"12 Keys" series gets a reboot

My latest series is titled, "12 Keys," in reference to the 12 gates of paradise and the spiritual keys which unlock them.

With the release of my fifth piece in the series, I have decided to throw out my first three pieces. Because I don't feel they represent my best work, and because they are photo manipulations, the continuity of the series had become disjointed. As you might expect, I will remake "1st Key", "2nd Key", and "3rd Key" as full size paper collages, each with an entirely different subject and approach than the originals.

In the meantime, I hope you've enjoyed my work thus far and I look forward to seeing my vision for the rest of the series take shape.


5th Key by *picturefragments on deviantART

Influences & New Artwork

So I caught on to a meme where artists mapped some of the influences that have shaped them as an artist and ultimately contributed to their style. I thought it would be fun to trace some of the things that get me excited about making artwork, so I made one as well.

Now, if I ever lose direction and need to rekindle the sparks that ignite my creative process, I can refer to this influence map and rediscover some of the magic that has permeated my work.

Influence Map by ~picturefragments on deviantART

Now that we've seen some of what has fueled my imagination over the years, let's take a look at some new artwork that has directly tapped into these influences.

Medusa by ~picturefragments on deviantART

Still at it

Made some art. It's a re-do of a piece I did before. Hope you like it.

New One. "Nighthouse"

Nighthouse by ~picturefragments on deviantART

Old One. "Lighthouse"

Lighthouse by ~picturefragments on deviantART

Update - April 3, 2010

So yeah, I finished another collage. This was a requested commission that took me a long time to finish. Truth is, I was being lazy by not working on it. Oh well. It's done now. Check it out.

Your Move, Mr. Bond by ~picturefragments on deviantART

Also, while I was putting the finishing touches on that one, I came across a photograph that had colors that would have been perfect in a collage I did last year. So what did I do? Took it out of the frame and went back to work on it. You see, I was never satisfied with the way the lower portions turned out - I sort of rushed to the finish and slopped parts of it together. Now I feel like it represents a better effort. Also, it gave me an opportunity to rephotograph the piece in a better light.

So here is the updated version.

Brain Storm by ~picturefragments on deviantART

New Artwork

Medieval Video Conference by ~picturefragments on deviantART

Here is my latest collage piece. With this project completed, I will resume work on a long overdue commission -- a "game room" themed collage.

New for this Year

As you may have guessed, I've been on an extended break from making any art since the summer. Although I did put in a very modest effort to get a Halloween-themed collage out by the holiday, it didn't quite work out that way. Making art had gotten to feel a bit like work. More like a "have to" than a "get to".

But now I'm feeling the pressure of all the projects I have stacked up on the back burners, and a sense of duty to prevent the atrophy of whatever talent I may have been developing. Not only that, but I feel excited again to get my new ideas down in paper for the first time in a long time. Some new masterpieces to be out soon. They'll be worth the wait (My Halloween piece is especially wicked looking).

In the meantime I've been building and finishing professional quality frames to display my art. Who knows? In the new year I might have a showing coming up. We'll see.

I took a look at how some frames were put together, and came up with a design of my own that I could build in the shop.

As a carpenter, I have had access to a great deal of both new and reclaimable materials on job sites. For the last few years, what I've been doing is rescuing all the glass and trim boards that I can from remodeling jobs. The result has been quite a stockpile of material I can use to build my own frames, that would have otherwise been sent to the landfill.

The process was very straight forward. I used a table saw to rip down 2x4's and screwed these together so that the interior rough frame would be the right size to hold the glass. Then I overlaid this with trim material that I cut with a miter saw to join my corners on a 45° angle. I glued and pin nailed them in place, having cut them so that they would hang over the interior edge of the rough frame (to hold in the glass).

Next, I wanted to enclose the back of the frame (that way the rough frame wouldn't show when viewed from the side, and it provides a degree of stability), so I used the table saw again to rip trim boards with a beveled cut. It took a little modification from my original drawing to get these to fit, but the extra effort was well worth it. As I recall, the mitered bevel cut was adjusted to approximately 30° at the corners because the 45° angle I had planned for resulted in an overlap.

Now it was time to finish them. I first used a chisel to widen the openings of a few frames to ensure enough clearance for the glass. I also planed down a few edges from the backing, that didn't join at a perfect corner. I sanded all the surfaces of the wood to open up the grain. This was the most labor intensive step of the process, and I'm glad that I picked up a palm sander! To fill my nail holes and repair any scratches and pits in the surface, I used a wood putty. Last, I vacuumed the frames to remove any sawdust.

With all that prep work done, I was ready to apply what I learned as a commercial painter. To get a nice smooth finish I used this process (allowing a few days drying time between steps). First I stained the frames, then applied a layer of polyurethane sealant. Then I lightly sanded the poly layer, careful not to remove any stain, arriving at a nice smooth surface. After vacuuming the dust again, I added a second layer of polyurethane. This second layer of sealant leaves the wood as smooth as glass. Now that is a product to be satisfied with!

"A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist."
- Louis Nizer

Now it's just a matter of finding a venue willing to display my work. We'll see. I may take some more time to strengthen my body of work before I do a showing, but I won't pass up a good opportunity in the meantime.

Art Takes a Back Seat

You may have heard it said that, "Art is a support system for life, and not the other way around," and I believe that's true. Often times my artwork is put on hold so I can take care of business. That's exactly what's been happening in the past few weeks. I've been very busy since my last entry. Life can be very demanding at times. Especially when you pull up stakes and move all your stuff to a new place.

