Spray Paint + Stencils + Collage on Canvas
20" x 20"
This is the commission that I have been working on steadily for the past few months. Dave got me to do it for his fiancee Melanie for Christmas. They are both huge Depeche Mode fans and they were both blown away by the piece, insisting that it's the greatest thing that either of them have ever seen. I guess Melanie spent Christmas morning in absolute awe shaking her head and saying, "I can't believe it... I just can't believe it..." and looking at it over and over and over again.
This is the hardest that I've ever worked on a piece and has more attention to detail than anything that I have ever done. I've never really went too in depth about my process before and this seems like a good place to start. I put a lot of myself into everything I do and am a bit of a perfectionist, therefore I am overly critical of everything that I do. I work hard at my art and am constantly trying to get better and push the spray paint and stencil medium further and further with every piece that I do. Each project is different. It's a new chance to really push myself and develop a style and aesthetic that is all my own. I take commissions very seriously because it is a fan of my work approaching me to do something specifically for them. I love that. This one was different though because it was a gift for Dave's fiancee Melanie for Christmas so I knew going in that it was important that this piece ended up being one of the best things that I've ever done. It did. However, that was quite a bit of pressure that I put upon my self going into this project. As you can tell from the pictures it was worth the effort and everything unfolded beautifully.
I was lucky that Dave approached me about this very early on so I had a lot of time to work on it. That aspect ended up working in my favour beautifully as I was able to take my time with each step and there was plenty of time for drying and contemplating between each stage. When Dave first approached me with the commission he made it very clear that he wanted this to be a very special piece for Melanie. It had to be grown up and it had to be personal--so much more than hanging a poster of your favourite photo of your favourite band on the wall. I told Dave that we could collage some of Melanie's favourite DM memories and artifacts into the piece. Dave really loved that idea. This is where things got a little tricky and I looked to Dave's guidance a lot.
I know of Depeche Mode and their staggering contribution to music and popular culture but by no means am I an expert or aficionado. It would be very different if I were making a Nirvana piece, but even if I was what may be important to me night not be as significant to Dave or more importantly, to Melanie. So I had Dave provide me with all the photos and imagery that I used in the piece and I had him be very specific about what was most important to Melanie and why. Essentially, I knew what needed to be in the foreground and what could go into the background or be left to blend in and add to the overall richness and texture of the piece. Once I had all these "pieces" in front of me I was ready to begin. I knew from taking with Dave that he wanted everything to be based off the classic DM photograph pictured above. We also established that he wanted a bigger show or conversation piece on canvas. So, I ended up working a little larger than I'm used to at 20" x 20". I really liked working large. It seemed to make parts of the process easier.
The next thing I did was cut out all of the stencils. I started with the main image of the guys which ended up being 4 stencils and I finished with the five stencils for the DM logos and imagery imbedded throughout the piece. Then, I sprayed my first 2 layers and did all the collage work in Dave Gahan's jacket. On this piece I did a few things that I haven't done before. The first was that I limited all the collage to Dave Gahan's jacket and used those elements to really illustrate the texture and the highlights and lowlights of his coat. I really let the collaged imagery speak for itself by being nearly untouched and really separated from the rest of the piece. Before I collaged the images I extensively treated them to the point where each individual piece almost became like a piece of fabric rather than a piece of paper. After that was done I finished the stenciling and did some final collaging on top of the piece. I also stenciled the information from the ticket stub of Melanie's favourite show around the entire canvas. This was one of my favourite touches and something I plan to continue in pieces from this point on.
Given the darkness and complexity of the band and their music I really wanted to layer and intertwine the piece at every level. There were at least 15 different stages from beginning to completion in order to complete the piece. Some of the stages were done in a few days while others took up to a week. I really starting experimenting with light and dark, highlights and lowlights, transparencies, and perspectives. As can be seen in the pictures above and attested to by Melanie, no two vantage points are alike. The way the piece is displayed and lit will change what the viewer sees. I tried my best to photograph and capture all the subtleties and hidden layers of the piece.
I could talk about this piece forever because I know what it means to me and my growth as an artist. I can see my career direction solidify and my defining style beginning to be fully realised. It's exciting. I consider this to be my best work to date and I realise that this brief description of the process cannot do this piece justice. Nor is it meant to. It's meant to give a insight into my work. This artwork can definitely speak for itself. I was honoured to work on this for Dave for Melanie for Christmas and I am glad that they possibly love it more than I do.
I know that there are pieces that can define an artists career and I know that this is one of my mine. A definite turning point. I'm excited to see where this road goes...