Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Pyrite Crystal

When I was younger I was a rock and mineral collector.  Although that interest has faded, I'm still fascinated by the intricacies of crystals, especially when half buried in other strata.  Sulfer dioxide, also known as iron pyrite grows naturally in several different crystal configurations.  Because I imagine such a thing as "concrete crystals" existing as cubes the form of fool's gold that interested me the most was its cube form.

This cast was a simple 2"x2" cube with recessed panels, made in such a way to receive a single crystal piece of iron pyrite.  The dimple visible on top of the metal is the corner edge of a second crystal growing out of the first.

Slots were cut into the buried edges of the crystal.  The concrete of the cast filled these slots effectively locking the crystal in place.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Shadow Hug - Cutting

This is the finished work based on the previous test.  It measures 30"x40".  The two biggest changes (aside from its size) over the test cutting for the same image are the increase in the level of detail, and the change in color.

The former was a natural function of the increase in size and helps to make the work more photo-realistic at a distance.  The latter was based on the earlier interest of showing the models blond hair.

The more cuttings that I've completed the more aware I've become how sensitive the finished work is to the color selection of the mats that make it up.

Of all the various elements of the work, what I'm most proud of is his right arm.  It is being backlit by the reflection of the wall behind him, the far edge of it is bright right where it meets the shadow (which means the cuttings go deeper to the lighter colors).  The contrast of the light and dark in proximate adjacent spaces on his right arm, and in his hair were difficult but worthwhile effects.

The photograph to the left is a straight-on picture of the detail of his hair and face.  Note that his eyes are nothing more than black pieces cut horizontally across his face.

The photo to the right is an off-axis shot of the face and hair detail allowing one to see the layers.

The work is based on a photograph taken by Abreum Garcia of the model John Hoover.

John Hoover - Test Proof

I came across a photo of the model John Hoover taken by Abreum Garcia of

Because of the high contrast value, and the detail of his frontal muscularity I thought it would make a good cutting.

The image to the right is a 16"x20" test cutting, done in the same blue shades as the previous tests.

I didn't realize it at the time, but what really stands out for me in this work is the model's blond hair.  The  test just about, but not quite, conveys that he is fair-haired.  It became the starting point when I set about creating the finished work.

The image to the left is a photograph of the mat cutting in progress for this test.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lordosis Behavior - Cutting

This was another test cutting on a complex image.  I especially like the chiaroscuro-esque detail of her shoulder blades.

Ghost - Practice Cutting

This cutting was only done for practice and technique development.  I chose the photograph because of it's simplicity and high contrast value.  I also liked that the upper right corner was completely obliterated in shadow.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Him or Me - Test Proof

In order for me to sell the cuttings I needed to rely on photographs that were more professional than the ones I'd been taking.

Dylan Rosser, a well known photographer of the male nude form was one of the first to give me permission to create a cutting.  I chose to create a cutting of his photo of the British model Charlie Rawlins.

The image to the left is a photograph of my proof.  The shades of blue I had used for the Troy Cutting worked very well together and have since become a method I use to test how well an image translates into the medium.  Dylan Rosser models typically have a sheen on them and high contrast which makes them particularly suited to my interpretation.

Like the Nude Female and Nude Male sample cuttings, each of the mats is laid one on top of another, cut out to show the colors of the mats underneath.  When viewed at a distance it reads like a photograph.  Lest anyone think that the above is a trick of the lens or me playing with an Adobe photoshop function, the picture to the right is of the same work taken close up and off axis.  It allows you to see the 1/16" thickness of the individual layers that make up th entire image.  Because I was satisfied with the colors and the work in general I was prepared to go ahead with the final version of the cutting that would measure 30"x40".
Although I liked the colors of the test-cutting and originally decided to execute the final in similar colors, that didn't workout the way I wanted.  A photograph of the attempt is shown to the left.  The tonal difference between the fourth and fifth layers was too great.  It was never glued together and the pieces of it were destroyed when I completed Charlie in 7.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Retirement Card

When one of my coworkers, whom I much admired, chose to retire, I wanted to do something for him.  This measures 16"x20" but I deliberately kept the cutting portion of it small so that all of those that worked with him would have enough room to offer up their farewell wishes.

The Open Candlebox

 The candleboxes with the stained glass were continually cracking so I wanted to be sure that it was the glass that was doing it.  In order to test that out I cast a candlebox that had no glass.

One Christmas I made a series of them as gifts for friends and family.

The two major differences are that it's made out of ordinary concrete - portland cement and play sand in a 1:1 ratio with a lot of water (I had to be sure that the mix would fill the mold) and the web on top.  Concrete can withstand a great deal of heat, and most candle lanterns are completely open at the top in order to dissipate the heat.  I thought it would be interesting if this one had a web on the top similar to the ones on its sides.

The votive candle within is small enough to fit through the webbing on one of the sides to allow for insertion and removal of the candle and its glass jar.

This cast was done in a single pour, not assembled from separate casts.  The box which formed the center opening was made of foamboard.  In order to demold the cast, this box had to be cut up through the concrete webbing and taken out a piece at a time.

The Playhouse

The scale is difficult to gauge in this picture.  The door is just over 5' tall.

A coworker's daughters were quickly outgrowing their commercially available backyard plastic playhouse.  He asked me to design a bigger replacement - something he'd build himself.  The only requirement was that it be less than 8' in all dimensions.

The result was a simple gabled box 6'x6', 8' tall.  Two of its adjacent sides have one foot bays, one of which extends another foot to form a "porch".

