January 16, 2014

Mr. Lee's Atomic Barnyard

I am back after an unnecessary absence. The funny thing is, I was still creating. I just was not making time to blog about the creations! See how funny that is? (no.)
Well, to make up for it, I intend to submit for you all a detailed explanation of the process I employed in the latest creation...

   Mr. Lee's Atomic Barnyard   

I found this window (and it's, as yet unused, other half) at least 4 months ago. It collected more dust in the community laundry room until I finally felt like taking it on. This marks the second time I have used a decaying window frame. The other piece, not coincidentally, also had poultry prominently featured in the composition. Because I often let the 'canvas' tell me what it will display, there is clearly some connection between windows and chickens deep within my mind. Weird. (By the way, 'weird' in Japanese is 'hen'. Really!)

With this piece, as with most of my work, I jumped right in without a clear picture of what I would end up with. Before I knew what sort of scene the bird would finally reside in, I painted it on some fiberboard, then cut it out with a benchtop scroll saw. The repeating pattern of the feathers was not coming out very well when I simply tried to brush it on. I wanted there to be more of a 'printing press' or 'poster' quality to the chicken. I ended up cutting some adhesive-backed, foam padding into 1/16" wide x 1/4" long strips, which I arranged in a radius on the end of a dowel. It was with this stamp that I could accomplish the repitition that I desired. It was well worth the effort, and an idea that I almost did not even try.

During my hiatus I had created a circus-themed piece in the form of an advertisement for an imaginary performance company featuring a giant clown as it's headlining act. It was designed to be displayed as a sort-of sandwich board, or easel, like one might have seen outside a circus sideshow tent once upon a time. I had the frame built for it and everything. Then, I hung it at the coffee shop as a temporary filler, so my section of the wall would look less-barren, and it sold! So, while the circus feeling were still surfing my brainwaves, I decided to go with the circus sideshow theme to compliment my bird.

I needed a 'canvas'. Or, in my case, I needed some scrap material to serve as a backdrop for this work in progress. I had some pieces left from a wainscot installation I had done about 6 months ago. After cutting a piece to fit the frame, I painted it white. looking at the imitation slats in the wainscot, I saw the slats of an old fence, or side of a barn. I painted the slats red and used sandpaper to give it some age. The result was a nice compliment to the rough shape which the window itself was in. The overall rustic feel was coming along nicely.

Just as I had invented the company of 'Schlessinger and Grumstein' in the piece above, I had to decide on the entity to which a sideshow featuring a rooster would belong. I pondered various feats a freak bird might be alleged to perform. Finally, mathematics seemed folksy and ridiculous. Knowing that the sideshows of yore were aimed at a generation rife with racism and ignorance, I hit upon the idea of using a 'chinaman' as the purveyor of this fowl oddity. But, the rooster would not only do math... it would be a giant rooster! Possibly affected by some wayward radiation, causing it to grow to an alarming size, and with intelligence to match! Mr. Lee's Atomic Barnyard was born.

The part of this piece which took the longest was the poster on the left. I had started to paint the information on a piece of paneling, but hated how it looked. The poster idea was a winner. I asked my wife to boil some dark tea, into which I placed a sheet of paper for about an hour. This gave it an aged look that closely resembles actual age. Rather than paint the words, I opted to use Prismacolor pencils. This, too, would prove to be a good choice. It gives some needed contrast, while still maintaining a warm, folksy feel.

 One final note: After I had hung the piece in Lestats, I noticed that the 25-cent price oval resembles an egg, which lies perfectly under the bird's behind. Just a coincidence.