Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New Work, New Directions

In getting ready for three shows in the next couple of months I've been busy creating more new work to bring with me. Here are the images and discussion:

This first one is the second of my wedge series, the first one is here, and pre-painted earlier version of this one is here.
Fear Not, Fall Not
shellac on curly maple and cherry
28" x 32" x 4"

side view

In looking at the images, I'm real satisfied with how it came out. I find it hard to look at a piece after working on it for months and seeing it with fresh eyes. Somehow images give me the distance to be able to evaluate the work. For instance, I knew that the sections were book-matched but I couldn't remember or see which were the matching sections. Now, looking at the image, I can see not only the match, but that the off-set lines them up perfectly. I don't remember ever thinking of lining them up -- it might have been an accident -- but I'm happy with the results.

The piece isn't that large but it is substantial. I don't have a scale but I'm guessing that it weighs 45 to 50 pounds (judging by my feeling that it weighs less than my 62 lb air compressor). I'm a little worried about it taking down my plywood walls at a show but I think if I place it on the back wall on the left or right side I'll avoid that disaster.

The over-lay piece I have been struggling with for a while (discussed here and here) is also finished. The title, No Apology Necessary, is a reference to my earlier discussion of being influenced by George Nakashima and being able to keep the live-edge on the final piece.

No Apology Necessary
shellac on curly maple, cherry, and walnut
48" x 26" x 1"

This next piece also went through a major change. Earlier images are here and here. I decided I didn't like the clear epoxy in the middle so I cut it in half and glued it together side by side. I think this version is much better than the original idea and, thankfully, I don't have to worry about the back-lighting issue any more.
Time Float
shellac on bird's-eye maple, cherry, and epoxy
29" x 24" x 1"

And I finally finished the second of my flag series after many iterations on the blue section. Just before finishing it I was ready to completely start over but, as I removed a little of the shellac I thought it suddenly came together and made sense, so I stopped and just polished it. I like how, from the time I started, the movement in the wood caused the bird's-eyes to protrude slightly so that when I removed some of the color they suddenly came out as white stars on a blue night-like background. It made me think of Van Gogh's famous painting, hence the title.
Starry Night Flag
shellac on bird's-eye maple, curly maple, and cherry
26.5" x 26.5" x 1"

In the quest to explore work in a completely different direction, I started a series of shellac paintings that are just about shellac, and aren't sculptural or have anything to do with wood. Having recently acquired a large stash of 3/4" baltic birch plywood, I decided it was time to experiment. With this first piece, I treated the plywood as I had solid wood, building clear shellac on the surface before adding color, but then realized that I didn't like the grain pattern coming through.
Untitled First Shellac Painting
shellac on board
18" x 24"

So, for the second painting, to get ride of the wood altogether, I gesso'ed the plywood before painting it. I know it is more than a little ironic that someone who is so focused on wood would try to get rid of the look but I don't see any reason to be dogmatic about art. I think shellac can create some real interesting effects, different than one can get with any other type of paint, so I feel it is important to explore what can be done with it.
Three Blue Stripes (2010)
shellac on board
12" x 26"
Because I have an earlier piece with the same title, I added the date.

With the third one the design got a little more complicated. I struggled with it for a while but felt it came together when I added the black.
Six Red Squares
shellac on board
19" x 25"
One of my hopes with doing these paintings was that it would be easier and faster than the sculptural paintings on wood I've been doing. Unfortunately for me, it didn't seem to be any faster, rather, I seemed to be exchanging one set of challenges for another. Still, I think the effect is interesting and worth exploring. It opens up a lot of possibilities that I don't have with the wood work.

In another direction, I started another series of ribbon sculptures. Since selling a couple of them at the last show in the fall, I had wanted to make some more, so, figuring the I could now justify the expense of buying a big hunk of cherry, I bought an 8' x 8" x 3" board on my last visit to the lumber mill. I was looking for a 4" board but the guy at the mill said he hadn't seen anything that thick in more than a decade and even getting 3" thick boards is getting tough to find. I could probably find a 4" board if I go to a lot of effort but luckily my neighbor cut down a butternut tree over the summer that I was able to buy and mill myself (after using Inca-like ingenuity to move and lift it into my truck, solo). Now I have several big hunks up to 8" thick that I'm air drying. In four to eight years it should be ready to work.

Cherry Ribbon (2010)
42" x 8" x 3"

Lastly, in making these ribbon sculptures, I'm left with a negative half that I like to make vases with, good for dried flowers. Because I feel it is more craft than fine art, I don't plan on adding it to my portfolio and just photographed it myself. It can hang on a wall or sit on a table/credenza/shelf.
Cherry Vase
8" x 37" x 2.5"


  1. Great work Rob!

  2. Hi Rob,
    "Fear Not, Fall Not" is an excellent piece. "Three Blue Stripes" also works well, as well as "Starry Night Flag". I am not so sure about some of the others. "No Apology Necessary" gets too busy and the live edge may be misplaced. The others feel a bit uncontrolled in the color application, but perhaps that is due to the shellac 'painting' being new. Nakashima's work and especially his book "Soul of a Tree" has been inspiring to me also. Good luck on the shows. -Robert Chapla

  3. Thanks Cristine and Robert. I'm not sure "busy" is the right word for "No Apology Necessary", rather, "challenging" might be a better description. Even if it doesn't hit you right away, I think it is one of those pieces that grows on you the more you look at it. "Time Float" might be described as "busy" but, as someone else suggested to me, it would be better to say it "has a lot of energy." The first shellac painting is a total experiment so I'm not even bringing it with me to shows. I'm pretty happy with "Six Red Squares" though. It isn't pretty but I think it is interesting; "challenging" might also be a better description.

  4. It's so cool how you keep growing and changing and experimenting! I think that's the most important thing, and it will lead you on to new horizons. For my part, I miss the old Alien-and-creature pieces, and hope some of them will come back around at some point.

  5. Thanks Janet. It is good to hear you like the older work but, at this point, I'm happy to leave it in the past. There are too many new ideas to pursue.