Alex had another great soccer game Saturday. He had his second goal in two games, a left-footed blast, one-timer, off the near post. I'm really proud of how he's stepped up his focus and effort in both the pool-training and one-on-one with me. His dedication has really started to pay dividends in the matches. I also love that he still wears his Star Wars watch during the games.
Starting a new category today: studio shot. I take pictures of shapes and images inside my studio that strike me as interesting in and of themselves, without any context of what project they are a part of. They are also indicative of the level of chaos and creative energy flowing through my work space. Hopefully you will enjoy them as much as I do.
Sea Serpent Relief: Update 20
Working on the layered elements, adding lights behind each layer. The first layer is bolted to the frame, the second and third layers are secured with epoxy. The clamps hold the pieces tightly together until the epoxy has fully cured.
This image reminds me of being at the same stage in the Seascape Relief when I took the following picture.
Sea Serpent Relief: Update 18
I find this shot interesting because when I took it, I found the surface of my work table to be busy and full of activity. This was before the full fury of my artistic regeneration hit, and now when I look at my table just a scant two weeks later, I find it to be chaotic and full of an almost overwhelming sense of passionate creation. And much messier.
Sea Serpent Relief: Update 2
Having built one 4 x 4 relief, we started the second by fabricating an identical frame. As promised, I rewarded my three assistants by fabricating three smaller frames for their own reliefs.
As the first relief was built during summer break, the beasties got to see the artistic process from the very beginning stages of design and pencil drawings, all the way through the various stages of fabrication, right up to delivery and installation of the completed work. They were integral in solving design issues, critiquing work in progress, and supplying much-needed pairs of steady hands.
I talked out loud for weeks, walking them through my thought process. Even while I was standing still and just staring at the material I tried to verbalize the various issues I was contemplating, asking questions: 'If we don't put the backing board into the frame before we weld the tabs in place on the back, then we're never going to be able to get the board into the frame - it doesn't bend, right? But if we put the wood in first and try to weld, we're going to char the board - and we have to paint the background on it, right? So how do we get the board in place and protect it from the flame and heat while we weld the securing tabs in place?"
Then I encouraged them to solve the problems, and asked further questions until they came up with a workable solution.
All three were very interested in designing their own reliefs drawing dozens of proposals, working on mockups with bits of steel and wood . And of course, they enjoyed painting and working on their stone carvings. As the oldest, Kelly had the best focus, able to shift her attention from her own design work back to the Seascape design over and over again during the course of a day. I think some days she was painting a canvas, pausing to help me, then drawing a bit, then assisting the little ones, then back to painting her canvas again - all at the same time.
During the busiest days, all three would stop their own projects to help me and we worked as a real team. Very precious days . . .
Sea Serpent Relief: Update 1
The second piece for my friend who opened a wine bar this summer is nearly complete, so I thought I'd give you a visual tour of the steps we've gone through to complete this piece of art.
Three of the four pieces needed to create the steel frame sit on the work bench. The edges will be finished with the grinding wheel so that I have four identical pieces, each with 45 degree angle cuts on both ends.
Do you remember Minority Report? Do you remember the computers without keyboards or input devices? How John Anderton would swipe his hand across empty air to manipulate images and access information? Gesture-based computer interfaces. Identity-detecting cameras. A really good story idea from Philip K. Dick. The tech involved is no longer science-fiction, it's now built into a toy which rests in my living room.
Last night I had the most amazing experience with my children. I picked up Iz's big birthday present: a Kinect for our Xbox360. I plugged it in, pushed back all the furniture, loaded the first game and then sat back in amazement as my little girl learned to train a baby tiger with nothing but her hands and body movements. I watched my son play soccer without a ball or controller. I watched KK Monster *try* to learn some new dance moves. Then I asked if I could try, and I most certainly *did* learn some new dance moves. Then the darn thing played back a Real World video of my efforts - time compressed - and I laughed about as hard as I have in five years.
The Kinect not only senses, measures, and sees two players at once, but also takes pictures and video as your playing to show you after you complete each level in each game.
During the Adventure game, I kept swapping in different kids for each ride down a log flume, or zero-gravity bubble pop challenge - and each time, the little icon in the top right or left of the screen would flash for three seconds as it recognized a new participant and then it would switch the avatar to reflect the proper person. After a few hours it had learned who was who and could swap the players for us, without me having to do anything.
It's the most amazing piece of technology I've ever seen. The whole slender apparatus tilts to see as much of the players as possible. When you lie on the floor to teach the tiger to "play dead" it tilts down. When I step in to run hurdles, it tilts up.
The Kinect sensor contains an RGB camera and a depth sensor to track your movement. It measures the positioning of 48 key joints in your anatomy and by tracking the movements of these joints, it can work out exactly what position your body is in. What's more, it sees in 3D by overlaying the input from the RGB camera with the depth sensor. And it recognizes voice commands. Nothing like saying, "Sit!" in a stern voice and having a lion cub and my son sit down instantly.
We played from 4:30 to 9:30 barely even noticing the passage of time. I stuck some pizzas in the oven and sent them off to bed without doing any homework for the first time all year. It was that immersive.
