heavy work of busting off pieces of excess granite is all done and it’s then been hour after hour of cut, cut, cut with the diamond saw and then hammer off the pieces to get that frog reduced to shape. It’s called ‘fretting’ and in this last picture, you can see the result of the fretting lying all about on the ground. Final gross shaping is done with an endless series of close diamond saw cuts, called ‘contouring’ that will bring the frog and the waves upon which it is riding to a pleasing and graceful appearance. We want it to ‘flow’.
February 26, 2017 No agony just ecstasy
I’ve just now gotten this frog released entirely from the stone and this morning began to tackle how the ‘waves’ upon which it is floating should look.
No one but another sculptor can possibly appreciate the joy of a magic forenoon when the muse suddenly settled on me and the contours of the ‘waves’ began to flow. It felt like I was conducting a symphony with the mini-grinder. Such rapture. After a few hours of imagining myself as a maestro, I thought a little encore might be in order and, sobering up, got to work on the left webbed foot. For two weeks it had been a formless problem requiring a solution. Twenty minutes work and voilà! —no longer a worrisome blob, but a tidy little appendage which, with a little more work, will impose a vital dynamic on M. Frog.
February 23, 2017 Nose to the Grindstone
“Cut after cut after cut after cut after cut . . . you get the idea. How many sawcuts now? 100,000? . . . a million? Maybe. All the heavy excess granite now removed and every cut I make has the frog looking a little better. Whereas at the last pics I sent, the features were well defined on the stone, the frog is now beginning to lift off the stone as he/she rides the waves. Tomorrow’s work? —getting those front webbed feet resolved. It’s getting exciting.”
February 8, 2017 More Frog
”As you can see, the heavy lifting has been done i.e., the components of the frog are all now organized within the stone block, and it remains to refine everything and start giving it all some tension. After that comes artistic detailing. Won’t be long before it truly begins to come to life.”
As you can see, there are many thousands of cuts in the process of ‘removing everything that doesn’t look like a frog.’ At last count, I’d used up nine of those diamond blades. My tool dealer loves me when I’m going on a granite project.
Don’t remember if I sent you this selfie looking like a man from outer space. I live in the mask and glasses and earmuffs for days on end.
February 4, 2017 Progress with Impediment
“The frog is beginning to leap out of the stone now. . . and then, yesterday, came a big dump of snow . . . oh well, I blew it all away with my air compressor and got back at it. Working on the front legs and bulge under the chin and it’s shaping up fast. Dang, the neighbour returns home from vacation today, but I can get most of the day hard carving before he arrives on the ferry. Onward!”
January 30, 2017
“I’m happy they (the Public Art Committee and Park, Arts and Recreation Commission) like the frog because I’ve been putting my heart and soul into carving it since January 14 when I got back from my rest and relaxation in Mexico. It has been heavy going moving all the surplus granite chip by chip to get that image emerging. In the last two days the frog has begun to form from what was a mass of silica, and my oh my, by last evening when I put the tools down for the night, I could see that it will be a splendid frog, better than any I’ve done. I’ll work like heck on it all day today, and this evening I will blow the dust off and take a photo. I like to get this part of the carving done, as my neighbour is much annoyed by the noise my diamond tools make and he is away on vacation.”
Model of the frog below.
The stone weighed about 5000-lb, the very maximum my tired old forklift could pick up.