My children were angels; however, I've often heard parents lament the so-called "terrible twos," a span of time when children--supposedly--are hard-to-handle. I'm sure psychologists, child therapists, and the like have compiled plenty of "expert analysis" to explain away this phenomenon, but I've got an explanation of my own. THEY'RE LITTLE MONSTERS!
This is my twisted take on the "terrible twos," which because the tots must undoubtedly be infected with some sort of blood-borne monster virus, I'm calling THE TOXIC TWOS.
The side-by-side panel (below) is the original (don't be fooled by the little girl's sweet visage!) and my manipulated version. By the way, her replacement head is a print of one of Ernst Haeckel's illustrations (Tafel 67--Vampyrus).
Including the topper (which features an old hatchet head and some old square nails), the dimensions of this piece are 13.5 X 8 X 2.5".
A couple of years ago I first used what I call the "cheesecloth wrap" technique on a piece called Space Cadet. Here's a pic of the piece. Notice the texture (highlighted with gold paint) flowing out from the frame, across the top of the base. That's the cheesecloth wrap.
I used it at least once after that, but for some reason I let this technique--one of my favorite effects, by the way--kind of go by the wayside. Well, I'm using it again on the outer framework of my current work-in-progress, pictured below.
Here's how I created the effect on this W.I.P.:
First, as I almost always do, I threw down a coat or two of gesso. In this case I used black gesso.
After the gesso dried, I brushed on a layer (not too thin) of Matte Super Heavy Gel. I used this product for two primary reasons; one, it dries transparent so the black will show through, and, two, it serves as the adhesive for the cheesecloth. Which takes me to the next step...
Before the gel dried, I wrapped the piece in a layer of cheesecloth and "mooshed" (a highly-technical, artistic term) it into the gel so that it would adhere to the surface of the piece. Before setting it aside to dry, I double checked my work and brushed more gel over areas of the cheesecloth that, for whatever reason, hadn't stuck to the surface. Then I put it aside (in my case, overnight) to dry completely.
Next, I cleaned up the edges of the cheesecloth (notice the cheesecloth doesn't continue under the piece). You can probably cut it away with a razor knife or sharp scissors. However, I like to run my sanding block along the edges of the piece; the loose cheesecloth gets sanded away, leaving a fairly crisp edge.
Now, to further "seal" the cheesecloth to the surface of the piece, I painted another coat of black gesso over everything. After the gesso dried--which because I'm impatient, I almost always use a heat gun to speed up the process--I dry-brushed a layer of red over the entire piece. Dry-brushing is a terrific technique in its own right. In this case, it highlighted the texture of the embedded cheesecloth while allowing the undercoat of black to still show through, resulting in the effect shown in the picture.
There you have it: the Cheesecloth Wrap technique.
Here's my first attempt at casting the faux starling skull. I used a 2-part resin product, and other than missing the tip of the beak (probably a bubble trapped in the bottom of the mold), it was a success. Although the picture doesn't do it justice, I'm liking the way the mold picked up a lot of the skull's details.
Here's a piece I just finished yesterday, and it's not like my typical fare. As you can see, no manipulated vintage photos, no anatomy illustrations, no creep-factor. Nope, just some found objects--including a 1950s Nebraska aeronautical map, a drain cover, a chair leg, a toy wheel, etc.--arranged in an 18 X 4 X 4" antique wooden box.
Here it is, over 18 hours since I poured the silicone mold. It set-up nicely, so this morning I pulled the bird's skull out and--voila!--molding success! I guess, though, I can't officially call it a success until I've made my first casting of Tweety's head. Here's a few pics of today's process...
1. Peeling away the clay rope, which held the plastic cup to the plexiglass base.
2. Popping the cup off the plex.
3. I pulled out the dome of clay that held the skull in place within the cup. You can see the bottom of the skull (there's a piece of stick--which I glued into the skull to serve as a "handle"--poking up) in the middle of the silicone.
4. I cut the cup and pulled out the cup-shaped silicone mold.
5. After a bit of wiggling--via the "handle"--the skull back and forth to free the eye sockets from the silicone, it emerged from the mold. Whoo-hoo!
Whew, what a busy day in the "studio"! However, I've said it before and I'll say it again: ART-busy is the best kind of busy! Here's what I've been doing.
First, I finished a little (5.5 X 6.5 X 2.5") assemblage, using the manipulated vintage photo I posted last night. I still haven't come up with a name yet, but here are some pics of the as-of-yet untitled piece:
After finishing the above assemblage, I completed a couple more steps in my quest to make a mold of a bird's skull. As you'll recall from a previous post, for step 1 I filled in all the cracks and crevices in the skull. A few days ago I did step 2 (a minor step, so I didn't post any pics at that time), which was to sand any modeling paste that didn't meet my standards and seal the entire skull.