If I can figure out how to download the short clip of me dancing I'll upload it here and then *you* can have the best laugh you've had in ages.
The first waves of a neap tide are filling up the moat. Some of my towers have already fallen as I have pushed the design limitation of my building material. Alex has a carving tool in his hand and a grin on his face.
I have poured myself a vodka tonic at this point. The kids have decided which tower they are living in - there is always a competition at the end to see which tower will last the longest. We are watching the slow destruction of our work. Many people stop to ask questions, admire the work, take pictures and comment on the design.
Isabel and Alex happily stomp through the deep moat I have dug around a pyramidal sandcastle. The sand from the moat is used to create the mound of sand. Layers of the mound are drenched in water and packed down by hand.
I left one side of the design "flat" with beach so that I would have access to the top of the mound where the towers are just beginning to be poured. Steps leading into the moat have not been carved yet.
Seascape Relief: Update 22
We finished the relief.
I signed my name to the bottom of the piece and gave the outside edges one final coat of lacquer. Then we stepped back and looked at it in the sun. We were all sweating profusely - it has been so hot this summer - the concrete outside the studio just absorbs and radiates heat. There was a long pause and finally the beasties went, "Wow." I stared at the large steel frame - still looking for little details that needed tweaking - and tried to accept the notion that the work was complete.
My patron was so excited to have it finished that he came by that day to pick it up - before I could even have it properly photographed. Transportation went smoothly. We picked a spot on the wine bar's wall, keeping in mind that there will be another relief beside it in a couple of months, and then Kelly and I began drilling holes. We placed the heavy-duty hanger and then hung the relief.
This is how it looked on the wall right after we installed it.
Seascape Relief: Update 18
There are many playful elements in the piece, some obvious - the vibrant colors, bright lights, simplistic shapes - some subtle. In my original drawing I only had one building that had eyes, but as I painted deep into the night, some of the buildings' personalities started to make themselves known . . .
Seascape Relief: Update 16
The background has been painted, the lights secured in their curving brackets. One whole set of lights was damaged in the process and the whole 24 foot strand had to be removed, replaced with a working set, and reinstalled. All told there are 64 feet of lighting elements in the piece.
The clouds have been ground down to reveal some silvery steel, but some mill scale remains. Thus they are both dark and light. I lacquered them to preserve the effect and in this picture they rest on the edge of the frame, ready to be installed on their aluminum brackets above the lights.
Lights embedded in the frame are up higher than the clouds, in terms of depth of placement in the relief, so that they shine down onto the burnished steel. Thus the clouds are silhouetted by the blue lights and colored background, and also lightly reflective of the lights above them.
All the buildings have been cut and arranged for final placement. I am working on the spacing of the buildings in terms of the depth of each one, and must figure out a way to secure them to the background without marring the smooth lines of their shape and style. I cannot weld them - the heat would warp their lines, the paint would burst into flames and the lights would become blackened char. Nor do I want to drill a ton of holes in the steel and have all sorts of hardware showing.
Once the spacing of the buildings has been set and I have made adequate drawings to show their position in relation to each other, I must remove all of them and paint them one by one.
Then I must put them back in the right order - the right distance apart from each other in terms of their two-dimensional location, and also in the right depth from each other in the third dimension. And then magically secure them so that when the piece is stood upright, everything stays in place.
Seascape Relief: Update 15
I've resumed writing about my artistic life, but I haven't returned to the whole social aspect of maintaining a dynamic site. I haven't just been slow to respond to questions or requests - I've ignored them outright. I make no excuses nor do I claim I've been working on it. I haven't. I have been doing what is necessary for me, right now: raise the beasties and fall into a wonderful creative maelstrom.
I've been pressing forward with this all-consuming need to turn this Simple Idea into a working piece of art. The kids are focused, happy, silly-rambunctious-giddy-playful-goofy-vibrant and totally awesome. And Kelly has taken to the whole design process in a way that I couldn't really anticipate.
This has been such a great experience for her - not just 'watching' the process of seeing a piece of art develop from concept to drawing to fabrication to completion, but physically and mentally participating as an assistant, a problem-solver, and as a very talented designer. I've never had help on this level before. The fact that my assistant is my eldest beastie is just the icing on the cake.
Together, we have turned a dusty, stagnant studio into a thriving cauldron of activity. I've repaired every piece of art in the place that was gathering dust, created a new chair/table hybrid, finished the first of a new series of reliefs, and built a coffee table from scratch in a day. Right now I'm creative and productive on a level that I haven't been in 11 years. It's thrilling. And my kids are the reason I'm creating again - this summer has been amazing.
I'll just let that sink in a little . . . I'm not just making a little art here and there on the side. I'm a working artist.
Okay, so that's a long way of saying I haven't answered anyone's questions. I'm sitting down now to do so. I'm also going to visit each of your sites, and I'm going to create a blog roll of all the very nice people who for whatever reason have hung around for five years and still comment - you are all crazy to still be here. Everyone else in their right minds left a long time ago.