Friday, November 16, 2012

No Scrub Clean For Old Brass

  Want a no hassle scratch free approach to cleaning darkened old brass? Vintage and antique metal components are great additions to art work, but sometimes an age patina doesn't turn out to be so charming. Don't waste time rubbing away patina-poo and risk scratching delicate brass bits! Just dip it... dip it good!
Before & After

 I'm currently working on an assemblage art sculpture, and some of the old brass items that I want to use have tarnished too much. There are a lot of different methods for cleaning brass and copper. Many like vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and ammonia produce strong smelling odors that can not only stink up a studio room but also may be harmful to breath! Because I didn't want to scratch the surface of the brass, and because I'm a busy person too, I decided to use an easy dip soaking method.

 The product I chose was simply Mr. Clean... with Febreze®, so it smells great in addition to working like a breeze! Just pour some of your favorite scent of undiluted Mr. Clean into a shallow dish, then add the brass bits. Make sure everything is covered by the cleaner and allow to soak several hours, depending on the severity of the tarnish. The product has even performed well for me at removing the green oxidation that can sometimes chew into brass, copper, and other metal. Without scrubbing or rubbing the brass will emerge clean with a soft shine. If not then soak a while longer, and for an extra boost renew the cleaning fluid if it turns very dark in color.

The first photograph that I've included shows a before and after effect on an antique brass corner guard. The guards had pieces of old tape stuck fast to them and had developed an unattractive patina over who-knows how many years. The cleaner softened the adhesive very quickly, so that the tape simply wiped away. I allowed a piece of tape to remain stuck in place during an over-night soaking to show the before and after effect. The dark rectangle where the tape used to be is the before color of the metal; Look how bright the rest of the corner guard is! All of the brass surface had been that black or darker. When your items are finished soaking be sure to rinse them very well to remove any residue. Except for rinsing, the cleaning process is basically hands free, but the best part is that it smells so good!

 Before I glue down the metal objects that will go onto my assemblage I will wipe them with rubbing alcohol to ensure good adhesion; If it still smells like cleaner then the cleaner is probably still there, and rubbing alcohol should do the trick. The Mr. Clean product will remove most all paints and many types of varnish, so do have care and test a spot before using on any surface. Now that cleaning the metal parts of my project is finished I can move on to the fun part of assembling the art. I love using this easy cleaning method! Stepping out of the studio to reach under the kitchen counter can make an artist breath easier and the work itself a real breeze too. ;)

*Original art images ©Tree Pruitt, T. E. Pruitt, unless otherwise indicated. Contact the artist prior to ANY use please.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vintage Funeral Mask Comes To Life

After 1st cleaning before remount.
 It feels good to take care of my kitsch and transform it into home decor. Have you heard of the Death mask of Agamemnon? I've always been somewhat enamored with Bronze Age Greece (c.2500-1100 BCE), the Minoans and Mycenaeans, so when I noticed an old souvenir reproduction of the famous funerary mask in a box lot it was quite a find! I was thrilled to add it to my small collection of funeral art and masks.

The original artifact is a mask of gold that was found in 1876 by Heinrich Schliemann in Mycenae. It was dubbed as the "Mask of Agamemnon" because Schliemann was convinced that he'd discovered the final resting place of the mythical king of Mycenae, commander the united Greek armed forces during the Trojan War. The mask, however, is most certainly not the face of Homer's fabled king because it is much older than the historical Agamemnon.

When I received my version of the mask it nearly resembled an artifact dug out of the ground, likely having spent many years boxed in a garage. It was mounted to a padded trophy shield of black velvet and faux green paper crocodile skin. The velvet had lost its fuzz and was worn threadbare on the edges. It was dusty, and the metal had begun to "green-up" in a few places -- a damage that will continue to spread if untreated. So I cleaned old Aggie up and put him aside until I got around to creating a new background mount.

The first photograph shows the "before" and the second photo is the nearly finished product. It's resting in a regular picture frame now but will soon go into a glass encased shadow box frame for protection from dust and debris.

I started by brushing some Cardinal Red craft quality acrylic paint over a large piece of archival sketch paper. When that dried (thank you blow-dryer) I crinkled it firmly into a ball. The chalky texture of the paint cracks open a bit in the crinkles exposing the soft paper, which I then smoothed flat and washed with a thin coat of Burnt Umber craft acrylic paint. I wiped off the Burnt Umber with a soft moist cloth then let the paper sit overnight. The next day I adapted the design from images of genuine Mycenaean fresco using Antique White and various blue craft paints.

