Michael produces his exceptional art in Cape Agulhas at the tip of Africa, where he settled after living in various regions in South Africa. His art is infused with inspiration from his travels and related experiences, memories, musings and romance threads its way through the pleasantly diverse portfolio.
Cape Agulhas made a huge impact on Michael. The expansive ocean and rugged rocky beaches coupled with the exciting opportunity to exit the harbour in exploration of the open ocean under the watchful blink of the L’Agulhas Lighthouse opened new vistas. Here, where two oceans meet, did he decide to devote his future to his art.
Michael believes in continually pushing the boundaries, testing new ground and enhancing his individual style. Born 1 October 1968 makes him part of Generation X, of which Wikipedia states: “The X refers to an unknown variable or a desire not to be defined”. Thinking out of the box comes naturally to Michael. His smouldering talent drove him from an early age and he has practiced relief sculpting since his early twenties, honing his skills with practise, application to self-study and enlarging his collection of specialised chisels and sculpting tools. Since shortly after the turn of the millennium, Michael has applied himself exclusively to sculpting and painting and his portfolio of completed works has grown rapidly.
Having studied relief carving, one of the oldest and more complex art forms, for more than two decades, Michael created a relief sculpting technique which puts him in a class of his own. He pushed the boundaries further by finishing his sculptures in artist’s oils. His life-long passion to create beautiful, three dimensional paintings culminated in the combination of two age old crafts, expressed in a fresh approach.
Michael’s portfolio of completed works range from 14cm x 11cm x 3,5cm to 120cm x 60cm x 3,5cm. Subject matter covers a wide range, a tantalizing array, offering masterfully executed art to suit diverse taste and preference. All works of art are available in limited Bronze and Fine Art Print editions.
THE ART PROCESS
From a bare board to a masterpiece. A step by step summary of the artistic creation process.
A new sculpting project invariably starts with a visit to Rare Woods SA, befittingly described as “Home of the widest range of Rare and Exotic Timbers in Africa”. Here one can get lost in showrooms stacked with timber from all corners of the earth, their aromas combining in a rich wood scent, as if to announce the beginning of another awesome work of art.
Michael prefer to use Jelutong (Dyera costulata), a hardwood growing naturally in various regions in South-east Asia, Malasia and Borneo, for its straight grain and fine texture without annual grow rings. Another reason why he elects to work with Jelutong is because it is a sustainable commodity, the trees are neither threatened nor endangered. This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern – http://www.wood-database.com/
Having selected the appropriate piece of timber, it is then sent to be machined and joined into a workable board. Most often it is now, presented with the surface to be sculpted on, that Michael decides on the subject, which is then mapped and sketched on the board.
Jelutong is a versatile wood, traditionally tapped for latex and from the 1920s through the 1960s, it was an important source of latex used to make chewing gum
Common Name(s): Jelutong
Scientific Name: Dyera costulata
Distribution: Malaysia, Borneo, and various regions in Southeast Asia
Tree Size: 200 ft (61 m) tall, 5-6 ft (1.5-1.8 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 28 lbs/ft3 (450 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .36, .45
Janka Hardness: 390 lbf (1,740 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 8,030 lbf/in2 (55.4 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 1,224,000 lbf/in2 (8.44 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 4,250 lbf/in2 (29.3 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 2.3%, Tangential: 5.5%, Volumetric: 6.2%, T/R Ratio: 2.4
Color/Appearance: Heartwood color initially almost white, darkening to a yellowish brown color with age. Sapwood isn’t clearly distinguished from heartwood.
Grain/Texture: Grain is usually straight, or occasionally interlocked. With a uniform medium to fine texture and good natural luster.
Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; large pores in no specific arrangement; radial multiples of 2-5 common; growth rings indistinct; rays usually not visible without lens; parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates.
Rot Resistance: Generally rated as non-durable to perishable regarding decay resistance, and also susceptible to insect attack.
Workability: Jelutong’s low density make it very easy to work with both hand and machine tools. Some gum build-up may occur on cutting tools, but overall results are good. Glues, stains, turns, and finishes well.
Odor: Jelutong can have a distinct sour odor while being worked.
Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Jelutong has been reported to cause skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Jelutong is not commonly available in the United States. The tree has been overharvested in some areas, though it is not threatened, and is in the IUCN’s “least concern” category. Expect prices to be moderate for an imported species.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.
Common Uses: Patternmaking, carving, and other small specialty wood items.
Comments: Jelutong is a lesser-known Asian species that’s appreciated for its uniformity, softness, and stability in carving applications.
To the sculptor chisels are more than tools, they become extensions of body and mind when applied to create fine art, each chisel specifically selected from a vast array of shapes and sizes, stocked by numerous suppliers and manufacturers. As in all walks of life, quality is paramount when purchasing. Michael prefers Swiss made chisels, especially those manufactured by Pfeil, but others still serve as well.
Each chisel has its specific application and the aim is to acquire as wide a range of chisels in varying types and sizes as possible. Some sculptures demand specific tools, in Michael’s case it recently was “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before”, for which he added a set of micro chisels measuring from 0,5mm to 1,5mm to his collection.
With the subject now sketched on his new board, Michael commences carving and applies the first cut of thousands to sculpt the subject from the wood. This process takes a little more than half the time spent on the project. Chisels need to remain honed throughout to ensure true cuts.
Carving Tool Handle Styles
Carving tools come with a variety of tool handle styles, let’s take this time to look at the most common and their specific uses. Shown in the photo above, left to right: palm grip, long straight handled, palm grip, tapered grip, and ergonomic.
Palm handles have a short length from the shaft of the cutting blade and end with a wide, bulbous shape that fits in the center of the palm. The weight of your entire arm from the elbow through the hand is directed by the palm handle into the push cuts of the tool. Palm tools are perfect for long, straight, deep cuts that need a little extra pressure.
Straight handled or long handled tools are griped with the handle reaching across the diagonal of the cutting hand palm. The handle is often 3/4″ or wider in diameter to insecure a solid grip. This handle grip places the cutting stroke in the hand and wrist and gives you total control over small, short, and delicate cuts.
Pencil handled styled carving tools have a wooden or plastic handle approximately 1/2″ in diameter or less, much like a large kindergarten style pencil. These narrow long handles are great for very fine detail work because they are very responsive to small changes in your hand position against the wood.
Thick, long, straight handles are used on carving tools to be worked with a leather or rubber mallet. The extra width prevents the handle from cracking after repeated mallet hits. Often a mallet handle tool will have one or more metal bands at the top of the handle to add more strength.
Ergonomic tool handles are becoming more readily available for the hobby carver. This style is formed to fit within the spaces of your fingers to give a stronger grip during use.
Ergonomic handles are not for everyone, they are not a one size fits all shape.If you have an average or large sized hand they work nicely, but often those with small hands will find the finger shapes along the bottom edge of the handle are too widely spaced for comfort.
Most wood carvers will have a variety of tool handles in their carving kit, ready for use for each of the different types of carving needed to complete a project. There are several excellent beginner/intermediate tool sets on the market that can get you started.
No matter which handle style you chose you can increase your gripping power by adding one or two wraps of flexible self-adhesive bandage around your tool handle. It is easy to apply, easy to remove, and if you have arthritis it can make carving much more comfortable for your fingers and joints.
Once the sculpting process is completed the wooden relief sculpture is treated for borer beetles and fungal attacks and then sealed. The sculpture is now ready for the final step, oil painting.
Oil painting entails painting with pigments with a medium of drying oil as the binder. Michael adheres to the old masters’ style of painting fat over lean, making use of multiple layers to enhance depth perception and colour intensity. Further to this, layers of glaze where required and finally varnish are applied. The painting is as important a part of the final outcome as the sculpting.
Maintaining high quality standards apply throughout the sculpting and painting process, therefore paints, like Winton, that ensures longevity are used.
The development of artist’s oil paint dates back to ancient times, during 2008 the oldest known oil paintings were discovered in caves in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley. Oil paint basically comprises pigment and an oil binder, in most cases linseed oil but walnut and poppy seed oils have also been used.
During the years various additives have been tested, the old masters experimented with new techniques and recipes which resulted in their distinctive styles. Drying times and the effect of drying on the paint necessitated research and experimentation, culminating eventually in modern paints available in tubes. Prior to the invention of tubes paint was kept in glass syringes and pig’s bladders and artists had to mix their own paints. The modern day artist is privileged to select paints in a proliferation of colours marketed by numerous manufacturers.
