I finished off my first experiment in “painting” with nails, inspired by much better mosaic artists like Saimir Strati. This project is done on a sheet of heavy 3/4″ plywood, 48″ (four feet) square, with a grid of a half dozen different kinds of nails and screws spaced roughly 5/16″ apart (and some wire to do the lines in my signature). That means that there are well over 20,000 pixels in the project, and I’d estimate that there are in the neighborhood of ten thousand nails and screws! The metal and wood frame that the painting floats in uses 2x8s, so this entire thing weighs close to two hundred pounds. I have some steel cable here so I imagine what I’ll do is hoist it up from an I-beam here in the studio.
I was asked about how I did the “what nail to use” dithering, so I’ll try and loosely explain my procedure. I started by taking a photo which I thought would have a good range of contrast (surprisingly hard due to the limitations of my crummy camera, which shines at 3D but is awful at everything else). In Photoshop I manipulated the colors so that they’d fall into the same general range as the nails I was going to be using, and then converted that into an indexed color image using a custom palette that matched my nail set. I did a half dozen of these conversions and then created a document that had all of the conversions stacked up as layers. Then I selectively used the best parts of each image, and sometimes changed the colors around (ie. thus changing the nail type), and eventually got to a limited palette image that I thought looked best. Then I blew these up into reference templates to make them easier to work with. After that it was mostly manual labor, although there were many parts of the painting where I diverged from my template and shifted or changed the nails slightly to improve the translation.
I’m largely happy with how it turned out, but doing it I learned a lot and I have quite a few ideas on things I could do substantially better next time (and faster, now that I’ve worked out an efficient procedure). Because it’s so time consuming to do these I’m not sure when I’m going to do the next one, but I definitely will. I have been working on some images based on the incredible illustrations that Gustave Doré did for Milton’s Paradise Lost. In addition to these projects being a big commitments, they have a rather unwieldy result so I’m not sure how many I want to do without having homes for them.
You can click to zoom in on the first two pictures: