As a kid growing up in Ohio, I spent a lot of time reading comic books. When I was not playing outside with my friends, I could usually be found on the living room rug, or the floor of my pup tent, lost in a comic book. It did not matter the theme. I enjoyed a variety of topics. Superman, Batman, Donald Duck, Lone Ranger, Richie Rich, Casper, anything but the romance stuff! The inside cover usually had ads for a variety of products, every thing from miniature cameras to a book on how to “throw your voice”. The item I most coveted was the X-ray Specs! Imagine, for the price of just one American dollar a kid could actually obtain X-ray vision!
Sadly, I never had a whole dollar that I could send away for this wonderful item. Back then, I was lucky to have the dime to purchase the comic book itself. Yes, ten cents was a huge deal then. Had I dared ask my mother for a dollar to spend on such a superfluous piece of plastic, she would have thought I had totally lost my young mind. Reflecting back on those much-wanted Xray glasses was the inspiration for my latest artwork: Xray Vision!
I started out with a 24″x36″primed wood panel and began a loose sketch using a black Sharpie. When working with “tin”, I tend to keep my foundation sketch very loose. I want the sketch to give me a sense of how I am going to use the space, yet loose enough that my composition is open to serendipity. I really wanted this piece to be about the glasses, so I was building my sketch around those glasses. Since the wearer’s face would play a supporting role, I filled my space by cropping the head and chin of the person.
Using some black sheet metal, I cut the shape of the frames of the eye glasses. From there I began working on the lens. I remember the image of the Xray specs in the ad having a circle within a circle, as when one drops a stone into a pool of water. When I actually Googled the old advertisement, I saw it was not quite as I remembered. However, the specs did show energy and that is what I wanted.
I began with a series of circles in white metal, but noticing a very colorful popcorn can in the studio I decided to change course. I cut two spirals from the flattened can and attached them to the eye glasses. Cutting the spirals was bit more challenging than I had predicted, but I felt good about the result.
The most difficult part of the piece was now behind me, while the most time consuming work was about to begin. I began building the face and head using tin in a range of earth tones. I worked at giving the face some depth through subtle changes in color and value, while at the same time trying to keep the overall look a bit loose. It is also important to me to keep in the piece some of the typography and branding that is on the metal itself, but without it becoming too distracting. I struggle with that issue!
Once the face and head were nearly complete, I began filling in the negative space, aka “the background”. I needed the negative space to be dark enough to contrast with the face and head, and not so strong that it would take away from the eye glasses. This took a trial and error approach as I built the background using a variety of darker values and kept my tin palette primarily cool. As you will see in the finished piece, the background is built using a combination of retro branding and pop culture images from repurposed product containers.
The finished piece ready to attach the hanging hardware! As a last minute addition, I added two small white metal elements to give the eye glasses some extra punch. Thanks for your interest in my work. Whatever YOUR media, go make some art!