Today in Grand Haven there will be a Meet and Greet with the artists participating in the show from 2-4 PM. I will be down there at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum at 200 Washington to talk to people about my newest piece, A.L. (Artificial Love) as well as automata in general. There are a lot of great art on display and it's going to be a beautiful day. Come on down and take a look around. At 1:00 there will be live music on First Street between Washington and Columbus featuring Sweet Lou and the Savages. It should be a good time. Hope to see you there.Sweet Lou & the SavagesSweet Lou & the Savages
September already? Where did the time go? My last post was just before Christmas. At that time I was finishing up Santa's Relocation. I did get it painted but there a few little things that I never got to. I put it up on a shelf literally and there it sits.
I've been busy with a couple new projects. I put together 2 clocks. One was a kit from Germany and another was built from plans. Both were really enjoyable and I might have to do a couple more.
One of the clocks inspired my latest automaton, A.L. (Artificial Love). A.L. will be on display at ArtWalk 2017 in Grand Haven MI. It will be at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum. ArtWalk runs from Sept. 28-Oct. 8. This automaton has 2 robots in love. They come together for a kiss. When their "lips" touch their eyes light up, antennas spin and a voice professes its love.
On Oct 1 there will be a meet and greet for the artists from 2PM - 4PM. Come on down and check out A.L. in person!
Happy Holidays! Hard to believe that the year is nearly over. I wish everyone a very blessed holiday and and great new year.
I've been working on a piece for quite a while now. It is entitled, Santa's Relocation. I've had this idea kicking around my head for over 2 years. I saw a video of an automaton featuring 2 dolphins. You can see it here. What popped into my head was an idea about Santa Claus finally giving up on the North Pole and heading to a warmer climate. Where else would he go except to one of my favorite places, Hawaii! He retired his reindeer and sleigh and replaced them with 8 dolphins and an outrigger canoe. At the time I made up a dolphin and put it up on the shelf to gather dust. After finishing Deep Sea Tango, I pulled down the dolphin and decided to go for it. With 4 months to Christmas I thought I would have plenty of time. Sadly, that was not the case. With less than week to go before Christmas I know it won't be done. I made a video of the piece in its current state and it is my Christmas card to all my family, friends and followers. You can see it here.
After making the go ahead decision, I started with the 8 dolphin bodies. They are made up using a 3 layer method. Once the layers are glued up I carve and sand them. I cut out the tail fins and attached and shape them. Finally I cut and attach all the pectoral fins. I have a pod of 8 dolphins.
Next I worked on the outrigger canoe. I looked at some reference photos and came up with a design that I liked. I made a keel out of 1/8" plywood and added formers to the keel and filled in the space with balsa blocks. It turned out well. I went with 2 outriggers and carved those and made the arms and attched it to the canoe. It was time to work on the case and mechanics.
Now that I had some physical sizes to work with, I could draw the design on the computer. I knew that this was going to be big but I was surprised that it was going to be over 5 feet long! I struggled with how and with what material I would use to hold all the gears, cranks and axles. I wanted it to be as light and open as possible so I drew up a design using 1 1/2" lumber. I made up the frames and then it was on to the gears.
There are 11 gears so far. 8, 24 tooth gears and 3, 16 tooth gears. I say so far because I came up with another addition to the project. I thought it would be cool to add a music box to the piece and have it play a Christmas tune. Then I thought it would be really fun if it played "Mele Kalikimaka". The only way to do that was to get a 30 note DIY music box kit and punch my own music roll. I ordered one and when it came I set about making the music roll with help from my wife and father-in-law. I found a great program that helped a lot called Music Box Composer. You can check it out here. The music roll will be joined into a loop and will be able to repeat over and over. If I ever get to the point of trying to add the music box to the piece I may have to add some more gears in order to get the proper speed for the music box.
