Altering Form Surfaces: Space on Clay

Clay Sculptures: Fall Student Examples
To look at the work of John Gibson in order to become aware of the unusual way in which he works;
To be introduced to working with three-dimensional verses two-dimensions;
To be introduced to the basic properties of clay;
To use the concept of positive and negative space on a three-dimensional form

Where do you find circles and spheres in our society? Where do you not? Polka dots are “in” and things that are round surround us. In the two paintings below, by John Gibson, each sphere works with patterning on a surface of an object that is not flat, although the painting is. John Gibson focuses mainly on paintings of spheres. Whether of a single sphere or multiples, Gibson’s work forms a cohesive body by the fact they are unified by both subject matter and patterning.

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Stephen #21 18x12” 2002 Oil/Panel
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Pine 2007, watercolor, 36 x 51
John Gibson Art - Paintings. Robofresh Designs, 2008. Web. 12 Oct. 2010. <>.

By using a similarly shaped object and similar method for altering the surface of our rounded forms, we too can create a cohesive grouping of artwork.
Part One: Find out a bit about the artist who paints mainly spheres. Explore his website and essays here:
Read the essay: Patterns Painting and answer the following questions:
  1. Please write a paragraph (at least 4 sentences) on what you learned about John Gibson and his work.
  2. Choose and take a screen shot of one work by Gibson. Be sure to list it's title, date, medium and size. Please write 2-4 sentences about why you chose this painting over the others as one that stands out to you. Use your art language when writing.
  3. What questions do you have? Please include any questions you have about working with clay, John Gibson's work, and/or painting and decorating.
  4. Please use MLA credit for your source.

Part Two:
Student Examples
  • You are to create one non-objective hollow rounded form. This form may be a sphere, but as we live in Maine, which is quite rocky, you may choose to create a more rock-like form.
  • Your form should utilize 1-3 interesting motifs that you have looked at in either the Artist Focus Project (Escher, Indiana, Davis, Mondrian, Matisse, Miro or Kandinsky) or Islamic art projects.
  • The pattern on your work should utilize the entire form, creating work that has no identifiable “top” or “bottom.” (this may take some planning)
  • Your pattern MUST make good use of your space on the form, creating interesting positive AND negative space.
  • You will use sgraffito, a technique where you will be scraping away your pattern to reveal the clay underneath.
  • Your sculptural work should be able to “stand alone” or with a grouping of one or more other students’ work.
  • Your form may not be smaller than the mass of tennis ball or larger than a soft ball-ish size.
Considering you must use motifs to create interesting space on your surface, please brainstorm ideas and draw in three boxes in your sketchbook. Please create a pattern with your motif so you can see how your pattern affects the negative space. Please color in the negative space.