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Sculptor Daniel Newman

Author: Judy Harper
Issue: December, 2013, Page 146
Photos by Garrett Cook

The artist wears safety glasses, ear protectors that he modified to play music, and a weightlifter’s belt while chiseling away at blocks of rock.

Sculptor Daniel Newman brings life to stone

Not one to have idle hands, Daniel Newman dabbled in all kinds of art—from oils and watercolors to stained glass and jewelry making—while attending UCLA in the 1950s and pursuing a career as a rocket engineer. But it was a class in clay modeling that proved to be a turning point. “I found myself shaving it off most of the time while others were sticking it on,” he recalls. “Subtraction was much easier for me than addition.”

The artist began playing with stone in 1970. He refined his technique with life drawing and stone sculpture classes at UCLA, and furthered his studies under master sculptors in Italy. In 1989, he retired from engineering and soon moved to Sedona, Arizona, where he built a home and studio and began to carve in earnest. Through the years, Newman says he has gained an intimate feel for the medium. Under his skilled hands, spectacular lumps of onyx, marble and alabaster are transformed into fluid contemporary pieces that emphasize the beauty, mass and sculptural integrity of the rock.

“Sculpting in stone is totally different from modeling in clay,” he remarks. “With clay, you are the master and tell it what to do; and if it doesn’t, you can start over. Stone has an attitude—it can break or crack, and every type of stone has imperfections, fissures and its own challenges. It’s more of a negotiation process, where you try to coax, cajole, even seduce the stone into what you want it to do. If you are good, it will do most of what you want but it will never do all. The result is a negotiated compromise, just like life is or a marriage.”

Daniel Newman strives to create a feeling of lightness and fluid motion in his sculptures, ensuring that each piece is pleasing from all angles. Pictured is Joyful Angel, Argentine blue onyx, 21"H x 30"W x 7"D.
Newman finds his stone throughout the world, with favorite specimens coming from Italy, Argentina, Colorado and a small island between Vermont and Canada. He transports the chosen ones to his workshop, a dusty basement filled with a panoply of tools. Working with stones that weigh thousands of pounds, Newman says that securing such pieces requires much time, effort and expense, not to mention physical strength. “When I start a sculpture, the rock weighs about 1,000 pounds, and when I’m done, the sculpture weighs 100 to 150 pounds. That leaves 850 pounds of remnants that have to be hauled out of my workshop.”

Each sculpture is hand-carved from a single block. Recent works include angels, hearts, horses and a variety of figurative pieces that emphasize the feminine form and the tender relationship that couples share. He also has coaxed a few bowls from stone, as well as a pelican, angelfish and mermaid. Although he sometimes has an idea of what he wants to make and then searches for a suitable stone, Newman usually begins with no preconceptions and “lets the stone tell him what it wants to be. It’s sort of like blind man’s bluff. I nibble a little bit here and a little bit there until I find the figure that is in the stone,” he explains.

For all their bulk, the sculptures appear light and graceful, polished to bring out the striking texture of the rock. Newman confesses to having a love/hate relationship with the sanding process—this is when the natural beauty of the stone is fully revealed in all its glory, he says. However, it can be tedious work.

Flaming Love, Italian green onyx, 20"H x 20"W x 9"D
The artist’s creations grace homes throughout the world, with collectors eager to sing his praises. “We feel proud and privileged to own a few of Daniel Newman’s sculptures,” comment Del and Bonnie Allinder of Sedona. “The way he can choose a stone and see a form in it, and then bring that form to life is unbelievable.”

“I look at my sculpture all the time, and it gives me such a calm and peaceful feeling,” states another collector. “I just love the smooth lines.”

“Daniel Newman is one of the most talented stone sculpture artists worldwide,” assert Marty and Diane Herman of Exposures International Gallery of Fine Art in Sedona, who have represented Newman since 1997. “He is an artist’s artist, and we consider him one of our favorites. He has created an enormous body of outstanding work, and he has the utmost integrity, loyalty and respect for the arts.”

Newman accepts the compliments with grace and heartfelt satisfaction. “I’m not sure what I would do if I couldn’t sculpt anymore,” the genial 80-year-old reflects with a smile. “I’m in my workshop at 7:30 a.m., seven days a week. I figure if I get too old to work on large pieces, I can still make smaller sculptures. And if I can’t make the small ones anymore, I can make jewelry. This is truly a labor of love for me, and hopefully I have many more years of sculpting ahead.

Photos - From left: Blue Stallion, Argentine blue onyx, 26"H x 20"W x 10"D • Dance of Love, Italian pink onyx, 21"H x 15"W x 7"D

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