Sculpture Challenge Day 2 – it’s all in the eyes….

Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge day 2 - mask painted jelutong finished front view
Day 2 – mask finished front view

I am finally catching up with myself and getting back on track with my Sculpture Challenge, my day two sculpture is complete and I am so pleased to be able to share it.

Day two has been a tricky one to decide which design to actually go with as I had several emotions swirling around in the day, though I did not really want to try to put more than one into the sculpture.

In the end I settled on something that has been a huge part of my life for the past 8 days or so, motorway driving and in particular Operation Stack on the M20. Out of the past 8 days I have driven up and down the motorway for 7 of them, you can say that I am a little motorwayed out! And on Tuesday I made the mistake of trying to get somewhere in rush hour traffic, the memory of the sight of the M20 as basically a carpark all the way up to junction 4 where I turned off will stay with me for a long time. Luckily I was travelling north so I did not get stuck in it.


Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge day 2 - mask sketches
There were loads of different ideas and designs flying about for this mask.


All that driving has made me feel very tired, especially my eyes and all I felt on Tuesday evening was that my eyes were huge and all I could see were all the white line markings across my eyes and nothing else…..

Eyes are a very big focus for this mask, eyes and nothing else….


Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge day 2 mask jelutong roughing out shape marking out design
Roughing out the overall shape and marking out the eye sockets.


Starting the sculpture was a lot easier today, my brain was already in the right frame of mind. So the start was like yesterday, drawing a rough shape on and cutting it out with some straight pieces left so it could be held easily in the vice. Roughing out the shape and carving in the huge eye sockets, but mostly leaving the shape as quite basic as I want the eyes to be the emphasis, I want all the attention on them.


Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge day 2 mask jelutong carving eye sockets
Carving in the eye sockets.


The eyes were drawn in to check the placement and then cut through from the front, I cut them fairly deep so that when I cut from the back towards them I could find them better and not cut right through which is my greatest fear and would ruin all the work done so far.


Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge day 2 mask jelutong finished carving front view
Unpainted, finished jelutong mask, front view.


Again I have not cut the mask very thin, it’s something I need to build up to a bit more, maybe when I have some more time as its quite a time consuming thing and in the limited time that I have I don’t want to spend it making the piece beautifully thin, I will save that for another time. All I wanted was that the eye holes could be seen through.


Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge day 2 mask jelutong white gouache base
White gouache base coat in the eye sockets.


With the carving finished I knew I wanted to paint the eye sockets and played with a couple of ways of putting the white lines across the sockets. I decided that they should go round the sockets as to me that made me feel more of the tiredness I was feeling after all the driving.


Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge day 2 mask jelutong grey gouache coat
Grey gouache coat in the eye sockets.


I do love the effect of the massive eye sockets and I feel that they really stand out which is what I have been aiming for all along. I think I’ll hang this one next to yesterday’s above my carving bench.


Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge day 2 - mask painted jelutong finished back view
Day 2 mask finished back view


What I find so brilliant about doing all this is all the ideas that free flow from the process of making. All the different variations and possibilities and ways of trying things. I have so many more ideas I want to try, and I would really like to make a full size mask. I am already contemplating making some more of these small sketch masks so I can try out ideas relatively quickly before making a larger one.


Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge day 2 - mask painted jelutong finished right side view
Day 2 mask – finished right side view


Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge day 2 - mask painted jelutong finished left side view
Day 2 – mask finished left side view


Today’s mask has pleased me no end and I am really quite chuffed that it is so very different to yesterdays and will give me the opportunity of going forwards in more than one direction.


I am looking forward to what tomorrow will bring…..


You can find the sculpture challenge day one here and the sculpture challenge day three here.




Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Sculpture, Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .


Life Drawing – Part Two

In this life painting study of a head and shoulders, the body has been put in with light washes so that the emphasis is still on the head.
The final life painting. The body has been washed in and I feel helps to complete the composition of the piece yet does not overwhelm the head which is the focal point.

I do find it quite difficult coming back to a life drawing after a week’s break. Mostly because I never seem to know where to start it again or usually what to do when I finally do. Then again that is a part of the excitement and challenge of doing the life drawing. You can read the post about the first week here.

It’s really odd but as soon as I get more time and can progress further with a painting a little panic creeps in. I get very worried about how I am going to continue. Mostly because my head is usually in a completely different place and things can look very different. And also because the more I work the more I lose the translucency and brightness that comes from the washes of paint that I usually start with.

Inevitably the paint gets thicker, well the more layers of paint you put on the paper it is bound to happen. And I sometimes end up with muddy areas where things start to brown when I haven’t meant them to. I have discovered that kitchen towel is a great help here to mop up any unwanted paint and also helps a lot when a mistake has been made and needs to be removed.


The life drawing in gouache at the beginning of week two
Life drawing/painting in gouache. Beginning of week two


I was quite pleased with the first weeks work on this painting, I felt that I had stopped at a place that gave me a good starting point for the second week but had no real clue where to start again. I did ask for help and advice. The thing that really stood out for me was the darkness behind the model and the glints of light that I could see around the front edge of her face. That was something that I really wanted to show. From where I was sitting her whole face was in shadow and the colours I could see were amazing. I worked hard to keep the highlights clear of paint as I had no masking fluid to protect the white of the paper.

