Posts Tagged ‘tin can art

15
Mar
16

Making Moondog

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Robert Villamagna and “Moondog” at thr Crosscurrents Exhibition, Stifel Fine Arts Center, Wheeling, WV.

My newest work is a portrait of “Moondog”, described by the residents of Wheeling, WV as an icon, a mascot, a protector, a cyclist extraordinaire, a legend, and keeper of all flags waving. The portrait is 36″x36″ and made of repurposed lithographed metal, highway signs, license plates, nails and screws on wood panel. Here are a few images to show how my portrait of Moondog came together.

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To view more of my work, please visit my website!

08
Feb
15

The Kid Who Wanted X-ray Vision

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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

17
Oct
14

Devil Jug

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Last February I was commissioned by a Pennsylvania woman to create a metal collage piece, and I finally got on it last month. The woman was totally open to the direction of the piece, and I was pretty much free to do what I wanted. While I did not feel I needed to create something that would match her couch, I did feel that knowing her collecting interests and what was in her home would help me decide where I might go with this work. In addition to walls filled with paintings and photographs, she had a collection of ceramic face jugs. In case you are not familiar with this art form, the following is a brief history of the face jug by potter Karl Kuhen:

Face jug history is surrounded in mystery. Stories vary about who created face jugs and the reasons for their creation range from the 1700s to the present.

One version is that an unknown potter in Massachusetts created the first face jug in or around 1810. This is inconsistent with the theory that face jugs originated with African slaves who worked on American plantations. A great many slaves brought to the United States were processed in the Caribbean where they acquired a belief in Voodoo. The exposure to Voodoo, along with their own beliefs brought with them from Africa and the introduction to Christianity must have created extraordinary confusion to people from an entirely different culture.

Jug shards have been found on grave sites and along underground railroads. This might imply that the face jugs were very important to the escaping slaves. Speculation is that slaves who were not allowed to have tomb stones. So they developed face jugs as grave markers designed to scare and keep the devil away.

In the 1800’s, many people were becoming ill and dying from the lead glazes used to seal the low-fire pottery that was being used by the settlers of the southern USA. In response, Dr. Abner Landrum founded Pottersville, a group of about 16 or 17 houses with families in the area within 1.5 miles from the Edgefield court house in South Carolina (now Aiken County). It grew into a village of about 150 people, mostly slaves. David Drake is the most notable. They produced lead-free pottery and face jugs until the beginning of civil war. This pottery is now known as Edgefield Pottery. It is the only form of pottery that was made entirely by American tradition. Alkaline glazed stoneware was a re-discovery by Dr.Landrum and his two brothers. (It originated from the Han Dynasty in China over 2000 years ago.) When the civil war started in 1861 Pottersville was abandoned but alkaline glazed pottery continued to be produced in the south. The picture above is from an Edgefield excavation. (Courtesy of Gary Dexter)

In the 1820’s the practice of making face jugs spread throughout South Carolina and into Georgia, North Carolina and other states. In the 1830s about seventy folk potters operated pottery shops within a four mile area of Mossy Creek in White County, Georgia. This became one of the largest pottery communities in the South. Names like Dorsey, Meaders, Craven, Davidson, Pitchford, Brownlow, Warwick, Chandler and Anderson became known, at that time, for their pottery.

 The purpose of the jug evolved. The face jug also became known as the ugly jug in the 1920’s and was used to store alcohol. The jugs became uglier in an attempt to identify the contents and frighten children. Parents warned the youngsters to stay away from them.

Lanier Meaders (1917-1998) is the most famous Georgia folk potter who made face jugs. The Meaders family was famous in Georgia for their stoneware pottery. Lanier was the face jug maker who kept folk art pottery alive in the south   almost on his own!

Today, a few family-operated potteries are still making face jugs in the traditional way. They start with the local clay and fire their work in a wood-burning kiln. The traditional way of making a face jug would often incorporate the use of porcelain teeth and eyes. At the end of a long the day of production, scrap clay is frequently used to make face jugs just for fun.

Recently, quite a few independent potters living throughout the world have taken up the art of making face jugs, Some of these face jugs are crafted in a traditional fashion while other potters are creating far out, highly complex and unique face jugs using a variety of firing techniques.

That collection of face jugs, especially her group of red glazed devil jugs, gave me the inspiration I needed. Here is my version, in repurposed metal, of a red devil face jug and how it was constructed:

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19
Aug
14

Creating Bat Kid

Working out the mask.

Working out the mask.

I recently received a prospectus in the mail from a local art center. This prospectus is for an all-Halloween exhibit that sounded like too much fun for me to pass up. The deadline for submissions is the end of August, so if I was going to participate I needed to get moving.

