My personal collection of figurative pencil sharpeners and other toys are the
subject matter for this series of paintings.
Using traditional realistic technique to paint portraits of these playful
subjects, I relish the opportunity to create beautiful
works of art combining serious craftsmanship with amusing irony. By treating
these odd artifacts of modern consumer culture with an exaggerated
reverence, the paintings themselves become the precious objects worthy of
I had been collecting toy pencils sharpeners for many years before the idea
of using them as subjects ever occurred to me.
I started out collecting them as souvenirs, but my interest eventually
expanded to toy sharpeners of all kinds and I now have over 800 in my
collection. The idea of painting my favorites developed slowly
as various influences helped me formulate a suitable approach and I completed
my first pencil sharpener painting in 2003. Pleased with the success of my
initial efforts and having discovered a vast supply of potential
subjects from on-line auctions, I have turned this into a body of work
which continues to be my primary focus.
I like to think of the paintings as portraits, each one drawing on the
unique personality of the subject to show it in the most flattering manner.
There are three goals common to each work in the series: to create a
beautiful composition, to attain a high degree of realism, and to give the
sharpeners life and personality. The portrait is a success when these
inexpensive toys actively gaze back at the real world, boldly confronting
the viewer with the absurdity of their own existence.
My working method combines traditional techniques with modern tools and
materials. The planning phase takes place largely on the computer, where
scanned drawings and digital photographs provide the basis for experimenting
with various layouts and color combinations. The painting starts with the
a grisaille, a monochrome painting of the subject,
and this is followed by transparent oil glazes
which gradually build up the color to the desired level of intensity and
finish. When completed, the traditional glazing technique gives the work a
wonderful inner glow and depth of color.
The most significant of the influences which led me to create this series
of paintings are three shows which took place from 2001 to 2003. The first was
an Impressionist still life exhibition where I first saw the still life
paintings of Camille Pissarro and was very taken with his subtle use of
color. The second was a show of the
Sherwood Collection of Botanical
where the featured artists demonstrated the ability
to see great wonder in the smallest details of the natural world while
creating beautiful works of art through their careful manipulation
of composition. The third was an exhibition of the
Index of American Design,
in which stunning works of art were created out of deceptively simple-appearing
archival depictions of traditional craft objects. Since those beginnings, however,
my pencil sharpener paintings have moved beyond these influences and have taken
on a life of their own, moving me in new and exciting directions.