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I Forge Iron
Seth O

Do i have to be artistic to be a blacksmith?

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I use to carve wood and do wood work when i was younger. I can't draw for crap. so does mean blacksmith isn't really for people who aren't artistic? I am just wondering what kind of expectation should i expect when first starting? Now i know some people will vary, i mean on a average scale. Some people will just get it and be natural at it. Does blacksmith take a long time to get good at? What would be good projects for a beginner to start out with?

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No need to be artistic to make things, although it sure does not hurt. Yes it takes a long time to get good at, and even longer to get great at forging. It seems to be a profession where you can never learn enough. There are so many variations and specialties that you could spend a lifetime doing this and still have things to learn, it seems. But, It does not take a long time to learn enough to make things. very little time actually before you can make functioning items. From there on out its all about improving and learning what you want to or need to,

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If you can carve, you are way ahead of me. I could never get the hang of those neckerchief slides we were supposed to carve out for scouts. I just don't visualize things that way. Same goes for free hand drawing. I can draft great, but if I meed to draw a person or animal, you'd be better off getting a kid with crayons to do it for you. Having said that, I am very good at visualizing things that get assembled. I can build and work on all sorts of complex cabinetry, forms, room additions etc in my head without prints. That makes some things for forging very difficult for me, and other things very easy. There's no way I could forge a dragon like some can, but if I have to do a gate, grill or bars, that is super simple for me.

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Become a blacksmith first, then you will develop into being artistic as you go. You can qualify blacksmithing, but art is a perception.

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Tis is similar to asking: "Do I have to be artistic to be a painter?"  To paint houses; no, in fact it can get in the way if you are; to paint the Mona Lisa from scratch Yes!

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Having that artistic eye certainly helps.  Understanding how proportion and perspective play into a design, and being willing to go that extra mile to file and sand a piece until it looks right... well, that's half of being a blacksmith.

If you're smart enough to ask the question, you're probably smart enough to do a good job at it.

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I use to carve wood and do wood work when i was younger. I can't draw for crap

About drawing : when I  started, I could not draw better than you claim you can. But when I wanted to do the type of forging that appealed to me, I started drawing. I have a grand daughter who apparently was born able to draw but she does practice. She draws all the time. I was not born like that. So I started drawing a lot. After a couple of years, I can draw enough to present options to my clients. It is something you can learn. Practice. Just start doing it. You will be surprised.

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Depends upon what you want to do. If you want to be an artist-blacksmith, then yes, there can not be too much artistic talent. If you want to be a blacksmith then no, not at all, though as mentioned some sense of style and balance will still be very helpful. I do about 1/2 if I had to guess, some, my own artistic designs and some for architects or other artists. I usually don't mind either way and most times but not all, the other designer or artist will allow me to make subtle changes for easier construction, installation, structural or aesthetic value. 

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When Im looking for artistic ideas for a workpeice is just use google and type in whatever Im trying to do and look at all the images to get basic ideas and think of ways to tweak them to fit my personal style.

I also cant draw for crap. Im ok at sketching but drawing takes a different skill. having worked with wood before you are already ahead of the game.

I would think creativity and persistence Is more important than artistic ability.I mean unless you are doing abstract folk art or something like that. :D

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No, but it helps.  The best supplemental skill for blacksmithing is drawing, both technical and artistic.  They compliment each other immensely, even if you are just drawing a simple tool you want to make, or sketching out a 3 dimensional sculpture or fantastic driveway gate.  

Just like blacksmithing, getting good at drawing takes not so much born skill as PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

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Thanks for all the input, i will definitely everything said here to consideration.

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Seth, you'll do fine.  "Don't worry...be happy!!!"  You have somewhat of a headstart.  Several members of our blacksmithing organization are very good woodworkers and/or woodcarvers.  So is their blacksmithing. ;)

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Creativity, is hard. Looking at a piece, and saying 'I see how that was done!' not so hard.  :D

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Big subject, thankfully mankind has not really resolved it yet!

Here are my some of my favourite concepts and clichés to précis the subject...

The craft side is concerned with the "how", the art side with "why", as others above have noted.

I think that the craft skills of drawing and blacksmithing are mutually inclusive. When you focus on the form you are making, choosing to tighten this curve here; taper that element a bit more there, you will develop your hand / eye coordination whether you are using a hammer on iron or a pencil on paper.

If you practice sketching with a hammer your sketching with a pencil improves!

You train and develop your eye through practice. Look at work by others..not necessarily just ironwork, and try and identify why the piece looks good or bad to you, or which parts or proportions you like. Sometimes you may not like the shape of individual elements but they add up to an interesting whole, other times the opposite.

Spaces are just as important as shapes.

Most times for me there are too many interesting bits and the piece becomes overworked and too fussy in detail, and as a result loses direction and strong character. 

Identify the mood that the piece portrays, its theme or spirit. How does it achieve that?

When you are making something try and hold the spirit of the piece in your head at all times so that every process contributes and supports that theme. 

Let every hammer blow be eloquent.

Whether you are at the stage that you can interpret the spirit of the piece or not, you will still develop a sense of shapes and forms and proportions you like and those you do not like so much. As you come to be able to control the inclusion of things you like in a piece you make, it starts to become different to similar objects created by others. It becomes your version, your take, your handwriting, your style...your art.

Practice making and practice looking.

You must be your own sternest critic. If you become smug and self-satisfied with a piece…whether technically or aesthetically...can't find fault with it,  you have nowhere else to go...you will never improve,

The old adage "I don't know much about art…but I know what I like". Is all anybody can base their work on.

