Monthly Archives: February 2011

“The Tower” Under-Painting Done

I’ve put down the extruded acrylic (ie. syringe painted) layer in this new painting, trying another piece in the same style as the St. Sebastian painting that I just posted. This one is titled The Tower, after the eponymous Tarot card representing chaos, change, or downfall… The flaky among you may have recognized it ;) haha. In part the Tower is the ego, and is struck down by lightening when ego and reality no longer line up, and life changes drastically — perhaps catastrophically. It comes with an awakening and realization of the truth, although this is often an unpleasant experience. In the deck, as the 16th Major Arcana card, it comes after, both literally and philosophically, The Devil (materialism, obsession, vice, and most importantly self-bondage that keeps one sick — so not “Satan” literally) and before The Star (love, tranquility, hope — First Corinthians chapter 13 in a card I suppose), joining them and bridging between them. So as much as there are all the negative aspects of chaos, out of that chaos there is the potential for something much better to be born (borne?).

So now that the canvas is “initialized”, I’ll start painting it later in the week.

I had a bit of an unpleasant night, waking in its middle in great pain. As I lay there I considered that I might have forgotten to take my evening painkillers, because it’s unusual for the pain to be severe enough for it to wake me and keep me up (I sleep surprisingly well these days, all things considered). Unfortunately I did remember it and no relief was to be found. Anyway, this past weekend Caitlin and I were at IKEA and I picked up some sheepskins, so this afternoon I’m going to try and finalize a pattern as I’m using those skins to make a stuffed snow monster. It’ll be my first attempt at doing anything in three dimensions using fabric so there’s a bit of a learning curve. I made some nice eyes and nose and mouth bits though– these are made out of cast plastic resin and painted with acrylics and nail polish.

Nail self-portrait completed

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:

Finished Painting: St. Sebastian

I picked up my painting, St. Sebastian, from the framing place and they did a wonderful job with a beautiful traditional design gold leaf frame that really brings out the painting. For now I’ve hung it over the door to our living room. Click the first picture to see the painting at high resolution (it’s stitched together from two separate photos, and my camera is not the greatest quality, so it’s not doing the painting justice), or the second picture for a detail shot of two of the faces. I mentioned this before, but this is painted partially with a syringe — that’s how I applied the heavy line-work. The remainder is painted with a brush, knife, or with fingers, and the paint is primarily acrylic with gel medium and various varnishes added.

And yes, my little photobomber could not resist running through the shot. At least she’s not flipping the bird. And also yes, I was more than a little worried about falling to my demise as I stood on the top step of the ladder mounting this far-from-light piece of art. The folks at the framing place were kind enough to take the time to show me step-by-step how these frame moldings are made, and now that I understand, I think I feel comfortable in starting to making my own sculpted frames out of resin and wood.

Since I’m always asked, this painting is for sale but it’s not cheap (not just because it was time consuming and I value my creations, but because it wasn’t cheap to make with all the materials that went into it). Feel free to contact me if you’re seriously interested.

Apparently I can’t fly helicopters

A few days ago I picked up an Air Hogs Hawk Eye, which is a little RC helicopter that has a built in camera that you can trigger remotely to either record video or shoot stills — in a way it’s quite cool that you can get a dumbed down version of what’s essentially military spy drone technology for under $50. That said, even though I’ve seen videos online of people flying it and other mini toy helicopters nicely, I can barely control it — and it sure doesn’t help that there are random drafts and air vents all over this studio. Because it’s so light, I can be flying along nice and smooth and then hit one of these gusts and suddenly the toy tumbles out of the air. It does seem quite resilient though.

I don’t normally go in for store warranties, but the $9 warranty this came with lets me return it in a year and get a gift card for the purchase amount, so I don’t have to replace it, just buy something of equivalent value, so I figured it was a pretty safe gamble. The music in the video by the way, assuming YouTube doesn’t kill it, is Preservation by Wu Tang Clan with Del the Funky Homosapien* and Aesop Rock from the Wu Tang Meets The Indie Culture album.

* If I’d have let spellcheck/autocorrect fix this it would be “Del the Funky Homosexual”.

Speaking of videos with lots of crashing and a great soundtrack, how about this one?

Well, I think I’m going to go try and fly a bit. I kind of want to get the iPhone controlled quadcopter, but it’s way more money than I can justify spending… although what you get for under $400 is very impressive. It’s incredible to think how quickly advanced electronics becomes junk electronics. Oh, I also got one other toy in the discount bin, a skeet shooting game that’s kind of fun. It shoots plastic discs up into the air, which you have to shoot with a light gun. If you hit them, they split in half in the air like a real skeet disk. It’s surprisingly fun.

Light Switch: Work in progress

The mold I made is unfortunately of terrible quality and will have to be remade, but this of from a series of replacement electrical covers that I’m working on. The clay master looks a lot nicer. I’m going to do some double switch covers and power covers as well.

As an aside, I wanted to use my computer controlled router to cut some molds — an address sign for the front door — but the machine wasn’t powering up. I didn’t know whether I’d blown a fuse or if the problem was in the machine, but thanks to my magnetic implant, I was able to feel the AC power running through various cables and transformers, allowing me to quickly diagnose the problem as being internal, a loose plug falling out of the main logic board due to the vibration of the carving engine. Even though it’s almost a decade since the magnets were implanted, I still use them constantly, and my ability to “see” into the electromagnetic spectrum is quite solid as a sense. If it turned out that the neodymium played a role in my health problems and I had to remove the magnets, it would be like plucking out an eye. Even though most people don’t have this particular sense, in this subjective world I do, and I could no more cut out my magnets than pluck out my eye.

Although if you told me that I could make the crippling pain and creeping paralysis go away by plucking out an eye, I think I’d be reaching for a spoon. Luckily that’s not a decision I have to make. Or maybe, unluckily depending on how you look at it. My legs are certainly casting a vote for the ol’ squishy-pop eye gouging.