I get asked why I started painting on copper and engraving it for my gallery work. The answer is because I love old bicycles and guitars.
Early in my career I was all about painting. I was that guy who would finish a deadline for a client and do two more oilpaintings for myself over the weekend before I started the next deadline on Monday. I’d hit museums and cry in front of Rembrant. (Literally.) I’d spend so much time in the art section of Barnes and Noble that people who worked there thought I worked there too.
But you reach a point where, gasp, painting isn’t enough. It can’t be art 24/7. So you start looking for additional creative fulfillment. Because when your hobby becomes your job, you eventually want a new hobby.
Being a long time metal head, naturally the first place I turned was guitars. I’d buy beat up vintage japanese ‘bizarre guitars’ on ebay, and fix them up. Brands like Teisco Del Rey, and Victoria. I’d get a neck here, a body there, and bring them back to life. (Sounds familiar…)
One of the reasons these are referred to as Bizarre Guitars, is because of the materials used to make them- like metal. Teisco did a neat thing where they would etch stripes in the metal, causing a nice surface variety. Hmmm I liked it. So I bought some aluminum and copper and started masking and scuffing. I was transfixed by the depth that a little steel wool could bring to aluminum, almost like a hologram. Here are a couple of my customs and much less beard.
Then I got into the custom rat rod bike scene and well, you know the drill. I made a custom seat tower with a buffed checkerboard, AND cut up an engraved silver tray for the springer fork set-up. Mmm pretty reflective lines catching light. (And moustache wax. It appears I change my facial hair as much as I change mediums.)
And dudes, don’t even get me started on Datsuns, I will need a few days to talk about that obsession, but here is a Datsun L-18 engine I painted, and etched scales into. Combining both loves.
Granted I am always looking for new materials to make art with. (In art school I used guitar polish as a painting medium, I kid you not.) But the final thing that made it click, the thing that would make painting metal on so cool, was seeing the amazing etching plates of Whistler at the Yale Museum of art. The plates were worthy of hanging on the wall. So, I thought if I combine oil painting with my love of surface variety and engraving, well that might keep me entertained for a while.
So I did just that. And I am still entertained by it. For many reasons including, that artists were painting on copper 200 years ago and those paintings look brand new today. Has to do with the expansion rate of copper being similar to oil paint as I understand it, so it is really stable.
But more than that, in this day of fabulous reproductions, these truly are works that can only be appreciated in person. A print wont be the same. Literally the piece will change as you walk around it. And if I was going to do gallery work, (Or freakin’ THOR!) that is a quality I wanted.
The lesson to take from this? You may think you can escape making art by trying something new, but that new thing will make it back into your art. So you will have to find a new hobby all over again.
Holy Manowar! My favorite metal is copper and I've always wanted to learn to do more concerning it after perfecting my skills as an artist (sword and armor making or engraving) but I didn't imagine one could paint on it. Is there some kind of special preparation you must do before or after? Also, how did using guitar polish for a medium work out?
No special prep needed, just clean it. It is tricky because the copper acts as a middle value, but if it reflects light it becomes a highlight. Sometimes I use a auto metal prep spray. I've heard things like rubbing garlic on it. A light scuffing and you are good to go. (Though sometimes I polish areas if I know it will be shiny.)
urghhhh so damn fantastic you do the Golden Age Illustrators proud not that im anyone to say that, but i can feel it in your art
Thank you Carl!
Really amazing work Scott! That rabbit is so dimensional, I hope to get to see these in person sometime.
Do you varnish the final result when finished, as in over all the piece, and does this surface lend itself to painting thin washes, thick or does anything go? I'm still in my infancy stages of learning how to use oil paint and since I'm self taught every new factor creates a domino effect of consequences or new questions.
Yup I seal the entire surface with varnish. It takes a few coats to get opaque on copper. Often I will throw dawn a few layers of FW acrylic ink first, before hitting the oil.
You cried in front of Rembrandt, I'm crying in front of this blog post… those paintings look totally awesome!!