Tip Toland

Tip Toland

2018 Awardee

I am interested in sculpting the emotional/psychological aspects of human beings. I have always been interested in uncovering what is real and vulnerable in our shared experience. By sculpting the figure life-size or larger there is a one-to-one encounter with the figures which hopefully heightens a sense of empathy between the viewer and the sculpture. I want there to be an emotional connection, however, I am not interested in creating such high realism that the viewer is fooled into thinking these figures are real.

I make the figures solid on a metal pipe armature. The idea usually begins with a thumbnail drawing, then I begin the search for a model. When I find the model I photograph them and take measurements. Then I begin to build the pipe armature to serve as a minimal skeleton to hold the gesture of the pose. When that checks out from all angles, I can begin to apply the clay. I pack the clay on the armature so that it is compressed and dense, without air pockets as much as possible so the walls of the figure will be strong after it has been hollowed out. Modeling the figure in clay takes about 6 weeks. During this time the clay is slowly hardening. When it is leather hard and fleshed out, I begin to cut it off the armature into many parts. Then begins the hollowing process which can take up to a month.  Each arm and leg is cut into about 5 parts, hollowed to a ½ inch thickness, compressed and rejoined. All the limbs are under plastic and kept moist for when it reunites with the torso. When all parts of the figure have been hollowed, I join them back together to dry very slowly.

After a few weeks, the piece is ready to fire. Firing is slow and takes many days. When It comes out of the kiln, I make any necessary fixes and join arms or legs. Then comes the painting. I first use a thinned-down house paint primer all over the figure. Then I mix an array of thinned-down house paint colors which I think would be present in the complexion of the figure. I only use interior matte house paint. After a few coats of base color is applied everywhere, I use a toothbrush to fleck a mist of color all over the surface. It dries quickly, so I can use another color and fleck that on right away. I’ll use approximately 10 colors layered over each other to get the desired color of the skin surface. When it looks right, I let it dry fully and move on to dry pigment. The dry pigment comes from a variety of sources. Actual dry powdered pigment from art suppliers combined with a hard chalk pastel is shaved together to create a color which can bring out the 3 dimensionality of the skin tone. ie:  coloration under the eyes and on the cheeks and lips. The red of the ears and a little bit of darkening in the folds so as to create contrast. I am treating the piece as a pastel drawing at this stage. When I feel finished, I spray the piece with a matte spray fixative. This will darken the effect of the pastels, so I‘ll often go back in and lighten them up slightly. After this part, I’ll paint in the eyes and put a shiny clear over that surface and go on to wax the lips, teeth and fingernails. Now for the Hair! Beginning from the neck I glue the hair in a slightly random way moving up the head. This is sometimes a lengthy process. I‘ll need to glue on far more hair than I actually need because much of it will come loose and fall out. When there is enough on the head, I can cut it as a beautician would in the style I want.

Example Work

Greedy King

Stoneware clay, paint, chalk pastels, gold dust
33” H x 57” w x 43” without Crown. King's crown : 21” H x 18” W 24”

If I Hold My Breath Will I Rise

stoneware, paint, chalk pastels, hair
24 x 24 x 12"


stoneware, paint, chalk pastels, synthetic, hair, mattress
29" x 68" x 42"


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