When I was kid growing up in Toronto, Ohio, Halloween was a really big deal to me and my buddies. Over the years, I went trick or treating in a variety of costumes, some homemade and some store bought. One of my favorite comic book heroes was Batman, and while I never spent a single Halloween as the “caped crusader”, I knew right off that I wanted to create an image of a kid wearing a Batman mask.

A couple of weeks back I purchased a 46″x40″ oak framed blackboard at Rogers Flea Market in Ohio. The blackboard itself was not slate, but rather plywood painted flat black. This rascal is heavy, but I knew it was just right for building a tin piece on, and it was priced at only ten bucks! (A little added note: the back of the blackboard is stamped “Property of US Post Office 1966”.) I decided this would be the support I would use to create my “Bat Kid”.

I have included a slide show of how Bat Kid evolved. What you are looking at is about 24 hours work over a three day period. The weather cooperated and I was able to work on the entire piece on the brick patio outside of my studio. He is repurposed metal and nails, with the frame painted in blue enamel. And although we are not done with summer quite yet, let me be the first to wish you a Happy Halloween!

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25
Jun
14

Wheeling Arts Fest 2014

Chris speaking with our friend, Robert Peterson, shortly after the morning rain stopped.

Chris Villamagna speaking with our friend, painter Robert Peterson, at our booth shortly after the morning rain stopped. Five of my pieces went to new homes by the end of the day. Robert Peterson has been working on a painting series of the urban landscape of Wheeling. In 2012 Robert and I had a joint exhibition titled “Growing Up in Black and White”.

The fourth annual Wheeling Arts Fest was held Saturday, June 21 on and around the campus of West Virginia Northern Community College in downtown Wheeling, WV. This event is presented by the City of Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission,of which my wife Chris, and I, are part of. The Arts Fest is an admission-free event that offers a wide variety of arts and cultural programs, including live music, artist market, theatre, dance, spoken word, culinary demos, free artist workshops in a variety of media, and much more.

These guys are now the proud owners of a Villamagna.

These guys are now the proud owners of a Villamagna.

Artist Bob Sako was my neighbor at Arts Fest.

Artist Bob Sako was my neighbor at Arts Fest.

Artist Liz Neuman shows off a pastel painting that she purchased from Bob Sako.

Artist Liz Neuman shows off a pastel painting that she purchased from Bob Sako.

Shortly after getting our booth up the rain came! It rained hard and steady for about 30 minutes, keeping away only the hardiest of visitors. Luckily, the rest of the day was cloudy yet dry, permitting Pittsburgh’s Squonk Opera, one of the headline acts of Arts Fest, to draw a big crowd at each of their three performances.

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Squonk Opera!

Arts Fest visitors enjoy Squonk Opera.

Arts Fest visitors enjoy Squonk Opera.

Sqonk Opera continued to amaze and delight!

Sqonk Opera continued to amaze and delight!

Another big hit at Arts Fest was the high energy Cello Fury.

Another big hit at Arts Fest was the high energy Cello Fury.

In addition to these performers, Arts Fest visitors enjoyed Gallowglass, vocalist Linda Cowan, the Tunnel Green Duo, New Age Adenas, Allegro Dance Company, Paie o’Docs, the National Pike Pickers, and more.

Thats me on the left, ceramic artist Lambros Tsuhlares center, and the amazing Roy on the right.

Thats me on the left, ceramic artist Lambros Tsuhlares center, and the amazing Roy on the right. As our dear late friend Paul Padgett used to say, “If you want to get noticed, make it big, and if you can’t make it big, make it red!”

West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman in the Literary Arts tent.

West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman in the Literary Arts tent.

No Arts Fest is complete without a visit from Stewie!

No Arts Fest is complete without a visit from Stewie!

Sculptor Eric price checks out paintings by artist Victoria Lavorini.

Sculptor Eric Price checks out paintings by artist Victoria Lavorini.

At the end of the day, the 4th annual Wheeling Arts Fest could be labeled a huge success! Many thanks to the Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission, it’s volunteers, sponsors and all the artists and performers who helped make it happen!

 

 

21
May
14

Bull Creek Mud Bog

The early morning at the Bull Creek Fleatique was a bit muddy.

Early morning at the Bull Creek Flea-tique was a bit muddy.

 

The first Bull Creek Flea-tique of the year took place this past Sunday, and I was looking forward to finding some fresh art materials! In my excitement for “opening day”, I did not take into account that the previous week had been a rainy one. Sure, I figured the grass would be a bit damp, but I was ill prepared for surface conditions at Bull Creek. It was muddy. Saying it was muddy does not seem enough. The field was pure muck. The ground was pure sludge.  The rainy weather had turned the flea market into a quagmire, and I had left my rubber boots in a closet at home. (Note to self: always keep a pair of boots in back of truck.)

