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Process: Boar & Fox Masks January 15th, 2013

Even though I paint for a living, I still enjoy doing larger scale or more experimental work for art shows. It’s a good excuse to rediscover one’s enjoyment of making art, which sometimes can be forgotten when it becomes part of a daily routine (I know, shame on me). After exhibits I always learn something that I bring back to my illustration work, whether it’s a slightly new technique or subject matter or it’s purely a re-energizment.

This winter I was lucky to be in two art shows where I took the opportunity to try something a little different from my usual work and create some 3D pieces. I wanted to create pieces that forced me to not rely on my usual skills and would stretch my typical boundaries. I also wanted to do art that was a little more physical and get away from my studio table, so why not cardboard masks, I thought?

Below you’ll find some of my process for these cardboard critters which will be hanging up guarding my other paintings until the end of February at De Facto at Mulberry (193 James St. North, Hamilton, Ontario).  Such a lovely gallery–thanks so much to Oliver and Ella for inviting me to show my work there. Here’s my third mask of the series, “The Boar” and the fourth mask ‘The Fox”.

I was surprised that the process for these wasn’t too arduous (aside from the occasional glue gun burn). I didn’t do sketches beforehand but just printed out a few low res photos of the creatures I intended to capture. I wanted to wing it for a change and see (good or bad) what would result. In my usual illustration work I’m so precise in working out sketches beforehand that with this project I wanted to feel a little freer. If these masks turned out to be aberrations, the experiments could be thrown in the garbage with no one the wiser. I had enough paintings to show anyway! Albeit a bit cheesy, I think feeling no pressure really helped open up those creative flows. Who would have thought those motivational speakers were right?

So without further ado, here are some process shots of the boar, where I built up the frame with chunks of corrugated cardboard (the cardboard came thanks to Jamie’s vinyl shopping addiction and their packaging). Then I would cut out random shapes and see where they could fit. I wanted to go for a very elongated shape and keep his mouth open which was a bit tricky to figure out at first. Luckily with additive work like this you can just keep building layers until it looks right.

I told you I wanted to get out of the studio. Here I am on the floor of my living room while Star Trek films play in the background. It was a fun day, and I got to wear track-pants all day which is always an added bonus.

The later stage was with gluing down finer bits of chip board which flex nicely into hair or fur and can add a lot more textural contrast and rhythm to the piece. They also covered up the messier glue parts and hid and refined the chunkier corrugated cardboard parts. I did still want to maintain a fragmented look though, since I think it’s more visually interesting. It’s hard not to overwork these and lose that construction-like quality.

As in my painting work, I wanted to to capture a strong personality in the face which is trickier to do when the eyes are wholes and I can’t paint in an expression. Instead I relied on tweaking the shapes around the eyes and the brows to try and portray an old brooding personality. I hope this comes across.

Here’s the start of the fox piece. As you can see they each started out like strange alien heads. With this one I really wanted to add a different sort of personality than the boar. I wanted to face to be stretched horizontally and to process a certain sort of mischievousness–this is a fox, afterall.

I was surprised to find that working out the facets of the fox’s face came fairly naturally (I’m going to regret saying this down the road when I try and do a trickier face, aren’t I?). Through my paintings I think I’ve trained myself to break down facets and levels of anatomy. This definitely helped with visualizing and building up the 3D planes of the faces. The more refined hair paper pieces felt like the final touches of a painting that I usually add with ink and a fine brush. Funny how similar this project was in some ways to my regular work.

The photos below are from my solo show Bestiary, at De Facto Gallery in Hamilton kindly taken by Seema Narula. I’m trying to reassure Jamie that the fox is really not as dangerous as he looks.

So, hopefully I’ll find time between moving to our new house, illustration work and teaching to do some new masks. I’ll pop up the process for some of the other masks soon too.

I really have felt re-inspired from this process and feel so lucky to have the opportunity to show these pieces. I’m thinking about going a lot larger next time. Any suggestions?


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