Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Painting Commission for Brookville Library

As part of the Dayton Metro Library (DML) ReImagining Works I have a new painting commission. I will be painting LIVE at the Brookville Library on August 22nd during the preview opening celebration 2:00pm to 6:00pm, and then August 23-26 everyday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. I may stay late some evenings that the library is open late. If you're in the area, please drop by and chat while I work. The idea is to invite people to see the process of the paintings which will find their permanent home in the room where I am painting them. I'll have sketches and other paintings there in the series to explain how the idea for these paintings evolved. 

The brand new library is located at 120 Blue Pride Drive, Brookville, OH. Don't be confused by the address on the DML webpage - 425 Rona Parkway Drive, that's the old address until the new library opens. 

Here's the press release about the project. 

I'm going to be creating two large-scale paintings that are 4 feet x 8 feet for the main wall of the multipurpose meeting room. I'm painting them onsite so that these site-specific paintings will integrate with their environment and the purpose of the room. 

I want these public paintings to become part of the nostalgia of the library for the people who visit and use the room. This way people can say, "I saw him painting that years ago."

I'm still experimenting with exactly what mood and impression I'm going to create for the space. I'm doing lots of watercolor paintings, acrylic paintings, and color pencil sketches to work on different variations. Here are three other paintings from my Line Pattern series to give you an idea of what I'll be working on.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Kossuth colony sculpture

Here are the steps of how I created a sculpture of the Kossuth colony as part of my commission to create six sculptures for the ReImagining Works project of the Dayton Metro Library

Kossuth Colony sculpture by Darren Kall - Property of Dayton Metro Library

The Kossuth Colony was built by the Barney & Smith Train Car Factory to house the Hungarian immigrants who came to Dayton to work at the factory. A family could buy their new home from the factory for $800. There was a general store in the colony. If you look at the horizon line in my sculpture you'll see that the colony also had a wall to cordon it off from the rest of Old North Dayton. 

The wall is long gone, but the houses still remain. When I walked around the community I found the neighborhood that was the Kossuth Colony. Many years later, and many remodelings, yet this moment from history is still clearly with us today. 

I selected this scene of the Kossuth Colony because of the long perspective. The original photo had many people in their front yards or out in the common area in front of the yards. In this, and all the sculptures, I chose to not depict people. I was concerned that at this size people would be too small to easily be identifiable as people. 

I cut out the sky first. I was concerned with offsetting the solidness of the house area. Unlike the other sculptures this piece would not be as easy to balance. So I ensured that the sky fractures were at their thickest (most open) and therefore brighter closest to the houses. 

Once I finished the sky I started on the buildings themselves. For practical reasons I started on the right hand side and worked to the left. My preference would have been to work farther details first, but because I'm right-handed I didn't want to smudge the chalk lines as I was working from left to right. 

All the cutting complete you can see just how messy the black paper got even with my best efforts not to smudge. There were guidelines, there were fingerprints, there were my precedence markers, and all of that needs to be cleaned off before I could use the artwork.

Here's my first pass at cleaning up the artwork. I lightly brush the eraser over the surface getting the obvious marks. I do it with a kneadable eraser.

Then I go back and clean it up once again with a hard eraser and a kneadable eraser using the magnifying glass. I have to do this because the scanner is so sensitive it finds the slightest chalk mark. And this chalk mark might be misinterpreted as a cutout shape when the scanned image is converted in later steps. Once it's done, it's scanned in and ready for the next step.

This is what remained behind after I cut out all the pieces. 

Here is what the artwork looks like when it's converted to CAD.  

Here is the CAD drawing with the plotted pathway for the water-jet cutter to follow from one opening to the next. I appreciate the pattern of the red line over the blue lines as a art piece all on its own. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

3D Printing for my Birthday

Every year on my birthday I do something I've never done before. This year I created a 3D-printed sculpture. I created it at the Proto Build Bar in Dayton, OH. The experience was a gift from my wife.

Rather than print a pre-designed piece, I made my own design.

"Spiracle Notice" - Darren Kall 2015
I made this Line Pattern sculpture. It is about two and a half inches high, five inches wide, and four inches deep at its extremes. I named it "Spiracle Notice".

I started in my studio making a CAD drawing of the sculpture in Tinkercad. I knew I would do a bunch of exploration with the drawing and didn't want to take the time to do the drawing at Proto Build Bar but they have the capability to do similar drawings onsite.