As the painting moved on I was surprised that the bright colours I use were getting more and more muted, I haven’t quite decided what I think about that just yet though there I still a lot of colour in the painting.


the first break of week two, the background is getting darker and I'm working hard to protect the highlights
First break of week two, concentrating on darkening the background and protecting the highlights.


I do find that even though this was a two week (four hours total) there is still never enough time to get the painting to a finished state. Although what is a finished state anyway? I am not sure that I even know. I do like having an imposed time limit as it forces me to stop painting no matter how far I have got. I do remember when working on A level paintings I sometimes over worked the painting as I didn’t know when to stop.

I have taught myself to take a picture every time we stop for a break and that gives me a good idea of the changes that I make as I go along although I feel that the changes that happen in the first week can often seem more dramatic than those that happen in the second week.



The panting is getting darker overall and I have been working to define the muscles and detail of the face
The painting is getting darker overall, more time has been spent defining the details on the face.


A good suggestion made by the tutor during this class was to leave some areas of the painting with lighter washes and work more into other areas so that the different parts of the painting start to have a different emphasis. He showed me some of Picasso’s gouache work which is really beautiful and such an inspiration. It really gave me a good idea of what to head for. I used that idea to work more into certain areas and to start to use white paint to give the painting a lift.

I could have spent a lot longer on this painting although I am very pleased with the final result. This is my first head study for many years but hopefully not my last. I would love to know what you think….




Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Sculpture, Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .


Life drawing, my weekly oasis

The life drawing at the end of week one, it turned out to be quite a good likeness of the model although that was unintentional
Life drawing/painting in gouache. End of week one

I love life drawing. There I’ve finally said it out loud.

When I was on foundation and my degree I did so much of it that I got a bit blasé about it and even a little bored. But since I started life drawing again just over a year ago I have refound my love of it. I take the class for the pure enjoyment of it, for fun, for the challenge it brings. Even bad weeks feel good. And I so look forward to each class.

What’s lovely about it is there is no pressure on me. It’s just for fun, to play and experiment, there is no other purpose to it and its brill. It is actually helping me to keep my sanity. A bit like a pressure relief valve in my week. A little oasis that is highly protected time. Things get arranged around life drawing….

At the beginning I started off using pencil but eventually, after a suggestion from the tutor, I moved to gouache. Something I have never used before. Crikey I haven’t painted since my A level art and that was in oils. Anyway I am loving gouache. The way it can be used in thin washes or put on thickly really appeal to me. Actually I haven’t really got around to applying it thickly at all, I never seem to get around to it in the time I have in class. To be honest I was more worried about the thought of using colour as I have always been told that colour is not my thing and I am no good at it. So I started off with using just black and white and introduced more colours over time.

To my amazement I have found that I do love playing with colour, especially the way the colours mix together when I apply the paint to already wet paper so that they run and bleed together and make up new colours in the process. I see all sorts of colours on the flesh, as you can see in my paintings. In fact I have a very hard time seeing what would be considered normal flesh type colours.

I am still working on finding a ‘style’ to my painting but I am thoroughly enjoying the playing and experimenting. Some of the paintings I like and some of them I don’t, but that’s just the way of the world I guess.

Once every term our tutor arranges for the same model to sit for two weeks, usually it’s a different model each week, to give us all the chance to work a bit longer on a single piece. We are just about to go to our second week of this term’s two week model session. Which is also the last class before the summer break.

All this time I have been drawing the whole body on the paper. This time I started it off in that way. Then I realised that things just weren’t right, the parts of the body I had done were not lining up and the angles were not right. I was going to have to start again. So I did the thing that is wonderful about gouache….I over wet the painting and wiped the paint away. Well not completely, it isn’t fool proof and does leave a ghost of the original painting. You can then paint over the top without being able to see the original, though it is easier if you change slightly what you are painting. I decided to go bigger. Bigger with less of the model on the paper

And for the first time this whole year I focused in on the head of the model. Just the head and shoulders quite large on the page as you can see. And you know what…

I am quite pleased with how the painting is going so far. Its something different for me and I am enjoying it.

Part of the purpose of sharing this painting before it is completed and before I have had a chance to work on it again is that it will force me to share the completed work no matter what I think of it when it is done. I have in the past had a tendency to wait until I knew whether something was going to work out as I had hoped it would before starting to show progress pics. This showing it before I know the outcome is a new and quite scary experience for me.

I am quite excited to see how this painting changes over the next class. I always find it a bit nerve racking going back to a completely dry painting when I am in a different headspace from when I started it. The best thing here is that I don’t feel any pressure. If it goes wrong, it goes wrong. I lose nothing. I gain experience. There is nothing relying on this painting, apart from sharing it here and in my newsletter, and that really takes a weight off my mind before I even start.

So lets see how the next class goes. And I look forward to sharing what happens with you…well kind of…sort of…maybe….watch this space…..





Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Sculpture, Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .