Abstract Sculpture by John Davey

Dorset Arts Festival 2020

I will be showing my Artwork at this stunning venue during the Dorset Arts Festival 2020 at Sculpture by the Lakes. Really looking forward to demonstrating my carving technique. There will be lots of other Artists and Craftspeople there working in different materials and techniques. You have to book online for a visit. I’ve copied more information from the Sculpture by the Lakes Website. Do visit and I hope to see you there for this fantastic event. It’s been a hard time for us all, so do support your local Dorset artists and creatives. Visit my Website to see my selection of sculptures.

Some of the Sculptures I Will be Showing

Demonstrating Stone Carving Technique.

Tutor Showing Stone Carving Technique
A Little Helping Hand

Dorset Arts Festival 3rd-5th July. 10.00-5.00

Dorset Arts Festival is a brand new three-day festival showcasing the best artists and makers in Dorset. We will have over 50 artists and crafters gathered together at Sculpture by the Lakes. They will also be demonstrating their skills. You will be able to watch paintings being created, pots being thrown, jewellery being made and a whole range of other arts and crafts disciplines. Our aim is to make the whole festival about seeing artists and crafters demonstrate their skills and exhibit their work so you can see and understand the process. 

Entry £12.50 Book online. No Children under 14 or dogs.

Safety

We are taking all necessary precautions to safeguard the welfare of our staff and visitors. Some of the challenges ahead are down to us as individuals – our judgment and our common sense. Social distancing and hygiene are of the utmost importance so please bring hand sanitiser with you

*We want to maintain social distancing so you must now book your tickets for entry to the park online. When you arrive just show your ticket at the window. Please do not come into the office. 

*The Gallery Café is operating a TAKEAWAY SERVICE so you can purchase food and drink to eat in the park. This includes picnics as well as drinks, coffee and cakes. Please do not come into the Café – we will operate from a table by the cafe and take your order. We are ONLY accepting payment by contactless credit card, no cash transactions. 

*We have spread all the tables and chairs out for safe distancing and scattered them around the park so you can find a safe place to enjoy your food.

Sculptor John Davey Dorset

Making a Stone Abstract Sculpture

The Beginning

When I start making a Stone Abstract Sculpture I don’t always begin with a sketch to inspire me. Sometimes I just start carving a stone and see where it takes me. But this time I did make an initial drawing for making this Abstract Sculpture. It evolved from other previous work that I had carved. At times my imagination runs away with me. All the permutations. So its good to get down to the making, seeing the volume in real. Then adapting, changing shapes, proportions to accomplish a piece that will be harmonious.

The Raw Materials

I always keep an eye out for my raw materials, visiting local quarries at Portland or local Stone Workshops. Sometimes I’m not looking for a particular size or type of stone. But I find it’s important to keep a stock to keep my creative processes moving into fruition. There’s nothing worse than having an idea and no materials to make it with. You may have to adapt the original thought to fit the stone but I always enjoy being led by the dimensions and character of the Stone. It is a partnership.

blocks of Stone for Sculpting
Lets see where we go!

The Carving

This piece is of the beautiful Kilkenny Limestone which can be polished. Working with diamond Tools I rough the shape out. At times using a paper template or just by drawing directly on the stone. Letting my tools guide me towards the perfect shape. To get closer to the form I use tungsten files to smooth out the surface. When I,m happy with the form, I then go on to the next stage.

Sculpture in Progress by John Davey
Roughing out of Kilkenny Stone form.

Polishing

This was a piece of Carrara Marble that I was polishing for another Sculpture but the techniques are the same. I begin by working the stone in water with different grades of rubbing blocks 80 grain then 120 grain. Moving on to wet & dry emery paper. Working through the grades, 220, 320, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1500, 2000, 2500. Phew! This is a laborious process and you have to be careful to rub out all the previous grades marks before moving onto the next grade. It’s a good idea to wait for the stone to dry between processes to see if there are any scratch marks.

Polishing Stones
Polishing the stones.

Assembling the Sculpture.

I then prepare the stones to be fixed together. Using stainless steel threaded bar of the appropriate thickness and a stone epoxy resin. I carefully mark out the positioning of the holes, always slightly bigger than the bar. Measure twice, drill once! Then I cut the bars to the right length for the depths of the holes. Always assemble the stones together dry, to make sure there are no problems or adjustments to be made. Wash all the stones and let dry. Prepare and have all your tools ready before using the epoxy resin. It can set very quickly!

