Tag Archives: Andrea Scofield Olmstead

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Andrea Scofield Olmstead

Andrea Olmstead Turtle 24” x 16” x 16” earthenware milk paint, wax

Andrea Olmstead, “Turtle”, 24” x 16” x 16”, earthenware, milk paint, wax

I grew up in the Florida Panhandle and remain influenced by the color and texture of the natural landscape. Rusty iron fences, brick sidewalks, tin roofs, and giant oak trees overwhelm the senses. Lush foliage is always on the verge of taking over, and everything quickly decays. I used imagery from the Florida Gulf Coast Box Turtle to carve the turtle pattern in the pants of my sculpture.

I sculpt with clay because it reminds me of the red earth from the South. It feels humble in my hands and it in turn makes me feel humble. It accepts textures either pressed, carved, or added to and allows me to sculpt the human figure. It connects me to civilizations past and present and unites me with people who are obsessed with this demanding and exacting material.

Thirteen of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s delicate terra cotta sketches can be seen at the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, MA. These  quick sculptural models, complete with fingerprints, remind me how powerful clay is in its gestural form .

Bernini, 1598-1680, “Angel with the Superscription”, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA

I look to Jean Antoine Houdon  for guidance in anatomy, especially the eyes, which are full of life.

Jean Antoine Houdon  Louise Brongniart 1779, marble

Jean Antoine Houdon, “Louise Brongniart”, 1779, marble

Kathe Kollwitz’s powerfully dark and emotionally tender drawings and sculptures guide me  empathetically, technically, and conceptually. The layered textures in her work are permanently etched in my mind.

Kathe Kollwitz,  Mother with Dead Son Neue Wache Museum, Berlin

Kathe Kollwitz, “Mother with Dead Son”, Neue Wache Museum, Berlin 

The contemporary sculptor Louise Bourgeois’s conceptually driven work causes me to  address my own childhood experiences.

Louise Bourgeois, 1911-2010

Louise Bourgeois, 1911-2010

“Turtle” is a portrait of a boy as he sits down to play, equally strong and vulnerable. I work from photos and have the model sit for brief periods.


leather hard stage

leather hard stage

I use charcoal because the medium is humble and simple but able to produce a wide variety of marks. It allows me to be aggressive or delicately whimsical. I often draw to work out the textures on paper before the labor of sculpting them. In the drawing below, the turtle pattern is worked out in the shirt.

Andrea Olmstead  Turtle charcoal 24" x 18" 2016

Andrea Olmstead, “Turtle”, charcoal, 24″ x 18″, 2016

I work with large rectangular coils that allow me to press, carve, and pound into shape. I use a metal serrated rib tool for scoring and smoothing, a fettling knife for cutting and shaping, and calipers for measuring.

large rectangular coils

large rectangular coils

I start by building a structural base that can withstand the weight of the sculpture. I continue to add interior struts where I know the clay might cave in on itself, and I give the clay time to set up in order to hold the next couple of layers. Laguna EM 10 G is an earthenware that fires white and has strength. The grog particles are fine and don’t get in the way when I carve textures, but give the clay the strength it needs.

structural base

structural base, legs and hips

I sculpted the head separately and used the knee to help support the weight. It was important for me to work out this structural detail  through sketches and photos before I began the sculpture.


head using the knee as a support

I smooth areas with a rib tool and carve textures with a pin tool.


A clear wax protects the finish, and milk paint highlights the texture  in the pants.

Andrea Olmstead Turtle 24” x 16” x 16” earthenware milk paint, wax

Andrea Olmstead, “Turtle”, 24” x 16” x 16”,  earthenware, milk paint, wax

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Andrea’s sculpture “Turtle” in our current exhibition The Human Figure (runs through July 1). View her work online at www.andreascofieldolmstead.com

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by artist Kate Fisher.