After playing around with the music box I made up all the cranks and axles for the piece. When they were all done I put it all together (except for the outrigger) for the first time and set the dolphins in place. Everything seemed to work well so it was time to tackle the thing I feared most, Santa. In my mind's eye I have a picture of Santa in a Panama hat, a Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts and flip flops sitting in the outrigger with one hand holding the reins and the other in the classic Hawaiian shaka pose. How was I going to do that? I first started with a drawing and then went to clay and made a little model. It turned out OK but a little large for the outrigger. I then tried just the head alone in polymer clay thinking I could add a wooden body to it later like Tom Haney does in his pieces. That didn't work. I have a tendency to get overly detailed. My wife has a collection of Santas and since they were out now (time keeps ticking away) I found one I like and did a clay sculpture of that. It was simple enough that I thought I could do it completely out of wood. I cut out the basic shapes out of basswood and started carving away. I did the head and torso as one piece. I added blocks to act as the shorts and then legs were added to the blocks. Each arm was a separate carving. When it was all together I was pretty pleased. He is a tight fit in the outrigger and before I could add any feet I had to open up the front bulkhead.
Before I could put it all together I had to figure out a way to connect the outrigger to its cranks. Once I had that figured out I was able to connect up all the tail activating wires to the dolphins and see if it all works. It did! To see it all moving the way I envisioned it so long ago is a personal thrill. The one thing I didn't visualize were the reins. I attached some string along the sides of the dolphins to get a sense of what the reins would look like. I knew that I wanted the dolphins in each pair to be in sync with each other. I thought it would look good if each pair was 90 degrees out of sync as they move so it formed a sort of wave motion. That motion does look good but the reins will go from straight out to a slack loop and that doesn't look so good. The only way to avoid that is to have all the dolphins and the outrigger in sync that way the reins stay in the same position. I didn't think that would be as pleasing to the eye but when I adjusted it to operate like that it wasn't too bad. The problem is that as you turn the main crank at one point you are lifting all the dolphins and the outrigger at once and it requires a good amount of force and it puts a lot of strain on that main crank axle. When everything is heading on the downstroke the weight of everything aids the turning process and you have to hold back on the crank to keep it from turning too fast. Cranking it by hand would not produce a smooth motion. To get a smooth motion I would have to put on some sort of motor that could handle the torque. I'm not opposed to motors but I prefer to hand operate my pieces. What to do? I think I will stay with my original idea and let the reins go slack. Maybe down the road I might invesgate a motor control.
Now all I have to do is finish it! Easier said than done. There is quite a lot of work left to do. Sanding, sanding, filling, more sanding, more filling and more sanding. Then it's paint and sand and paint some more. This is my least favorite part of the process. When it is finished I will put up a post. Until then I plan to enjoy the holidays with my family and hope you do as well.
Today is the official start of Grand Haven's ArtWalk 2016. ArtWalk runs through October 9. This is a great event based on Grand Rapids Art Prize. Local artists have submitted work that are on display at venues throughout Grand Haven. There are several catergories that the public can vote on using a paper ballot. There are awards for the different catergories based on the public vote and then another set of awards from an art jury. This year I have entered "Gulls" in the sculpture catergory and it is on display at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum at 200 Washington Ave. This is a bit of a departure from my usual automata work. I wrote about it in the April entry of this blog.
During ArtWalk I will be having a discount and special offer on my work. More info about that can be found here.
I will be participating in a meet and greet on Sunday, September 25 at 1 PM. I will be at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum for a couple hours to answer any questions about "Gulls" or any of my work.
On Saturday, Oct 1 there will be an artist's market at Tri-Cities Historical Museum where artists will have additional work on display and for sale. I am planning on being there with as much of my work as I can bring.
I hope that you will have an opportunity to visit Grand Haven and take in all the art over the next 2 and a half weeks.
Last night Pam and I attended a reception at the Holland Arts Council where they are having a Michigan Arts All Media Competition. I had entered 2 pieces, Epiphany and Fledglings. I am very happy to say I was awarded the Brad Williams Memorial Award for Epiphany. I am very thankful and honored.
There are 51 great pieces of art at this exhibition and if you have the chance you should stop by and view them all. The Arts Council is located at 150 E 8th St just west of the Post Office.
