Hello and welcome to my first blog here at the Creature Tree website. My name is J.P. Clough, I'm a multi-faceted artist but currently practicing as a driftwood sculptor, and along with myself, I'd like to introduce to you, two very special mothers in my life. They are my own mother, and mother earth, a.k.a. mother nature. For the first blog on my website, it made sense to start from the beginning of my career as a driftwood artist, but first to give thanks and credit to what got me to this point in the first places. I'll get into the role my own mother played in this endeavor soon, but first let me talk about the other mother, mother earth. As the matriarch of my work, she's the inspiration and source of basically everything I do with regarding art, but also my life and most of my casual studies. On top of that, in terms of artists, there's no doubt that she is the first and greatest artist of all. What I do with my own art is merely a way to emulate her creations and accentuate her design.
After embarking on this path as a driftwood artist, and assembling a few sculptures, I felt a need to create a tribute to my idol, and that need materialized into the mother earth totem shown below. Of course this icon and figurehead of my work is not for sale, and will remain firmly planted at the heart of my gallery, there to remain as my representative, and good luck charm. This totem is made using a porcelain mask, which I normally wouldn't incorporate such a thing in one of my sculptures, but this piece had a special purpose, so an exception was made for a unique idea and my design rules were over-ruled. The mask is painted to match the driftwood that it's mounted to, and adorned it with materials from nature. Aside from the dfiftwood log and the climbing roots, the materials used are a bird feather, cedar foliage, snail shells, and the ears are milkweed pods with acorn caps. She is also cradling a nest with a tiny spruce cone in it, symbolizing the birth and nurturing of a tree. I added in the tree graphics base just for presentation.
Now I've got my idol and a few of her representatives, and I'm ready to take this to another level. Let me start from the roots of my work, and branch out from there. As you know by now, my art is about nature, and all the life and death within it. The flora, from roots to leaves and everything in between, and fauna, from the smallest insects to the biggest of beasts. Even the ground itself is included as I use minerals of every variety and form. I use all of it in just about every piece, combining organic, biologic, and mineral specimens into one representation of a real creature, whether it's fiction or not. The beauty of nature, even in death, is where it began for me. Like a stone found in the mud and turned into jewelry, I take nature's detritus and turn it into treasure. With that said, I want to give a little history on how I got to this point in my life.
Even from an early age, I always noticed interesting pieces of wood or rocks, and I thought, "I wish I could make something with that", but usually I didn't have the time or the means to take it with me, or the know-how to make something with it. It wasn't until a few years ago when I had mentioned to my mother, that if she found any driftwood on the beaches of Quebec that looked interesting, to grab it and I'll try to make something out of it. Time passed and I forgot about driftwood until many months later, when my mother, always so supportive of my creativity, brought a piece of driftwood for me while visiting on vacation from Quebec. I used that piece to create my first driftwood sculpture of a dragon. It had lobster claw horns, glass eyes, and tiny sea shell teeth. It was rudimentary in design by my current standards, but not too bad overall and it had some admirers from home and abroad. However, with no materials to work with, making driftwood art went on the back burner for quite a while. I then turned to making jewelry from scratch, using locally found stones and that was very rewarding, and well met from friends and family, but without a proper lapidary shop, it just wasn't feasible for high production, so that was put on hold too. Now there was a small craft project floating around in my head for a while about making insects out of metal, then I thought why not use natural materials like nut shells or small evergreen tree cones. So, after watching the movie "Silence of the Lambs", I decided to make the death head moth out of a small spruce tree cone and it turned out great. I'm actually working on a natural display setting for that and other insect pieces right now. Upon showing the moth to my mother, we both decided to try the driftwood thing again. A short while later a package arrived at my door from my mother-containing various pieces of driftwood. The first piece I made from that was "The Black Vulture", and with the response I got from it, I haven't stopped making them ever since.
In closing, I want to say that making driftwood sculptures is the most enjoyable art form I have ever done. With that said, it's also the most difficult, especially with the rules I impose on my work, but that challenge is probably why I like it so much. The process of finding sites to gather materials, to building a large enough stock pile and start working, is a long one. I don't just choose a subject I would like to build and then just start building it from the ground up. I study a piece of driftwood, sometimes for months, until I see some creature in the shapes of the wood. Like I always say, it has to present itself to me, then I build from that piece. That leads me to the next topic I want to discuss. How I make driftwood art in comparison to other driftwood artists, but that's another blog.
Assemblage artist/Driftwood sculptor