Using up to 50,000 rigid steel nails to recreate something as fragile and curvy as the human body isn’t the easiest of tasks, but artist Marcus Levine manages to to it without as much as a sketch.
The British artist’s road to his brilliant career has been anything but predictable. Born in Yorkshire, Levine attended the Jacob Kramer Art College, but instead of pursuing his dream of making nail art, he opted for career as a TV graphic designer, and later joined the family business. It wasn’t until 2004 that he finally decided he wanted to make art for a living, and moved to Budapest. He began hammering nails into composite wood boards and completed his first real nail artwork in 2005. He continued to perfect his technique, creating increasingly dynamic interpretations of his subjects and pushing the boundaries with each new art piece.
Marcus Levine takes between three days and two months to complete one of his hammered masterpieces and uses anywhere between 15,000 and upwards of 50,000 nails. By placing them at various heights and distances, he can create various distinct tones and manipulate the intensity of the contours. He masters several techniques, like undulating the height of a nail or rotating its head round, but Marcus admits that light has a big part to play in his art, as “from morning sun to evening sun the shadows across the sculptures change and affect the contrast, and by altering artificial lighting, the sculptures can appear as light as a pencil sketch or as dark as a charcoal life drawing.”
Most of Levine’s artworks focus on the human body, a strange choice considering he picked a rigid medium like steel nails to create representations of such curvy shapes. The artist explains that after using hammered nails to depict abstract shapes, he realized “the interplay between the rigid, angular nails and the soft curves of the human torso, would be fantastically striking.”
Probably the most impressive thing about Marcus Levine’s art is that he doesn’t sketch anything beforehand, the picture is just in his hand. He admits that after finishing a piece he stares at it and wonders “now how did I do that?”, but then reminds himself that in order to make a start you have to take a first step, so he picks a point to hammer a nail, then adds another one, and another, until the work starts to take shape. At this point, he’s already in his “zone” and his no longer thinking about it, he just hammers nail after nail.