by Raziah Roushan for Re-Invent a Work of Art (2013)
Inspiration Piece: The Spring (1900)
Inspiration Artist: Alphonse Mucha
After opening the Mystery Build Kit and seeing the materials, I decided I wanted to find an image that could satisfy both my own artistic skills as well as utilize as many of the diverse materials I had been supplied with. I chose Mucha’s The Spring (1900) because it offered a romantic figure, a sweeping composition and a series of interesting shapes. First I did a couple of sketches of how I could make a 3D model from the 2D image. The goal was to have the silhouettes “fan” out from the back and lead to the primary figure whom would be literally carrying the bouquet of flowers (ie the Sculpey modeling clay).
To trace the silhouette shapes on each piece of wood, I used a photocopy of the image. Then I used an exact-o knife to cut each one out. Once they were cut out I used the green foam block to sample how the fan-effect would work. Later, I found that the rough-cut wood block from the Kit was a perfect fit to the growing scale of the developing silhouettes as well as to blend textures of the snow-covered grass.
To get the silhouettes to stand up on the block without using all of the supplied hot-glue stick on one portion of the project, I used a hand saw to cut ¼” grooves in which the silhouettes fit perfectly! The cuts were made at progressing angles from 30degrees to 60degrees. This made the fan-effect so you can see each silhouette from any angle.
In my original sketch I wanted to have a sculptural element to help break up the flatness of all the other materials. I used the Scupley molding clay (supplied in the Kit) for the floral bouquet the figure is holding. I had so much fun working the Scupley as an additive and reductive medium. Once I got the flowers all molded I did a couple of oven tests with some of the extra Sculpey. Testing the temperature per time ratios, I was able to cook it long enough to make it hard but not too hard that it would have been brittle. It was then ready to be painted.
Painting everything was by far my favorite part (mostly because I am a painter by trade). The box itself started with a coat of spray paint. The initial grey worked perfect, however the lime green and orange I used inside the box were way too bright. Those areas were then painted over in a glaze and solid. The silhouettes were first coated in a white gesso on both sides. Then two coats of color, corresponding to the original source image were done. The front figure was initially painted in a cream color so that her details would both blend and stand out. By using the initial photo-copy as a transfer tool (cover the back of the paper in graphite, then draw heavy-handed around the outline of the features to transfer the image) I was quickly able to layout the block elements. Cross comparing how I was painting her with the source image I slowly worked on all her fine details with a very, very small brush.
One element I really wanted to bring to life was the snow-covered grass surrounding the woman’s feet in the original image. I was intrigued to find a way to use the packing paper too so I put the two ideas together by making the snow-covered grass from wire, packing paper, Elmer’s glue (supplied in the Mystery Build Kit) and some paint. Each strand was installed into pre-drilled holes on the rough-cut block, then hot-glued to stay in place. The wire simulates the stalk of the grass, while the paper is the gathered snow.
The box that frames the whole piece came as a “process of development” in which I immediately realized that I needed a finishing look to really pull this off. I knew I was going to use either the canvas board or the wood panel as a painted background, however because I could not use outside materials, I re-used the shipping box to frame the whole thing. I cut down the wood panel to a comparable size for the figures. Then I used it as a sizing template for the cardboard box. I didn’t want a 90degree rectangle out of the box (that would be too stale) so I kept one side at 45degrees. This allows us to see into the box with far less shadowing. It also made for a more interesting “stage” shape for such a geometric object.
Adorning the box with interesting features was easy! I had a lot of materials still to use like the rope, wire, and even the instructions for the competition itself. I unwound one of the strands off of the three-stranded rope to make a gap for the wire to show through. Then I used some of the hot-glue stick to adhere the new rope creation to the two sides of the background painting and to the top edge of the box itself. I also used the wire to make an up-side-down sconce shape to replicate the medallions on the side of Mucha’s original image. Upside-down it made a perfect holder to give homage to Mucha, hence the “gold-framed name plate.”
I was first introduced to Mucha in 2001. At the time I was in my second year of art school. His attention to detail, color relationships, craftsmanship and story-telling within shapes were captivating. I was very pleased to find a work of his to use as my inspiration for the Mystery Build competition. Now that it is all finished, I think the materials really show evidence of influence on the whole project. Had I only been given a canvas board to complete the competition we would be looking at a very different interpretation of Mucha’s The Spring.