3-D Art

How 3-D Portraits are Created.

When a portrait artist paints on canvas, whether it be in oil, acrylic or watercolor, the result is a two dimensional representation of what, in reality, is a three dimensional object: a person’s face. Gordon has found a way to “paint” a face in three dimensions. He does this by adding a third dimension to a two dimensional plywood panel and painting on the added dimension. The extra dimension is accomplished using conventional sheetrock screws, screws used in home building. Screws can be adjusted to various heights off the panel surface using a screwdriver. Once each of the over two or three thousand screws in a portrait are in the panel and each have been adjusted to the correct depth, Gordon paints the flat head of each screw to finish the portrait.
The process starts, for example, with a piece of eighteen by twenty-four inch plywood that is three-quarters of an inch thick. The plywood is built up to a depth of two inches using a light weight foam-core board. Later, a varnished oak frame will be added to the portrait as the final step in the process.
The outline of the face to be painted is sketched onto the surface of the bare panel. Then, one eighth inch holes are drilled, one for each of the screws that create the third dimension — usually between two and three thousand screws. The holes are drilled three eighths of an inch apart in a matrix inside the outlined figure. Gordon says it takes six to eight hours of drilling because each hole must be drilled individually.
Screws of only a few different lengths are used, the longest of which is three or four inches. Typically, Gordon will place all the screws, quickly setting each to its estimated depth using an electric screwdriver. The depth of each screw will be adjusted many times before the portrait is finished because each time the depth of one screw is changed, many surrounding screws must be readjusted.
People have marveled at the fact that Gordon individually paints the head of each screw but he says that’s not hard, and “…anyway, that’s the fun part.” Once every screw has been set to just the right depth and every screw head painted, Gordon happily adds his signature to the work.
These art works were exhibited recently in the Lake Wildwood Clubhouse and once that exhibit was hung, Gordon started receiving phone calls and personal comments of appreciation from people who have seen and admired the portraits. At the time of this writing, he has produced 3-D portraits of Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.

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