The highlight of my trudging through this bog was finding a fifty pound shortening can with the name “Roberts” across the front. A friend pointed out that there was no apostrophe, but I still thought of the can has having my name on it. In addition, I picked up a metal canister set that had recipes printed on the surface (good texture material in a tin piece); a metal sign that reads “Hevi-Duty” (that may be a title for a piece); and some miscellaneous assemblage items.

Trying to leave the flea market was a bit challenging. Dozens of vehicles were stuck, while others were being pushed out of the muck by teams of volunteers. A tow truck had arrived and I am sure he was quite busy throughout the remainder of the morning. Leaving through the normal exit road was impossible as several stranded vehicles had created gridlock. I cut across the muddy field to reach the entrance road which was in a bit better condition. I was thankful for my four-wheel drive vehicle! 

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09
Oct
13

Oglebayfest Artist Market 2013

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Early morning leaf blowing in front of the artists’ tents.

This years Oglebayfest Artist Market was three days of warmth and sunshine. Each morning started out cool, but each afternoon found us enjoying temperatures in the low 80s. Great weather, a bit unusual for October, and best of all, no rain. The crowds were heavy and most artists I spoke with were happy with their sales. However, based on the constant line at the kettle corn booth, I would say popcorn is the business to be in.

My booth at the Artist Market.

My booth at the Artist Market.

My sales were good, consisting of small and medium sized works. I did not sell any “heavy-hitter” pieces this year. Other artists I spoke with gave the event mixed reviews, some selling well while others barely made booth rent.

Nancy Tirone exhibited her mixed-media works.

Nancy Tirone exhibited her mixed-media works.

Nancy Tirone, a WLU professor who teaches art education, was exhibiting at the Artist Market for her fourth year. Nancy has a unique style of work that combines writing with collage and painting. She reported her best sales ever!

Although he did not have a booth, our friend and artist, Kyle Hallam, came to hang out with us for the day.

Robert Villamagna and Kyle Hallam.

Although he did not have a booth this year, our friend and artist, Kyle Hallam, came to hang out with us for the day. It is always a pleasure to hang out with Kyle, talking art and life.

Artists Victoria Lavorini, Seth Miller, and Lambros "Clay Ninja" Thsulares."

Artists Victoria Lavorini, Seth Miller, and Lambros “Clay Ninja” Tsuhlares.” Lambros mugs make beer taste better!

Two of my former West Liberty University students had a booth at the Artist Market: Victoria Lavorini and Seth Miller. Victoria was presented with the Fine Arts Best of Show Award at the Artist Dinner on Saturday evening. Victoria also reported strong sales of her work.

"Cigarette Head", by Robert Villamagna, made using a sign from a vintage cigarette sign, along with repurposed metal product containers.

“Cigarette Head”, made of a sign from a vintage cigarette sign, along with repurposed metal product containers.

Lambros was ready a table full of beer mugs!

Lambros was ready a table full of beer mugs!

Artists Cecy Rose and Alan Fitzpatrick k

Artists Cecy Rose and Alan Fitzpatrick k

Artist Market Director Rick Morgan (right) and his trusty sidekick, Brad Johnson.

Artist Market Director Rick Morgan (right) and his trusty sidekick, Brad Johnson.

 Josh Verhovic sets up his work in the WLU studnet booth.

Josh Verhovec sets up his work in the WLU student booth.

Each year, WLU has a double booth for art students who want to sell their work at the Artist Market. There is no fee for art students to participate, and the students get a first hand experience of selling their work.

WLU student Emma Romanalski with some of her pots.

WLU student Emma Romanowski with some of her pots.

Potter Lambros Tsuhlares and sculptor Eric Price waiting for the money to roll in.

Potter Lambros Tsuhlares and sculptor Eric Price waiting for the money to roll in.

Robert Villamagna and former WLU student Bill Kuzma, along with his girlfriend whose name I forgot! Sorry!

Robert Villamagna and former WLU student Bill Kuzma, along with his girlfriend whose name I forgot! Sorry!

Family and friends at the Artist Market, including grand daughters Sophia and Grace, my son Shawn, and my wife Chris.

Family and friends at the Artist Market, including grand daughters Sophia and Grace, my son Shawn, and my wife Chris.

Chris and I enjoying a good a laugh at the Artist Market.

Chris and I enjoying a good a laugh at the Artist Market.