The oldest known oil paintings date from 650 AD, found in 2008 in caves in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley, “using walnut and poppy seed oils.
Greek writers such as Aetius Amidenus recorded recipes involving the use of oils for drying. Additionally, when yellow pigment was added to oil, it could be spread over tin foil as a less expensive alternative to gold leaf.
Theophilus Presbyter, a 12th-century German monk, recommended linseed oil but advocated against the use of olive oil due to its long drying time.
Oil paint was mainly used as it is today in house decoration, as a tough waterproof cover for exposed woodwork, especially outdoors.
The Early Netherlandish painting of the 15th century saw the rise of the panel painting purely in oils, or oil painting, or works combing tempera and oil painting.
By the 16th century easel painting in pure oils had become the norm,
The Flemish-trained or influenced Antonello da Messina, seem to have improved the formula by adding litharge, or lead oxide.
Modern oil paints are created from bladderpod, ironweed, calendula and sandmat, plants used to increase the resistance or to reduce the drying time.
The paint tube was invented in 1841 by portrait painter John Goffe Rand.
A thinner is usually added to the viscous pigment-oil mixture to make it easier to apply with a brush.
Bronze cast of Michael’s relief sculptures are made in the lost wax process. The lost-wax process for casting bronze hasn’t changed much since the Renaissance. Technological advances in materials and engineering allow for more efficient production and consistent quality, the basic techniques used are, however, similar to those used during the Bronze Age. The first step in producing a bronze cast is the making of a rubber mould, which he prefers to make himself since fragile areas of the sculpture may be damaged during unmoulding.
The mould is then provided to a foundry for casting, fettling and patination. Sculpture Casting Services has been selected as preferred service provider.
A bit of history:
The great civilizations of the old world worked in bronze for art, from the time of the introduction of the alloy for edged weapons. ‘Dancing Girl’ from Mohenjodaro belonging to Harappan Civilization dating back to 2500 BCE is perhaps the first bronze statue of the world. The Greeks were the first to scale the figures up to life size. Few examples exist in good condition; one is the seawater-preserved bronze now called “The Victorious Athlete,” which required painstaking efforts to bring it to its present state for museum display. Far more Roman bronze statues have survived.
The ancient Chinese knew both lost-wax casting and section mould casting, and in the Shang Dynasty created large numbers of Chinese ritual bronzes, ritual vessels covered with complex decoration, which were buried in sets of up to 200 pieces in the tombs of royalty and the nobility. Over the long creative period of Egyptian dynastic art, small lost-wax bronze figurines were made in large numbers; several thousand of them have been conserved in museum collections.
Sri Lankan Sinhalese Bronze statue of Buddhist Alakothiveshwara Tara Devi statue now in England is a wonderful example of Bronze statues. From the ninth through the thirteenth century the Chola dynasty in South India represented the pinnacle of bronze casting in India.
Michael decided to make Fine Art prints of his work available. to service a larger portion of the art market and provide a price range to suit every serious art lover’s pocket. Fine Art printing is subject to guidelines involving, amongst others, printing ink and paper medium, discerning it from bulk poster prints. In electing a printing partner who can produce premium results, Michael had to bear this in mind. Artlab was selected as the preferred service provider based on their technological advancement and reputation and Hahnemühle Museum Etching Board, 100% cotton rag board, for its outstanding longevity.
The relief sculptures are scanned by Artlab on a Cruse Scanner, the only one in South Africa, ensuring optimal reproduction of the image and carving depth. UltraChrome Digigraphic-certified pigment inks with unprecedented colour ranges and exceptional no-fade properties are used for printing on Hahnemüle Museum Etching paper.
Artlab prints carry a warranty of up to 150 years against fading indoors, subject to the print being framed and kept correctly. Hahnemüle FineArt Inc. recommends prints to be stored at a relative humidity of 35 to 65% and a temperature of 10 to 30° C (50° – 86°F.). Care must be used when handling the Fine Art print since the surface is susceptible to abrasion, framing must be done with archive grade tapes and glues.