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Creating the Work - Steel


Some of my steel comes from scrap yards; some is new steel.  POD and PEARL are cut from a 1" thick steel tube and then shaped into the final shape with grinding tools. POD is actually made from scraps cut from TWISTED PAIR.  In both pieces, epoxy is used to create a smooth surface for painting. In RIFFLE and VIGILANT. however, the steel form is built up from a series of steel rods cut to length and welded one at a time forming the shape as each piece is welded. The welded form is then ground to shape the thickness of the form elements.  CRESCENDO is also a build up of steel pieces, starting with steel ribs, then thin steel plates welded between the ribs and a final plate welded at the outer edge for stability and to create a hard edge.


Each of these pieces is finished with an epoxy used in auto body shops.  The epoxy comes in many forms, some with embedded fiberglass threads which when cured, create a "hard as steel" surface and depending on the length of the threads, can be used to span holes or gaps with a very rigid end result.  Other epoxies are used to progressively move the rough shape into final form. Each application of epoxy is sanded first with rough, then finer grit paper.  The shape of some pieces requires very thin coats flowing over the entire piece rather than an incremental build up of epoxy.  One of the RIFFLE photos illustrates this using a special thinner with the epoxy. Pinholes are common requiring ever thinner coats, careful sanding and often application of a filler.  Once the final sanding is done and pinholes filled, the piece is ready for painting.  The epoxy process is very sanding intensive.


Depending on the paint selected, painting is a 3-4 step process.  First the piece is primed, sprayed with a very light dusting of black paint and then sanded with 320, then 600 grit wet sandpaper.  When the black paint has been sanded away, the primer surface is then exceptionally smooth.  Pinholes may surface again requiring filler.  If there are too many flaws, the piece is filled, sanded, primed and re-sanded again until the entire surface is ultra smooth.  Most auto paints are flat, metallic or pearl and are selected from thousands of colors and gradations.  Colors are created from computer based formulas.  The piece is painted and dried for several hours.  Assuming no additional flaws are visible, a final clear coat is sprayed.  This coat generally dries overnight and then is polished with rubbing compound into a glass-like final finish.


Painting three dimensional sculpture is very different than painting cars.  Because all sides of most pieces have to be final finished, either the piece is hung or mounted on a "jig" so it can be painted all around. In one of the photos of VIGILANT you can see the piece mounted on a specially fabricated jig. How it will be painted is determined by how the final piece will be mounted on its base which is its own separate piece of sculpture with its own finishing.  The VIGILANT base is a stack of 1" thick steel plates, cut with a torch and gun blued for a final finish.  VIGILANT is mounted with two bolts through the base which is itself tied together with two additional bolts.  The CRESCENDO base is a buildup of polished steel plates and rods and clear coated as a final finish.

Creating the Work - Acrylics


Acrylic plastic is a new medium for me, very different than working with steel.  For the two pieces shown on the website, the process is similar starting with 1/4" clear sheets; rough drawing the individual forms on the sheets and then cutting the forms on a band saw.  Each piece is drilled and a 1/8" plastic rod inserted to be used to help stabilize the rough pieces as I create a mock up of the final sculpture.  The mock up is a wood base into which I drill holes and insert rough pieces until the overall form is as I want.  The holes in the wood base are all numbered with arrows to indicate which direction the piece is to be placed when a final assembly is created.  With a final form in place, the edges of each piece are rough sanded to round the edges and then each piece is hand sanded to create a smooth rounded edge.  The flat surface is power sanded so that the overall piece is no longer clear but translucent.  


When sanded, each piece is air brushed painted.  The Imperative to Exist is two colors--violet and black.  Wild Seed is 4 colors--two shades of orange, red and black.  Each piece is then sprayed with a clear coat.

The bases of both of these pieces are similar constructed from 1" thick acrylic.  The scalloped edge is created with a drill in a large scale milling machine.  The wooden mock up with the holes is used as a model to drill into the 1" acrylic base for final placement of each individual piece.  Each piece is glued with a glue that melts the plastic of the piece and the base to create a solid bond.  Once assembled and glued, the base of each of these two sculptures is air brushed with black to create a shadow effect. The final piece is then sprayed with a clear coat.

Wild Seed is a result of a commission for a home in Atlanta, the client having seen The Imperative to Exist and wanting something similar but in a much larger scale. I am working on other forms and techniques with acrylic experimenting with a broad range of possibilities.  Fun to explore something new.

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