Unconventional mediums inspire artists


Art has been a piece of expression since the evolution of mankind.

While painting, drawing, and sculpture have been common mediums for centuries, more unconventional art forms are cropping up and finding a place among what was once considered “fine art.”

Rather than sculpting anatomical figures or painting still life, an unconventional artist will use tools, mediums and subject matter that differ from the classic norm.

Natalie Schulz began sculpting at a very young age, beginning by just carrying pieces of polymer clay to play with. PHOTO/MARY SIRING

Natalie Schulz, a student at Oakland Community College, has been studying and crafting polymer clay sculptures of characters for years.

“I do consider my craft art because I put a lot of time and detail into the pieces I create,” Schulz said. “I continue to make sculptures because I love seeing the finished product. Instead of having a 2D character on a piece of paper, I’ll have a 3D figure that I can touch and look at.

“Unlike drawing or painting, I don’t have to depend on a tool to get the shapes and forms I want. I can get my hands in there and make exactly what I need.”  

Where a painter can spend hours, even days on one painting, that time and effort is not lost in art forms that were considered classic.

Schulz begins with an armature made from wire, tin foil and clay, and then begins adding on layers of clay, blending those layers with tools, adding texture with chalk pastels and then baking the finished figure and adding final painted touches.

“I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I spend far more time on my pieces than someone else would,” Schulz said. “I’d say if I didn’t have any distractions and could continually work on a piece, it might take me a week or more to finish.”

Just like any hobby, individuals fall into it at uncertain times and come to love their craft.

Victoria Ratliff, a student at Grand Valley State University creates cosplaying costumes of characters with her spare time. Cosplay is the crafting of costumes to match certain characters from games, television shows, movies or any plot-based media.

“I started actually making my own cosplay as a kind of challenge to myself to try something new and to be part of the community that’s formed around cosplaying,” Ratliff said.

Schulz used cinnamon to create the texture of Mr. Boogie’s cart. It is a character from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” PHOTO/MARY SIRING

Schulz describes a similar instance in which she discovered her love of sculpture

“My mom was tossing out of Stampin’ Up stuff and I discovered the polymer clay she used to use,” Schulz said. “I like to keep my hands busy so clay was something I latched onto easily. I started sculpting figures and found it much easier and satisfying than drawing.”

Like other forms of expression, unconventional mediums offer therapeutic elements.

“There’s an appeal in having such an expressive outlet for my interests and being able to show it off at conventions and have people come up to me and ask for a picture,” Ratliff said. “Cosplay is kind of the intersection between the fun of dressing up and showing off your work to people who can appreciate it.”

Those elements aren’t exclusive to social interaction, either.

“Clay is very therapeutic for me,” Schulz said. “Something about watching a figure come to life feels like a relief and a reward.”

Just as any other artist, there is no end to what a creator can and will make.

“I sculpt characters that pop into my head or cartoon characters,” Schulz said. “I feel like having a real figure of these characters shows how much I love to be creative or enjoy animation.”


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Posted by on Dec 9 2017. Filed under Featured article, Michigan. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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