Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Music Video I Shot and Edited - "Lightning" by Bim Skala Bim

In March of 2018, I travelled to Asheville, NC to see one of my favorite bands, Bim Skala Bim. They're a ska band originally from Boston, who formed around 1983. Nowadays, the members are spread around the globe, but still come together to do shows. At the show, I met the lead signer, Dan Vitale, and later we connected online. I wanted to use one of their songs for a short video, so I asked Dan if it was okay. He said yes, and after seeing the video, he asked me if I'd be interested in doing some art for the band - maybe some album art, a poster, or even a video. This fall, Dan send me this song, and since the budget was low, I just shot things around my studio. I edited all together like I usually do for my short videos.

Here's the video, "Lightning" ---

(You'll probably want to watch it on a larger screen.) 

Let me know what you think. And if you want to get more info on the band, you can go here.

Thanks for looking!


Sunday, November 11, 2018

"Viva la 40" - 2018 - A Gift from a Wife to a Husband

This piece was a special gift from a wife to her husband on his 40th birthday. She wasn't exactly sure how to portray him - but she told me he'd really love a piece created by me, as he had been a "fan" of my work for some time. After several emails back and forth, we decided to portray him in his wood shop, building a birdhouse - one of his many interests. Some of his other attributes/hobbies/interests we discussed wouldn't exactly translate into a kinetic piece of art. During our discussions, I learned that he is a loving husband and father, a hard-working provider, and a man devoted to his family. But just how to put that into a piece of art? We did, however, decide to incorporate some of his more tangible attributes into the scene. Besides his family, he also loves music - playing his bass, and listening to Kiss albums. My client (his wife) provided me with many pictures which helped me to create his likeness - his face (of course), his dress, and even his propensity for wearing headbands. 

Here are the final images. 
The piece measures 10" x 17" x 9.5", and as you turn the handle, he hammers, pauses, looks left and right, and continues to hammer. 

A side view. The background piece was based on the interior of their home. Again, her pictures were very helpful - providing me with many details.

Another view.

I really liked making the bench, the birdhouse, and all the other props.

Here you can see the rod that lifts up and drops his arm; which pivots at the elbow.

An overhead shot. 

The background piece - held in place with 3 metal rods. I worked on this piece separately, and only glued it into the base as one of the very last steps. The upper wall is decorated with Kiss posters and family portraits.

His bass was made from scratch, (with the help of great pics), and the logo for his mortuary business - which he designed.

A detail shot of the items underneath his workbench. Some of these are found objects, and some are made from scratch. The envelope (under the toolbox) carries a secret significance to the family. 

In-progress shots......

I didn't make the hammer first, but I did have to make it early on. The head is "carved" from a small piece of lead, and I "turned" the front part of it. In this image, you can see I have yet to cut off the excess on the face.

The base in-progress. Here I'm adding the baseboard, while making sure the background piece is straight up and down.

All finished with the construction of the background and the base. To the background, I added appropriate trim, and even added "stucco" to the lower part - which will add a bit of texture. The background piece is still just fitted in the base, and not permanently attached at this point.

More progress on the background piece - and getting close to being finished. Here I'm figuring out where to place the pictures on the wall.

After figuring out the height of the workbench, I needed to find a good place for the birdhouse, the placement of his left hand on the birdhouse, and how to configure his arm. You can see it is yet to be carved. And you can see the finished hammer. 

The left arm is carved now, and I'm figure out where to place the figure and the workbench on the base.

The figure - all carved basswood, except for his head, which is sculpted from polymer clay.
You can see how the rod for his head runs up through one leg, (see the brass tube?). I think I originally was going to have an internal mechanism move his hammering arm, but I changed my mind when I realized that just his forearm needed to move - not his whole arm. That's why you see a cutout on his torso. I filled the hollow cavity with a piece of wood.

His body: all painted and ready to be dressed.
I didn't glue his arms on until I made his shirt - and was ready to do the final assembly. For that, I put one arm through the shirt sleeve and glued that arm on. Next, I put the other arm through the other sleeve, while making sure the head was going to fit on properly. Then I glued the second arm on very carefully. After his head was situated, I stitched up the back of his shirt, by hand.

The levers for his head (middle) and hammering arm (top). The two gears, and pawl (bottom, with spring) are part of the ratchet - which prevents the crank from being turned the wrong way.

The two cams - the one for hammering on the left, and the one that turns his head on the right.

The mechanism.
You can see the two cams on the left, and the ratchet to the right. You can also see that I used salvaged wood (as I often do) for the base of this piece. The 1/2" plywood was used by a fellow artist as a painting surface - hence all the color.