After the design was finished I coated both sides of the paper with Liquitex Acrylic Varnish. The high amount of acrylic polymer in the quality Liquitex product increases the lightfastness and gloss of the craft paint plus protects the surface of the metal mask from chemicals that could migrate up from the paper or paint. The painted paper was then attached to paper board using PVA glue. The mask was originally wired onto its old mount but over time the weight of the piece had begun to pull it out of shape. I opted for thick dabs of hot-glue as reinforcement. It's a strong hold yet could be removed for re-mounting in the future.

I'm happy with the level of protection I've given to this piece and enjoy it much more than when it was mounted to a dirty black base. Time well spent!

Learn more...

*Original art images ©Tree Pruitt, unless otherwise indicated. Contact the artist prior to ANY use.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rusty Old Sign

Managed to get out for an inspirational walk a few days ago and snapped a few photos. I'm fond of the rusted old lettering on this sign. I also like the quirky division of space in this photograph with that misty blue sky against the rough red bricks.

Digital photograph of a rusted sign on an old brick building in town (Kokomo, Indiana).
See a larger image and prints of this image that are available at my deviantArt Gallery...
 Old Building: Shipping and Receiving, by Tree Pruitt 2012


*Original art images ©Tree Pruitt, unless otherwise indicated. Contact the artist prior to use.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dot Line and Scribble

This new painting is an impression of imagery inspired by the 1965 Jazz musical animation short, "The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics" (MGM), which was inspired by a book that Norton Juster had written a few years earlier. The painting was begun just before the passing of influential animator and producer of the cartoon, Chuck Jones, and was just recently finished to a point where I feel good when I stand in front of it. I enjoy what the layers of paint do in the light, in addition to the somewhat whimsical theme. This is one of those instances where I don't care very much whether or not a viewer "gets it". Usually I care a great deal about the final imagery when dealing with art that is Conceptual and/or Representational especially, but when I began this painting I was feeling the unhindered abandon of "Scribble". I'd found a copy of the original book which of course brought to mind the cartoon that had jazzed me up so much as a kid (big Tom and Jerry watcher here), and that was plenty to get the inspirational fires burning for fun. Overall I supposed this painting is/was about self gratification and experimentation... mine as well as the characters in the story.

"Dot Line and Scribble" by Tree Pruitt
"Dot Line and Scribble" by Tree Pruitt, 30" x 20" oil painting on canvas.
I wanted to not just paint but to see what the paint would do. The paint rests on the canvas in several layers. At the time I'd begun I was working often with dark under-paintings, so I knew I wanted to play with something bright that time. In some of the lightest areas the gesso of the canvas prime shows through as a matte white. Strokes of slick Titanium White feather over that and into a warm mix of colors with overlapping strokes. This allows the light in a room to pass through those textured layers, giving a sense of vibration. In my photos it seems to look blotchy and dingy rather than shimmery because, though I may photograph a lot of things well, photographing my canvas art is something I've not mastered. At the bottom of the painting a muted green was scraped via pallet knife over the bright layers while they were still slightly tacky to the touch so that they smeared and mixed a bit.
"Dot Line and Scribble" by Tree Pruitt

One of the reasons it's taken so long for this painting to feel finished has to do with some of the methods I used. I wanted to be sure of the paintings soundness (no music pun intended there) before calling it as finished. The thick line that passes through the middle (Indian Red) was forced to crackle. Without having an over-the-counter crackle medium at hand I experimented with using a medium that improves paint adhesion, and I also removed some of the oil from the paint (via setting it on absorbent paper) for a fluid mixture. I applied that over the old layer of paint with a higher fat content, then waited for that to set-up. After a few months the line did indeed crackle! After a few more months passed I scrapped at the line with a razor blade to remove any flakes of paint that had cracked up and to reveal the lighter colors underneath randomly. I like the effect. The final touches that were added included a thin solid black line over top of the thicker crackled line. This line of Lamp Black paint was given a high amount of oil (fat) to a mixture of the same adhesion medium. In theory it should not crack, but should remain solid for the life of the painting (knock on wood).

Always a beloved inspiration theme, a bit of a tribute to a beloved artist, and a fun project that I think worked.

