Curly Tale Fine Art
"Bird Cage""Bird Cage" Detail "Bird Cage" DetailHaroldKatherine Hepburn "Cleopatra Puppet"
Dan Crowley
Although I have been artistically motivated for my entire lifetime, I found my chosen medium, Fimo-clay, in 1992, when a friend gave me some as a present. First marketed in craft stores as playtime clay for children, Fimo is available in colors that can be blended and then subsequently baked in a convection oven to harden. From the beginning, I saw it as more than just a craft toy, seeing the opportunity to sculpt in vivid color.
I began developing my sculpting technique through trial and error. First, I began with sculpting heads only, creating finger puppet sculptures on wooden stands, which are still a mainstay of my creative output. However, through building techniques based on trial and error, and through the development of an armature that allows my sculptures to grow in complexity and size, I have expanded my work into larger scale works of greater scope and scale. Each sculpture is created from scratch, and I do not use any molds or forms in the creative process. I blend my own colors from primary basics. Because I like bright colors and a suppleness of shape, and have sought that as I've grown as an artist, I discovered that adding mineral oil to the clay helps to make it easier to manipulate. The technique itself is a step-by-step process. Each face alone has a minimum of 18 separate pieces of clay that must be sculpted into place
Discovering the many ways and possibilities that the clay can be manipulated, and which types of armatures work best, my experimentation has rewarded me as I've grown and developed a sculptural method toward arenas where the use of Fimo-clay is unexpected. Since beginning my work with Fimo-clay, I've expanded my building vocabulary to the point where I can create portraits of individuals, or animals. I also recently completed a large public commission at the new Comer Children's Hospital in Chicago, where I created 16 character-based sculptural shoes depicting people from all over the Chicago area, along with a larger mixed-media sculptural rendering of the Hospital itself.
My artistic focus, however, remains character design; characters that engage one, and look directly at the viewer, with a gaze that is surprisingly complex, fun, sexy, and warm. My favorites are my "Lady" characters, very loosely based on my Aunts, with a dollop of old-fashioned Hollywood glamour on top. For inspiration, I am drawn to a diverse body of artists and references: from puppeteers like Jim Henson and Bill Baird, but also the imaginative visions of Calder and Disney. For color, I'm drawn to the work of Frieda Kahlo and Van Gogh, the alluring fin-de-siecle decadence of Toulouse-Lautrec. Degas is also an influence, along with the emotive diversity of feeling found in artists like Goya, Diane Arbus, and even Norman Rockwell. Principally, however, my eye is my own, and while I admire these artists, I view their work as starting points for my own inspiration.
One project that I would particularly like to take on is creating characters that I could photograph in settings around the world, using my work to act as a cross-cultural ambassador. Recently, I had the opportunity to take a Leprechaun character to Dublin, Ireland, where I was able to photograph it in a variety of settings, and gauging the reactions on the people I met was exciting and inspiring, and an impetus to a lot of creative sharing with other artists and interested spectators.
My work is currently on display at the Curly Tale Fine Art in Chicago. I've also won awards for my character filled Holiday window displays for Tiffany & Co. I look forward to seeing where my work takes me next.
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