2016 has been a period of unusual stability for me, after years of near constant travel and adventure. Although this has given me less to write about (as I prefer only to write when something extraordinary happens), it has allowed me to turn my focus to a project unlike any other I've attempted. I was also able to put more effort into gaining online exposure, and created an Instagram account which has been making some pretty big waves.
While on Instagram, I encountered a large number of artists who are pushing their own limits and creating beautiful things, using all sorts of mediums--including leaves! This inspired me to envision an association of leaf artists, who could work together to have Leaf Art legitimized as a new form of art. It will be a slow process, but it's something I will continue to pursue.
For years now, I have been storing a large number of small, brightly coloured fall leaves. I had kind of forgotten about them and never saw them as potentially being unified into a single piece. In the course of my online explorations, I noticed that many artists were creating beautiful mandalas and some actually specialized in making these designs. That's when I looked up from the computer to the stacks of books, and began flipping through them. The vision popped into my head, and I knew now what they had been so patiently and silently waiting for.
First, I laid out the leaves in categorized piles and began picturing the arrangement. I then arranged each type of leaf in rows and sorted them for size and shape. I knew that unlike most mandalas, this one wouldn't be perfectly symmetrical but I wanted to match it up as closely as possible.
I experimented with several arrangements before coming up with one I liked, and then the real work began. For weeks, I carved batch after batch of leaves, stringing them along a fishing line anchored between two clamps to dry the epoxy in which each of them were individually coated. I also added a spray coat of UV protectant to each one in an attempt to protect their colour for the years to come.
For the first time, I began making videos of the carving process, done in time lapse mode. Seeing a leaf being carved in high speed was as much a thrill for me as it was for the people following my Instagram account, and it allowed a glimpse into the actual process. Beyond the excitement, it was a way for me to show the skeptics that there were no lasers or stencils involved, just a steady hand and good eye for detail.
The second video showed a gooseberry leaf, also filmed in high speed. I will likely do more of these in the future with bigger pieces, but these were kept to 15 seconds long for Instagram.
Finally, after weeks of late nights and perhaps a bit of short term vision damage, the carving was complete. I made the final mounting using spot tacks of super glue and 3mm glass. I repainted an antique frame left to me by my grandmother, and made a final video as a way to unveil the piece.
This piece was a groundbreaker for me in a few ways. It was a challenging and immersive experience that required a serious amount of dedication to complete. Like most of my projects, there were no small amounts of experimentation involved, and I'm grateful it came together the way it did. With projects such as this, I discovered that I tend to become rather consumed by them at the expense of other areas of my life but its a price I am willing to pay. This art is a large part of who I am, and I am lucky to be able to share it with the world the way I do.