"Dot Line and Scribble" 2012 by Tree Pruitt, 30" x 20" oil painting on canvas. *Original art images ©Tree Pruitt, unless otherwise indicated. Contact the artist prior to use.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Assemblage of Thoughts On Bricolage Art

Bricolage [bree-coal-ahj] is a visual arts term used to describe art that is created from an assemblage of everyday objects and/or items that happen to be at hand during the artists need for creative expression. Personally, bricolage and assemblage arts haven't turned me into a pack-rat though it may encourage the habit to hoard... I only save the good stuff. What makes stuff good or garbage? It's hard to say just what it is that attracts an artist to a particular object. I think that the heart of bricolage is that creative impulse though... the need to create or express overpowering the need to wait for more traditional art materials to become available. Rather than create a sketch with a shopping list the bricoleur must look, wait, and jump when the moment is right in order to get that perfect object or flash of inspiration.
 Assemblage art and bricolage are siblings but not quite twins. An assemblage artist often works with the same methods, techniques, and/or materials in each art work with a fairly good concept of how those items will come together before the project begins. This also creates a recognisable "style", often with layers of encaustic wax, thick paint, industrial or architectural elements, old keys and vintage toys as favorite materials of many assemblage artists today (and rightly so because they are cool). The art of a bricoleur however will be unlikely to resemble other pieces created by the same artist to any high degree because the same materials may not be available, and things have to be assembled with different methods for nearly every project. The bricoleur is saying, "I need to make something... now! What do I have?" Perhaps assemblage art stems from a desire to take unwanted objects to make them into something wanted and attractive, whereas bricolage stems from a simple desire to make; It doesn't necessarily care if it's attractive because it just "is" or the artist felt that it simply needed to happen.
"Restrictions" by Tree Pruitt

In my opinion pure bricolage allows a viewer to see the components as they are, but put together or used differently from the original purpose... like using masonry blocks and plywood as a bookcase. Assemblage art often, but not always, embeds or disguises objects by using them as parts of a whole. My own piece titled "Restrictions" is one of my favorite examples of bricolage expression, though the final results were closer to assemblage than bricolage. I'd found myself with an overwhelming emotional need to express creatively while low on art supplies. With just a couple of tubes of paint and some glue in hand I rummaged through the house until I found a thing to use as a base, a thing to use as the actual thing, and then stuff to go over the thing. Only then did I have an understanding of what thing I was going to make -- a confined human figure. I wrapped heavy duty fishing line around a (clean) bed pillow and metal pipe then placed a vintage foam wig form on top as a ready made skull. Upholstery fabric was then wrapped over that and drip painted to resemble a dirty old thing dug out of the ground because at that point I'd taken to the concept of archaeology's mummy bundles, which are often tied and bound in order to hold the body in place. The concept was perfect for my expression though it wasn't present at the start of the project where only the emotional need to express was there. The everyday-ness of the components is hidden inside something that looks totally different from the things that I started with, so that is why I'd consider Restrictions as not being pure bricolage.
"It's Only Natural", Tree Pruitt

A more purist example of bricolage within my own art work is the assemblage sculpture "It's Only Natural", which is composed of objects I found while walking around an old timber mill lot. Here there was no emotional drive to create, but the piece was inspired by what the objects seemed to naturally resemble... or imply. On the reverse side a metal clamp and two rusty bolts hold the parts together while also acting as representations of internal female reproductive organs, once the mind has entered the realm of sex; A special stone that naturally resembles a penis helps the mind wander that way. It could be a statement about sexism, about the timber industry, environmentalism, textures, or just the way things sometimes come together. A viewer can think whatever they like when looking at the piece, but the facts are that the materials are natural (even metal being an element) and unhidden.

Musician Frank Zappa said, “Art is making something from nothing and selling it.” An artist uses many tools, but to an assemblage artist or bricoleur anything can become a tool of the trade, and even the tools themselves can become the art. "Portrait of the Artist" (shown above, digital photograph by Tree Pruitt 2012), is a self portrait created from a combination of tools, materials, and even the art studio environment. In this tech based world of art the camera indeed has become the artists other eye with which to see and show things to the world, and so it is here reflected in an old mirror as the all-seeing-eye. For a portrait of an artist to be true it should show the "hand" of the artist within the work and indeed this image does. In the background there is a thin material that screens away the reality of the studio floor in separation from the "higher" plane of the art work. Are you buying that?? It's really just a picture of a plastic thing and a window screen on the floor, but I think it "sells" as an appropriate portrait of this artist.
Some relevant links...

*Original art images ©Tree Pruitt, unless otherwise indicated. Contact the artist prior to ANY use.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Zenful Assemblage Art

Buddha Window Assemblage
This piece of assemblage art, "Buddha Window Assemblage", was made entirely of found objects that were collected, rescued, and reused to give old so-called garbage new life via a different form; I love to upcycle vintage treasures! It is true magic at work when such totally unrelated items can fit together in a way that feels unforced yet new! What I most enjoy about this piece is the ambiguity; depending upon how it's viewed, both figuratively and physically, the piece can either be of spiritual enlightenment or sociopolitical confinement -- happy or sad, mostly dependent upon how the viewer approaches the Buddha (again both figuratively and literally).

