Monday, August 30, 2010


I realize that I devoted most of this blog to beginning artist but hopefully it will help you realize how an idea is developed and help you to appreciate the piece that you have purchased even more than just the visual of it. I try to show pieces as they are being developed and possibly you will see your piece and be able to know the history behind that piece of sculpture.

 The laying down buffalo was titled "Keeper of the Sacred Spirit" and is down to the last five editions so once I sell out and reproduce the AP's or artists copies (which by the way should never be sold as part of the edition) for my family then the mold will be totally destroyed never to be reproduced again.  That is why it is called limited edition.If you look at any sculpture it will have a number then a slash then another number usually near the artist signature.  That represents which number that piece is then the number in the entire edition.

Some patrons purchase big name artists thinking that that piece of work will increase in value after the artist is mature or passes away but in truth you should now days purchase a work just because you love it and can visualize it in your home or collection. (Unless you have the money to invest in masters.) Some patrons collect only certain numbers, some only western, some only abstract, everyone has a different taste and that is fantastic.The thing to remember about bronze is weight, anticipate where it will be going and not only the space it will entail but the don't want to be surprised when a piece weighs 50 lbs and you did not support it properly and it ends up on the floor.

Also another aspect people don't realize is that a bronze can not be in direct sun through a window without some damage to the patina over time. Same goes for a bronze being in the same area with a fish tank, humidity is one of those things that deteriorates a bronze...whether it be a salt water tank, regular or even a humidifier or swamp cooler (my roots are showing but that is what we called them in Texas). I just got a piece back the other day that I am re-patinaeing that had two bright green spots on it and it came from Arkansas (humidity).

So just because it appears hard and unbreakable does not mean it can't be damaged...a simple slip of a watch band or ring can damage the delicate patina. Any owner of bronze needs to check them at least once every six months for any kind of damage. All bronze needs to be cleaned and re-waxed and that gets us into another warning...bronzes should never be cleaned with anything but a clean soft cloth...solvents of any kinds will affect the patina and damage the bronze. If it needs anything other than that, ask the artist, they will usually do it for free rather than have your work damaged by careless cleaning. Bronze will last a life time and are one of the few things that can be passed down from generation to generation without problems

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


There are many different clays available, best advice, try them all and decide what works best for the results you desire.  A few companies even give tiny free samples. I chose medium Chavant (non sulphur) because I love the way it feels and work with it warmed in my heat box (easy to build) and when really warm gives wonderful texture wiped with an old scratchy wash cloth. It is not a water based clay so stays workable if just covered for months. Holds a very fine edge when cool.

 Once I got the basic anatomy done on the buffalo I had more fun just imitating their hair in hot clay and loved the results. You can drag your tool whether it be wash cloth or wad of paper, wire brush or anything that leaves a good design on your clay.

I can't speak for anyone else but I have one bad habit I have tried to break myself of and not succeeded.  I have a tendency to work on specific areas long before my beginning structure is laid. Bad habit! I love eyes so have a tendency to jump the gun and focus on them.  I also tend to work on one side until it is finished and exactly the way I want before going to the other side.  I have always assumed good artist should work in the round balancing the piece as they work.

  If there is an interesting texture involved also I try to get it just like I want. One of the most important things I have learned is that "hey you did it the first time you can scrape it and do it again but better". I always hated throwing a piece into my clay box until I realized I was not happy with it for a reason and to trust my instinct.  An artist has to learn to trust their eye and if you have worked on a piece too long try covering it up for a month and working on something else then go back and things will really pop out if incorrect.  I only do pieces I have passion for so in that case you know your subject upside down and backwards and your brain will tell you when something just is not is like a computer it will eventually figure it out. (Sometimes it is at 2:00 am and you sit up in bed with the answer). I have a friend that says things pop out to her if she looks at it upside down.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


As I mentioned before by the time I begin to build my armature I have already built a grid on a full body photo to give me exact measurements needed.  I have observed that animal and know the attitude I want and now comes what I consider the most important feature of the entire process.

This particular piece of blue contractors insulation was sawed with a small  saw in the desired shapes that I saw working in this piece. I stayed lose and gave myself lots of room for changes. Super glue held the pieces secure enough to support the weight of the clay and of course I formed it on to a board that would support it in the finished clay and the weight of the mold afterward (not board shown).

If you notice I kept the original idea (picture) nearby to remind me of the attitude I was trying to capture in the form before I even began with the clay.
 If the armature is incorrect the entire piece loses its integrity whether it be in strength needed for supporting a mold or in correctness of final work.  I wanted a size that would show a lot of the wonderful detail of the hair and eyes but also small enough to fit on a desk or a foyer without looking cumbersome.

You have to be very careful that the blue insulation is not in command of your shape and not let it dictate to you your own dimensions. I made the form just large enough for support but small enough that I would be adding the last two inches or so in my interpretation not just laying it on the form.

