Thursday, March 18, 2010

How to pack and sculpt snow (part2 sculpting)

Here you should be primed & ready for the fun part, carving and sculpting. As I said before I was expecting a bit more snow so I started creating a new pile because it seemed pointless in moving all the snow into one pile which was a long way so I made a second pile about 30 feet away at the end of the driveway. But again the additional snow never came and apparently there is no winter fest in Greenwood B.C. this year. So with the snow melting pretty fast I decided I’d better carve at least one of my piles I’d just have to change my design to fit with a much smaller pile. One thing I should say is that if piled snow sits (packing/packed, has no bearing) the icier it will be and thus harder to shape at it becomes as its more brittle, or at least that was my experience. The pile also sat for a long time too though.

About three weeks later the more snow never came, then one fine day I just started,

I figured otherwise all my work would have just melted away. In second image I have roughed in the general shape of my design and pushed some markers in as reference points for scale. As I said before the longer it sits before you carve it the harder and more ice it has. Here, it was warm during the day ( +3 to 5C ) and then coldish at night (-5 to -10 ) so there were ice and air pockets created by the buried grass and leaf debris heating up melting the snow during the day and freezing at night. In colder climates you don’t have the same problems with the ice but I had the right sculpting tools so it wasn’t to much of a problem. From here you just carve and sculpt your piece ( if you need to do repairs keep a couple 5gallon pails full of snow warming up so when you need it you can just grab a handful and use it kind of like glue/mortar but only when its below zero). I’m going to assume you already know a bit about creating art so I’m not going to go on about it other than to say that I just used pieces of kindling for markers.

Airbrushing murals leaves me a good selection of ladder type apparatus to choose from so I went with a two step bench, a ten foot step and a three bend scaffold ladder. Working in snow I found was a little like sand sculpture in that you can do allot as long as you keep physical weight and balance in mind all the time. It sticks to itself well but its not like clay.

In this 3rd photo I have spent a little more time working in the character of the face, using the markers again for scale. The scaffold you can see in the left corner I stood on to look at my work so I didn’t have to move a ladder every time I wanted to check my work. I had started out just using a pruning saw and shovel but as I have sculpted allot of plastelene I am used to certain tools, the characteristics, shapes and what you can do with them so I gave up on the shovels and kitchen utensils (their just to small). In a pinch they would work alright but if I were going to do this a few times every winter I felt it was worth the trouble and money to get some tools for doing this. So after a good look here on the net, I found nothing. Looking around the shop I found some steel and just made some of my own. A little cutting, a weld here a bend there, a bit of grinding and an hour or so of polishing the long day was over and I had come up with some handy tools. If you are interested in a set of large scale sculpting tools send me an email ( ), having the right tools made the whole process allot easier and faster.

This fourth photo shows a still rough sculpture (the head still needs some shaping) and how little snow there was.

These two photo’s above show the finishing touches being applied or rather removed. As I said before, I didn’t have all the snow I had wanted so this sculpture only sort of looks like where I was going with it. Notice the snow pile on the right, its the one I did in part 1.

In the end this was as far as I could go without more snow as I had wanted big wild blowing hair. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

These photo's and article are the intellectual and copyrighted property of  Timothy Arnell all rights are reserved and may not be used in whole or in part without permission. copyright 2010 Timothy Arnell.

How to pack and sculpt snow (part 1 piling & packing)

In this post and the next I will hand it over to my good bud the incredibly talented Timothy Arnell of fame and let him tell it as he can do anything

 Thanks AW, and for the opportunity to share.

From what I hear we don’t/didn't have as much snow as usual this year but I’m just new to this area, so what do I know. Well I knew enough to stock up on snow. Sounds funny doesn’t it.

So it started to snow, I started to shovel. Soon, I realised that I needed somewhere to pile it all, where it wouldn’t get in the way or turn the yard into a lake when it melted, so this is what happened and this is how I did it.
You need to know where it (the snow pile) is going to sit, I had no idea what I was going to create when I started but, somewhere along the way I came up with my idea, problem was I didn’t have enough snow but I was assured it would snow again in a few days so I started piling. This is what I did, learned, and used.
First you need lots of snow, a few styles of shovels and something to tamp with which is important (I took a garden spade, cut the blade off and welded it back on at a 45 degree angle to the handle so it was more like a pick). You will also find a small folding (camping) shovel handy as well as a curved pruning saw. I also had a set of large sculpting tools similar to the ones used for clay sculpting,  4 cinder blocks, and 4 half inch thick sheets of plywood, one cut in half.

Pile your snow about 3ft deep packing /tamping it down as you go. Then, cut a lead and side edge right through the middle of your pile and clear away debris, lean 1 board up against each the side, edges meeting at one end creating a 45 degree angled corner. You may want to lean one or two of the cinder blocks against each board to hold them up as I did in the above photo. Keep piling and packing the snow until it starts to fill in the corner and then the sides. Add and move boards as needed, being sure to pack/tamp about every half dozen shovel fulls, the more the better (to force the air out). When the pile gets high enough you’ll have to move your boards around.
 In the above photo I also used steel 2x4's for support (wooden ones would have been better), to keep pressure on the sides while I piled & packed. It depends on how large your building the pile though, I went with an 8x8x8-10ft block but in the end I made two piles (this being the larger of the two). When your on top packing it down be careful not to slide off or collapse the edge, the best place to stand is in the center on top. It took two days to pile all this up. It could of been done faster if I'd had more boards but I wanted the snow to set over night with the boards still up against it. So having only 4 boards to work with it was done half, at a time.
 If I’d had 8 sheets of plywood I would have made a big box and let it sit for a week with the boards ratchet strapped on. When I started this project the plan was to pile the snow in a block shape and then put a lip on the front edge but as you can see in the lower picture I set the board up to do that but had to wait for more snow. The “more snow” never came instead it buried the eastern Provinces and States. Part of my plan was to let the snow sit until mid February when there is a winter fest. Being an artist and new to a town full of artists I wanted to be prepared. Well as it turned out I was the only one in town that still had snow when February came along.

It did snow a bit more but like I said before I needed more snow to complete my design. The lip I was putting on one side was for a hand. If you choose to do the same thing, when you set up the board move it away from the base about 1-2 feet as mine fell. Or you could just make the pile that much bigger (which is what I will do next time) and carve it out, I was just being lazy. So there you have it one pile of well packed snow. 

In part 2, I will talk about sculpting/carving, tools and  where to get them etc....

These photo's and article are the intelectual and copyrighted property of Timothy Arnell, use in whole or in part is stictly prohibited. Copyright 2010 Timothy Arnell.