LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"How I Work": Sculptor Stephanie Tumney

I interviewed Stephanie Tumney last year but wanted to find out more about her creative process and her current projects. Stephanie is a stone sculptor. At an early age, her creativity and love for art were evident. In kindergarten, her favorite sculptor was Michelangelo, and she is still influenced by his work today, along with others such as Bernini, Picasso and Henri Moore. Stephanie graduated from the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, DC. She also studied marble sculpture in Tinos, Greece. She has shown in museums, galleries, churches and private homes in California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington DC, and Cairo, Egypt. She works primarily as a sculptor in both stone and bronze, although she enjoys drawing, painting and photography as well. Many of her paintings have been displayed in churches, used for spiritual direction and reflection. Her sculptural work is often figurative, in poses that depict raw emotion, as well as spiritual and psychological transformation. Stephanie grew up on the East Coast, in Massachusetts, and currently resides in Campbell, California, with her husband Mark who is a pastor. Stephanie is available for commissions in either sculpture or painting.

LeAnne: Describe your creative process.

When most people think of a process, they think of a linear process. I’ve found that my creative process is much more of a spherical process. There are many steps, and they may be repeated at various times, or omitted altogether, and their order is not fixed. The basic elements are prayer, scripture study, sketching, research, model making, and the actual sculpting. If each was assigned a point in a sphere, the lines connecting them according to order and frequency of use would gradually fill the sphere like a tangled ball of twine. For instance, sketching is integral, as well as research, and they both happen at different points during the process, usually during the initial idea generation and then when a problem arises. For some work I form a model first, for others sketching is sufficient. Additional key elements in my creative process are prayer and contemplation of the Scriptures. These also are not limited to the beginning stages, but occur throughout, even after completion.

Each artwork takes on its individual order of process, but includes much of the same steps. Sometimes an idea comes to me while praying in church, sometimes while reading the Psalms, sometimes while working on another piece, sometimes while doing something mundane like grocery shopping. Sometimes the idea is almost completely formed in my head at its first inception. Other times it takes hours or weeks of sketching to get the arm placed correctly. Usually I form a model out of clay before I begin any stone work. Psychologically, the toughest part is always the first hit or cut into the raw material. I imagine it is similar to a writer with a blank page in front of them. After there is something on that page, it is a lot easier to proceed, even if it’s just to scratch out that first word. During the actual sculpting, I simultaneously try to pray. I also read the Psalms in the morning before I begin. Often, something will arise so that I do more sketching to change or further develop a particular aspect. When I make a mistake or some other setback occurs, after the initial fury, when I can look objectively at the piece again (which can take hours or months depending on the severity) I try to see how it could be used for the good of the piece. I have seen God turn the largest mistakes of mine into pieces that are better than they would have been before. Usually I am continually researching methods, tools, geology, art history and whatever else I may need to know. I enjoy the fluidity of a spherical process, allowing each piece to progress as it will, and allowing God to direct my work.

More from Stephanie Tumney on Thursday.

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