Monday, September 26, 2016

"Homage to Dumas" - A Crank-operated Tribute - 2015

This piece was commissioned by a woman who discovered Alexandre Dumas' book, "The Count of Monte Cristo", at the age of nine. It's a tribute to that discovery - and to her continued admiration, and love, of his work. The piece was created in September, October, and November of last year. I put the piece on hold a couple of times, for various reasons. And now I'm just getting the chance to blog about it - it's been a busy year. 

My client came up with the scenario - the young girl, the wood shop, the boat in-progress, various details and props -and this is how it played out in my head. The little girl, sawing on a piece of wood, is in the middle of building Edmond Dantes' ship, the Pharaon. When you turn the crank, the girl's arm moves back and forth as if sawing the piece of wood. The overall measurement is 14" x 18.5" x 13".

Per my client's request, several of Dumas' books are scattered around the wood shop. Even a wooden figure of Edmond Dantès can be seen in the background.

I can't remember doing a diorama-like scene similar to this, but I really like how it came out. I loved making all the different elements of the scene.

She's quietly working away on her boat.

Her lovely face.

A shot through the yet-to-be-completed boat; to the Dantès figure in the background.

In-progress pics.......

I began with the figure, as I usually do. Actually I started this mid-September, when my Danish apprentice was here. I thought it would be good for her to watch me create one of my kinetic figures.

Here I'm figuring out the table height, and finalizing the make up of her arms, and her saw.

The mechanism inside her chest. A line pulls down on a small lever, which moves her arm back. The spring returns it forward. Back and forth, back and forth.....

Here I'm configuring the scene - the wall height and width, as well as the arrangement of the work tables.

I made turned legs for the tables, which were made from old boxes and an old drawer.

I built the base - and now she has a floor! All the tables and the walls will all be held in place using metal pegs; pegged into the floor.

Her body is all ready to be painted. Her head is sculpted from polymer clay and her body is carved basswood.

She's all painted, the clothes are made, and now she's ready to be assembled. The 2 covers on the right will protect the mechanism inside her chest.

Right before I put on the 2 covers, I check to make sure everything is working flawlessly. Then, I will sew up her shirt by hand.

The wood shop is starting to come together. There was a blank spot on the left wall - which was a perfect spot for a little wood stove - made from found objects.
The 3/8" walls were built up from 2 layers of oak plywood, (because I had it laying around; leftover from another project). The walls turned out to be very straight and stable, and relatively thin.

I aged the stove with various darkening solutions, and I love how it came out. When I was building it, I was fortunate to have all the right pieces and parts on hand.

Here I'm starting to apply a stucco finish to the walls. I really didn't want the wood grain to show through, and I love the texture of the stucco. This is a mixture of drywall compound and latex paint. I added some of the mixture to the trim as well.

The stucco is dry - now on to painting it.
(You can see the metal pegs on the bottom of the walls here.)

A quick shot to see how everything is coming together. So far, so good. The floor has been given it's final treatment of wood stain.

The walls and base have been painted, but not aged. I masked off the poster on the right wall with blue tape because I didn't want to get it messed up in the (sometimes messy) aging process.

This is after aging the walls and the base - which was done with the two shelves in place - here you can see their outlines.

Here's a detail shot of the texture created by the stucco application. After aging, I lightly sand every surface; this brings out a lot of texture. The color is a bit off in this shot, but it shows the lovely texture.

Adding all the little details - the books, tools, and other props - it's coming together now.

Dumas' books; before aging.

Her's the little hand-carved Dantès figure. I put this off until the end because I didn't have the confidence that I could do it - I thought I would screw it up. In the end, he came out pretty well.

"Of course you can carve a tiny hammer head out of a piece of lead."

The tiny hammer is finished.

Here's the mechanism in-progress. A simple hand crank, with one cam and lever. In this shot the cam is yet to be cut.

This is the ratchet, which prevents the crank from being turned the wrong way. Actually, in this piece, it wouldn't matter which way the crank was turned, but it does add that nice ratchet sound.
The two gears were found at a salvage yard, or flea market.

The movie..... (watch full screen)

Thanks again for looking!


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"A Dream within a Dream" - My Poe Piece Show At the Poe Museum

Back in March '16, I was invited to create a piece of artwork for a group show at the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia. The organizer, A. Nancy Cintron, saw my recent piece, "The Seeker" online, and was excited by this piece because she just organized a Vincent Price show at her gallery. She asked me if I would submit a piece for the upcoming show, "a POE-etic Tribute", which opens September, 22, 2016. Of course I said, Yes! 

I was thrilled to participate in this show because I've always wanted to do a portrait of Edgar Allan Poe.

Here's a link to the Opening Event, (on Facebook) ---> here.

Each artist in the show was asked to choose one of Poe's lesser-known poems, and use it as their starting point. After reading many of his poems, I chose "A Dream Within a Dream". Here it is....

"A Dream within a Dream"
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?  
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp 
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Originally, I wanted to do a kinetic piece using sand, but decided it would be out of the price range of most of the other works. 

Here is my piece - I imaged his feeling after the last bits of sand left is hand, and as he says, "Through my fingers to the deep, While I weep — while I weep!".

The piece measures 8" x 16" x 5", and is currently available from me for $595. The piece is signed and dated.

I really tried to focus on his body position. As I always do, I stood up and used my own body as my model, and imagined his position slumped forward - as in a defeated stance.

A view from the back.

The making of......

His hand-carved basswood hands.
His shoes; the design of which is mostly pulled from my imagination. I don't use a lot of reference photos when designing and creating my pieces. I like my memory and imagination to guide me.

