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Editor’s Note: This is the second article in our Surface Explorations series

I suppose we all have light-bulb moments in our creative lives. For me, it was realizing that I could use polymer clay as a drawing surface, and better yet, recreate what I loved best from my academic days in the studio: rendering the effects of light and shadow on three-dimensional forms, whether a human figure, an environment, an object or a plant, in other words, depicting volumes on a flat surface.

Best of all, I could control the amount of light and dark tones needed by starting with a mid- tone clay base… if it were mi-teint pastel paper. And the medium that made it possible? Pastels, of course, specifically Pan Pastels because of their saturation, blend-ability and permanence once cured.

With a mid-tone base, I could avoid over- working the image by focusing on the dark areas (shadows), and light areas (highlights) to represent volumes. Edges could be cleaned up many ways, and both subtractive and additive techniques could be used both before and after curing. In these examples, I’ve done all of that.

For the eye self-portrait (on black clay this time for impact), a dab of white acrylic paint for the reflection, needle tool used to scratch in brow, iris, etc.

For the floral brooch, I cut out the pastel on clay drawing, framed it with other veneers that I felt complimented it in scale, texture and coloration, then surrounded all of it in an irregular black frame.

For the nude, I wanted to depict light wrapping around the body from behind as she stood in a doorway, the partial architectural frame of which is dimensional for an extra trompe-l’oeil effect.

Lastly, the hands were a gift for my OT after thumb surgery a few years ago. I drew it first, scaling and tracing a photographic image. After curing, I carved the outlines, filled them with alcohol marker so the color was more luminous and translucent, carved into the background, and then scratched the surface to bring up the highlighted areas.

Sunday, March 27 is the deadline to submit proposals for the 2022 Polymer Art Summit.