Another view. You can't see it, but right under the main axle is the cam follower - it's on the lever that controls his head. The rod that goes to his head is seen at the bottom, (it has blue paint on it).

I got this nice email from my client when she received it --- 
"I received him this afternoon and he's amazing!!! I am just blown away. We have those Kiss albums hanging on the walls. I can not wait for him to see it and you to be able to share it. It looks like you shrunk a scene from our house or his office. Thank you so very much. I wanted to give him something special and just for him for his 40th birthday and you have given me the ability to do that. Thank you again and I'll email you his reaction on his birthday."

Here's the video - wait until the end to see the husband's reaction. Watch fullscreen. 

Thanks for looking!


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

"Girls Girls Girls" - 2017

It's been a while since I posted anything here..... so now it's time for me to catch up! 
(And I'll be adding more here soon - stay tuned.)

This piece was born out of the idea of the spinning sign. This is partly based of what I've learned making other pieces where the figures spin a wheel -similar to a carnival wheel. The hand motion, the mechanism for the motion - and the challenges of each piece - were very similar. The question was - how to get a static object moving with just one swift movement of a figure's arm? Part of the solution was adding more weight to the lever - which would deliver more thrust to the arm. I also had to make the arm strong enough to withstand the extra force. I will explain more as I show you the in-progress pictures below......

The final shot. He measures 10.5" x 19.5" x 5". And is sold.
He stands on an old metal lunchbox, but everything else was made by me. 

Another view. Not only does his arm move to spin the sign - his head turns from side to side, and his expression is "perpetually bored".

A closer look. 

The sign, which is a thin piece of lightweight pine, is held by his other hand. 

Here's a look at his right arm from behind. You can see the rod that first lifts his arm, and then - with great force - drops it down, rapidly, to spin the sign. The joint at his elbow had to be designed to allow his arm to move slightly backwards, to ensure there was clearance between the sign and his fingers when his arm lifted up. As his arm drops, it moves forward about 1/8" so his fingers land on the top of the sign - putting it into motion. And you can see the small bearing I used for the sign, which is held by his left hand.

His head - sculpted out of polymer clay - with his sad, bored expression.

In-progress pics.....

His basswood hand. I always "strengthen" my figure's hands by saturating them with thin CA glue. It makes the soft basswood much "harder".  This pic shows the hand before I put the glue on it.

This is the left hand - with the CA glue on it, (it does change the color of the wood a bit.)

The next 3 images show my process of building the right (spinning) arm, and of getting the body position, and placement, correct. I made a "stand" that will hold the sign in it's proper place while I tested out how the whole thing operated. 

Here I'm figuring out the position of the upper arm. And as you can see, I started off with a basswood lower arm, (or maybe it was just a stand-in, a "test piece" for the final arm? I don't remember.)

Here I'm finalizing the arm and hand. I switched over to poplar wood for the forearm - mostly because of the elbow joint, which had to be super strong.  At the elbow joint, what is usually just a hole, had to be a slot, so the arm could move backwards. (Sorry, I don't have pics of the arm and slot.) You can see the stand I made that supports the left arm - and holds it in position.

His head; sculpted from polymer clay.

His basswood shoes. 

His body, just before I dressed him. As you can see, the rod for his head goes directly through his left leg - that's why he's standing a bit strangely - off to one side.

The mechanism; nearing completion. The 5 pointed cam was to lift the lever, and let it drop. The other round cam moves his head from side to side. At this point, I've only carved out one drop, or valley. And you can see the lever (and bearing) that moves his head.

Here the 2 cams are finished and glued together. You can see how much the cam for the head has changed - more valleys! - and that I changed from 5 "drops" per cycle to only 3. It's all figured out with 'trial and error' - lot's of time, and lots of head scratching.  CA glue also 'strengthens' the cams. 

Here's the lever - notice where the cam follower is in relation to the rod, (which goes up to his arm), and where the weight is. The pivot point is all the way to the right. The location of these points were worked out on paper. Figuring out just how much weight to add to the lever was a guess - more trial and error.

Here are the levers and cams in place. I added the black piece of foam to cushion the lever after it dropped.

Here's a shot of the final mechanism, just before I lower it all into the metal lunchbox. I worked on it, and figured out the mechanism in this upright position.

I'll try to post a movie of it soon.

Thanks for looking!!!


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Is Self-promotion Wrong? --- or --- I'm Fishing for Commissions.

Here's a short "promotional" video I put together recently. It includes images from many of my pieces, all together. It's fun to see my pieces - especially my heads - one after another. It really gives a person a broad view of my overall style.

