-By Tim Bruckner

If you’re a figurative sculptor, expression is everything. And everything is in the eyes. Its where we look first. Even when they’re ambushed by the face, the eyes don’t lie. The trick is to create something in the eyes that either confirms the expression of betrays the expression. Or reveals the expression in flux. As Houdon once said (and I’m liberally paraphrasing) an expression evolves. The eyes seem to get it first and the rest of the face stumbles into place. Chances are the viewer will interpret what you’ve created differently from what you intended. But that’s okay. If they invest a little of their emotional or physiological history into your piece, it almost can’t get better than that. Up front, I want to say, I’m still figuring it out. It’s a crap shoot anytime you pick up clay. But each pieces leads to opening the window of understanding just a little more. And ain’t that the point of creating art, the miracle of revelation.

Anne Phibian: A half life-size bust of an alien beauty. There’s a wariness in her expression. She’s deciding. I used washes of iridescent paint to create the iris with several coats of high gloss. I painted the highlight first in a light gray and the white dot of reflected light to soften it.

A Little Mischief: I think there a lot of ways to read his expression, but none of them of a pure intent. Ordinarily, I’d have would have put the squint in his recessive eye (right) eye, making the lead eye (left) the evaluator. By compressing the expression in his left eye it sharpens his expression. It reveals a conspiracy only he is privy to.

Lucifer’s Lawyer/Devil’s Advocate: As I sculpted this piece I repeated the same phrase over and over, watching myself in a mirror. My expression changed with how I interpreted the phrase. At some point, as I understood more fully what I wanted to say, things started to lock in. With luck, the viewer will fill in the blank in their own head. My guess is, we’ll all be using a very similar vowel.

Afternoon Delight: This character first appeared on a Call for Entries poster for Spectrum Nine. I “appropriated” the concept from a drawing by Heinrich Kley. All her concentration is in getting the last sweet drops of nectar.

Belle et la Bete: It’s a love story. He carries his sadness in his right eye while keeping watch on her with his left. Sometimes, letting the eyes track a little off center helps reveal a complicated expression.

Ode to Joy/Cyrano-My White Plume: He had to have smiled. One listening to his Rage Over a Lost Penny and you know old Ludwig had a sense of humor. This is Cyrano from the end of the play. He’s dying and has come to see his beloved Roxanne one last time. I just like the juxtaposition of their expressions, both captured in their eyes.

ONE: This was an odd piece for me. I wanted to try and create a character that revealed an inner peace and quiet strength. I tied a bunch of open eye treatments and nothing worked. In filling in the carved out iris, I swiped some clay across his eyeball and got a kind of closed lid. And that’s what worked for me. Thank you clay, my old reliable collaborator.

Something to Consider/Two Humans Walk Into a Bar: These pierces were done back to back. I started with Something to Consider. I smiled all the way through it. Working on him just made me feel good. With his eyebrows raised but his eyes half open, it felt like he was considering something he’d heard in conversation. Two Humans was me in the bar with my alien buddy waiting for the bunch line.

My Monster isn’t taking any chances. His interaction with humans hasn’t been all that good. So best keep your distance.

Vampira 13: Its all in her eyes. All of it.

Catherine with a C: This is a portrait bust I did of my mom some years ago. She was having a difficult time of it. Relationships she thought she could count on were fracturing. She came to the studio for a photo session. We spent of few moments joking around and then we got to talking about what was going on in her life and a profound sadness overcame her. This image is an assemblage of several photographs.

He Who Laughs Last: This is the third and final version of this piece. It took some twenty years for me to figure out what I was trying to tell myself and with his version, I got it. Unlike A Little Mischief, his lead eye is fully open and evaluating. Don’t let the makeup fool you.

For those of you who are interested in learning how to sculpt maquettes,  I’ll be doing a workshop at TLC Workshops in May of 2015.

For more information, visit:

Hope to see you there!