The Final Stone Abstract Sculpture

You can treat the stones with a lot of different products. Here on the Portland Stone I used the Lithofin MN Stain-Stop impregnator and on the Kilkenny Limestone, Keda Marble Wax.

Abstract Stone Sculpture
“Touch”Kilkenny and Portland Stone. 40 x 28.7 x 10 cms. £ 1000

So I hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into the making of a stone abstract sculpture and my creative process. I will be taking part in a local Art Festival at Sculpture by the Lakes, 3rd- 5th July 2020. Showcasing the best Artists and Makers in Dorset. Demonstrating their techniques and talent. Bookings are taken on Eventbrite. Hope to see you there.

Also, feel free to visit my Sculpture page if you would like to see more of my Sculptures.

Stone & Carving Tools Suppliers UK

  • Southern Stone has a great selection of tools and different stones. Malta Limestone, Alabaster and other Marbles.
  • Albion Stone has a great stock of Portland Stone, great for beginners and experts alike.
  • Harbro for tools and stone treatments.

John Davey Stone Sculptures

Bridport Art Exhibition Treasure Planet 2020

Artwey Group Exhibition

Allsop Gallery at Bridport Arts Centre

20th Feb-21st March

Fantastic art exhibition at the Bridport Arts Centre by the Weymouth based Art Group, Artwey. Really pleased to be taking part in this exhibition with such a varied style of art as well as many different media. Acrylic, Oils, Pastel, Ceramic, Wood, Encaustic Wax. Realistic and abstract styles catering for every taste. Also at very reasonable prices.

There is an incredible amount of work that goes into holding a group exhibition like this. I won’t mention names for fear of forgetting someone!

  • Booking the Venue
  • Contacting the Artists
  • Asking for photos, Artist Statements, Contact Details.
  • Publicity. Posters. Invitations. Press articles.
  • Organising the Stewarding.
  • Arranging, placing and hanging the works in a presentable manner.
  • Preparing the Private View. (Buying the Wine! And tasting Hic!)
  • Selling the Artworks. Receipts, card payments, cash.
  • Cleaning up afterwards.
  • Stewarding, taking care of Visitors.
  • Taking down the exhibition.
  • Tidying up.

It’s Not Just The Making.

For every artist, the pleasure is in the making of their creation. Making something from your imagination. Making it real. It never turns out as you imagined it and that’s why you do it. To find out what it may look like. As you create with the material they show their personal characters. Suggesting different possibilities. It’s this interaction that is so exciting. As a famous artist once said. ” I always do what I don’t know how to do. Because what I know how to do, I’ve already done”

After the making, you have to get your work out there. Galleries, friends, social media, Art Groups. Lots of time promoting your work and lots of perseverance. At times you may have lots of compliments but nothing sold. It takes perseverance and belief in what you are doing and to be honest I have to do it for my wellbeing. It’s part of who I am.

So getting ready for the opening night and looking forward to meeting other talented artists, friends and hopefully clients. A big thank you to Artwey and the volunteers who made this possible. If you would like to see more of my work feel free to visit my sculpture page and leave a comment. Always open to constructive interaction.

Favourite Painters

Some of My Favourite Painters

A small selection of my favourite painters whose work I adore. Would also love to have their paintings hanging on my wall! Will have to do some saving! Have to make do with reproductions.

Although in my art I work mainly with abstract shapes I do appreciate portraiture, still-lifes, landscapes. There is, first of all, that emotional response to a painting, which I think is the essential reaction.

After some time I can see the other layers and details that make them so pleasing to my senses. Their textures, geometry, composition.

Sean Scully

This is one artist whose work I discovered only a few years ago. The edges and sculptural forms are so suggestive. Reminding me of the stacked slabs of stone surrounding me, when I was working in a quarry. Also my lego days as a young child! Off course I wasn’t at all surprised later when I saw his large stone constructions.

Euan Uglow

Euan Uglow Painting is one of my favourite artists
Euan Uglow

I was lucky enough to have stumbled across Euan Uglow’s paintings on a visit to London. It was while I was studying Art at Brighton. We had to visit the big Art Exhibitions once every term. I always visited the little Art Galleries in Cork Street. It was there I was lucky enough to see his work in the real. Struck by the geometrical aspect of his images. The strong use of facets, lines.