Click images to view enlarged.
The parts that make up the piece are few. The frame was saved after having tested a company's product where a tile fell out and broke; The frame was new, so why throw it away? The next layer of the piece is an uncommon one... a window that was never meant to be looked out. The white metal frame is a salesman's sample from a window manufacturing company, complete with black screen material and ribbed rubber seal. These mini windows were far too cool to allow them to get trashed, so it's great to use one here as what certainly must represent the industrial hand of mankind framing a spiritual perspective. Then from an antique pottery sake cup that was, sadly, broken emerges the Lord Buddha. From behind him is a bit of rusted railroad steel rising like flames. The metal Buddha figure has been cleaved off of a well loved, but totally worn out, incense burner. The left, or heart, side of the figures chest is missing. The heart hasn't been cut out but removed from the scene, perhaps for safe keeping or perhaps it was stolen somehow. No matter the frame of mind or perspective taken this piece offers a window for contemplation with clean lines, warm tones, and varied texture which I feel is a successful representation of zenful assemblage art.

Buddha Window by Tree Pruitt, 6" x 6" x 2" 2012-13

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*Original art images ©Tree Pruitt, unless otherwise indicated. Contact the artist prior to ANY use.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Polygonia Butterfly


A Polygonia butterfly, specifically here the Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis), resembles both a moth and a dead leaf when it's wings are closed because of the drab brown color on the underside of the wings and "hairy" appearance. Personally I think it looks like a cameleon with those eyes! :) This friendly critter joined me on the patio one day to pose for some photos. Learn more about them at Wiki or see the great photos here 


*Original art images ©Tree Pruitt, unless otherwise indicated. Contact the artist prior to ANY use.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Varity Is Vital

  One of the things I like to do outside of the realm of visual art involves music. I play with a bass guitar. Notice I didn't say that I'm a bass player? That's because I've only actually learned enough over the years to cause some trouble if the volume's turned up too far; I play with it. It doesn't matter if it's good or bad quality playing to me because how it feels is more important. An added bonus is the emotive quality of the instrument because it can help to clear out a mood. If I'm about to work on a bright happy painting but the day has been gloomy I can dump those blues out with the bass. The fingers and wrists get a powerful change of activity from visual artwork action! I notice that the muscles in my upper arms get stronger too the more I play, which allows for greater endurance and a more steady hand when painting. Much of the same holds true for the legs because just like when working on a larger sized painting Rockin' out happens best when standing. So my entire body gets a kick in a different direction when I'm playing the bass versus when I'm painting, drawing, or sculpting.

  Years ago while working on my first full wall mural I learned the importance of diversifying action... the hard way. The painting was of a near life-sized African Acacia tree; a fairly large project! The branches bent around two walls and onto a high ceiling. Each branch had one or two creatures that might actually be on the savannah; from tiny termites crawling up the trunk to a well fed leopard lounged over a branch all his own. When the entire painting was close to a finish I noticed a smaller off-branch up high offered a perfect spot to add a rich red oxpecker bird, so I grabbed the step ladder and paint pallet. As excitement grew I really got focused on what I was doing; placing tiny little detailed feathers and a few surrounding leaves. Holding my hand as still as possible I repeated the same motion over and over to create consistent paintbrush strokes. Sound nice? I thought it was, but I was wrong.
  After the third day in a row of pecking away at the oxpecker I awoke with a very stiff wrist. By the end of that evening swelling had reached up to the top of my arm, and the pain was rather intense. I went to the emergency room for a shot to decrease that swelling! Eventually a diagnosis of tendinitis was offered, and I was told to stop painting altogether; Of course, that was not going to happen. Since the true culprit had been pointed out as the repetitive action I decided that variation needed to become a hotter spice in my life. I now end each evening with therapeutic stretching exercises. Fitting other types of art and craft activities into my week, rather than only painting or drawing, seems to have been the biggest help of all though. I rarely have an issue with my wrist these days.

  Certainly most any method to vary your own activity is probably good, whatever the motivation, but don't overlook an old band instrument hiding in a closet or attic if you have one. Wait until you're alone, dust it off, and make some noise! You don't have to be good, just have fun. Overall I think that playing with a musical instrument offers the best benefits for a visual artist as an alternative activity because it involves so many of the same fine muscle groups but uses them differently. Plus creativity could be opened, and what artist doesn't want to risk that?

  So, that's one of the ways I get my kicks when I'm not painting. What sort of things do you do when you're not doing your usual thing?


*Original art images ©Tree Pruitt, unless otherwise indicated. Contact the artist prior to ANY use.