Technique Tuesday: Found Object Sculpture

What is it?

“Found object” art describes artwork that utilizes objects not conventionally designated as art supplies, and manipulates them, usually while keeping them still recognizable as their original form. In its early days, some found object sculptures did not even involve any manipulation of the object, but simply the artist designating that item, just as it was, as “art.” Throughout the history of found object art, it’s taken on a variety of manifestations, so let’s take a look!

Examples in art history:

Found object art really wasn’t something seen in the art world until the 20th century, and one of its very first incarnations was quite a controversial one. Dada, the avant-garde artistic movement that began about 1915 and flourished into the 1920’s, in many ways sought to challenge the conventional standards and definitions of art. One aspect of their movement was the promotion of the idea that anything could be art, and anyone could be an artist. Artists like Marcel Duchamp presented what he termed “readymade” sculptures, consisting of an object like a urinal or a bicycle wheel, mounted on some kind of pedestal, and labeled as “art.” It might go without saying that many art critics had conflicting responses to such a statement! Even after the age of Dada passed, found object artists continued to produce work throughout the 20th century, and their ranks included iconic names like Louise Nevelson, known for her found object “assemblages,” and Ai Weiwei, China’s most famous contemporary artist. Found objects have and continue to appear in a broad range of sculptures, from the more conceptual to some quite representational pieces.

(top row) Marcel Duchamp, “Bicycle Wheel”, 1916; Man Ray, “Object to Be Destroyed”, 1923; Pablo Picasso, “Bull’s Head”, 1942 — (bottom row) Louise Nevelson, “Royal Tide, Dawn”, 1960-64; Ai Weiwei, “Grapes”, 2011; Kyle Bean, “Which Came First”, 2011

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Sculpture is not something that we typically display much of at our Alexandria location, as our setup here is better suited in general toward displaying paintings. However, we came across a found object sculptor whose absolutely unique and charming work really caught our attention. When we were putting together an invitational figure show for February, David Lipson’s sculptures seemed as though they would be a fun and refreshingly different take on “figures” and we happily included him in the show. Check out the three sculptures that are part of this upcoming exhibition!

As you may be able to guess from their labels (originally old car dealership decals), these three delightful figures are called “Baxter,” “Mallory,” and “Ridley. Carefully and beautifully crafted from a variety of found objects, many of them vintage finds, these figures each reveal a stunning level of creativity and craftsmanship– on top of which, they just make you smile!

The “Bodies of Work” exhibition, which opens THIS COMING Friday, February 16th, contains a fantastic variety of figurative art. From highly photorealistic styles to gestural Impressionism, found object sculptures to Surrealist and Magical Realism paintings, oil on linen to mixed media on paper, there’s something in this show to fascinate every taste! If you’re in the area, please be sure to join us from 6:30 to 9 PM on Friday for the opening reception! And, as the digital preview of the show is available NOW, feel free to contact us at to receive a copy and get a sneak peek at this incredible collection of artworks!



Technique Tuesdays: Sight-Size

Technique Tuesday sight size

What is it?

If you’ve ever amused yourself by holding up your thumb and noticing how someone across the room appears to be tiny and thumb-sized next to it, you’re well on your way to understanding the sight-size method of painting and sculpting. Sight-size is a technique long used in schools and ateliers to teach art students the fundamentals of correct proportions. Essentially, it involves the artist setting up to create their painting (or sculpture) at a vantage point where the subject appears to be exactly the size they plan to depict it. The closer to life size the finished image, the closer to the subject the painter and his or her canvas will be arranged. Here are a couple of visual examples:

sight size collage

Example from art history:

Sight-size is a method with roots far, far back in art history. For centuries, it was a popular and effective way to teach students to draw and paint with accurate proportions. It went out of fashion for a time, but its popularity was revived by ateliers such as that of R. H. Ives Gammell, Carolus-Duran and Léon Bonnat. The latter two names were teachers of the great American portrait painter John Singer Sargent. Sargent’s use of the sight-size method was a large contributing factor to its renewed popularity in both America and Great Britain.