Coming up starting September 21 and going through October 9 is ArtWalk in Grand Haven. I will have my piece Gulls displayed at the Tri-Cites Historical Museum at 200 Washington. Gulls is not an automaton but it is a kinetic sculpture that uses a weight driven clockwork mechanism for its movement. I hope you will visit Grand Haven during Artwalk and enjoy all the art.
Thank you to everyone who suggested a title for my latest piece. I decided to go with Deep Sea Tango. Jo Neufeld came up with that one, thanks Jo. I had already had an idea for the beginning of the video and the tango idea fell right into place. I hope you enjoy the video. Please check it out here.
Here it is, already half of 2016 over and I'm just finishing my first automaton of the year. It's been a busy family year and I haven't had much free time to design and build. The danger in allowing time to pass between projects is letting other interests occupy my attention. I'm a single focus person and having several things going on just doesn't agree with me.
As the title states, I need your help. Please read through the article, check out the photos and you'll come to it at the end.
Before sharing any photos I want to explain a bit of the background of this piece. Back in August of 2013 I finished a piece called "When Goldfish Crackers Go Bad."
Instead of a school of goldfish chasing the scuba diver I originally planned on a single, large goldfish. I first made a test piece out of foam. I wanted it to have a hinged mouth and it would snap at the diver.
I thought I could carve and shape the foam but decided to go ahead and build one out of wood. It turned out very heavy even though it was hollow. It measured about 12"X15". I wasn't happy with the movement and that's when I decided to go with a school of smaller goldfish crackers.
Sometime later I was watching a show on Animal Planet called "River Monsters." It's about a guy who catches some very large and strange fish in rivers across the globe. He caught this one fish called a vampire fish that had these huge teeth that fit into cavites in its skull. I thought maybe that would look good on my big goldfish so I retrofitted the goldfish with big teeth.
It turned out pretty good. I thought maybe I would make another scuba diver to go with it, possibly a female diver. I was still concerned about the weight and how much torque it would need to move the fish. You'll notice I added a spring to help with the movement.
Well like several ideas that I have had, this one got put up on a shelf in my workshop in the garage. Every so often I would pull it down and play with it. I even tried cutting out a female body to carve but I never got excited enough to pursue it. This year I pulled it down and decided it was time. I decided to drop the whole goldfish cracker idea and go with a different kind of fish. I picked the angler/lantern fish.
It's a pretty ugly fish but it lends itself to a caricature without much effort. Plus, this fish let's me add a LED light and that's always a fun surprise. Around the beginning of June I drew up a sketch of the fish and made it a bit smaller than the goldfish. I was still toying with the idea of a scuba diver but I wanted that to be smaller than the fish plus I wanted it to move back and forth like the fish. That sounded complicated and difficult. I decided to drop the scuba diver and make the victim another fish. Fish have been animated by artists a lot so I did a search to see what was out there and what kind of inspiration and ideas I might find. I came across a video by an automata artist, Keith Newstead, a favorite of mine entitled "Moving House." You can view it here. He does great work both with the mechanics and the finish. I really was impressed by the movement of the clown fish and how it would reverse its directions. I wanted to do something similar with mine.
I cut out the parts for my fish. It is laminated out of 6 layers of 3/4" pine. I screwed the layers together and shaped the body. Then I took the pieces apart so I could hollow out the interior. Along the way I thought about what else I could animate on the fish besides its jaw. I decided to attach the pectoral fins to the jaw pivot axle and connect the eyeballs to the axle as well. Then I ran a pushrod from the eyeball axle back to the tail fin and that moves too.
With the angler fish 80% completed I started thinking about how to move him and the victim. I experimented with a skewed parallelogram to get a disproportionate movement for quite some time. What I wanted was the victim to be close on one side but further away on the other side as it escapes. After getting that somewhat figured out it was time to figure out how big to make the case. That was a challenge too. I can usually go to my computer at this point and draw up some rough figures and place the gears and mechanics where they need to be and basically draw a box around it. This time I couldn't get a good representation of the movement onto the computer. So I ended up making a crude container and fit the mechanics in that. From there I refined that into a "closer to the final product" model." From there I was able to design the final case.