I used Tinkercad instead of the other CAD programs I've used because Tinkercad was recommended specifically for 3D printing. Tinkercad was very easy to use. It lacks the sophisticated features of more elaborate CAD programs, but it was perfect for what I had planned. 

My goal was to transpose one of my Line Pattern painting series ideas into a 3D sculpture. 

In my first attempt (#001) I translated my painted lines literally except I gave the lines depth. Drawing #001 didn't work well enough to even keep the drawing! My lines were laid down in a rectangular "frame" area much like I do with my paintings. The lines extended to the edges where I "cut" them to fit in the frame. In the 3D printing I would be limited to using only one color so I made sure my design would work in one color. Because of this restriction, the lines didn't really distinguish themselves enough to make the 3D printing interesting as a pattern. In my disappointment I also realized I was not taking full advantage of the sculptural space since all the lines were on the same plane. I deleted drawing #001.

Line Pattern drawing #002 - Spiracle Notice

My second attempt (#002) used lines of all the same length, height and width. I manipulated the overlap and intersection of the lines in 3 dimensions instead of the single plane of the Line Pattern paintings. In Line Pattern paintings I create the illusion of depth by overlapping the lines. In the sculpture I had actual depth to play with.

Line Pattern drawing #002 - Spiracle Notice

This is a view of #002, the same CAD drawing, as seen from above where the overlaps and displacement are more obvious. The Line Pattern paintings are explorations of how lines intersect. The Line Pattern sculptures explore the same but add new challenges.

I spent a lot of time ensuring that all the lines connected to at least one other line. With the CAD drawing it was easy to spin the drawing in every direction and to zoom in and out to inspect each intersection. All the pieces had to be attached to make it a single sculpture and to prevent "floaters" or separate pieces that would just fall out when the 3D printer made them. Things I don't have to think about when I paint Line Pattern paintings.

Line Pattern drawing #002 - Spiracle Notice
Here is another view of #002. It shows how a simple rotation of the drawing creates a new pattern. 

I wanted to create a complex pattern, one that would test the capabilities of the 3D printer, be an interesting extension of my Line Pattern paintings, and be an aesthetically pleasing grouping.

I made several additional drawings that were variations of #002. I used different numbers of lines, different arrangements, and different patterns of connection. I even started one where I was varying the width of the lines. I was starting to play and create too much! This was fun. But to ensure I didn't spend my day making drawings, I forced myself to pick one for the 3D printing experiment. I liked #002 the best. 

I exported my drawing from TinkerCAD in four formats since didn't know what format was needed by the 3D printers at Proto Build Bar.

At the Proto Build Bar I used a MakerBot Replicator. I imported the right format of my CAD drawing into the print-time estimation software. The manager at Proto Build Bar gave me a lesson on the software. My task was to optimize the orientation of the drawing to minimize the 3D printing time. The sculpture could be printed in any direction but some orientations would take the printer longer to print than others for the same sculpture. And since time is money on the MakerBot I wanted to print in the shortest possible time.

The print-time estimation software has algorithms that determine the need for supports and printhead travel time. Optimizing is a manual process where I repeatedly changed the orientation and then ran an estimation. I started thinking through how this process could be automated to make it faster and more accurate than my trial and error process. Then I remembered it was my BIRTHDAY and I shouldn't be working :^). So I took off my software designers hat and got back to more trials, and more errors. I got it down to the best duration I could.  Then I transformed my Tinkercad output into the MakerBot proprietary machine-readable format. The Proto Build Bar manager started the 3D printer. Then we went away for a few hours.

Actually my wife, our son, and I didn't go far. We moved over to a soldering bench at the Proto Build Bar and as a team we soldered and assembled a build-kit for a handheld Simon-like electronic game. It was a lot of fun but we kept peeking at the sculpture during the process.

This is the final product as it came out of the 3D printer with its supports attached. Supports are necessary for pieces of the sculpture that extend too far out. Because of the way the printer lays down the plastic if there were no supports the plastic would not stay in the desired spot in space or would simply fall down.
The biggest pieces of support were easily pulled off since they are only lightly attached to the sculpture. Some others needed to be cut off with an X-Acto knife.
Even after the majority of supports were pulled or cut off there were still thin spiderweb-like filaments left over from when the printhead moves to a new location. I used tweezers and a magnifying glass to pluck these off.  