Sargent Collage

A photograph (center) of Sargent painting with the sight-size method, alongside two of his incredible portraits, Theodore Roosevelt (left) and Madame X (right)

Example from Principle Gallery:

Not many artists these days continuously use the sight-size method throughout their career, and event those who do do not always use it exclusively, for all their work. But Teresa Oaxaca, a Principle Gallery artist with extensive classical training from the Florence Academy and her private teaching with Robert Liberace and Odd Nerdrum, gave us a glimpse of sight-size in action last year during her live painting demonstration.

J 9

Teresa Oaxaca painting live at Principle Gallery, April 2014

We are more than thrilled to have Teresa back with us this year for yet another live painting event (followed by a demonstration by the amazing Robert Liberace two weeks later!) on Friday, May 15th. Join us on the 15th in the gallery from 6-9 PM for an incredible opportunity to watch Teresa paint a live model from start to finish! It is truly fascinating to watch her step back and forth, studying the model as she brings the resemblance to life on canvas with the sight-size method.

Even if you are unable to join us in person, keep an eye on our social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, because we’ll be broadcasting a live video feed of the event that evening! We’ll be sure to post links where you can go to watch the live stream as soon as we can!

Amy Kann Sculptures

Lately, we have been highlighting the paintings from our December Small Works show, but today we’re taking an opportunity to highlight some different small works in the gallery–Amy Kann’s sculptures from October’s “Beyond the Surface.”

This October we were pleased to have Rachel Constantine curate a fascinating show celebrating Conceptual Realism. “Beyond the Surface” brought together some excellent artists and fascinating pieces, each with their own deeper meaning and story. Especially exciting was the sculpture featured in the show, including both standing three-dimensional and hanging, relief sculptural works. Amy Kann, a renowned master at creating detailed, smooth, immaculate relief pieces, shared another side to her creativity with us through four very special terra cotta pieces, entitled “Branch,” “Blossom,” “Slate,” and “Seraph.” Though the last is a much larger work, the first three are each similarly small in size, the tallest measuring just 21.5 inches on the pedestal.

These works are breathtaking. They are truly unique, powerful, and ethereally beautiful. The image below depicts the smaller three of the four sculptures, and shows “Slate,” “Branch,” and “Blossom,” respectively from left to right.

ImageAmy Kann eloquently described to us her inspiration for these works:

I now work in both a realistic and abstract manner. The lack of restrictions in the abstract work and the requirements of the realistic work balance, complement and inform each other. The freedom and expressiveness of the abstract work helps me to develop more intensity and fluidity in the realistic work. The realistic work helps me to find in the abstract work a voice that is more gentle and sensitive. This keeps me investigating both worlds to push the limits of each.

I am interested in our connection to nature and our need for spirituality in order to feel the value of our lives. I am making sculpture about heaven and earth, creating unified images of trees, women and angels. My intention is to show the natures of each woven together within a single sculpture. I see little division between these three natures. My intention is to convey the sensuality of a woman held within the stillness of a tree, expressing the human capacity to be angels for one and other.

The movement, texture, and color of these pieces vividly reflect the inspiration of the female form, trees, and angels. Each piece is created from terra cotta, and the colors and textures result from an encaustic (wax painting) and patina technique. Though mere photographs do not do the justice to the delicate colors and textures, below are some images that give an idea of their great beauty.


While there is so much technical skill at which to marvel in Amy’s realistic relief works, it speaks volumes about Amy as an artist as well as a craftsman that the sculptures featured here are so rich with soul and life. We were pleased to be able to display both types of her incredible artwork in October’s show, and though most of the work on our walls has changed since October, to display new works we receive, we have kept these special standing pieces out on display in the gallery, and they truly captivate us daily.