Once I had the case built I felt like I could add another element to the story. On the "When Goldfish Crackers Go Bad" I had a crab watching the scene. This time I decided to add an oyster. I really wanted an oyster with a scalloped edge rather than a simpler clam shell. It took me a few days to figure out how to do that. It was quite the challenge but turned out well.
Now it was time to turn my attention to the victim. I looked at several species but settled on a yellow tang shaped body with the colorings of a butterfly fish.
Next I had to come up with a way to have it reverse direction. On Keith's piece the clown fish pivot point was forward of the center and when the fish reaches the end of its arc, the reversing direction causes the fish's larger mass (the back portion of the body and tail) to swing around. Below there was a double wavy wire system that would keep it headed in the right direction until it reached the end. It is a pretty slick mechanism and the wiggle is great. I took a different, somewhat simpler approach. I used a restricting friction wheel mechanic similar to the ones used in "The Kissers" and "Puppy Love." There were several bumps in the road along the way but it is working consistently now and adds to the effect. The angler fish doesn't reverse, he just swims backwards into his hiding spot!
I knew from the start I wanted to have a light that actually lit on my angler fish. I've done this before with "Jitters" and "Epiphany." Both of these use a battery and some sort of switch to turn the light on and off. This time I thought about making some sort of dynamo that would power the LED as you turned. That way the light would light when cranked and there would be no worry of a dead battery. I didn't have much luck. I found several sites that said you could use a small electric motor as a dynamo by spinning the motor's shaft and connecting the LED to the wire leads that usually supply power to the motor. The problem is that the motor has to turn really fast and it would require a big gear ratio to get the correct speed. So I went back to using a battery. I made a switch and cam that would make the light blink. I had an old LED candle that I scavenged the bulb and plastic "flame" housing. I ran the wires along a length of bendable wire and covered the whole thing with hot glue.
There was one last element I needed and that was a backdrop. I knew I wanted some sort of seaweed background. I thought I could make it out of craft foam. I had success with that with my "Bugs and Blooms." I did make some tall grassy looking seaweed but it ended up being too wide. The angler is wide and I didn't leave enough room. I went to Hobby Lobby and wandered around their floral section and found some really nice looking fern-like pieces that I thought would be perfect. There are 3 of these in the back and they are suspended over a rail system. They have weighted bottoms so that they can move if bumped or from a breeze. There is one in front but that is stationary.
Now it was time to paint. I had no problem butterfly fish, coral and the oyster. The angler fish was a bear. I started out painting it green. I added stripes and it looked ok but I thought a different shade of green would be better. So I painted it again and added stripes. Now it looked like a watermelon. Next I tried brown. Bad choice. I thought back to when I was a kid and the ugliest fish we caught was called a bullhead, a greey catfishy fish. So I painted it a dark grey. Too dark. Next came a lighter grey but I didn't want it all solid so I went two tone with a purple. I like the cartoony look.
I decided to carve a swirling water design into the front of the case and give the case a blue color wash. The case is finger jointed and rods run part way down from the top to lock it in place. It's important to be able to take the piece apart so you can work on it.
The final piece was the crank. I really wanted to make a fish skeleton as the crank. I made one attempt out of wood but it broke. I thought about going a metal route but decided not to. Maybe someday I'll venture into metal land. I thought about several options and settled on a sea turtle. I drew one up on a Sunday night before bed and on Monday I cut, assembled, painted and attached it! I like it a lot. The legs are pivoted so that they move as it swims around in its circle.
So it is 99% done. Just a couple minor things, like little feet on the bottom to raise it up a bit. Here are a few more pictures of the piece.
You can check out a small video here to see it in action.
What I don't really have is a good title and would love to hear some suggestions from you. My first thought was "The One That Got Away." A second idea is "Beauty and the Beast." I'll wait for a few days to see if there is any response. I'm putting together a bigger video and will release it when I have a title.
Thanks for sticking through to the end of this lengthy blog entry. I hope you enjoy this piece. I've used the word challenge a lot but this one really did challenge me in several areas. I look forward to hearing from you.