For sculpting his polymer clay head, I did however use a photo reference. I used that one iconic image of him, but try to add some sadness to his eyes.

Here is his fully carved basswood body, all ready to be painted. His arms and legs etc. are assembled as he's dressed.

After painting, and right before he's dressed in his handmade clothes.

Here are his painted - and aged - hands - right before he was dressed. I really like how this shot came out.

A close-up of his head, showing his mournful expression.

A detail shot of his shoes. I had this "treasure box" in my collection of found boxes, and it turned out a perfect match for this figure. I thought, "the poem mentions standing on a surf-tormented shore - this could be an old sea chest!". The only thing I added was the lock on front.
It doesn't happen often, but I love when things come together like this. And I really love this piece!

Thanks for looking.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Diagnostics" - 2016 - A Commission About Automotive Repair

This might be a lengthy post, as it took 2 months to build this commissioned piece. Stick with me, I will try to make it interesting.

Back in November, my client contacted me and told me he was interested in a piece about the automotive repair business. After some discussion, we came up with this idea - a piece with a souped up sports car, whose owner is a little baffled why the humble mechanic can't seem to find out why it's not running well. So as the mechanic tries to diagnose the problem, the customer watches and waits with a look of indignation. The commentary is my client's notion that many of today's customers don't understand how complicated motor cars have become. They aren't designed and built like they were 50 years ago.

The final images are first - scroll down to see the in-progress pictures.

The piece measure 15" x 28" x 12", and is operated by the red button on the right.

I wanted to give the viewer the idea that the scene is set in a repair shop, without have to build the whole shop. I added the tires here and a service counter on the other side.

The mechanic is a little overwhelmed by the overly-complicated engine. His heads turns as he ponders the problem.

The engine sputters and the mechanic nervously bangs on it, trying to diagnose the problem.

As the customer reads his paper, he glances over and finally shakes his head at the mechanic's apparent ineptness. 

A closer shot of his paper.

An overhead shot of the sports car, showing the interior and overall finish. I was very happy with the way it turned out.

The Build...

Starting out, I foolishly thought I could go to an antique store or do a search for an appropriate sports car on eBay. No such luck. I knew exactly what I wanted, but couldn't find it. After a while, I realized I had to make it myself. 

So this is what I did first - I built myself a sports car. It was loosely based on a 1974 Maserati Khamsin because I found a nice drawing of it online.

Following the drawing, I started out with 4 pieces of basswood, and went from there.

I carved most of the detail by hand - and did a lot of sanding to get them just right.
Here I'm adding the roof. The back section, which includes the roof, was not glued on until much later, as I needed access to the interior.

The roof is finalized, as are the 2 post. It was very challenging to figure out these 2 (seemingly simple) post. They had to be as strong as possible and they had to hold the windshield and the 2 side windows - and they are curved in 2 directions btw.

After I found these hubs at a RC hobby store, I turned the 4 tires out of basswood to fit them. (I didn't want to make the hubs by hand, and didn't have any found objects to stand in for them.)
I also finished the interior, and started to flush out the interior of the engine compartment.

I've started to paint the interior, and I antiqued the hubs and tires.

Here I'm starting on the engine. 
I needed to hide the gearmotor inside, and to figure out how the wires were going to run. 
You can see the windshield here, which took lots of time to figure out it's size and shape. I made it out of plexiglas that was heated and formed over a mold that I carved from wood.
Also, the whole car got a red paint job, and then I antiqued and distressed the finish like I always do.

Here I'm about halfway through building the engine. The engine has many moving parts, and it stops and starts on cue. As you can see, I have yet to antique any of the shiny metal parts.

Here's the engine finished and all antiqued down. I had to make the whole engine removable in case anyone ever has to replace the gearmotor.

The figures....

Next up was to make the 2 figures - the mechanic, who is hammering on the engine, and the customer, reading his paper and watching the mechanic ply his trade.
Since both of their heads turn, a rod runs up one leg to their head. A line runs up the other leg that operates the arms.

One of the customer's hands is finished; and one to go. These are hand-caved from basswood.

Their bodies and their heads, (sculpted from polymer clay), are ready for paint. The 4
covers are to protect the mechanisms inside their chests.

The mechanic, ready to be assembled. (I design and hand make all of my clothes btw.)

The customer is ready as well. ( I love his smirk.)

The mechanism inside the customer's chest. As the string pulls down, the customer raises his newspaper. As you can see, the rod for his head runs right through the same area, so the rod for his arms had to be cut in half.

The figures are finished and ready to be added to the scene.

Starting the mechanism.
I knew I needed  4 cams to control all the action, and a switch that controlled the 'on and off' of the engine - the green momentary switch (seen here) will do that.

The cam followers on the ends of the levers are precision bearings. They will never need to be lubricated and will (pretty much) last forever.

After many, many days of challenging work, it's all finished. (The arm that holds on the cam stack has been remove in this picture.)

Here is one of my many drawings - this one is for the timing of all the action - the figures and the motor.

The cams are all cut and ready to be assembled into the cam stack. The one on the lower right also contains the 'cam' for the (green) engine switch. And the one on the upper left is the timing cam for the whole scene. As the red button is pushed, it raises a small rod (out of that small notch on top) and turns on the motor by way of another momentary switch. Toward the end of the cycle, as the notch comes around, the small rod drops into the notch, and disengages from the momentary switch - turning the whole thing off.

The cam stack in the base. (Again, the arm is removed in this picture.)

Here are the tires I turned out of basswood. They are stacked behind the customer in the scene.

Here is the movie - it's best to view it full screen

Thanks for looking!