April 2, 2012

The Barrel's Inside Has Monkey

My poor wife.

Sometimes I will see stuff lying on the side of the road or in an alley. Trash, really. Refuse. But, I will see potential in the castoff. Whether its a a picture frame (common) or an old chair (also common), I will think to myself, "Hey. I might be able to maybe use that probably someday perhaps." The offending item then finds a new home in which to rest it's weary bones: My home! Or my car. Or just in my pocket.

This would not be an issue if the newly found treasure was put to use soon thereafter, thus creating a rapid turnabout of rotating junk. That is not how it plays out, I admit. A more likely scenario can be exemplified by the piece I share today. I call it

Taru no Naka no Saru
(translation: The inside of the barrel has a monkey)

The fan blade, which serves as the backdrop, was found 7 or 8 months ago.  I can remember it very clearly, as it was the day I first met Jason at Visual Art Supply. I had ridden my bicycle that day. Along the way, I was traveling down one of the many alleys found in that area of town. A wayward fanblade has little chance of escaping my keen eye, especially when I am on a bike. I passed it, considered the potential, then turned back and grabbed it.

It sat in the garage from that day until early this year, when I brought it out of retirement to create something, though I did not know what at the time. I worked with the existing, flaking finish, rather than sanding it down. I gave it a wash of sage green, then coated it liberally with a darker green, which was easily sanded to return it to an aged state.

Next, I masked all of the green and painted in the red with a rattle can. The weave was dry-brushed with gold Testors model paint. That was where it ended for a short time. You see, I have a habit of creating a 'canvas' without having an idea of what will go on it. It feels quite natural, though I am sure its not the most common process. For me, the canvas, or backdrop, will usually dictate to me what should be put on it. This is true for 80% or more of the pieces I create. And, it was true for this.

After waiting in the wings for a week or so, it became clear that the subject of this piece would be a nod to Barrel of Monkeys, a toy which I encountered sporadically throughout my childhood. Personally, I think the idea strange. But, it was the fan blade which gave the orders. I simply obeyed.

The monkey itself was cut from a thin sheet of fiberboard, using a bench top scroll saw.  The details I carved in using a utility knife with a sharp, new blade. I then sanded it, using schedule of three or four successively finer grits., probably ending at 600. Finally, it was sprayed in the same red as that used behind the golden weave.

Farther down is a portrait of someone's simian great-uncle who served in, what else, the Great War. This is made evident by the medal of merit he displays proudly on his chest. Again, not my idea per se. It simply came to me and I made it so.

The ribbon shape which overlays the Munkle (Monkey's Uncle) was a really cool drawer pull I had scavenged off of a TV console discarded on some street or other. I sprayed it gold, then continued the ribbon motif at the top. That layer displays the translation, thanks to my wife, for the words 'barrel of monkeys'.

And that, my dear friends, is the story behind the monkey. Not a real barn-burner, but 100% true. The process I go through is not unique. The resulting art, however, is. I can safely say that this piece is one of a kind. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that nothing has ever before been created before that even resembles this piece. Call it a hunch.