I have finished my kinetic sculpture! I am calling it Gulls.
This is a clockwork type sculpture that is weight driven. The mechanism was designed by Art Fenerty. He calls these things "tickers" because of the noise it makes. He was inspired by the work of David C Roy. You can check out a video of it on my YouTube channel here.
The 6 pound rock is pulling the large gear in a CCW direction. It is meshed with a smaller gear behind the large ratchet wheel. The ratchet is held in place by the trigger arm or what Mr Fenerty calls a deadbeat escapement. When the ratchet is released, it moves in a CW direction and engages the large wheel and gulls and sets them in motion in a CCW direction. Eventually the momentum of the wheel stops and because the wheel is unbalanced it starts to turn in a CW direction and trips the deadbeat escapement and the whole process repeats.
The rock drops about 1/4" every time it trips the escapement and it will run for about an hour and 15 minutes with a 45" drop. It hangs above a stairway in my house. It is mesmerizing to watch but it is rather loud when the ratchet is released.
Mr Fenerty has been very generous by making the plans for the mechanism available for free. You have to do some searching on the forum portion of his site to find them. He has a 45 minute video where he explains how it works. It was a fun project and has really gotten me interested in clocks and escapements.
Well, as the title suggests, where has the time gone? It's been over 4 months since I posted anything on my site. So what have I been up to?
December was filled with the usual Christmas busyness. Even though the winter was mild in comparison to some, I found it hard to drag myself out to my unheated garage workshop. So during the month of January I started to look into building a wooden clock. Clocks are so cool, a real functional piece of kinetic art. There are several sites that offer a wide assortment of beautiful clock designs. You can go the plan route or assemble a kit. Some of the clockmakers offer a kinetic sculpture that utilizes a clock escapement mechanism coupled with either a spring or weight driven propulsion to produce movement. It was these types of sculptures that led me into the world of Automata. As I was looking at various sculptures on YouTube, I saw some videos of automata in the side bar and, as they say, the rest is history.
My personality seems to be one of single mindness. I choose a subject and that subject remains the focus of my attention until my focus shifts to another subject. I can feel my focus moving from automata to other kinetic clock type scupltures. How long will I stay focused is unknown. I still have several ideas for automata I would like to pursue. Maybe, just maybe, I will be able to do both. We will see.
The artist that I believe is one of, if not the original, developers of the clockwork type sculptures is David C Roy. I believe he has been doing them for over 25 years and does amazing work. You can view his work from his site here. My wife and I saw examples of his work many years ago, maybe in Traverse City, and they left quite an impression on me.
While working with automata, I came across a man named Art Fenerty. Mr Fenerty is a computer programmer by trade but a woodworker hobbyist. He developed a gear program that he uses for clock design and is available for purchase on his site that can be found here. He too was impressed by the works of David C Roy and set about building his own. He calls his pieces tickers and he has graciously made one available for free plus he has a detailed video on the construction of the ticker.
My wife and I were on vacation for about 5 weeks, returning home in March. Shortly after we returned I set about making my own ticker. After about 3 weeks of experimenting I am nearly done. I have a working piece and I just need to stain and poly it. I will put out a video as soon as I am able.
There are several versions of these sculptures and I will probably look into them next. I also came across a great YouTube channel by Ken Kuo that has annimations of quite a few clock ecapements. The escapement is the heartbeat of a clock and is a beautiful piece of art all in itself. I want to look into making some of these escapements as stand alone pieces.
And of course, I still would like to make a clock.
I finished 3 Laughing Santas with a couple days to spare! They will be on display at the St Patrick St Anthony Art and Craft Show Nov. 13 and 14 from 10AM - 3PM at St Patrick's Family Center, 901 Columbus Ave, Grand Haven.
A friend from our church gave me some beautiful red oak that I used in the bases. It's a very hard and heavy wood but looks great with a tung oil finish. The Santas themselves are made out of aspen. You can see a video of the Santas in action here. Please come visit my booth and all the other artists and crafts people this weekend