Creating a story in 3-D

As a writer,I like to recharge my creative batteries by checking out an art exhibit or going to a concert. Using a different set of senses to take in ideas gives me a boost. So I was pleased to meet the artist Andrea Morganstern recently at the Westport Arts Center’s exhibit Foodies – where all the art has some connection to food. It’s been one of their most popular exhibits, with good reason, and you can see it (provided they’re open after the storm) until November 4th . Andrea’s artwork stands out, though; for one thing, it’s taller than she is. And it tells its own story.

In fact, the piece, entitled Corn Bird, was produced using a process similar to  a 3-D printing, a fascinating thing in itself. I wanted to know more.

 

 

 

GC: Please tell us something about yourself

AM: I am an artist based in Bridgewater, CT, a small rural town in the northwest part of the state.  I relocated here after living in New York City for many years.  The closeness to nature has been very inspiring for the development of my recent work.  I have been exhibiting my artwork widely throughout the US since 1995 in galleries, museums and non-profit spaces.

 

GC: How would you describe the figures you are currently making?

AM: The sculptures, like all of my work, are about two main concepts. The first is the interconnectedness of all things in nature. I explore this idea by blending botanical, animal and human elements to create hybrid creatures. My work is also about the existence of other dimensions or parallel universes besides this physical one we normally perceive as reality, and an exploration into who or what might dwell there.

GC: It seems to me that your figures tell a story. Could you explain the ideas behind the corn figure, specifically, or the stories which influenced you as you were creating it?

AM: My work is inspired by the art of ancient civilizations, particularly Egyptian, Pre-Columbian and Hindu, as well as travel to places where traces of these civilizations remain. Corn Bird, for example was inspired by a trip to Peru where I learned that corn is considered sacred by the native culture and I was inspired to create a deity made of corn.   I see the figures as spirit beings or deities from my own imaginary ancient civilization or parallel universe. I intended for Corn Bird to have a dignified quality, like an ancient Egyptian pharaoh or priest or some other kind of ancient wise being, with the corn husks doubling as robes. Every creature has a golden botanically inspired headpiece. I paint them gold to suggest an elevated status or high spiritual level.

GC: Most of your figures have been around a foot tall (correct me if I’m wrong here). What made you decide to make one that’s taller than you are?

I decided that as separate artworks, the sculptures might have more presence and really come to life if I created them large-scale so I decided to experiment by creating a much larger version of Corn Bird.

GC: Please explain a bit about how you used technology to make the sculpture.

AM: For my small sculptures, I make the original out of clay, create a mold out of silicone rubber and then create castings out of urethane resin. I then paint the castings with acrylics.

For the larger scale version of Corn Bird, I worked with a fine art fabricator. I provided them with a small version of the sculpture which they scanned with a three-dimensional laser to create a three-dimensional model. This model was then used to create a machining path that was used to guide a three-dimensional milling machine. The sculpture was milled out at the new larger scale in high density urethane foam. A surfacing compound was then applied to the foam model to smooth out the surface and to replicate the detail of the original. The surfacing compound dried into a thin coat of resin which was sanded and finished.

A mold was created from the foam model using urethane rubber and rigid resins. The mold was used to create a hollow resin casting. The casting material consisted of fiber reinforced polyurethane. The casting was soda blasted (which is like sandblasting except using baking soda rather than sand) to remove surface residue. Then the casting was sanded. Finally, the casting was painted with a combination of automotive urethanes and acrylics and finished with a urethane automotive clear coat.

 

Flock

GC: Could you tell us something about how you use the smaller figures? Do you sell them as separate artworks?

AM: Originally I created my sculptures to be used as props in my photographs. I take the sculptures into nature and photograph them, incorporating many natural elements into the composition and narrative. Eventually, I began exhibiting the smaller sculptures in addition to the photographs as separate artworks.

GC: Where can readers find you? (website, art galleries if any are exhibiting, or will be exhibiting in the future, Facebook???)

AM: My work is currently on view at the Deborah Colton Gallery, in Houston, TX.  My work can also be viewed on my website at: www.andreamorganstern.com.

June = 30 Days of creativity

Last year, in a rash moment, I signed up to do thirty creative things in the 30 days of June. I’m not sure where I heard about this idea, but I found the website and I was intrigued. I remember telling my writers’ group about it, and promising to share what I did, as a way of ensuring that I followed through. I encouraged them to do the same. There were murmurs of interest (I thought) and approval, but it turned out that I was the only one of us fool enough to do it.

