The Book Autopsies of Brian Dettmer

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Brian Dettmer, also known as “The Book Surgeon” uses knives, tweezers and surgical tools to carve old dictionaries and encyclopedias into incredible works of art.

Born in 1974, in Chicago, Brian Dettmer studied art at Colombia College, where he focused mainly on painting. During his time working in a signage store, the artist started exploring the relationship between codes, text, language and art. He began producing paintings based on sign language, Braille and Morse Code, then moved on to layered works that involved pasting newspaper and book pages to a canvas, and it was just a matter of time before he would discover the talent he is now renowned for – expert book carving.

The Book Surgeon takes outdated books, dictionaries and encyclopedias that would otherwise end up at a landfill somewhere, and gives them new meaning and the chance at a second life, by carving them into intricate artworks. “Their intended role has decreased or deceased and they often exist simply as symbols of the ideas they represent rather than true conveyors of content. When an object’s intended function is fleeting, the necessity for a new approach to its form and content arises.” Dattmer says, explaining the philosophy behind his work.

Reference works are Brian’s favorite material, because of the rich illustrated content, but regardless of what he works with, he never inserts any new material or move the content of the book around just to make it more interesting. Using his trusty precision tools, he cuts out unwanted content stabilizing what’s left with layers of varnish. In the beginning, Brian Dettemer focused on carving one book at a time, but in recent years his art has become even more ambitious, as he began using sets of books to create the images he desires.


Micromachina – The Hallowed-Out Insect Sculptures of Scott Bain

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Micromachina is a collection of real taxidermy insects fitted with various devices that is meant to show how we humans mistreat nature, forcing it to do our bidding.

Scott Bain’s creations show humanity’s disregard for nature in all its forms: genetic modifications, pesticides or massive urban expansion. There’s practically nothing we won’t do in our never ending quest for profit, and the artist believes there will come a time when nature will rid the world of its biggest pest, us.

The hollowed-out Micromachina insects were inspired by our way of using technology to control nature and turn every living thing into a tool.


Jimi Hendrix Mosaic Made of 5,000 Plectrums Auctioned at Charity Event

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A one-of-a-kind mosaic of legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix made of 5,000 plectrums has been auctioned off during an event for Cancer Research UK.

The portrait was created by Ed Chapman, one of Britain’s leading mosaic artists, who said it took him several days to complete. The plectrums used to create the 120 cm x 100 cm artwork are made by Fender, the guitar brand Hendrix is known to have been most fond of. “I decided to use plectrums to create a portrait of him because I like experimenting with different materials and textures and I think it is a fitting tribute to the musician.” Chapman says.

39-year-old Chapman began making mosaics in the 1990s, and has tried to put a modern twist on this ancient art form. His previous works include mosaics of John Lennon, Eric Cantona, and ManU manager Alex Ferguson.



The Button and Pin Artworks of Ran Hwang

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Instead of using pins and buttons to stitch-up clothes, Korean-born artist Ran Hwang uses them to create gigantic installations in the shape of birds and cherry blossom trees.

To create her unique artworks, Ran Hwang hammers thousands of needles into a wall and hangs colorful pins from them. Seen from up close, her pin and button works look pixelated, but from afar, the whole piece seems to come together naturally. “My immense wall installations are extremely time consuming and repetitive manual work. This is a form of meditative practice that helps me find my inner peace. Like the monks practicing Zen facing the wall, my work is a form of performance that leads to finding oneself.” Hwang says about her unique technique.

Asked why she uses buttons as an art medium, the artist replies “because they are common and ordinary, like the existence of human beings”. She uses no glue in her art, so the buttons are free to move or fall at any time, which reflects the irresolute nature of human beings.


Beautiful Scotch Tape Sculptures at Off the Roll 2011

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“Off the Roll” is a yearly tape sculpture contest that challenges people to create the best artworks they can by using only Scotch tape.

I never knew it was possible to create sculptures out of Scotch tape alone, but after seeing some of the things people made for the Off the Roll contest, I started thinking this is one of the coolest materials available. Now that I think about it, I should have realized that sooner, especially after writing about the duct tape costumes of “Stuck at Prom”.