Victor Pasmore

Painter Victor Pasmore one of my favourite painters
Painter Victor Pasmore

I particularly like this amazing British Painter. Who found a lot of his inspirations from the Cornish Landscapes. His mixture of abstract forms, lines, curves is so suggestive. Rock pools, granite outcrops. I happened upon a great documentary about his art. In particular, a section where they hid a camera in the gallery. Recording visitors conversations. There was a couple of adults who really didn’t appreciate abstract art. But luckily there were a couple of children who loved it. No preconceptions. When do we lose that innocence?

Patrick George

Patrick George one of my favourite painters.
Patrick George

As a painter from the Slade School of Art Patrick George used a certain method of measuring, constructing that remains as part of the finished painting. I find the brushstrokes and lines so sensitive. They really capture the personality of the sitter. His rendering of the light falling on his subjects is also so beautiful.

Art With a View Exhibition Garden

Learning to Carve Stone

Learning Stone Carving

I remember well the first stone I carved. Carving a Water Bowl for the Zen Garden created by the Sculptor Phillip King at the Tout Quarry Sculpture Park on Portland, Dorset. Grazing my knuckles against the rough Portland Stone. Stretching my tired muscles and becoming addicted to this beautiful medium.

So when I teach and think of the skills I’ve learnt over time. I can really relate to my students on their first Stone Carving Workshop. Learning how to hold the tools. Getting the right angle and hit from your hammer. Trying to execute your idea and making it real.

Portland Stone has its character and needs constant adjustments when carving. Being a Sedimentary Limestone its made up of tiny sea creatures, shells, changing its hardness. Around 70 Million yrs old and used to famously construct St Pauls Cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

Students Hard At Work

These are a few examples of Stones I’ve carved over the time. Some personal Sculptures and others decorative. Carved for the restoration of certain classed buildings. The techniques are always the same. Roughing out, refining and finally finishing.

There is a real satisfaction and sense of accomplishment when you take a block of Stone and transform it into your unique design. Using hand techniques that haven’t changed from bygone times. Its very meditative and I adore the sound of stone being chipped. Music to my ears. Much nicer than the noise of machines. Although I’m sure if the Romans had electricity they would of been the first to use them!

So if you feel inspired? Why not have a go at some chipping? I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can create.

Stone Relief Carving

Learning to Carve Stone

I remember when I first tried my hand at stone relief carving I was full of trepidation. Worried about chipping off the wrong piece. How to make a sculpture that described the forms with only using a few centimeters of depth.

Starting

As always preparation is vital. Choosing the right design. Not to complicated to begin with. Details can be added afterwards. I usually begin with a drawing, outlining the important contours. I then transfer this onto the stone.

Depending on the design I might make a template by cutting around the shape. Or by using carbon paper and tracing paper.

I select a good quality of stone. Finding the finest grain. Looking out for any signs of cracks, big shells that might make it difficult to carve.

Celtic knotwork man
Celtic knotwork man

Carving

Having a basic set of tools is all you need to begin with. Pointed chisel, flat edged chisel, claw chisel, small hammer. With each chisel, you can carve lots of different textures. ( With softer stones I find old wood carving chisels can be quite good if you’re on a small budget.)

Having transferred my design onto the stone, I then decide what areas will stand out the most. Carving around these shapes with the flat chisel. Then roughing out the depth with either the pointed or claw chisel. This is repeated several times until I’m happy with the depths.

Flower Relief Carvings
Flower Relief Carvings

Next Step

Once the profiles are in place I then begin rounding off the forms with the claw and flat ended chisels. Its quite important to keep turning your stone to see how your relief is shaping up. Depending on your light source this can really change how you see your carving.

Finishing

I try and use lots of textures to accentuate the design. This helps give the illusion of depth. Some surfaces can be smoothed using sand paper. Others left with the tool-marks.Its really up to you to experiment and see the possibilities.

Stone Cross
Stone Cross

Going Forward

If you become bitten by the stone carving bug? You can always look out for Stone Carving Workshops to help you on your way and perfect your techniques. I’m still learning!

Day Stone Carving Workshops at Whitestones Portland

The Stone Carving workshops are set up for those wanting to take time, to situate, learn and find pleasure in discovering ways of expression through stone carving.