And yet. It was one of the most unforgettable months in recent memory. I posted the results on my Facebook page and you’re welcome to check them out. They ranged from a not bad drawing of a lighthouse (left), to an OK weaving project, to a so-so papier mache bowl, to the world’s worst lanyard (below). I was desperate that day, having only an hour or so, and thought a lanyard would be easy. It took me an hour and three YouTube videos to work out how to start the damn thing. Anyway, point is, it’s a challenge but it’s very rewarding, and you can make it as complicated or as simple as you like. I used a great blog from a Canadian artist called Gail for a treasure trove of relatively easy ideas (Gail teaches art to elementary school children – don’t laugh, some of those projects were harder than they looked!).

Point is, it stretched my brain in a completely different way. This is the third year that the organization is running this project. here’s what they have to say about it:

30 Days of Creativity is a global social initiative encouraging people to create stuff (anything) every day for 30 days in June. 2012 is our 3rd year. We hope to make it a big one. Your brain is like a muscle. When you exercise it, it gets stronger.
Give it a try. I can’t do it this year, because I’m going to be away from June 3-13, which takes a chunk out of the moth, but I’ll be signing up again next year.

You’re never too old to publish

At the beginning of February, I wrote a post called It’s never too late for fun, about a woman, who, aged 88, wanted to sit on the cannons at Compo beach again, and, with the help of friends and strangers, did it. You can see from the photos on that blog just how delighted she was.

Now she’s done it again. Not cannons, this time, but a book. Illustrated, written and published with the help of friends and strangers. And Susan Malloy is very happy indeed. Here’s how it happened:

A year ago Susan, already a successful painter, was in Paris with her grandchildren, aged 10 and 17. As always, being an artist, she was sketching what she saw, when it struck her that there might be other young people who would like an illustrated introduction to Paris. And so the idea for a book was born. When she returned home to Connecticut, she gathered her pen and ink sketches and wrote brief paragraphs to go with each, introducing the famous sights.

Next she approached a friend of hers, another well known and multi-talented artist, Miggs Burroughs. He’s known particularly for his lenticular works (see one here: http:  Go to the site and click on one of the black & white photographs to see how they work. If you want to see another, you’ll have to leave the site and come back, since it only shows one at a time.) Miggs designed the layout for the book, and then came the long trek to publication.

A local copying and printing company produced a mockup of the book, and a French teacher in New York looked at it to make sure all the French words were spelled correctly. This is what one of the pages looks like.

Then it was time to find a printer who could print a small but high quality book. Susan turned to her friend, Helen Klisser During, curator of the Westport Arts Center, who immediately decided that a) she wanted to help, and b) she wanted Susan to submit the drawings to the Arts Center as part of the annual juried SOLOs exhibit, which features WAC member artists. The judges chose Susan as one of the artists to be exhibited. Taking the sketches to the local framing shop to have them matted and framed for exhibition, Helen asked the owner for advice on printing. The owner recommended a printer not too far away. He couldn’t do it, but recommended the guy upstairs, who was a printer of specialized materials. He couldn’t do it either, but came up with the name of the man who could, and did. He was Stephen Stinehour, a lifelong publisher of art-quality books, in a tiny town in the North East Kingdom of Vermont. Stephen helped Susan choose the right typography and weight of paper and agreed to print 300 beautiful copies at a very reasonable price.

On the day of her gallery opening, book signing and launch, she sold 50 copies at $10 each, and told Helen that this was one of the happiest days of her life. She’s a living example of what staying consistent and focused on the goal can do. And she’s a testament to the value of friendship and teamwork in making dreams come true.

Susan distributes the books through the Westport Arts Center, the Westport Library, and the Westport Historical Society. You can also buy them from her directly. If you’d like to buy one, let me know and I’ll be happy to put you in touch.

It’s never too late to publish a book

At the beginning of February, I wrote a post on my personal blog called It’s never too late for fun, about a woman, who, aged 88, wanted to sit on the cannons at Compo beach again, and, with the help of friends and strangers, did it. You can see from the photos on that blog just how delighted she was.

Now she’s done it again. Not cannons, this time, but a book. Illustrated, written and published with the help of friends and strangers. And Susan Malloy is very happy indeed. Here’s how it happened:

A year ago Susan, already a successful painter, was in Paris with her grandchildren, aged 10 and 17. As always, being an artist, she was sketching what she saw, when it struck her that there might be other young people who would like an illustrated introduction to Paris. And so the idea for a book was born. When she returned home to Connecticut, she gathered her pen and ink sketches and wrote brief paragraphs to go with each, introducing the famous sights.