A few months after he finished building it, he sold his home.  His daughters' affection for the playhouse, and his own sweat equity motivated him enough to rent a crane and truck large enough to move it to the backyard of their new home.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Troy Cutting

Image of the various layers, each laid on top of the next.
 Having worked with nude forms, both male and female, I was curious to see how much detail I could solicit from the cutting method as a medium.  In particular I wanted to see if I could do a cutting that was detailed enough to identify the model.  I chose a self portrait by my buddy Troy. 

The mats measure 16"x20" but the cutting itself is only 10"x12".  The top black layer extends outward to form the framing mat.  The lightest shade, a light grey is probably too light, but overall I was happy with the result.  The face in the finished work is easily identifiable as Troy.

To the left is an animated gif showing how the individual layers build up the image.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Second Cutting - The Male Nude

While the 16"x20" was acceptable for determining if the colors and the image were suitable, I really wanted to create something larger, 30"x40".

In order to show more detail I added another layer, bringing the total to six, black being the one on top, and then five shades of brown/beige down to an offi-white.

The size of this 40"x28" made it somewhat unwieldy to cut and glue together, so much so that looking back on it, it reads as fairly crude.

The original photograh required a lot of retouching and photoshop play in order to get it to where I wanted it to be for translation into a cutting.

In addition, this work more than any other laid bare for me how important color selection was in the choice of the mats.  I bought and cut the mats, and then realized that the bottom two were too light compared to the top four.  I inserted a color between layers three and four and recut the lower ones.

 In the photo on the right you can see the stark contrast between layers three and four.
Some friends have suggested that I deliberately leave layers out, especially the darker ones, which adds an ambiguity as to the subject matter.  I'm on the fence about this.

I generally enjoy that from a distance or if slightly blurred my work which is neither a painting nor a photograph can easily be mistaken for the latter.

The First Cutting - The Female Nude

I set out to decorate my apartment with work that I created.  After several hours painting only a few square inches and being displeased with the result I thought there had to be a faster way.

I remembered hearing that Van Gogh, in his later years when his vision was failing, took to cutting out paper to create his work, and I had recently read about the artist, Brian Crede, similarly using cut paper to create not just pieces of his work, but the entire image.

Using paper seeemd to be a great way to quickly create a large work, and I had a lot of wallspace to fill.  So I set about testing it out.
Each layer is lighter than the one on top of it and darker than the one below it.  The cut out portion of one reveals the colors of the ones underneath, giving it a sense of depth.  It reminded me of my earlier single color paintings; each layer representing a single shade of a different color in between the extremes of black and white.

The piece above, measuring 9"x12" is the first result,  a nameless woman's torso, cut out of matboard (not paper in the strict sense of the word) which served to stiffen the piece and give it a visual depth.  It was fairly simplistic and my choice of colors wasn't the best.  Even at a distance I don't think the image is all that clear.  One family member mistook it for a tree.

But if I squinted at it or stepped back far enough to make it blurry, the original image was still discernable, if less than perfect, so that kept me motivated.  A few months later another family member asked me to recreate the work, bigger and in different colors.

In order to make it more clear about what the subject matter was I inserted a layer to see if it would provide more detail.

Additional layers do provide more detail but the more of them there are, the more difficult it is to control the relationships between them, and the more precise my cutting needs to be.

The second version of this work measures 16"x20".

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Concrete Pot

I've done a lot of mental designs for outdoor concrete flower pots, but resisted casting them because of having to address the freeze-thaw issue of the weather.  In addition even moderately sized pots tend to be fairly large. I've only completed two.

The planter above was built using the same wooden mold as the cube fountain and measures 12" on each side.  There is a .5" reveal on the bottom to give it the look of "floating" above the ground.  The recessed "woven" patterns on the sides are created by the same random-cut method used on the the conference room logo.  But here I used Polytek 7420 rubber casting material to create four insert panels in the box of the mold.

This is the rubber mold used to create the molds of the side panels, and one of those panels.
My earlier concrete pot suffered a mold failure during the casting process.  Although it was built true and square, the pressure of the concrete in the mold caused it to bulge.  Unfortunately this bulging non-squareness is visible in the finished work.  On the bright side, it is because of this, that I deliberately built a wooden box to hold the required cube shape of both the planter above and the cube fountain.

Concrete Tea Light

While making the earlier candleboxes I became fascinated with the surface texture of the concrete lit by candlelight.  In this box, instead of trying to pass the light through it, either by glass or with slots, I wanted to create something where the flame would illuminate the concrete itself.  A slot cut in the top allows the heat and smoke to escape.  It measures 4" on each side.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Stained Glass

The most difficult thing about traditional stained glass panel making is cutting and grozing the individual pieces.  Even though I didn't need precise cuts in order to construct the candleboxes, which was my goal when I purchased the glass, I nonetheless decided I needed practice and took an eight week course on cutting and assembling a stained glass panel.  The design is not my own, but considering it was my first work in the medium, I think the finished product is pretty good.

Pieces cut and laid out.

Cut pieces edged with copper tape, awating soldering.

The 36

A few years after the completion of the single-color paintings, I set out to create a second set of six, and this set evolved into a much larger work.  The top row is a vision of a role model of mine.  The second, a detailing of the problems I saw in myself when I aspired to be more like that model.  All subsequent rows each address one of those problems and my solution do it.

If each of us is "light", this painting was about running myself through a prism to examine my constituent colors, correcting the mistakes and reintegrating them.  In the final row above the colors of one painting start to bleed across the individual squares.

The final work of 36 12"x12" paintings is not yet complete.

Detailed scans of each are shown below.

Row 1

Row 2

Row 3

Row 4

The remaining two rows are not yet complete.