WHAT I LEARNED: It was a great experience. I can see 3D printing will be useful as a maquette maker for some of my sculptures. The surfaces and quality are even good enough to be a finished product maker.  My shapes were deceptively difficult for the printer modeling algorithms. The finished product looks simple but with all the intersections and "hidden" spaces the supports didn't always work. There were two areas on the underside where there were ends of lines that sagged. They probably should have had supports. Good feedback for me when I design the next one until the algorithms catch up.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

You drink while I paint @ Art in the City

On May 8th from 5pm to 8pm I will be working on some of my Line Pattern series paintings at the Belle of Dayton distillery. Please drop by, look at the paintings, and chat with me while I paint. 

I will have several finished paintings on display. Let's do an experiment - come to Belle's and before you drink take the time to look at my paintings. Then have a flight of Belle's Vodka, Rum, and Rye. When you're done, look at my paintings again and fill out this short survey:

1. After your drink did you like my paintings more? (Did they get better or did it just seem that way to you?)
2. Do the abstract / non-representational lines suddenly have deep meaning for you?  (If so, then you really need to sit for a while before heading home.)
3. Do you find yourself counting lines and trying to figure out which line is on top of what other lines? (It amuses your friends, keep trying.)

If you liked having art work while you had your drink at Belle's, then buy a bottle to take home to thank the brothers LaSelle for letting me paint there. If you really liked the distillery's products then buy a painting to take home to remind you of the great time you had. :^)

The event is part of Art in the City a city-wide event organized by the Downtown Dayton Partnership. There are going to be a lot of art-related events around town that night. After you visit with me at Belle's check out the other artists doing demos in other businesses, browse the art galleries, watch a street art competition, watch murals being painted, listen to live music, or go make art of your own at one of the art stations! 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Official Sculpture Opening and Art Workshop for Kids

Kiser School and Barney & Smith sculptures
@ Electra C. Doren Library, Property of Dayton Metro Library
Hope you can come out to the opening for my sculptures on May 15th and sign your kids up for a workshop I'm doing on May 9th. 

On Saturday May 9th from 1pm to 3pm I’m going to be doing a workshop for children K-4 + Tweens at the Electra C. Doren Library. If you're in the Dayton area, consider signing up your kids. Spaces are limited. EVENT LINK

It’s called Designing Spaces Art Workshop and it is part of the ReImagining Works commission I did for the Dayton Metro Library. I’m going to take the kids through an ideation session where they pick something important in their lives, and sketch it out. Then I’m going to teach them the paper cutout techniques I used when I designed the sculptures for the Electra C. Doren reading terrace. Their artwork will be on display the following week at the sculpture opening and terrace dedication ceremony.

Waterworks, Duncarrick Mansion, and Kossuth Colony
@ Electra C. Doren Library, Property of Dayton Metro Library
On Friday May 15th from 4pm to 6pm there is an opening for my sculptures at the Dayton Metro Library dedication ceremony for the new reading terrace at the Electra C. Doren Library. LIBRARY LINK 

Though you've been able to see the sculptures since January this is the official opening because it is now warm enough to hang out outside and enjoy the sculptures!

The event will have celebratory remarks, thanks and recognition to donations making the reading terrace possible, and ReImagining works will open the terrace and my sculptures in a ribbon cutting ceremony. I will be giving a brief presentation on the inspiration, process, and images for the sculptures. Then I will be on the terrace to give tours of the artwork and have conversations. An added plus is that there will be free hotdogs for the first ~200 people and entertainment by Lithuanian dancers. Though I have Lithuanian heritage, you will be glad to know, I am NOT going to be taking part in the dancing. 

Hope to see you at the opening! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Duncarrick Mansion sculpture

Here are the steps of how I created a sculpture of the Duncarrick Mansion as part of my commission to create six sculptures for the ReImagining Works project of the Dayton Metro Library

Duncarrick Mansion - Darren Kall - Property of Dayton Metro Library
Dayton Waterworks and Duncarrick Mansion sculptures - Darren Kall - Property of Dayton Metro Library
The sculpture is cutout sheet aluminum approximately 33in H, 45in W, .25in D. The sculptures are integrated into the fence of the new reading terrace of the Electra C. Doren Branch Library. Each panel depicts a different Old North Dayton landmark. As part of the ReImagining Works project the community chose Charles Sheeler's Stacks in Celebration painting from the permanent collection of the Dayton Art Institute as the inspiration for this project. I interpreted Sheeler's fractured cubist sky with my sky sections of lines of different thicknesses. 