Today, though, was step 3, where the rubber met the road--or, actually, where the rubber met the skull.
First, I stuck a small mound of modeling clay on a piece of plexiglass; it's the gray stuff inside the red cup to the left. After that I push the skull into the clay slightly; the back of skull into the clay, with the beak pointing upward. Next, I placed a plastic, 9-ounce cup (bottom of the cup cut off) over/around the clay mound. After that, to ensure that the cup stays in place and no rubber leaks under it, I mushed a rope of modeling clay (the brown stuff) around the cup and to the plexiglass. This, friends, is the simple "mold box."
The next step is mixing and pouring the molding material, which as you can see in the pic to the right, comes in two parts: the liquid silicone and a catalyst. Surprisingly I was able to pull this step off without a lot of mess--nearly a miracle for me.
The last step today was to simply pour the mixture into the mold and over the bird's skull. The pic to the left shows today's finished product. Now it has to set-up, which according to the instructions, takes about 18 hours. So check back tomorrow for the big reveal--I'm keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well...
Take a vintage photo, lop off a couple of heads, replace them with plastic horse/mule heads, add some red ink and a cut-out cow's head, etc., etc. Here's a little something that's the focal point of my current assemblage. I'm thinking of calling it "Animal Husbandry" or "Gestation Experimentation" or...
This little shrine has been sitting in my "studio" for weeks, waiting for me to find inspiration. Today I put the finishing touches on it. I'm calling it "Faux Real"--so I guess it's kind of a commentary on society's tendency to embrace the fake and ignore the real. It's about 7" wide, 7.5" deep, and 9.5" tall, and it features a ceramic doll's arm, some clock parts, other found objects, and an image from a vintage anatomy book. By the way, the entire back-drop was built from scratch, using, among other things, MDF, corrugated cardboard, furniture parts, modeling paste, and pieces of chair spindle. I treated most of the back-drop with iron paint and a rusting patina.
A week ago I posted a picture of a little bird's skull I had acquired. (By the way, an update: thanks to Rebecca Christoffel at Iowa State University, the skull has been identified as a starling's skull.) My plan is to make a mold of the skull so that I can make many castings of it to use in future art projects. Since I've never made a mold of something like this before, this is definitely experimental in nature. That said, I've decided to document the process here on my blog.
So here it goes, step 1. For my first step I figured (again, I've never done this before, so this is a big 'ol fat experiment) I would fill all of the skull's nooks and crannies. The way I understand mold-making it's better not to have too many cavities for the molding material to get hung-up in; a good mold will release fairly easily from its subject. Therefore, I've filled all of the holes and deep recesses (and, believe me, there are quite a few--even on this tiny critter) with modeling paste. I used the pastry syringe to inject the modeling paste into the extra-tight spaces, and I used my skinny palette knife to smooth out and shape some of the paste.
There you go, step 1 is complete. Check back periodically on my progress.
Over the last few years, I've obtained quite an extensive collection of vintage photographs. They range, I'm guessing, from the 1960s to the turn of the century. Many have been given to me, but I've purchased a few that have spoken to me. Regardless of whether they're formal, studio portraits or in-the-moment snapshots, I enjoy imagining the back stories of all those people frozen in time. Which brings me to the subject matter of this piece...
The photo (which I tore in half) of the elderly couple in this piece is an old one--perhaps from the turn of the century. (For those of you who think you can identify the decade--I'm sure the clothes are a clue--please feel free to let me know.) Like a lot of couple-shots from back in the day, the subjects of the photo didn't seem too enthused about having their photo taken--or perhaps they weren't too enthused about the company they were keeping. Anyway, I'm assuming this was a married couple, and I'm also assuming that when this picture was taken, they'd been married quite a long time.
However, what if that wasn't the case? What if the old dude (I'm going to call him--hmm--Jedidiah) had been pursuing this fine woman (I think I'll call her Evelyn) for decades? Perhaps Evelyn "liked" old Jed just fine, but just couldn't commit to the other "L" word. What if Jed bought a ring, but even that gesture of love still didn't bring Evelyn around? Maybe Evelyn's heart was locked up for some reason and nobody--not even the love struck Jed--was going to get the key.
The container for this piece is an old, home-made wooden box, which measures approximately 18 X 7 X 4". I'm still mulling over whether or not to add an exterior "topper." At this point I'm happy with the way it turned out, but with me one never knows...
The (sometimes mad) ramblings of a mixed media artist.