Sunday, August 9, 2015

"Figures in the Fourth Dimension" - A "Must-have" Book

I am happy to finally be able to announce that the "Figures in the Fourth Dimension"  book is out! And I'm honored to be in it.

The book - thoroughly researched and assembled by fellow kinetic artist, Ellen Rixford - has been published, and it is AMAZING. Ellen has been putting this together for at least 6 years, maybe more, and the thing that impresses me most is her super-thorough attention to detail.  Ellen contacted me back in 2009, and asked not only for great images of my pieces, but also explanations and diagrams of how each piece - and every mechanical component in it - functioned. Ellen, a figurative kinetic artist herself, made sure she understood how every part of a mechanism worked. If there was a question about how a cam or lever worked, I would get an email or a phone call asking me to clarify things. I think her approach was to create a how-to book that would educate a person interested in building mechanical figures - automata, puppets, mechanical figures - but also a beautiful book for anyone interested in the subject. It is awe-inspiring how she, and the other artists in the book, pull back the curtain to reveal how these amazing pieces were created. To my knowledge, there is not a more thorough book out there on this subject. I'm sure anyone interested could spend days delving into the beautiful pages of this coffee table style book - I know I will.

Here are some images for the book ---

The book measures 11.5" x 9", is a whopping 512 pages, and highlights the work of not only automata makers, but puppet makers, and artist who create mechanical figures. Many notable historical pieces are dissected as well......

A page from the section on Chris Chomick and Peter Meder.

A marionette by Phillip Huber.

The wonderful work of Pablo Lavezzari.

The incomparable Keith Newstead.

Ellen's own wonderful work; along with Mayhew Lu.

The creative work of the great Paul Spooner.

As well as the work of other modern artists, many famous historical pieces are also highlighted. This piece by Henri Maillardet at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, is similar to the automaton in the movie, "Hugo". Ellen was fortunate that at the time she contacted the folks at the Institute, the piece was being transported to a show and was in pieces for shipment. While the piece was apart, they were able to take rarely seen pictures of the inside, showing the complete mechanism. There is also a thorough explanation (thorough? 34 pages worth!) of how each and every component functions. This alone is worth the price of the book - amazing.

Here are a few pages of the section on my work. Again, I am beyond honored to have my work recognized in this incredible book. 

My piece "Crescendo".

The inner workings of "Lauren & Jordan".

"Wonderlust" explained.

If you haven't already, you can order this amazing book here. I guarantee - it will not disappoint. (When you go to the page, Click the "Contact/Buy" button on the right.) 

UPDATE - Ellen let me know that, "Already Harvard has 2 copies! University of Connecticut has purchased 100 copies for their bookstore, and the Morris Museum is planning to sell it in their bookstore." Great news.

Thanks for looking!


Monday, July 27, 2015

"Petra's Piece" - 2015

This Spring, my wife and I took a trip to Slovenia to meet our friend Petra. A few years back, my wife 'met' Petra in an online class for illustrators, (they are both freelance illustrators for the home decor industry), and they hit it off right away. Petra always said we should come for a visit and she would show us her country. I had never really heard a lot about Slovenia before; it sounded so exotic. My wife and I really love to travel and we had been planning to do this for a few years now. Turns out, Slovenia is an amazing, beautiful gem nestled between Austria, Italy, and Croatia. Since Petra and her family were so generous with their time, (they hosted us for 8 days - they drove us around everyday, and showed us all their favorite places), my wife and I decided to give them a gift equal to their generosity. I posted a few pictures from our trip at the bottom of this post.

As a "Thank You" gift to Petra, Uros, and family, I made this small shadowbox. 
For a while I've been toying with the idea of doing 'group shots' - portraits of multiple figures, concentrating of the faces and the juxtapositions of the group. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out my idea. I really like how this turned out. It took extra time to get the faces right, but it was worth it.

A side shot to show the depth. The piece measures 10" x 8.5" x 4" and sits on a shelf or can be hung on the wall. The box was made from salvaged wood.

             Petra and Uros.
             Tim and Sophie.

Starting out with the polymer clay sculpting. My reference pics are on the left.

I developed the 4 heads concurrently, so their sizes were proportional.

I mounted the figures to a small board before placing the whole assemblage into the shadowbox. That way I could get the placement correct, and then just glue the whole thing into the shadowbox. Their bodies are pieces of pine.

One last shot before I put them in the shadowbox.

More about Slovenia..........

Map of Slovenia.

My travel pics, in no particular order......

Beautiful mountains in the western part of the country.

Hiking near the Julian Alps.

The Škocjan Caves. (Can you see the man in this pic?)

A church on Lake Bohinj.

 Lake Bled - a must-see. (I didn't take this shot.)

Ljubljana, the capitol of Slovenia.

