Not to harp on the subject of the difference between paintings and sculpture, but it’s vital to the creation and appreciation of sculpture - art in the round - to understand the challenges of the medium. A painter has complete control over how their art is viewed. As a 2D creation, the artist controls the perspective, the point of view, the contrast, the color and the exact detail of the pose as one entity. A sculptor has quite the opposite challenges. While we can choose the pose and a few other details overall how the work is viewed, the contrast and lighting and most especially the viewer’s point of view are entirely out of our control. The work may be viewed from front, back, side, up or down. Even large works that are meant to be viewed up on a plinth or from a bit of a distance may be viewed from above if near a staircase, escalator, elevator or from a nearby building. 

The light changes minute by minute, changing the shapes of the shadows - which in turn also change with the seasons. Nearby ambient light and background elements also affect how a sculpture is viewed.

Because of all these variables, unless there is a controlled environment with minimal background distractions, the strongest sculptures are those that are ‘understood’ in the worst of conditions: for instance if viewing a sculpture at sunrise or sunset when it is completely backlit.

silhouette of a sculpture maquette ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy

Putting the two sketches to the test I put a light behind the sculptures and viewed them from all angles to see how they might look from a distance and backlit so all the details would be removed. You must also train your eye to ignore the back-irons and armatures and concentrate only on the sculpture design. The negative spaces created by the placement of the arms and the opening of the coffee cup handle are quite nice and create lovely shapes that are easy to read but you can see that the lower half of the sculpture with the legs and the bar stool  are harder to understand even if you take into account the shading bar created from the table.

silhouette of a sculpture maquette ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy

Putting the standing pose to the same test you can see that the upper body is just as strong visually as the seated pose but the lower body is also strong (if you ignore the back iron support) as the shape of the legs is easily discernible. This makes the sculpture easy to see and understand the shapes even under the harshest of visual conditions.

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