Next she approached a friend of hers, another well known and multi-talented artist, Miggs Burroughs. He’s known particularly for his lenticular works (see one here: http:  Go to the site and click on one of the black & white photographs to see how they work. If you want to see another, you’ll have to leave the site and come back, since it only shows one at a time.) Miggs designed the layout for the book, and then came the long trek to publication.

A local copying and printing company produced a mockup of the book, and a French teacher in New York looked at it to make sure all the French words were spelled correctly. This is what one of the pages looks like.

Then it was time to find a printer who could print a small but high quality book. Susan turned to her friend, Helen Klisser During, curator of the Westport Arts Center, who immediately decided that a) she wanted to help, and b) she wanted Susan to submit the drawings to the Arts Center as part of the annual juried SOLOs exhibit, which features WAC member artists. The judges chose Susan as one of the artists to be exhibited. Taking the sketches to the local framing shop to have them matted and framed for exhibition, Helen asked the owner for advice on printing. The owner recommended a printer not too far away. He couldn’t do it, but recommended the guy upstairs, who was a printer of specialized materials. He couldn’t do it either, but came up with the name of the man who could, and did. He was Stephen Stinehour, a lifelong publisher of art-quality books, in a tiny town in the North East Kingdom of Vermont. Stephen helped Susan choose the right typography and weight of paper and agreed to print 300 beautiful copies at a very reasonable price.

Photo: Helen Klisser During ©

On the day of her gallery opening, book signing and launch, she sold 50 copies at $10 each, and told Helen that this was one of the happiest days of her life. She’s a living example of what staying consistent and focused on the goal can do. And she’s a testament to the value of friendship and teamwork in making dreams come true.

Susan distributes the books through the Westport Arts Center, the Westport Library, and the Westport Historical Society. You can also buy them from her directly. If you’d like to buy one, let me know and I’ll be happy to put you in touch.

Go on – I dare you

Okay – I’ve done it again. Signed up to do something creative that I’m not actually sure I can manage. But at least this thing has a lo-o-o-ng deadline (January 2013). It’s called The Sketchbook Project. The Brooklyn Art Gallery in New York is affiliated with the Art House Co-op, an independent company that organizes global, collaborative art projects.  And they’re not kidding. Their flagship endeavor is the Sketchbook Project: an evolving library featuring more than 12,000 artists’ sketchbooks from 100 countries and counting. When I’ve added mine it will be 12,001. The point is that you don’t have to be an artist. You can fill the book with any creative effort. You choose a theme (usually, but not compulsorily) and then you have a year to fill the sketchbook they send you. There is a cost to enter. Prices start at $25, which gets you the Sketchbook, entry to the project, your book catalogued in the library, exhibited in NYC, and your artwork included in the printed book. That’s plenty, but if you want more, check the website.

Here’s what the Art House Co-op say about themselves:

By focusing on the intersection of hands-on art making and new technology, Art House Co-op nurtures community-supported art projects that harness the power of the virtual world to create something real.

I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I do know that my friend Adair Heitmann just sent in a book of haikus. Her topic: The writing on the wall.

In the meantime, in order to get your creative juices flowing (and in order to help raise money for the Project), there are things you can do without signing up for the whole Sketchbook Project.  Over the next 10 weeks (which is when the Sketchbook Project 2013 launches) they’re offering a weekly project you can participate in. Or not, as you choose. Here’s the first one, which I thought sounded intriguing. There are only 500 spots per project. I’m # 27 for this one, since I just signed up for it. The deadline for signing up is March 1, and the deadline for sending stuff back is March 15th.  Go on – I dare you.

Week One: Letters to Home

What would you say to your childhood home?

It’s been awhile, and the house you grew up in is starting to wonder about you… If your childhood home could hear you, what would you say? Letters to Home is a community art project that asks creative people like you to write a letter to your childhood home. Share an epic backyard adventure, ask a lingering question, or reveal a long-kept secret — we’ll transform our storefront exhibition space into a mailbox from the past. The letters will join us as a mini collection on the Sketchbook Project 2012 Tour!

They also have a free project called ‘The Meal’. Here’s their description of it:

One moment. One meal. One photograph. Let’s eat.

On February 24th at 12pm EST, join thousands of people around the world in a simultaneous global meal. Whether it’s breakfast in LA or a midnight snack in Beijing, let’s take a moment from our hectic lives and share it with strangers around the world. Snap a photo of yourself and your meal and mail it to us — we’ll create an exhibition from these self-portraits, documenting the world’s largest communal snack.

You can manage that, can’t you?