Jenny and I recently moved in to her father's house out in the country. It wasn't because we were struggling, but because there are many things you can do with a house and a yard that you simply can't do with an apartment. Like saving up for a house of our own, for instance. Anyways, one of the first things we did before moving out here was till up a section of yard for our garden.

Pretty exciting stuff- I've never had my own garden before. This is just another big project that Jenny and I have taken on together (the first was buying a car). It's a lot of work but it should be worth it. We planted lots of tomatoes, peppers, zuchinnis, and brocolli, and even started a bunch of rows of lettuce, spinach, peas and beans from seed.

A bought a new sprinkler and mouted it it up on a post so we can water without much effort. The soil has been great thanks to a couple truckloads of pulverized cow manure that Lorne had dumped there a few years back.

Weeding takes a lot of attention, especially in the herb section where it is sometimes difficult to tell which plants are the weeds. I think I'm getting the hang of it though. Some great looking lilies poped up around one side of the plot and we snapped a few pictures of them. I like this one the best.

Moving all of our stuff was fairly easy considering how little furniture we've needed. Most of what we have is kitchen stuff, destined for storage, and the rest is supplies for my art and for Jenny's jewelry business.

As a carpenter by trade, I have taken great care to save whatever windows I can when I'm doing a remodelling job. The reason for this is that the glass from these windows I can clean up and re-use to protect my art. During the move, sadly, I lost four large panes that I had pre-cut to the dimensions of my artwork in a 100% preventable accident. Oops. Needless to say, I was not pleased. As luck would have it though, the very next weekend we were set to demolish the hunting shack on Jenny's grandparents's land.

I rescued a whole carload of glass (well, a Mini Cooper full) and had a good time with the family taking the building down. Demo's are always fun, and we took lots of pictures. Here is Grandpa pushing the walls in with the backhoe. We camped out in the yard and made a night out of it, but we had a lot of work to do back home so we we headed back to clean out some basements.

Now I'm not saying that Lorne's house is small, but there are only so many places we could fit all our art tables. The basement was the obvious choice. So, to get the space ready we had to clear out two truckloads of stuff that we dedicated to Jenny's mom's ginourmous garage sale (seven households were involved in this ordeal, but that's another story). So here I was hauling boxes down to mom's, then making the return trip with loads of our stuff, and even cleaning out my grandma Snookie's basement in the bargain (she's making the transition into assisted living). I hauled stuff back and forth every day for two weeks.

In the process of helping my grandma move, I wound up with a bunch of air rifles to protect the garden, and some tools and art supplies that my grandpa had left behind. Among these were a glass cutter and his tackle box with all his watercolor paints. I also found a second cache of some of his finished watercolors, but I'll get to that in a minute. I was surprised when I opened it, how similar his art box is to mine. They're both tackle boxes of the same design with nearly identical contents. This made me smile knowing how artistic talent runs in our family, and feeling like I was picking up where he left off. I set up my studio in the new basement and feel right at home- my first studio was in a basement at a house I rented in Duluth.

Lately, I have been busy seperating the glass from the windows that I saved and working to preserve as much of it as possible. You see, these windows were double paned glass, held together by an aluminum frame between the panes and cemented to them with tar. I've dealt with this before so I knew going into it how difficult it is to seperate the glass from the tar without cracking it. You have to use just the right amount of pressure or you'll lose the whole pane.

First, I use the glass cutter to score just inside the edge so that if I slip up, the crack will run along the score and back out to the edge. Then a take a box cutter and make many light passes between the glass and tar. When I've seperated a pane I use a framing square to score the glass where I want to cut and a cut running pliers to make a straight clean break. I have had much success with this new skill I've developed and managed to replace all the glass I had lost and then some. I used to take my glass cuts to the hardware store, but I didn't want to challenge them with the tarred edges- I've had them mess up before. So far, I've worn out two glass cutters- I've been cutting a lot of glass!

Part of the reason, as I've said earlier, for saving all this glass is to protect my artwork. But that's not the only work I'm interested in preserving. In the years since my grandpa Dick passed away, I have been working to preserve all of his unframed watercolors; to get them framed and under glass. When I first set out to do this, I had rescued a cache of beautiful watercolors from a leather suitcase that had rotted and was beginning to mold. Just in time, I was able to crop and save many masterpieces. The man had quite a talent.

So this second cache of pieces I found was in much better condition, but I am still anxious to get them under glass. I used up nearly all of the matting and frames he left, plus the frames that my generous neighbors from the apartment, Justin & Abby, had rescued from a remodelling job at IHOP.

At the moment I still have 30 of his watercolors sealed up in plastic that I have yet to frame. I need more glass and a few frames to finish the job. Some of the frames I'll end up making myself. I have before with the first bunch of watercolors and they turned out wonderfully.

Last week I asked my brother to wire some receptacles in the basement and garage and he was happy to help- I did a lot of work helping to remodel his basement, this spring. Now we have power where Jenny needs it for her jewelry making, plenty of lighting, and a place in the garage for me to work building picture frames. I have 11 full size collages of my own which I think are museum quality and I will be framing these by my own design, but that's for later on.

All told, it's been a hectic few weeks but I think all the effort will pay off in the long haul. Finally, I feel settled in and I'm ready to begin making art again. Right now, I have an unpaid commission (that I've been putting off for months) I'm making for my sister and her husband to hang in their game room. Should be fun. Yep. That's life.