Contributed by PNWS sculptor Patrick Gracewood
Creating commercial sculpture means making art that works within the requirements, deadlines and budget of your client.
I was approached by the Oregon Association of Nuseries to work with landscape designer Iftikhar Ahmed to create two large relief sculpture for the Farwest Show.
The relief panels needed to be large scale, reinforce the Asian theme of the display, and be easy to install and remove. Ransacking my library for patterns, we decided use a 7th century Buddhist flame design to accompany a large ceramic statue of the Buddha.
I was initially going to carve AAC blocks and fit them into the frame. A BAD idea as it would be this sculptor’s nightmare of heavy AND fragile AND dangerous! That and moving the artwork to and from a three-day show, with a miniscule budget, quickly brought me back to reality. Plywood was the only way to proceed.
First I glued down a full-scale pattern onto luan plywood. Easiest glue in my shop is a 10-year-old bucket of wallpaper
paste. It lasts forever and never goes bad or dries up. Then using my old trusty scroll saw, I cut out the stencil. I used the stencil and spray paint to transfer the pattern onto the full scale plywood. The notch at the bottom and top is to insure correct registration. I align it onto the centerline. Here’s the full-scale design on 3/8th plywood ready for cutting.
Once the pattern was completely transferred to the plywood, I began by drilling many holes so I could use my scroll-saw. I changed bit sizes to match the tightest curves of the pattern. The drill automatically cuts a round hole, cutting that with a scroll saw is much more tedious.
The wonderful thing about creating sculpture under a deadline is how many ways it teaches you to be practical AND efficient.
This was my favorite part, I loved the shadows and the scale of it.
I had the frames designed and fabricated by Al Jolley at Designform Inc. Designform also scaled up the flame pattern I provided to my specified size. I would have loved to have floated the image inside the frame, but it was too delicate so it was mounted to another sheet of plywood. Then the really tedious part began, caulking all around the entire pattern. That made painting much easier. Both panels were primed and then a quick coat of dark brown spray-paint to give more depth. The wood is only 3/8 of an inch thick, so it needs all the cosmetic help it can get.
Here are both panels almost finished. I went back and took a last look at the Buddha sculpture and realized that it was
much greener than I remembered it. Didn’t want these panels to be too bright so I mixed up a green/umber tint and applied it liberally. I said a quick prayer as I was leaving on vacation at 4 the next morning. This was a make it or break it act.
The Farwest show is a big production. Oregon grows much of the nursery stock for the entire country. The nursery industry goes all out to show the newest plants, latest technologies and horticultural practices. Walking the show and getting new plant catalogs was an unexpected perk. Here’s how it looked.
The New Varieties Showcase is a collaboration between breeders, growers, and a team of designers and contractors from the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers (ANLD). The lead designer for this Asian themed space was Iftikhar Ahmed.
And so I was able to leave on vacation as scheduled and had a great trip though I did not stay within the vacation budget ….