 Napoleon's Bridge over the Soča River.

 The Soča River. Yes, that's the real color - amazing.

The Soča River.

A small town on the Soča River, where we stopped for cappuccinos.

Piran, on the Adriatic Sea.

I have more pictures from our trip here if your interested. More? Yes, 223 more.

Also, whenever we travel to Europe, we always go by Rick Steves' recommendations - and we always have an amazing time. Here is his program on Slovenia.....

Go see Slovenia, you will not be disappointed. And the people are wonderful.

Thanks for looking.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

"Fearless" Shadowbox - 2015

Here is "Fearless", my latest shadowbox - which really turned into a labor of love. Since I wanted to put the figure in this kind of dress, I had to spend a lot of time carving her basswood body - much more than I would if I was covering her body with clothes.
And I had this idea of placing the figure up on top of the shadowbox for a while, and I really think it turned out well.
The shadowbox is made from scratch, and the ladder and mirror are found objects. I added a little paint to the mirror but left the ladder as I found it - it was perfect as is.
The frame and the interior of the shadowbox were decoupaged with pages from vintage books, then the frame was painted with a wash of metallic gold acrylic paint, and the whole piece was distressed in my usual fashion.

The piece measures 16.5" x 23" x 5.5" and hangs on the wall. The piece is signed and dated. And is available from me for $840. (Free shipping.)

With this piece I wanted to stick with a limited color palette, and keep the scene pretty simple.

She appears to look down from her perch. (I thought about calling her "Plucky" or "Moxie", but I had already used those titles on previous pieces.)

I was pretty happy with the way her body came out. It's so much easier to cover my figures up with clothes, but this dress really seemed to be the perfect fit for her. Her clothes were made by me - the lower part of her dress is actually a vintage handkerchief my wife had. 

I made her head and face purposely elongated; to go along with her long limbs.

Details of the frame, her leg, hand, and the ladder. I put her in tights so I didn't have to worry about carving her toes, plus it goes with her outfit.

The mirror, slightly distressed.

In-progress pics.....

My drawing for her body. I purposely wanted her arms and legs to be elongated, and stylized/idealized - like a fashion model.

Fitting the figure to the frame - making sure she sat on the top properly. The shadowbox is also in-progress here.

Fitting her arm to her torso. I wanted her hands to be right on the edge of the frame, so I had to do some reverse engineering here.

The figure is finished and ready to be painted. I really had to hide the seams of her neck and arms; usually they are covered with clothing. I made her neck out of wood this time so I could carve it down where needed.

In the middle of my painting process. The two brass pins will hold the figure in place.

Thanks for looking!


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"The Bachelors & The Bowery Bums" - 2015

This piece is a bit of a departure for me - or at least a new way to configure my characters. I love the dynamic interplay and narrative of group shots, and this non-kinetic piece has a lot of implied action and exchange - a snapshot of a scene, if you will. The title is from an early Tom Waits' song.

The piece measures 19.5" x 12.5" x 4.5", and can hang on a wall or sit of a shelf or table. 
It's currently available (from me) for $2450.

There's a small window on top of the case which allows light to fall on the background and illuminate the scene. All the characters here seem to be thinking, "what am I doing here?' Of course, the narrative is always up to your interpretation. 

Here you see the window or "skylight". The case is made from scratch - hand painted, sanded, and finished with a hand-rubbed coat of paste wax.

         The Heads


In-progress pics...

Here I'm in the middle of sculpting the heads, and making sure they are all about the same size. They are sculpted from my special mix of polymer clay.

After sculpting, they are baked, and lightly sanded where needed. Here you can see their personalities really start to emerge.

During the painting process, I had to make sure they were all looking in the right direction - or at least not staring into the back of someone's head. This is the initial configuration of the group - and as you can see, it changed a bit.

The 7 heads - all painted, aged, and polished.

Each figure has their own "body" and shirt that compliments their character. I mounted all the figures to a board so I could position them into the shadowbox as a group. This is the 3rd and final configuration. Certain figures were better in certain positions - I had to make sure everyone was in their best spot.

The main background element is actually a piece of half-dried-up paint that came out of one of my paint cans. I love the texture the paint picked up from the can - and it reminded me of corrugated metal. Later, I added the "stickers" to reinforce that urban distressed feel.

A few weeks before starting this piece, I glued up some scraps of luan plywood, in a sort of jigsaw puzzle panel. I love using recycled scraps in my artwork - the distressed texture adds so much interest to a piece. Here are a few strips I cut from that panel, that were fashioned into the frame of this piece.

Here I'm fitting the group into the case. I'm figuring out how high they need to sit in the frame. You can see how the frame turned out - this is just before painting the case.

I was really happy about how this 'first' piece came out, and look forward to making more group pieces.

 Thanks again for looking!