I once knew a young man who, upon the passing of his grandfather, inherited a mounted deer head. Despite having never been a hunter, the young man felt obligated to hang the trophy in his Los Angeles apartment, in memory of his grandfather.
As the young man’s friend, I remarked more than once how incongruous the antlered head looked on the bare wall and vowed to create a fireplace for him to hang below it, to give it the proper context. Not a functioning fireplace, but one made of newspaper ~ LA Weeklys, specifically.
Months passed and I was too busy to begin the piece. In the meantime, I helped my friend, Nolan, find a piece of decor to hang with the trophy (the metal sun).
I was eventually able to select the piece of wood- 4′ x 3′- and sketched it out in March 2013, but there were many starts and stops. Each section took long stretches of hours over a period of a few weeks, and then there would be months or years between those bursts of activity.
Here’s the piece between September and December 2013:
One obstacle was that since it took so many hours to complete a small section, I would only want to begin a section when I knew the next week or two would have those large windows of available hours to devote to it. If I didn’t have that, I would hesitate to sit down and get a little done, anyway, and so I’d wait and wait for the next “right time.” Later, when I was pushing myself to finish because of a deadline that I’ll get to in a little bit, I cursed myself for making the choice in the past to wait for the right time, instead of just making time.
To be kind to myself, there was a lot going on to distract me (work, breakups, other projects, etc) and I am far from alone in being tripped up by the swift passage of time. In addition to feeling guilty about not completing it, I also had process issues that cropped up due to the delays when I did get around to working on it. I had the same process issues on my self-portrait, “Face It,” and between the two pieces I (hopefully) have learned the valuable lesson of not letting too much time pass between the starting and completing of a piece.
But back to the progress! I finished the flames in May of 2014, just as I was beginning “Vincent,” but all of the pictures I took at that time turned out regrettably blurry.
To the left, you can see a more detailed close-up from around that time.
Here’s a picture of my studio, taken at the time I began working on the stones in January 2015:
A new romantic relationship and a new collaboration project, “Gyft” (aka Burning Gyft), took up the rest of my 2014, but in November of that year, Nolan moved to Denver to be with his new girlfriend, Brien. Ironically, the deer head trophy was sold on craigslist right before the move, because Brien is a vegetarian and he moved into her tiny house. But, even though the original inspiration was gone, I was resolved to finish the piece! I started 2015 with a determination to tackle the stones, and I completed approximately half of them in January and the other half in October of 2015:
Some of the stones gave me trouble, as I tried to balance the smoothness of stone with the desire to mimic texture and create visual interest. A good example of that is below:
I don’t remember exactly when I got the save-the-date card for Brien & Nolan’s wedding (maybe Nolan can help me zero in on that), but it was definitely in the fall of 2015. Whether it was before or after the second burst of activity on the stones in October is still unclear. But now I had a deadline: May 21, 2016. And to get a print made and framed before then meant being finished with the piece in April. The pressure was on!
The only part left to do of the newspaper was the wood logs, but even with my looming deadline, I didn’t get around to starting them until February 2016 (November and December are my busiest months for work, so there’s little chance of making art that isn’t Christmas-present related).
I wanted to use pictures of wood for the logs, to distinguish them visually from the flames
This was relatively easy for the long parts of the logs, but none of the spiraled log-ends that I cut out fit the spaces or angles.
So I had to get creative…
… and I’m pretty happy with the results!
Finally it was time for paint! I didn’t document the painting of the hearthstone, but I got several pictures of the process of painting the background:
Here’s the finished (unframed) original:
And here’s a picture of the framed print that I presented to Nolan and Brien for their wedding present, in May of 2016:
I asked them to hang a matching wood shelf just above the painting, to create a “mantel”, though I also told them they were welcome to get a different frame for it if they wanted.
I still have yet to frame the original, but plan to complete that in early 2017. The vision includes wood molding around the sides and bottom and a wood mantelpiece on the top, all stained the same medium light brown. I’ll post a picture or two here when it is done!
I do have the ability to make limited edition prints of this piece now, so if you are interested, please contact me and we can discuss sizing options!