Unlike some of my other sculpture subjects Duncarrick Mansion still stands. I remember watching the Duncarrick Mansion being renovated as we passed it regularly on the highway. It is a "you can't miss it" building. It used to be owned by the Kennedy family of Dayton, but is now part of the Salvation Army's Kroc Community Center. I had several historical photographs of the mansion but I wanted some images of my own. Barb and Janet at the Salvation Army were super friendly and allowed me to take pictures. Plus they come from Old North Dayton so I got insider information on more than just Duncarrick Mansion. I took pictures from all sides of the mansion and decided to use one of the photos I took of the grand front entrance as my sculpture.

As you can see I'm just starting my chalk sketch of the mansion on black art paper. I start on the left of the image and work right. Since I'm right-handed I don't want to smudge the chalk as I'm working. 

I started with pencil sketches where I decided the layout of objects, then the fracture lines of the sky, and finally what of four bar thicknesses I'll use for the"shades" of sky in each segment.

So much for not smudging! As you can tell my sketch is forgiving at this point. It does not need to be too accurate - that comes when I'm cutting.

I worked all the cutouts out ahead of time at this stage. Since all parts of the black had to be attached in the final piece, I had to think through each line before I did any cutting.

Speaking of cutting, here are the tools of the trade. A kneadable eraser, a pencil, a blade, and a fine point burnisher.

Not a great photo because of the sunlight glare but you can see that I've cut out the sky first. The open spaces and the solid bars are free-standing continuous pieces of paper. But I cut them one segment at a time trimming each point where they touch the imaginary boundary between sky sections. This ensured that I cut the imaginary boundary lines sharply. Later, in the CAD drawing real support lines were added where at this stage they are an illusion.

When I'm finished I clean off all the chalk lines and smudges (with my kneadable eraser) and then scan the image to get sharp edges and high contrast. 

I used Ultra Aluminum as my fabricator for cutting the sheet metal. This is a copy of the instructional guideline that I gave Ultra Aluminum for the placement of the support lines, and the placement of my signature. This was accompanied with a written description of how I wanted the sculpture cut.

The CAD expert at Ultra Aluminum took the scan of my original and fed it through a transformation program that converted it to a CAD drawing. Then they manually adjusted where the program didn't interpret my original correctly. The CAD expert then added the support lines. The CAD expert and I traded the CAD drawings back and forth until I was ready to sign off on the final version.

The CAD expert then programmed the cutting path that directed the automated water jet cutter as it moved across the sheet aluminum cutting out each hole in the sculpture.

After this came a lot of hand grinding to remove burrs on the cut edges, more grinding to create the surface effect, and clear powder coating to surface the piece before it was ready for assembly and installation.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The value of mock-ups and a fundamental design compromise

Doomed - Photo: Darren Kall
While designing the sculptures I did for the Electra C. Doren library there were lots of open items to research, track down, and resolve. There were unknowns and decisions that would impact my final designs and, if unresolved, create risks to success. That made me feel uncomfortable about quality and it made me anxious that it would mean rework for me because the issues would reveal themselves too late in the process to be mitigated - as they often do.

I was working with a whole new crew of fabricators, installers, and others. I tried to resolve open items through asking questions and proposing approaches but even that didn't resolve all the issues with the design or with the process steps between all the partner companies. We needed… an experiment!

All the players needed to walk through the process of building a sculpture to discover the "gotchas". We needed to build a physical mock-up by the same process we planned to use for the final sculptures. It needed to result in something we could see and touch, so that we could decide about open issues.

For example; I'm familiar with unpainted steel surfaces but not with unpainted sheet aluminum surfaces. What would they look like? What would the ground surface treatment I designed look like? I was told that the aluminum should be treated to preserve it since exposure to weather would impact the aesthetics of the aluminum over time. Would a clear powder coat give me the luster of steel I wanted? There were stakeholders who questioned the combination of fence color, sculpture color, pavers, concrete, and brick that will make up the terrace. We brought samples together for an approximation and it convinced me that the fence coating called "bronze" worked well with the paver colors and raw aluminum. But there are stakeholders who were not there and reserving judgment until they could see it. Another stakeholder recommended that a black coating might work better and others started to question my choice of raw aluminum.