You'll want to watch this full screen. And it's also posted on my YouTube Channel - here.

At the end of the video, I point out that I do commissions. Over the past 10 or so years, approximately 60% of my time has been devoted to creating commissioned work. I still - and always will - make pieces for "me"; pieces that I will then put up for sale on my website. But going forward, most of my time will be spent making that special piece for someone else. I'm fortunate to have several regular customers that request pieces once a year, or maybe every couple of years. I'm thankful to them for keeping me afloat. So as an independent artist, (see my last paragraph below), I'm really making the effort to get the word out that I graciously accept commissions of many kinds - personal, corporate, or even from interior designers or architects. I'm open to the possibilities.

In case this gets you thinking....... even if you're not exactly sure what you might want, please feel free to reach out to me. It's always nice to get the conversation started early, even if you're not ready to "pull the trigger". And sometimes my schedule gets backed up - so again, earlier is better.

Also, I recently added a Commission Page to my website. It basically spells out - step by step - what to expect when one commissions me to make a piece of artwork. The process is really quite simple and straightforward, but when I wrote it out, it seemed extensive. It's really not.

I've copied and pasted it here.........

The Commission Process

Recently, someone mentioned to me that they were intimidated with the commission process of artists. I thought, “Surely, I’m not intimidating”. To alleviate any apprehension you might have about commissioning me to make that special piece for you, I’ve outlined my Commission Process here…..

First, if you’re unsure about what you want me to create - we can both think about it, and then toss some ideas around. This can be a fun activity, for both of us. I’m always up for a challenge, and love to try things I haven’t done before. By the way, some people know what they want – and some don’t. Some people want a portrait of themselves, or a loved one; and some want a piece similar to one that’s been sold. Over the years I’ve enjoyed making all the above.

1. Once we have an idea, we can get started. You’ll let me know the basic idea of the piece - and if you have a price range in mind, you’ll let me know that too. We can discuss all the details about your piece – size, movement, features, and any personal details. Usually this discussion happens via email, where the details are “recorded”, but we can also chat over the phone if you’d like. A quick phone conversation can sometimes be worth 10 emails back and forth – and can clear up a lot of things promptly.

2. Next, I will do a quick sketch, and a bit of figuring, to arrive at a price. (I sometimes send my client a copy of the sketch, but not always – it’s up to you.) Once we agree on a price…..

3. I will then email you my super-simple Commission Form. It just the basics – what I’m creating for you, when it’s expected to be delivered, the price, your information, my information, and a place for each of us to sign. It states that a 50% Deposit is required in order for me to start - and the balance, plus shipping, is due when your piece is completed.

4. You will then send me a check, along with the signed Commission Form. I can sign it and send you a copy, if you’d like.

5. I will make your piece as we have discussed. At some point, I may ask your opinion about color scheme, or any other details. Specifically, eye color has to be known if I’m doing a portrait of you or a loved one.

6. Once your piece is ready to be shipped to you, I’ll let you know, and you’ll send me the final check. Once I receive the check, I will carefully and professionally pack your piece. When I say professionally, I mean I will personally pack your piece to the best of my abilities. I’ve gotten pretty good at packing my pieces – and who better than me to do it, as I know all the vulnerabilities of my pieces. I usually ship FedEx, and have had excellent success using their services.

7. When your piece arrives, you will find Unpacking Instructions inside, as well as any Notes as to how your piece operates.
By the way, after the piece arrives, I’m always around to answer questions, or hear any concerns you might have.

I appreciate the opportunity to create a special piece for you – a piece that is sure to become a family heirloom. I make every effort to keep my clients happy, and usually go above and beyond expectations when it comes to my commissions.


I hope this gives you a better idea of what to expect when you come to me with that thought about getting a special piece for yourself - or someone you love. 

Lastly, I case you didn't know, (and I haven't really talked about it), as of July 2017, I am no longer affiliated with any gallery - this is when I pulled my work out of the New Orleans gallery I was in. They've changed their focus, and my pieces didn't really fit in with their new concept. So I've become a fully independent artist, again. When I started off as a full-time artist in 2000, I was 100% independent. I did art fairs for 7 years, and purposely did not show in galleries until 2008. From then until the Summer of '17, I've pretty much only been in one gallery at a time - except for maybe the occasional group show. I like being independent again - it suits me.

So is it wrong to promote one's self? Not in my case - someone's got to do it!!!

Thanks for looking! And feel free to share this post, or any of my work, website, or videos, with friends and family. I appreciate you!


PS Let me know what you think about all of this - I'd love to hear your opinion.