February 16, 2009

The Eye: Meet Walt

Walt is just my type -- a real thinker.

I asked Walt's creator, Mike Rivamonte, to tell me about his design process. I'm always interested to know if visual artists use any of the same strategies we writers use, and just how they work.

Here's what Mike had to say:

"Usually I find an object or objects that inspires me. For Walt I found his head first. Incidentally his head is a 1923 Crosley Pup crystal radio. I bought the radio and right away began to sketch.

"I then wrote my thoughts of his biography. He is from the 1920s, He is not mischievous but more of a thinker. Every time he gets an idea the tube on his head lights up. I decided his body parts would come from that same era too.

"The more I wrote and sketched the more he comes alive. That helps me determine what he looks like and how he carries himself. As a drawing exercise, I draw thumbnails of the robot expressing emotions and moving around. By understanding how he would behave and react to a given situation I can focus on how to best set up the sculpture.

"I find parts from all over the U.S. and with the help of the internet I find things abroad too. Many of them are very rare and delicate. Some have initials carved or dedications engraved from previous owners which is always a treat to discover.

"Hours are spent figuring out how to best connect the pieces together. I’ll sketch it all out and if necessary build a working model. It is paramount that the viewer does not see any screws or bolts. I want the work to look as if it came together on its own. Sometimes you only get one chance to drill a hole or cut a piece. “Measure twice..”

"I love sketching my characters. Like any illustrator I want to capture the ultimate pose --the moment that best expresses the story. Sketching allows you to move things around and exaggerate posture and expression. It is also the springboard for new ideas and possibilities. There are some situations that are not feasible to construct but make a great illustration.

"The sketch becomes the blue print or guide to build the work. However physical limitations exists that you do not know are going to happen from the sketch. For example a sketch does not have a concept of gravity or the true physical weight of the objects you want to assemble. That is where center of gravity and counter balance come in. On Walt I found out that his legs, which are vintage goose neck lamps, were two different length. Wrestling with that issue the piece stood in a pose that I found quite amusing and ultimately became the final pose.

"The best part is that after a sculpture is complete and takes on a life of its own I can pack up all my new skills and experiences and head off to the next one!"

You can find Mike and his guys at his website. Click here for the gallery.

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