Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Found a Commission "Where Two Paths Join"

Here is the montage I used to propose "first
thoughts" about the project to Marlene.
Earlier in my career I frequently drew illustrations, but recently my friend Marlene Sullivan offered a new challenge: basing a paper sculpture on a poem.

Her husband Doug had written a poem for their wedding, which she loved for its imagery and beauty.  Their anniversary was approaching, and she wondered if I could use paper sculpture techniques to compliment the poem.

This was part of a "progress report"
I sent while working on the piece.
We discussed it a bit.  She sent me a copy of Doug's poem, and we eventually worked out a composition idea that would "frame" the poem, incorporating the words into the artwork.

As you know if you read my post, "The Evolution of a Paper Sculpture," it can take months or even years for me to bring all the pieces together--literally.

Marlene was wise enough to know this, and ask about the idea several months in advance.  I began to work, gradually building the piece around the poem.  Doug has been gracious enough to let me share images that include the poem.

I am happy to report that I was able to finish the piece and ship it to the Sullivans in time for their anniversary.  Here's a photo of the finished artwork, which I titled "Where Two Paths Join."  I took this picture just before I boxed it up for shipping!  (That's why you can see a faint reflection of me in the glass).
Here is the finished artwork, Where Two Paths Join.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Evolution of a Paper Sculpture

My current primary paper-sculpture-in-progress (working title: Koi's World) has had a long, rather strange development process.  I feel as if I'm solving a mystery as I go.
Here are major pieces of the developing artwork,
tentatively titled Koi's World.

I'm not sure if you can tell from the assemblage of paper sculpture pieces at right, but the idea is to show a view of the fish in its underwater fishpond environment.

The first part of this artwork's development, however, didn't seem to have anything to do with koi, or lily pads, or even ponds.  Back in 2009, I was just looking for a way to make a curving stem structure.

My 2009 "twisty stems"
You may not have thought about this, but making anything but an extremely straight, ramrod-like structure from a rolled piece of paper is a real challenge.  When I figured out how to make segments that could be assembled into "twisty stems," that was a breakthrough.  I spent a while grooving out on my sinuous structures, but no good idea for a finished piece of art seemed to develop from this.

Finally, in the fall of 2010 I picked up one segment of "twisty stem," looked at it from a new angle, and asked a friend in my Art Group, "Don't you think this kind of looks like the head of a koi?"  I've been a fan of koi (a kind of large, colorful Japanese carp related to goldfish) for years.

My assembled paper-sculpture koi
My friend stared at the paper segment for a few moments, clearly wanting to be supportive, but honest.  "No," she finally admitted.

"It just needs some development," I said.  I'll show you what I mean."  And I proceeded, by trial and error, to figure out how to make not just the head, but the whole fish.

Some of my koi reference photos in my sketchbook
In a couple of months I had a finished fish, and I also had assembled a large collection of resource images of koi, which I turned into montages with Adobe Illustrator.  I printed them out, and put them into my sketchbook, so I could refer to them for details wherever I was working.

May I just say right here that I dearly love the Internet, and especially Google Image Search, for this capability?  Back in early days, I had a physical reference image library that filled many file drawers.

I was always cutting up magazines or newspapers, and categorizing the images in manila file folders.  The result was a large, heavy, messy collection of images that were never quite from the right angle, never quite captured the exact right thing, and often weren't in color.  Moreover, the act of collecting and categorizing them was laborious and tedious.

Did I mention I love the Internet?  Oh, how dearly I love the Internet!

So at last I had my koi--but he needed a home.  Whenever I showed him to people, they said they liked him, but inevitably would ask, "what are you going to do with him?"

"Travis S." posted a photostream on Flickr that gave me my
final key to the Koi's World.  Here is one of several
sketchbook spreads I made from his underwater lily pads.
Good question!  I did research on fish ponds and lily pads, but mostly from the human point of view.  Nothing seemed to work just right, as I visualized it in my head.  Then early one morning before I was totally awake I had a flash of what it might look like from the koi's point of view.  It "felt right" immediately.

But I'm about accuracy, as well as fantasy (no, that is not a contradiction).  I want it to look right, even if it's utterly imaginary.

I'd never been underwater in a koi pond, nor did I have much opportunity to do so, in December in Kansas.  What would it actually look like, down there?  How do lily pads look from below?  What color(s) are they?  What do the stems and roots look like, and how do they grow?  I could guess . . . or I could go back to Google Image Search (not a hard choice!).

I can't express how excited I was to find a perfect--absolutely, utterly perfect!--resource in the wonderful photostream of "Travis S." on Flickr.  If you'd like to read about his adventures in photographing lily pads from below, read the 8/29/2005 entry "Montlake," on his Chicken Porn blog.

The quest for the completion of this opus continues, however.  Now I'm puzzling through how to make the "lily pad" structures, portray the pond's banks from underwater, and figure out not only what "up" looks like from this viewpoint, but how to show it convincingly in paper sculpture.

The mystery reveals itself at its own pace, not mine.  I'm definitely making progress, but at the rate I'm going you probably shouldn't hold your breath till you see the end result of this underwater view.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Leapin’ Leaf Thing!

Make that fifteen paper sculptures at Westwood City Hall, not sixteen.

Sometime in the wee hours between Wednesday night and Thursday morning (3/16-17/11), my 2010 artwork, The Leaf Thing made what you might call a breakout.

Literally. A crack apparently developed in the frame, which allowed one of the wire eyelets to pull loose. The frame moulding is now toast (cracked beyond repair), and part of the artwork itself has pulled loose.

So it’s back to the studio for The Leaf Thing, for minor repairs to the artwork, and a whole new (better, stronger) frame for the little beast, before it returns to public view in May.
The Leaf Thing in happier times.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Westwood Show is up!

Sixteen of my shadowbox-framed paper sculptures are currently on display on the Stiles Gallery Wall at Westwood City Hall.  The City Hall is located in the heart of the Kansas City metropolitan area at 4700 Rainbow Boulevard, Westwood, KS (see map below).
Paper sculpture on the Stiles Gallery Wall.
A view of Westwood City Hall
This is the largest all-paper-sculpture display I have presented so far.

The show runs through March 31, 2011, and is available for viewing whenever City Hall is open to the public, during regular business hours 8-5 weekdays, and during meetings.

Photos: Jan's art on the wall: photo by Jan S. Gephardt.  Westwood City Hall photo from City of Westwood, KS.  Map by Google Maps.