Providing starting points, encouraging the development of ideas, knowledge, skills, visual awareness and creative potential.

Stone Carving Workshops for Beginners


23rd March and the 20th April 2019

10.00-4.30

  • The Stone carving workshops will give you the opportunity to sculpt a small relief of your own design ( or by using one of my templates )  on a piece of Portland Stone.
  • The course is suitable for ages 12+
  • Tools and materials are supplied as well as protective safety glasses.
  • Appropriate clothing to be worn (i.e. enclosed shoes)
  • The stones vary in size but to give you a rough idea here are some sizes. 22 x 20cms, 18 x 22cms. If you have a design in mind and can print out different sizes that would be great.
  • Coffee & Tea supplied. 
  • If you decide to use your own design please bring images/drawings.

The cost of the one day course is £85. To reserve a place or make an enquiry you can E-mail me. johndavey61@live.com or phone 07460467116

There is also a wide selection of tasty, locally sourced cakes and lunches available in the adjacent White Stones Art Café. All participants receive a 10% discount on food and drinks purchased in the Café.

Come and have a go. Let your creative side come out.

Sculpture is easy! You just carve down to the skin and stop! Michaelangelo.

Whitestones Eco-pods

Alongside the Studio are three ECO Artist retreats accommodating up to three adults each. If you would like to make the most of your time on the Jurassic Coast why not include an overnight stay. 

Visit the White Stones web address for accommodation booking information.

Portland Stone Quarry Blocks
Portland Quarry Stones
Abstract Sculpture by John Davey

Sculptors Who Have Influenced My Art

influences

Like every artist, there are a lot of Sculptors who have influenced my Art. Heres a few of them. Some were discovered years ago when I started on my creative journey. Others, later on, some rediscovered as my visual vocabulary has changed and evolved.

David Smith Sculptor

I happened upon David  Smith,s sculpture while visiting a Secondhand Art Book Shop in Charring Cross in London. As a student living of £ 30 a week ( a bedsit was only £ 10 a week!) I loved to splash out on art books, excited by the beautiful and inspiring work of other artists. Learning about their lives, making processes, ups and downs.

I loved reading about his daily routine. His pride in having a large stock of materials to create his sculptures. His work ethic and his love of nature as well as the man-made.

“Sculpture is as free as the mind; as complex as life.” David Smith

serendipity

Isamu Noguchi

I rediscovered Isamu Noguchi,s sculptures only a year ago! Seeing a video about his life. As luck would have it the next day I went to a local flea market. Always looking for cheap tools and books. While browsing through some bookshelves between Manet and Van Gogh I happened upon a great book of his with great photos. Talk about chance!

His work appears to me strong and quiet at the same time. The mixtures of wood and stone so complimentary.

I did see some of his sculptures when I was 25yrs. But it didn’t click at the time. I was visiting Italy staying near Venice with a cousin. The 42nd Venice Biennale was on and he was representing the U.S.A. How could I of not been struck by his art at the time?

“You can find out how to do something and then do it or do something and then find out what you did.” Isamu Noguchi

 

art history?

William Turnball

At Art School, we studied the History of Art. Learning about the evolution of Art and Architecture. Especially the most known examples. Later I realised that a lot of artists had been forgotten and underrated. William Turnball was one of these. Again a secondhand book that I had stumbled across.

I found it heartening that he also had difficult periods. Not selling his work, finding it hard to pay his studio rent and buy materials. At times cannibalising finished sculptures to create new ones.

I particularly love his truth to the materials he sculpts. Never showing off any technical mastery, letting the mediums speak for themselves.

So I hope this little insight into the Sculptors that have influenced my art will also inspire you to create and see the world in a slightly different way. Better get off chipping!

My Creative Process

So here’s a little insight into my creative process that I go through to create my sculptures and paintings.

I usually begin with an inkling of an idea. It could come from something I’ve seen recently or memory from way back. A foggy image that has touched me in some way. It could also be a previous sculpture that still needs to be refined.

My Creative Process

This next sculpture was inspired when I was working on a house restoration project in the Province, France. I was working on the second floor of the building when I saw a doorway opening out to an unfinished balcony. The outside railing had not be fixed and there was no door in place. So for safety reasons the workmen had creatively blocked the opening with pieces of wood leaning in between the sides of the doorway, in a zig-zag pattern. Hmmm, I thought that could be a potential idea for a sculpture!

