Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Junkman Cometh - Creating a New Art Technique From Unlikely Items

I have a number of people that often drop off items at the studio that I can use for both my own work and to use with my artist interns. One elderly fellow is a trash picker. Every few weeks he stops late in the night with a ramshackle pickup truck filled to overflowing and leaves me a care package of stuff he's found during his wanderings.

Often the items are in poor enough shape that I discard them. But there are some amazing gems every so often also. Anything in a can that isn't too rusted I put on a shelf. Spray paint, half used cans of varnish and the occasional "mystery" container get saved.

Now I've had this piece of driftwood I pulled out of the river a few weeks ago and let dry. Usually I would discard a piece like this because it was badly rotting and some of the parts of it were weak to the point of really not having much value as a piece of art. But this one had caught my eye because of its swirling patterns. It reminded me of a candle flame in its shape and pattern. So I brought it home and dried it out and tested it for strength. The results weren't good. The wood was quite fragile. So I set it aside on a work table and would glance at several times a day wondering how it could be saved and used. 

So last night I sat down with it again, my finger slowly tracing the patterns within it and I decided to try an experiment. What could I do that would keep the pattern of the wood yet create a solid bond around it? What if I gently polyurethaned the wood? Would that give it enough strength that it could be used? 

Sadly after several hours I gave up, realizing it was probably hopeless. The polyurethane was strong, but not that strong. I could go buy something stronger but that would take money and energy that were better used elsewhere at the moment. Then I decided to go look at the old junkmans shelf of bottles and cans and just see what was there. What did I have to lose? I was just going to end up tossing the fragile piece of wood otherwise. 

After some searching I found a can of something called Appliance Epoxy. What caught my eye was the can said "Smooth Factory-like Appearance. Ultra Hard Enamel". So I took it out on the porch and I tested it out to see if the cane even worked and got a nice smooth flow of this tar colored epoxy. Okay, so what the heck. Nothing lost nothing gained. I'm an experimental artist, so lets experiment. 

I laid the driftwood down and thoroughly coated the driftwood on both sides. I left it alone after that until this morning where to my delight the epoxy had coated the driftwood in a hard shell that left the grain of the wood in tact but had hardened the wood to a point where it was again solid and no longer fragile.

Since then I've resprayed it several times to make sure it had a solid coat on all sides. My intention will be to paint it using metallic orange and reds to create an eternal flame sculpture out of. 

So here is a new technique born totally out of a taking a chance on something different. I've often been frustrated at seeing beautiful patterns of wood that were too fragile to be usable. I may have just found a way to take advantage of that and create some amazing new art from it.

Thanks Faerie Junkfather. I shall ever be in your debt! 


UPDATE: Here is the final sculpture

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