The Rockababy Pony, a study for the full-size version - another project interrupted by Covid. Still on the docket for 2021.
This pony is the horse I intended for Acavallo, but wasn't able to draw. It's taken me 13 years to learn techniques enough to achieve the form I couldn't visualize, let alone draw, un-fold & cnc pattern. Horses can be so frustrating - there they are, in the field, just standing around, looking like horses. And it's so difficult to see what they actually look like. And they're all different - each horse is unique I've iterated this design so many times, every time I thought 'Yes I've got it" I'd pattern it out, and find all the flaws. It's very hard to see the 3D shape in the computer.
So - the big question - why facets? Why are you modeling this way? It's a bit of a fetish, I suppose, a constraint - limitations as freedom, constraints as inspiration. Right brain / left brain / conscious mind / unconscious mind. To work within a pre-scribed boundary following logical rules, to find something that is neither, a feeling. I am an artist by nature, trained as an engineer, so that has a big effect on my thinking, no doubt. Control vs. flow. Shape one, shape a hundred. I want to make a hundred of these ponies, and each one slightly different, each one an alternate reflection in the universal mirror.
As importantly - it is a cost-effective way to define volumes repeatedly at varying scales. Shaping metal (stretching/shrinking) just takes too much time, and art is money, or certainly, shop time is money. I can draw on these at home before the kids wake up. The technique has its challenges - If you push the scales too small, there are lots of conflicts as the thickness of the material starts to interfere with the folding process, for example. Well. I could do a class on everything I've learned in the process of designing these pieces.
Anyway, Rockababy. If it wasn't enough to facet out their form, they've also got a very satisfying wing-flap mechanism that took me forever to figure out. Well, not forever, obviously, but quite a few tries in the computer. The center of mass of the body, relative to its pivot, balances exactly with the center of mass of the wings relative to their pivots and the ratio of linkages between them. Since the CAD can tell you the volumes and so forth... it's possible. And someday I'd love to spend the thousands of hours to make the wings cup and feather, but just them moving as they do is pretty satisfying. I can't wait to make the full scale version. The goal is obviously rideable scale - that's why there's that space between wing & body - for your leg. I threw in the concept sketch for a full-scale carnival ride at the end of the slideshow above. That would be so fun! Dreams. They're easy. Actualization, that's the trouble. .
The Penguini was inspired by my daughter, Josephine, who when asked what she wanted for her birthday, said, "A penguin!" And when he came out, he was immediately genderfied & named the Great Penguini, and is much loved. So magnificent in all his fishy-belly greatness.
Hers is solidly faceted, and the first obvious step was to turn him into a firepit, using a similar pattern but with cutouts (those took forever - diamonds, look at wet penguin feathers - plus digital camo-randomness) which worked great - and I love a propane firepit, especially one that you can chuck wood into - and the combination penguin plus propane is wonderful.. Just wham aflame and party is on! Behold! I am the Penguini! Bask in my magnificent radiance!
I extended the concept to the Penguin Colony, at Michelle Murphy's suggestion, which you can see on the 'public art' page on this site. And got to build six more. I love this guy so much. He taught me a lot about faceting, about how to deal with the material thickness and interference. And to stop trying to make something exact, because there is nothing exact -just let the cartoon flow - and let the piece find itself.
And also, Penguins. They are such incredible creatures. Surviving at the end of nowhere, in the blinding snow, their whole strategy one of overwhelming stubbornness and just being tougher. I'll eat fish and then go sit in the cold for months. But retain my sense of humor. Still laughing when you fall down.
The Penguini with the LED in his belly turned out wonderfully. He was for a Burning Man Artumnal fundraiser - he is super cute, being smaller, and super feisty with his hinged flippers, and the LED color changing light is very fun. I always do my best to hide the LED source, so you can walk around without ever being blinded, and the diamonds for letting out the fire also did the trick for letting out the color. And I got to invent a new kind of latch for a hidden door, in his back, for accessing the light, which was also satsifying. I love making art!
The Merpony. A study in so many things - this piece took me 2 years to draw. I started with a simple sketch, which caught the feeling I was looking for - Mer-Animals have always seemed to me to be so mis-matched, neither land nor sea, uncomfortable in either environment. Neither one nor the other, and only two to choose from ... and that feeling, what a place to be. I've always identified male, in my mind, and presented male, physically, so that part of my life was easy. But there's a lot of me that doesn't fit in such a binary system - my art comes from a very feminine part of my consciousness. And watching a friend go through gender reassignment, not born in the right presentation, well, that feeling stayed with me, and came out in this piece. Neither nor. Either or.
That tensions manifested, in the sketch, in the awkward pose, head cocked, legs extended - you've seen the way horses have to use their front legs to get up? It's not easy, getting up, when you're only built to run. And that tail, flipped around, irritated. What am I??
I tried to draw them in the computer, but just couldn't. My friend Gary gave me a big lump of clay, when I was studying with him (he's a blacksmith, and that's another kind of art I do), and I just started playing with that, modeling horses, heads, tails. I got a cheap laser-scanner program, and used that to load in the models to the computer, which helped a lot. I had something to work with. That took about a year, off and on, in between projects. It's so time consuming to learn new skills. And so, another year later, after arguing with myself over this line or that, I had a faceted form, unfolded and flat-patterned, and ready to cut out on the plasma cutter, ready to be actualized. And here they are - the Merpony. All folded up and quite anxious. You can move their ears around, they swivel, forward they look properly attentive and happy, but they look best a little swept back, a little cranky. Who made me like this!
I added some flames (simple weedburner style propane effects) to their neck and head, which burn out through the facets and nose & eyes - there's video on youtube - and have had a great time bringing them around to events. Nothing like a flaming Merpony to make a special area, with some haybales to sit on you've got conversations all night.
I've built two MerPonies, they're slightly different, the second a little more refined (not that you can tell, really, just fabrication adjustments). I did slim down the head a bit, you can see that. I'd love to build a 3rd, using all the skills I've developed since, with the Penguini & the Salmon & the Council of Animals, just a touch more here and there. I never build anything exactly the same, unless I have to!
The Salmon. I was asked to build a memorial bench, and this salmon makes up the arm-rests. I drew this fishin a day - 24 hours from model to pattern. So I've definitely improved as far as technique goes - the next version will be a lot cleaner - you can't really see how the details are going to interact in the computer, and the folding (around the eye, particularly) is a little fussy. What does work is the leaping energy, the power and bulk feel right. You can see the bench at the south end of Tonasket, at the gas station. Public art! Sit and wonder.
I processed Salmon in Alaska as my first out-of-town job, as soon as I graduated from High School I was on a plane. And it was brutal. 6 tons an hour, flowing down the assembly line - I did it all, stuffing them into machines, freezers, boxes. I took that paycheck and wrote 'pay to the order of Reed College' on the back of it and handed it over - it got me started. Thank you Salmon.
And I have another, unrealized work - a fish ladder for every dam on the Columbia, including the Grand Coulee. What an accomplishment that would be.