In the last 15 years I have used numerous items for armatures, pipe and pipe fittings, contractors yellow spray foam, heavy to delicate wire in horns, wings or entire wire armature body. I have even gone to the trouble of having a much needed piece machined for me not being able to find it at your local Home Depot (my usual source for materials). A lot of artists use wood or actually weld an intricate base on which to work. Needless to say your armature is just for support not guidance it should again never dictate space or substance to you as your work.

Keeper of the Sacred Spirit

Buffalo have always been a shock and awe type of animal for me.  They are beautiful, powerful and frightening all in the same creature. I first got my inspiration when observing an older bull at the Denver zoo. He later passed away and I was so glad that I had captured his pride in his prime. The picture gave me my pose; I wanted to depict mystic, regal, iconic and majestic to show my admiration for this great animal.

 I have had the opportunity to see them by the hundreds in Wyoming but even better I live about 2 miles from a ranch specializing in buffalo.  The Spoomer Ranch has a large male that I could take my pedestal and work in clay behind the safety of a fence to get up close and personal.  I felt sad he was not roaming the prairie but fortunate to be close to that kind of strength. The picture above gave me the inspiration to do a proud piece that showed the strength and dignity even in old age.
Keeper of the Sacred Spirit

 This sculpture was actually started from a piece of blue contractors foam and went rather quickly mainly because of the love and passion I feel for this animal.  The models name was Aspen and a gorgeous animal.

I love texture and playing with the Chavant while it is warm is how I came up with the woolly hair look .

I also chose the sandstone for the base to lend itself to the ruggedness of the piece. This is a limited edition and luckily I am down to the last few of this edition and then the mold will be destroyed. I have sold two that insisted on having a wood oval under the buffalo because of furniture issues and preference. I don't mind accommodating that kind of request.

Sculpture has increased in value and become an even better investment in recent years because of the  metals found in bronze such as copper.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Photography and Wildlife

Quite often my journey with my camera (a 35mm Canon with a zoom lens) is not specific.  I happen upon subjects doing their everyday thing and click away recording chance moments that get either tucked away for future reference or immediately inspire me. I take shots that would make a real wildlife photographer cringe. My initial focus is on full body shots from each side (these I use to scale down where I can measure and arrive at correct anatomical features). Then I zoom in on details, ears, nose, eye, tufts of hair, tail or hooves (or paws).  I may end up with 3 rolls of film just of details.  I then decide what I want to create in catching their attitude or characteristics I love.

 If I can sit down and sketch, that is when I train my eye to really look at how that animal is put together and just how the hair lays or joint bends. If I have not come up with the attitude that I want to convey I keep in contact with that animal watching it interact naturally until I do hit on an idea. I often think about what makes that animal attractive to me, his majesty, his huge feet or long legs and that is what begins the story I try to convey to my patron.

I should add a bit about inspiration, because it plays a large part in the creative side of your brain. This is where it all begins, this is where your ideas create and stimulate your clay into the shape you envision.

This can vary from a passive, think it through, a little here and a little there attitude to almost a compulsive "mad dog" salivating to get that clay to your vision as if your life depended on it.

This can occur driving down the highway at 75 mph and by the time you reach your destination you have figured out half your structure or armature problems. Or, it can occur strolling down a beach and finding a piece of interestingly shaped driftwood.

Using all our senses creates a wonderful variety of choices although most artist are never lacking for ideas. Believe it or not you do have to occasionally  refill your senses.  You can not create unless you have been stimulating the creative side of your brain.  As "Artist Way" puts it, you have to have an artist date occasionally to re-charge your passion. Love that book by the way, everyone should read it.


Welcome to my studio, my name is Peggy Campbell and I work in clay and cast in the lost wax process. You walk into my work space and it is pretty basic, just space and tools.  I have a 10 x 30 area and in one end you see my wax vats (two roasters, one set 180 degrees and the other set at 200 degrees) and the shelves of stored molds.

Another area is wax working table where I use hot tools to correct imperfections I find after pouring and rolling my molds. Not too many pieces come out without bubbles or indention's.

The area that I work involves dry wipe boards, research material tacked everywhere on cork boards (these I completely trash my walls with so that I have total immersion in that particular subject I am working on) and a working pedestal placed in a corner with mirrors located on both walls to view all sides of the current piece. By the way I have saved research pictures for years and have a multi-fold that I file under whatever subject may interest me. For my web please visit me at...

 I work in Chavant clay so my heating box is also located close to my working pedestal. I have a goals calendar which is dry wipe and everyone should have one.  It forces commitment and sets goals; "what are goals but dreams with deadlines". The opposite end is metal work, minor dremel work, armature construction and desk for record keeping.  I started in a room in my home so don't think artists have to have a huge work space. I also have a large area out back that is either closed in or outside that I use to work on stone since it creates a lot of dust and can really mess up the clay and wax area. Along with the space and tools are my safety features, I wear protective  eye wear when needed and mouth and nose protection. My area has both high ceilings and fluorescent lights and also windows for outside lighting.