February 8: 03F-2

This sculpture followed a number of free-piled experiments, none of which was photographed. For details, read the report that follows the image assembly.


Santa Ana winds have magical powers. They converted a sculpture into a laundry and grocery utility day. By the time I had the work done the winds had abated and showed signs of coming onshore. Too late to start the planned major sculpture but there are alternatives. Stiff from two days' intensive practice on my new Rolls Rolls skateboard, I head out again.

Skateboarding is best done light. No tools, no pocket hamper, just house key hanging from my collar I roll to the beach. What's the tide doing? I don't remember, but there's good sand and my choice of carving tools. The desired tight multiple turns into a free-piled single when the tide and surf gang up on me. Then the single turns into loose sand as waves hit its base and the tower languidly slides into the borrow pit. Well, maybe that's it. I start building another but this one's life is even shorter. If I go any higher the sand is bad. Program ends. I pick up the board and head home.

Sunday I plan better. Leave early while the tide is falling. Carving tools are as plentiful as time and the sculpture is yesterday's desired multiple. It doesn't come together until I carve the earthworks around the base. Mussel shells are good carving tools but they don't have much reach, so getting into the sculpture is frustrating, but the ensemble looks good. I leave, thinking about how to make a good multiple. This is the first one whose base is better than the sculptures.

A few days later I try it again. George is off running, leaving me near sunset at the end of Ocean Park. Usually there's decent sand here but tonight the stuff is the worst I've ever essayed to sculpt with. I'm here, I don't feel like going anywhere, I have tools with me. Why not try it? Surprisingly, it works. Microsculpture is sturdier than long unsupported sections, and the little openings light up nicely in the day's last light. This sculpture gets several nice comments from sunset watchers.

Still, there's nothing like fine sand. So, the next day I skate to the Breakwater and build a big free-pile single on an L-shaped plan. The idea is to make two panes of small braided openings but mussel shells just won't permit this. The sand pile is too strong; I should have put the Steel Pinky in my pocket.

Free-pile is just that: free. Free of the cylindric beginning, free to shape the base. Also free from that wonderful smoothness of filtered sand, and I can only filter into a form. Trade-offs.

03P-1 January 25 (first unit of planned multiple, until tide wash-out. No tools.)
03P-2 January 25 (built slightly higher than ruins of first. No tools.)
03M-2, LS264 January 26 (concept from previous day's sculptures. No tools.)
03M-3, LS265 January 31 (entirely experimental, sunset, bad sand. Some tools.)
03P-3 February 1 (big, fine sand at Breakwater. No tools.)

The weekend approaches. Sculpture? Something else? I wanted to go to Oxnard to visit Jason, who used to work in the Control Center. My neighbor smacked up my car, driving when he should have taken a taxi, and the motorcycle's battery is flatter than a Domino's pizza. Maybe I should buy a battery charger. Maybe I should buy a new car. Maybe I should get the bike overhauled. Too much. Let's do a sculpture.

Build number: 03F-2 (lifetime start #266) filtered low-tide sand, on large domed base merged with borrow pit
Title: "Lonely?"
Date: February 8
Location: Venice Breakwater, on the flat
Start: 0715; construction time approx 8.5 hours
Height: 3.5 feet (Latchform); riser height about 9 inches
Base: 1.75 feet nominal diameter
Assistant: none
Photo digital: 32 images, Canon Powershot G2
Photo 35mm: none
Photo 6X7: none
Photo volunteer: Construction and complete, Larry D w/Jazz
Video motion: none (camcorder not brought)
Video still: none
Video volunteer: none
New Equipment: none

1. Do What You Know When You Know It

The battery charger is hooked up, but the battery shows very little enthusiasm for accepting the gift of new electrons. Well, even I have a hard time accepting things some days. Give it time. Put the charger under the bike and pull the trailer out to see if everything is there. Tomorrow morning will be too early to be banging around out here. I organize the load and back the trailer into the garage.

Inside I gather lunch materials, make sure the camera is charged (what a concept: no film, but a flat battery leaves you photographless) and make sure basic support items are in the pack. Ready.

Shortly after dawn I'm rolling. News on the charging front is good: I started the motorcycle with its own battery. Reluctant, yes, and grudging, but it started. Good. Now I can get it to a shop for long-deferred maintenance; if this is going to be my sole vehicle for a time, it needs to work.

2. The Stage Changes

A few weeks ago the isthmus was broad enough for over 100 people to meet beside a sprawling multiple sand sculpture. Now I could toss a shell from water on the north side to water on the south and half of that crowd would have gotten wet feet. The storm drain is exposed all the way back to its bend and has captured water on the north side. With good sand available a few hundred feet away and only one cloud far off to the southwest conditions for sculpture are just about perfect.

I start building on the south side cusp, digging a curving borrow pit and building broad base. The plan is to have its eastern slope meet the borrow pit's edge, as if the base and sculpture were rising out of the sand like a block of basin-and-range rock. I set the form on top and prepare to fetch sand.

