Sensory Overload

Technique Talk: Sculptor Michael Tizzano

Posted by Jackie Mantey | December 19, 2012 11:37 AM

Technique Talk is a weekly online Alive feature that spotlights the process of a Columbus artist. Know someone we should talk to? Send tips to jmantey@columbusalive.com. 

Dublin’s Art in Public Places program has give Columbus iconic outdoor artworks such as Field of Corn and Leatherlips. The program recently tapped Westerville sculptor Michael Tizzano as its man to make the next noteworthy piece. Tizzano will construct a bronze and stone sculpture to commemorate a town pump that stood near the center of Dublin in the early 1900s. The public can visit Tizzano as he sculpts the pump (more info on when and where here) and ask questions about his process. We got first dibs.
 
What kind of art do you make and why?
The work I do is figurative sculpture, mostly of children and dancers. I used to do a lot of graphic design and illustration, but switched exclusively to sculpture about 22 years ago. My medium is primarily bronze, but I also work in clay that is then fired. I am currently working on a series of rhythmic gymnasts to be cast in bronze, my most challenging work to date! What drives me to do figurative sculpture is that I have always felt an incredibly strong connection with the human form — its complexities, expressions and nuances. If I was not a sculptor I would likely have become an architect. My perception of the three-dimensional world has always been very important to me. I really like the challenge of capturing dynamic movement, frozen in time. If even one other person is emotionally charged by my work, then I have been successful as an artist.
 


When do you make art?
I make my art in my head just about every waking moment. In the studio, it varies. I always have several pieces going at the same time. Some will sit and wait for me to come back to [them], while others I work feverishly on until completed. I have a few pieces that have sat for several years that I just haven’t been called to move forward with. If I’m not careful, I can work around the clock, forgetting to eat or take a break. My biggest problem is that I am a perfectionist. This is both a blessing and a curse, but being one pushes me to not be satisfied, to perfect my skills and try new ideas.
 
Where do you sculpt and why?
I work in my studio, which takes up half of the basement of my home. Although I have four windows, lighting is pretty poor, and has to be supplemented with several daylight simulating utility lamps. I have been rapidly outgrowing my studio for some time and am looking for another space to work in. On occasion, I will work outdoors, or if I’m working on something that is not too messy, in our family room, which has great skylights and a high vaulted ceiling.

What has been inspiring your work lately?
I have been moved to create most recently by a visit to one of BalletMet’s rehearsals, prior to “The Nutcracker” opening. Lots of inspiration there! I am completely mesmerized while watching the dancers, whether they are standing around talking during a break, stretching, warming up, or working on their dance moves. I can relate to [Edgar] Degas’ work intimately. I took my daughter to see “The Nutcracker” last weekend. An awesome performance! We have some incredibly talented dancers here in Columbus. I actually had tears in my eyes at one point. In 2013 I plan to work with more of these dancers on some new pieces.

What advice that you’ve found invaluable would you give a new artist?
My mentor is California sculptor Richard MacDonald. He has shared with me a lot of wisdom that I freely pass on to other up-and-coming sculptors. One of his favorite mentors is Tony Robbins, whose quote, “Leap, and the net will appear!” I have posted in my office. Another quote that Richard shares is, “What great things would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”
 
As for my own advice, I would suggest that we embrace each and every day with eyes wide open, taking in the limitless possibilities that present themselves to ourselves as artists, and then create from what we see and feel. Don’t put it off! I hear a lot of excuses from people that I meet who see my work and then share with me that they don’t have the time to create like they used to or that they lack ideas or inspiration. If it is important, they will do it. Don’t isolate. Join an art league or take a class with other creative people. The Columbus Cultural Art Center is an absolute gem for meeting other artists. It’s a great support group.

What do you do while you work?
While in the studio, I almost always listen to WOSU FM 101.1. Classical music has always been very inspiring for me while I work. When we had Jazz in Columbus I used to listen to that a lot as well. I have a lot of classical CDs and would like to build more fussion/jazz music into my collection.
 


Do you ever experience artist’s block? If so, what do you do to combat it?
I have never experienced any kind of creative block, which I’m sure sounds strange. I have so many ideas for creating sculptures that it would take several lifetimes to fulfill them. Being an artist for me has always been an obsession, even since early childhood. I didn’t have a choice. I was born with a gift, like all of us are, and was blessed to discover it so early in my life. I don’t see myself ever slowing down.

Three artists, living or dead, that you would invite to a dinner party:
[Auguste] Rodin would definitely be one of my top choices. I have spent many hours in museums around the world studying his hand at work. His work is breathtaking to study in detail, especially since I relate to all of the pushing around of the clay that he did. The 19th century German sculptor Karl Bitter is someone whose work I greatly admire. He had a particular gift for sculpting children. There are so many to choose from, but I could always use more time sharing ideas with Richard MacDonald, who is considered by most to be the best figurative sculptor on the planet. He once asked me while studying my work what my goals were, with which I replied, “Well, to surpass you of course!” His response was, laughingly, “You just try to keep up!”

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