My original approved drawing. I used a combination of this and a grid placed over a photograph of the model to come up with my final sizes.
I finished the first phase working on a new steel sculpture commission for a family in the Bay Area which was getting my sketches approved and then making a small scale maquette and then getting familiar with fabrication technology that I had very little experience with other than working in machine shops out of High School.
I took a full month off after getting my design work approved while I finished my show for TEW Galleries which opened a few weeks ago. It was really difficult stopping a project that I had invested so much energy and design into but looking back it was a smart approach because it gave me a little distance to think about how I would approach the second phase of the project.
During the second phase which was enlarging my drawing to a full scale model I started meeting with fabricators and other sculptors to figure out how this was all going to come together and that I could possibly contract out certain fabricated parts. What I thought would be an easy process of working with a huge pool of options turned out to be a small group. It was sad to see that the craft of steel working has been somewhat removed from society today, when I was a kid we took metal shop, families had tools, kids learned hard skills and were interested in building things. I thought that I could tap into a market of inspired artisans but only found industrial fabricators.
So the second phase is all approved and I know how the parts are going to be built. My next phase is looking at plasma cutters and tig welders and learning how to make a lot of it myself. The 4th and final stage will be engineering the concrete pedestal and pouring it on site and then transporting all of the parts to the Bay Area for a June 2015 installation.
I have to admit that after I wrote this and read it I got a little freaked out about how far I still have to go but then I remember that I have wanted to do this piece for 30 years, this is what I want to do and it isn't going to intimidate me, I am completely inspired and who says you can't teach an old dog, new tricks.
My maquette. This stage was so crucial and I realized something that I harp on my students all the time about. I tell them to put everything into the sketch, design every square inch before you go to the painting so nothing is left to chance. I never designed the face on the left side, I just winged an indicated head shape and it became a huge problem when I scaled up the model. I didn't really know how to solve it because it wasn't part of my original vision and inspiration if you get what I mean and this created a lot of extra thinking that should have been done on the sketch and not the cardboard stage. I will not be using Corten Steel because this will increase the materials by 70%. The piece will be made from different thicknesses of mild plate steel.
My model. Each square represents 1'.
Starting my full scale model. If the male figure stood up he would be over 10' tall. A big thanks out to the guys working in the warehouse of the local Sears store, they supplied me with the appliance boxes needed to make the model. I found that Kenmore dryer boxes are made from the best cardboard in the world. It is so hard it is like plywood and you can staple it.
As I started building it out I learned clever ways to mark up the back side so it could disassembled and assembled fast and accurately.
I did realize something while I was making the full scale model and I will try to equate it to the development of a painting. When you develop a painting all of the work is spent brushing away at the forms through color and value and tightening and layering and all of that painting stuff and eventually you are finished. This is a giant cardboard painting, I have designed and chiseled away at every form until it is massaged to the perfect shape and this has taken over two full weeks of work including design but none of the final art is finished. Most of the work is put into the model and then I will unclip the puzzle and stamp out all of the parts and use the cardboard parts as the template. The final sculpture will be modular and bolted together much like a steel suspension bridge. I didn't want to deal with a crane during the installation and all I drive is a Prius and each element besides the stem can fit into the back of it while I run around getting stuff fabricated.
The final model. because it was made of cardboard the pedestals and some other structural forms needed to be bigger than the final shapes that will be fabricated out of steel to hold up the weight of the cardboard. That long stem with a head on it with look more like the original sketch and the base will include organic forms that are also in the sketch. My ultimate goal with the cardboard model is to find a patron that will fund to have it cast in bronze in the lost wax method. If that happens I want to leave all of my tape and cuts and dripping hot glue on the piece to show my process. Any wealthy patrons out there? Give me a call!
The Family. Faces need to worked out a bit more but I now can move to fabrication and those decisions can be made when I build the heads. When I started the model I was using Gorilla Tape to hold the pieces together but switched to a hot glue gun which worked great, it was just like welding it together and made it super strong.
My new studio, not quite the massive footprint size of my last studio but what you can't see is behind those lights it has a section that opens to a full 16' ceiling and storage loft which I needed to make the model and I will utilize on the final.
The Actor | Braided Carbon Steel Wire | 48” x 25” x 5” | poor fellow is now in a cardboard crate on his way to Atlanta.
I am excited to be having my first solo show of 2015 on the second floor of TEW Galleries in Atlanta. While creating this show my “Couples” Series hit the 300 mark. I was surprised to see that it was 4 long years ago that the series hit 200… those numbers worried me and got me thinking, “what have I been doing for the last 4 years?” Back in the day It took 2 years to go from 100 to 200.
Here are some of the pieces that will be in the show. I am hoping that Atlanta will give my work some of that famous Southern hospitality.
Frederick Holmes and Company | 309 Occidental Avenue South, Seattle
I am happy to have a new venue for my work in historic Pioneer Square Seattle at Frederick Holmes and Company. The gallery is 2 floors with the top floor dedicated to artists of historic interest. The bottom floor mounts shows for contemporary artists. I am hoping that my new work will connect with the Seattle community.