"I visited your Web site. Good stuff."
"Thanks." I vaguely remember him from some other day.
"Where do you get your tools?"
"I make most of them. Some I buy and modify."
"I like the big orange wheels, too. Good for the sand?"
"Yes. I found those on the Internet. Along with the trailer. And the stainless steel shovel."
"Stainless?" He pulls it out of the sand. "What's this made for? Yuppie gardeners?"
"Close. It's designed for ditch tenders. Irrigation workers. Mud won't stick to it so badly, but it's expensive so I would imagine few of the real ditch tenders have them."
"I did irrigation work in Australia. They have these huge crayfish that burrow between the rows so the water won't stay where you want it. You find a burrow, smash it with the shovel and hope you get the crayfish. Next day it's back. They're all over the place."
"Crayfish?" I can't quite picture them living in fields.
"Not like the ones you know. They're big. Called "mud bugs" or something like that."
We talk for a time. He has just come in from Alaska, the latest in a long series of moves. Now he works for Starbucks.
"I have to get to work. Have to go to the Valley for a few hours. Maybe I can come back to see the finished sculpture."
"Have fun!"

I resume the familiar cycle of fetch, filter, tamp and water. The sun moves, waves batter the rocks, the wind moves around and the world warms. A large group of dolphins swims south, splashing just beyond the breakers. A single pelican floats low over the sparkling water.

"Hey, what are you doing?"
Oh, more hassle. The voice is unrecognized. The face, however, is familiar.
"Hi, Jim. You finally came to a day where you could no longer avoid working?"
"Every once in a while, you know."
"How are you?"
"Doing well."
"Still doing the golf?"
"Oh, yes. My dad has a new thing, the tour for golfers who are trying to get to the pro tour. He likes it because it doesn't have the big egos. It's fun."
"Sounds good."
"Oh. The boss is ready. I'd better get back."
"See you later."

3. What Main Sequence?

One day, one sculpture. It's an old rule. Call it the "Main Sequence," in which each sculpture uses what was learned in its predecessor.

It happened unannounced in Harrison Hot Springs, four sculptures made in three days to reinforce each other in a large setting. The next one was at another contest, necessitated by the failure of the large monolith and enabled by having help. The third multiple was also for a contest, and again I had help. No, the real end of the "one day, one sculpture" idea came a month or so later.

Three sculptures in a shaped base, one day, and I spent the next two days recovering. It was ridiculous, and I could hardly wait for the next chance to try it. Multiple sculptures do something one can't. They fit in their environment and include the rest of the world. The monolith stands aloof, erect.

So, there came to be multiples both formed and free-piled. They used sand both good and bad, screened and unscreened. They were on raised bases or they were in pits. They were close to each other, or dispersed. Experiment. Only a few of them worked.

There's only so much concentration available. One day's worth of energy to spend, one sculpture or several, what will it be? One finely detailed piece, or a group each of whose individual pieces may be lacking but the ensemble makes up for it. At least ideally. Making a good multiple is much harder than making a good monolith.

So, let's make a monolith. I feel like concentrating on just one piece. Except that confusion still rules the day, as many ideas compete for the chance to be made real.

4. From This MIstake Flows The Rest

I start with a broad dome, nearly the full size of the column. Nearly circular, I had an idea for a thin shell over multiple legs, with one large panel across the middle for design, reflecting light, but also as engineering insurance. As I carve the dome, however, things go astray. A few cuts and the dome has started turning inward.

"A lingam."
"Could be." First time I've heard that. The parallel is close, but then it doesn't take much imagination to work with a cylindric object twice as tall as it is wide, with a rounded top.

This changes the whole design, although I didn't realize it at the time. Now the engineering demands are greater because the dome bulges and that bulge must be held. It's also harder to carve because of the dome's skirt; I have to reach upward. Long-handled tools are my friend for this. Reaching far inside uses up nearly all of the Steel Finger.

"What is it?"
"What do you see in it?"
"An octopus?"
She has a point. Pulpo. Soft, flowing, even with tentacles.

Careful work with tools gradually opens the various spaces. Light does gather in there and reflect from other surfaces; I like glowing holes.

There just aren't enough of them. Too much of the sculpture is solid, and many of the openings aren't aimed at the sun. Maybe at sunset they'll be better, but my crabbiness index rises with fatigue.

"Are you pleased with it?"
"Somewhat." Larry has been watching for the last couple of hours. "It doesn't really hang together." I can't describe it. I'm simply disappointed.

5. Imagery

I walk around, photographing. Well, part of the problem is the base. Not enough definition. I pick up the Vertical Roadgrader and go back to work.

"Are you going to stay for sunset?"
"I'm not sure."
"Well, I'm getting cold. Didn't bring a jacket, so I think I'm done."
"OK. Good night."
Sand sculpture isn't good for social activity. I just want to make this thing better, and the reworked base helps. Now the sculpture's immediate base slopes down into trenches, kind of like subduction zones. I've piled the waste sand above the edge, and this slopes away. All it takes is more work but I just don't have any more in me.

Ten images, one sculpture and none of them gained the ascendancy. Later that night I begin to think that here's the point where a drawing would help the process. I could perhaps stay with one idea, and sketch them so as to limit the bad ones. But that way lies trouble: lack of spontaneity and those wonderful surprises. And part of the challenge is the turning of a bad idea into a good one through working at it.

Well, this one is done. The day's energy spent in a partial success. This one has some nice interior shaping. Too bad it's all so hard to see. Maybe I should call it "Autobiography."

I shoot some more photos after the base is finished. Waiting for sunset would produce better results, but I'm tired of the whole thing. Finished. Clumsy men trying to get photos demolish the stack of balls Larry made, and they go on to wipe out my signature and the surroundings. Can't even get the thing finished before people mess it up. Maybe I need a rope cordon on these spread-out pieces.

At least it's still standing as I walk away an hour or so before sunset. It's rather nice being able to see where I'm going as I ride north. Ultimately this sculpture failed under the load of expectations I heaped onto it.

Written 2003 February 9
Updated to lose Photobucket 2017 November 17

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