I had a ton of other questions like how much visible space is taken up by the mounting equipment? How much of a border do I need to leave uncut in aluminum to have it support my design? What would 1/4 inch aluminum look like in cutouts compared to 1/8 inch steel? Would I have to change my design to accommodate the new thickness? What format did the fabricator need my final artwork in? How accurate would the CAD interpretation of my final artwork be? What does the cut edge of water-jet cutting aluminum look like compared to laser cutting steel? Will it have burrs? Will it be too sharp for safety? … I was boring everyone with questions they couldn't answer.

I proposed that we create a mock-up and walk through the whole build process end to end. In the process I learned I wasn't the only one with questions. Stakeholders jumped on the idea. The fabricator, the architects, and the library also wanted some open items resolved. Mock-ups to the rescue for all of us!

Most notably Ultra Aluminum, my fence fabricator partner, was very concerned about my unsupported ~ 4 foot lengths of rib patterns that made up the sky in my designs. 

In steel they would be no problem, but in aluminum the fabricator couldn't guarantee that these ribs would be covered under warranty without adding in supports.  They were concerned that the aluminum would be susceptible to breaking if someone put too much weight on the aluminum. But where to put supports in the design? It made the most sense to put the supports between the ribs at the points where I was creating Sheeler-like sections of the fractured sky. I was creating an illusion of a line but the supports would be actual lines between these sections.

Adding supports to my ribs would be a fundamental compromise of my design. It would be a step backwards. I had earlier sketches with supports and having supports was just not as innovative a design as the one I created through illusion. I made ribs that vary in thickness as they transition over the different Sheeler-like sky fractures. By creating a transition between thicknesses along an imaginary line it appears to observers that there is a line there. Observers "construct" the line without thinking about it. With supports the viewer won't have to "construct" the lines in their perception; it will be easier for them to see the sections of the fractured sky. To me this makes it less challenging and less interesting as a piece of art. But this is not just art, it is also a fence.

Ultra Aluminum is a subject matter expert and they know their material better than me, but I was attached to my design. So together we decided that one of the mock-ups had to be several 4 foot ribs of aluminum that could be tested for durability with supports. I gave them a paper cutout of a handful of 4-foot ribs. They converted this to a machine-readable CAD and checked the metal specs. It wouldn't work without supports. If this sculpture were hanging on a gallery wall or suspended in a window, there would be no need for supports. It is because it is an accessible fence that people might hit accidentally that the ribs might fracture. The library couldn't get the warranty they wanted unless there were supports added. I compromised and gave into the design change. Next I needed to mitigate the issue and reduce the impact on my design.

The first step was for the Ultra Aluminum CAD specialist to simply add straight line supports along my illusion lines. We started with 1/2 inch wide supports connecting my ribs. It was a hard compromise but I went along to see the result. The 1/2 inch didn't look too bad in the CAD drawing so the first mock-up was cut in metal. Immediately after it was done, and before I could even see it, the fabricator rejected it and cut another one but with 1/4 inch wide supports. The 1/2 inch was just too thick aesthetically.

For this fundamental compromise and all the other open items we designed two mock-ups and assembled them into representative railing parts.

Mock-up of "sky bars" with 1/4 inch supports, edges not sanded, black powder coat
The first was 1 ft H by 4 ft W with several 4 ft long ribs including 1/4 inch wide supports, with a black coating, with no sanding of the edges of the water jet cut openings.

Mock-up of shapes, clear powder coat, sanded edges, hand-ground surface

The second was 1 ft H by 1 ft W with a region showing a variety of cutout shapes but no ribs, with a clear coating, and sanded cut out edges and a hand-ground surface finish.

When the mock-ups arrived I answered all my remaining open questions, made my final design decisions, and prepared to present them to the Library Art Board to get their final approval to produce the final artwork. More on that meeting in another post.

Are we better off by having walked the process and created a mock-up? Absolutely. Could we have reached the same conclusions with the same level of risk reduction and increased confidence without the mockups? No.

End-to-end process-created mock-ups are the best time-saving and cost-effective way to resolve open risks.