Sketch of abstract sculpture idea
Sketch of Between 2

So the first stage was to make a few sketches and see what was possible. There are so many variations that in reality I only really sculpt a small percentage of my ideas. A sculpture is a slow and laborious task!

After this stage, it’s obviously thinking of materials to sculpt and what I can afford and find. I’m a bit truth to materials and don’t like pushing a material into doing something that isn’t natural to it,s particular characteristics. So I sourced some beautiful wood and stone. Thought of the size, colours and textures.

I then drew out some templates to make sure the stone forms would fit perfectly into the wooden frame. Spent hours of dusty carving and doweling. Et  Voila!

The Final Sculpture

My Creative Process Abstract Wood Stone Sculpture
Portland Stone, Sabutu Wood. 135 X 45 X 25.6 cm. Sold.

As I mentioned before, there are so many variations on this idea and I’m sure I’ll be continuing to develop and progress this idea further.

I’m also really pleased that a private collector has acquired this sculpture. Which has pride of place in a beautiful garden overlooking a beach where I played as a young child.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into my artistic journey. Let’s see where I go next?

Promising Young Apprentice on the Common Ground DARSET Project.

Portland Stone Carving Workshops in Weymouth

Portland Stone Carving Workshops for Beginners Weymouth Dorset

During the Portland Stone Carving Workshops in Weymouth for the Dorset Art Weeks event, I was so excited to see the passion and addictive nature of hand carving by the first time students. Each student demonstrated passion, enthusiasm and skills. Just like handwriting, all the carvers had their own particular style. Some very precious and detailed. Others were slightly rougher and brut. Consequently giving each sculpture its personality.

Stone carving Taster Courses Weymouth
Budding First Time Sculptors At The Taster Workshops

One particular enthused Student was so passionate that within a week she acquired stone carving chisels, stone and a sturdy table made by her husband. Now happily chipping away in the garden on the next sculpture. Others asking for dates for future workshops to advance their skills and create other unique sculptures.

Some of the Students recognised the therapeutic qualities and directness of hand carving. Which reminded me of my earlier years as an Artist discovering Stone for the first time. I had worked a lot in clay but hated the plasticity and the apprehensive moments of waiting to see your piece coming out of the kiln intact or in pieces. Stone carving happens there and then.

Earlier Workshops

Stone relief carving of Romans.
Relief Carving created by French Primary School Pupils

 I set up this workshop with a local Primary School in France. The children were working on a project about the Romans and an aqueduct that they built in the local area. The border depicts the course of the aqueduct from Uzes to Nimes in the Provence. An engineering feat, with the “Pont du Gard” being its most spectacular part.

Regardless of the feat awaiting them. After an introduction to the Tools, Stone and techniques. The children carved as a team, with no preconceptions lots of passion and sweat. We then decided to paint the stone as indeed the Romans did to brighten up their final oeuvre. Can you spot the Comet? The Stone was finally placed in their Playground to inspire future generations.

Subsequently, years after I was invited back to clean the carving. Additionally, I would have the students assistance who had carved the masterpiece. However, I was, of course, surprised as they were all young adults! Time flies.

DARSET Project.

The young Sculptors carving their Creation
The young Stone Sculptors carving their Creation

I was invited to take part in “Common Ground”. set up the D.A.R.S.E.T. project, (Dorcheter Area Rural Schools Education Team. Taking sculpture out into rural areas, connecting it to the landscape and local communities. I asked the involved schools to research any stones that were found in their locality. Using these to inspire them and to use for the design of their sculpture.

The results were amazing. One of the ideas came from a piece of Flint that the children had found by their playground. This inspired them to carve reliefs of Stone-age tools. Axes, hammers. Also what the tools could do, creating fire!

Piddle Valley First School decided to carve their school. I love the use of textures and the strong sculptural form. I think we can all appreciate the hard-work and passion that these young carvers have invested

The young budding sculptors weren’t afraid to hit hard with their hammers.

Young stone carver.
Pupil working on the little details.

I will be holding further Portland Stone Carving Workshops in the future. Just go to my Workshops page for more details. The workshops are suitable for first-timers and also those who would like to improve their carving skills. 12 yrs+. So why not come and have a go? You can then proudly take your sculpture home to show to your friends and family.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
― Pablo Picasso