I am really proud of my crates and I thought that I would include them in this post. I have been shipping a lot of sculpture over the last year and it has taken that long to perfect my crate building. I use good old recycled appliance boxes that the nice guys in a Sears warehouse give to me. My crates are built like an origami folded box and I gorilla tape my sculpture to one side. When a client receives the crate they just cut a few exterior tape strips and the box unfolds. I have as much fun making the crates as I do the art. Gorilla tape is one of mankind’s greatest inventions.
Service Robot. Coming to your favorite restaurant or bar in 2022.
I am not hired as a period artist but I study my favorite time periods in art and I am inspired by certain work that continue to amaze every time with fresh eyes.
One of my favorite time periods was the WPA murals from the early 20th century and my favorite artist is Diego Rivera. Although Rivera was not a FAP artist and he created his masterpieces before the creation of the WPA/FAP. His work in the Italian Renaissance fresco style inspired and laid the groundwork for countless artists from the WPA/FAP. So when I got a call from the International Monetary Fund to design a 21st century mural inspired by Diego Rivera and the WPA muralists I was in.
After the teleconference with my Art Director and the Editors I hung up and quickly realized my commitment and that Diego Rivera and these other artists possessed supernatural powers in design and execution. The deadline was short so that was helpful to get the quadrants of the mural approved. We needed a scene of an agricultural worker and a port worker. An immigrant with a suitcase looking for a better life. A vocational teacher with children including the dreaded chalkboard concept :). A science and or medicine related piece, call center workers and the final panel was a service robot. The robot concept threw me as being a little far off into the future but I love robots so I’d say I was good to go.
Design went smooth with a few tweaks and I paced myself for 3 full days for transferring and painting to make the tight deadline. This train was now on the track and it just needed to be painted out so day one we have a huge storm and a telephone pole snaps next to our home while I am out teaching and power is cut to 1,200 homes for my first painting night. With no power I pull out my camping lanterns and hit Big 5 for more battery powered Illumination.
In the raining morning I rented a portable generator to power my studio. At this point I was granted overtime to do whatever it took to finish the piece but I had already lost an entire Friday night and Saturday morning. The deadline hit the fan on me and I hadn’t done a real all-nighter in years so I started at 5:00 am Sunday morning and finished this piece on Tuesday at 2:30 am without sleeping but I took some breaks. I didn’t think that I could pull it off and for many hours alone in the middle of the night I wished that I had a clone but it was actually not that bad and sort of invigorating in an overworked circus animal kind of way. By the way, I do not condone the treatment of circus animals.
I am so grateful that this job is over and that everyone was happy with the results.
I couldn’t deal with painting under the low light conditions for more than 4 hours and I had to call it a night. I have such a new found respect for the old masters who had to work under low light conditions.
Jobs on the Line | IMF | Acrylic | 21" x 31" | 2015
Cover for Finance & Development with a custom fold out flap. March 2015
I am so inspired yet filled with middle of the night, “what’s the future” art dread. I think that deep down I knew that I was unconsciously moving on when I let my Agency Access subscription of client contacts lapse. I never really even used the list to any extent for years but it was something symbolic that I knew was there and it gave me comfort that I could call on it if I needed to connect.
I have had a nice career in Illustration at times with lots of success but simultaneously sprinkled with lots of failure and most often in the same week or month. This art roller coaster has been my life and my families and it is what I know and what we grew up together with. Since 2000 I have been straddling Illustration, galleries and education with flashes of marginal success bouncing around between all of them like a pinball machine. I purposely designed my career to service everything and at all times but after 30 years in the trenches maybe something has and should give? You always hear about illustrators and graphic designers moving into fine art but this really wasn’t my plan. I love illustration and every step of the process from start to finish but I haven’t been commissioned to do a commercial project in months.
I think that it was the call that I received yesterday from a new gallery that has pushed me to spill my guts and my plan. I am also the guy who jumps the gun so… I may not be done yet! :)
With all of that said, here is the design and the 1/2"=1' scale maquette for my first outdoor steel fabricated sculpture commission. I am now in a crash course learning about materials including plasma cutting, welding, chopping, grinding and ultimately site transportation and concrete pedestal installation. The final sculpture will be 9 feet tall and it has a Bay Area installation date of June 2015. Before our final construction I will be making a full scale cardboard model to be used as a template for all of my steel plasma cutting. The faces in the maquette will change a bit under client approval and the giant neck/stem and other details that are designed into the sketch will be worked out on the final full scale model.
I would also like to announce my next solo show will be at the fabulous TEW Galleries in Atlanta. My work has found a nice home at TEW Galleries and I have been working really hard on a body of new work for the March 6th 2015 opening.
This post is really about my new sculpture commission that is pushing me into new territory with material challenges and fabrication technology that will be learned as I go for it and I am honesty in complete artistic joy and the clients have been a dream to work with. I feel very lucky and appreciative of what is happening right now with my work and I hope that eventually it will rub off to my sleep.
The Family | 18” x 8” x 3” Model | 1/2"=1' Scale
The Family | 18” x 8” x 3” Model | 1/2"=1' Scale
The Family | 18” x 8” x 3” Model | 1/2"=1' Scale
Richard Downs | The Family
Corten Steel | 108" x 46" x 36" | Completion June 2015