Just make things that you like, and you will be an artist. As you get better at achieving it, maybe/hopefully others will come to agree! :)

Alan

Edited by Alan Evans

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One of my favorite creativity quotes says "any act of creativity is an act of spirtuality."  So you could do a whole other thread on do you have to be "spiritual" to be creative?  In the end I don't think it matters.  You can be an efficient and effective Smith and not be terribly creative, I think of some engineers I know who are very good at replicating projects to a T, the work is perfect but is it "creative?"   Depends on the person doing it, I suppose.  Does everyone who creates something make a connection between creativity and spirtuality?  Probably not, again depends on who is doing it and with what motivation.

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A lot of smithing is simply form falows function. Add a twist, a scroll, a leif or break the edges and you add a bit of flair,  even your choice of parent stock will effect the appearance of the finished product. (Nothing saise you cant put a twist in your chisel or a scroll at the end of your tong handle) 

You may find that working in 3 dementions is easer, as perspective and shading are paramount in 2 demention art, wile a flower in 3 demintions takes care of its self. 

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I think it is best to master the straight line and the square corner first, then let art follow function, or you might say let art follow craft. 

Plenty of real rubbish "art" and "artistic ironwork" being made because people think their doodles should be preserved in steel, while they show no real love or interest in the material or process. 

 

 

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As far as determining what is aesthetically pleasing, you can learn by studying.   The book "By Hand and Eye" by Jim Tolpin and George Walker is very good.  You can get it from Lost Art Press.  They relate the way an object's proportions can be related to one another to make the end product attractive.   I have a couple of other books on design, but this one has some interesting exercises that help to develop a good sense of what works and is pleasing to the eye.  

I'm not an artistic person, but I enjoy blacksmblacksmithing and woodworking.   As others have said art is a big concept, but I think starting small and studying the parts of the craft that interest you will help you develop the eye over time.  

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Spaces are just as important as shapes.

​This is something that many do not understand. many times it's not the item itself, but the space it defines that becomes the "art". Teaching someone about negative space can be tough. You can't really show someone "nothing", even if it's right there in front of you and to you, plain to see.

 

A good example is the "batman" logo. Years back a friend of mine and I were having a discussion and he commented he never understood why they used a big mouth as the symbol for Batman. This left me puzzled. It took me a little bit to wrap my head around what he was seeing. I'd always seen it as a bat winged shape. He saw it instead in "reverse" as an open maw. There are plenty of other Rorschach prints that do the same sort of thing. Is it a vase, or two people facing each other?  Some can flip easily from one idea to the other, Are you seeing the space in between the two faces, or are you looking at an object? Some just can't "see" one of the possible options.

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I learned a lot about designed from an old man named Joe..I spoke about him in my thread.but the key to making great sketches like say we want to do some scroll work inside a gate frame.. well you would get out a bunch of scrolls that you might have that are left over from other jobs anything close to the size you might think you might need.. and after you drew your square frame you could trace these scrolls.. or heck let's not build a gate..let's make a fancy New Orleans stair rail.. Let's say it's a pitched of 35 degrees.. and the space 28" inches in between top and bottom rail..let's say this thing has a gradual curve to it as well..it's a curved staircase..pretty intimidating huh? Well it shouldn't be..

What we do is first off we worry about the curve later.. we first draw 2 lines representing our vertical post and however long these panels may need be say..four foot long panels.

well after we got our post lines drawn..we then get the speed square out and make our top and bottom rail lines drawn on the work table remember we said 28" inches in between using the speed square we get our 35 degrees and away we go..

We then treat it like it was an old gate and we do the same thing we draw and trace the close fitting scrolls inside our panel. But then here's the secret we sketch out all the other stuff we want to put in it with a bunch of short little strokes and we see how it looks.. and we are constantly erasing lines and making new ones constantly dialing in our drawing to where it looks like the blueprint which by the way was how and old master like Joe would do it..

He always did a drawing on paper and he did it the same way with a bunch of short little strokes.. He would spend hours making it like how he wanted it on paper and we're not talking single line drawings but no it was "SKETCHED" too with a bunch of short strokes and there would be eraser marks too where it wasn't what he wanted but it was close..

Joe treated the blueprint drawing that he would show and sale to customers to the actual drawing on the table the same way.. You don't have to be a great artist don't get me wrong it helps to be able to make the correct line the first time..sure the hecks a lot faster..but if you take your time you can sketch out pretty much anything by trial and error..and then erasing that error and fixing it!

Oh yeah I said curved stair rail.. well after you got it drawn out on the table .you then build it smith the scrolls and what not..weld it..but then we get the rose bud and a piece of pipe  a little bigger than the radius we want then you and another buddy start heating that thing up and start man handling it into that radius that it needs to be to match the stair rail.. we also have what's called a "Radius bar" which we use to make sure we get it bent right.. I know sounds like fun huh? or maybe sounds like I'm crazy..a little of both I guess lol..

 

 

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To be an able artist, be it painter, writer, sculptor or blacksmith. you need a number of things: #1: The will to paint/write/sculpt....  #2: The will to paint/write/sculpt... 3#: The will to paint/write/sculpt.... #4 Knowledge about the subject  #5: The will to study.  Talent is good to have and might make the difference between an able artist and a genius. Most important is to have enough willpower to make mistakes, learn from the mistakes, learn from others and devote enough effort. Believe me I come from a family of artists. By the way, One of my professors in machinery design was admant that "If an engineer thinks a machine looks beautiful it will work well, if he thinks it looks ugly it will not.

Just start doing it Seth

Good luck

Göte

 

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Remember that mastery of any art or skill takes timeYou can begin to practice from the most basic carving.

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