This year, Scotch is offering a grand prize of $5,000 to the most original and best executed sticky tape sculpture, as well as three other $500 prizes for runners-up and a people’s choice award. If you’re interested in participating, all you have to do is stock up on Scotch tape, create an impressive sculpture, take up to three photos of it and enter it in the competition by the end of February.

Check out some of the most beautiful Scotch tape sculptures entered in this year’s competition, and make sure you visit the Off the Roll contest page to vote for your favorites.


Transformers Fans Build Awe-Inspiring Megatron Tank

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A Chinese Transformers fan who goes by the name of “Steel Legend” has designed and built an incredible real-life replica of Megatron in tank form.

Now this is something you definitely don’t see everyday. I’ve seen quite a number of Autobot replicas (most of them built in China) but this is the first impressive Decepticon model I’ve ever seen. Steel Legend and his friends really went all out on building this baby and the result is nothing short of mind blowing. According to the short description posted on Chinese portal Zcool, the Megatron Tank is 4.5 meters long, 3.2 meters wide, 2.5 meters high and weighs a staggering 5 tonnes.

No clues on what Steel Legend plans to do with this spectacular Transformers model, but if he decides to sell it, I’m sure there are many fans out there who would pay top dollar to get their hands on it.



Chinese Artist Creates World’s Largest 3D Painting

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“Lions Gate Gorge”, a giant 3D artwork created by artist Qi Xinghua has been acknowledged as the world’s largest 3D painting, by the Guinness Book of Records.

The amazing painting, located in front of a shopping mall in Guangzhou, China, measures an impressive 23 meters wide and 32 meters long, on the ground, while the wall in the background is 6 meters high. It covers an area of 892 square meters and looks so realistic that people say they actually get dizzy when walking on the painted ropes that traverse the colorful gorge.

Qi Xinghua, China’s first 3D painter, said the giant illusion took him a whole month of painstaking work to complete, but looking at the end result I’d say he doesn’t regret it for a moment. He was actually the holder of the previous record, a 3D painting measuring over 535 square meters, but his latest achievement beat that by 356 square meters.



Kapala – The Human Skull Cup of the Gods

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The kapala is a sacred sculpted cup made from the top of a human skull frequently offered by Hindu and Buddhist worshipers to their fierce deities.

A legacy of the ancient tradition of human sacrifice, the kapala is nowadays perceived as a dark but fascinating form of sculpture. Tibetan kapalas, in particular, feature impressive bas-relief artworks depicting religious figures and scenes, and are often adorned with semi-precious stones and silver-work. The elaborate carvings were handmade and the skull was soaked in water to soften the bone.

In Tibet, skull cups are used at Buddhist altars to offer wrathful divinities either wine, which symbolizes blood, or dough cakes shaped as human eyes or ears. Through the force of tantric visualization based on meditation and deep philosophical study,  a sort of transubstantiation will occur and the wine will be transformed into the Wisdom Nectar, a liquid form of the enlightened mind of one or all the deities in the Celestial Palace of the Mandala. This is just one of the many uses of the kapala in Tibetan ritual culture.

Some modern-day kapalas are still shaped like the top of a human skull, but they are made of brass and while they are adorned with artistic motifs, they aren’t nearly as fascinating as  genuine human skull cups.


Artist Creates Detailed Cardboard Busts of Famous Figures

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Scott Fife is an American sculptor well-known for his incredibly detailed busts of popular icons, made only from archival cardboard, drywall screws and glue.

Scott says he has been working with cardboard for the last 25 years, and he remembers he first decided to use it purely for economic reasons. He would find cardboard boxes on the streets, cut them up into pieces, paint on them and create unique artworks, but the high acid content of cardboard meant the lifespan of his works could be limited, so he eventually switched to archival cardboard. He liked the coolness of the blueberry coloring from the beginning, and it wasn’t that much different to work with than ordinary cardboard, so archival cardboard became his favorite material.

The cardboard busts Scott Fife creates look so realistic, it’s hard to believe he uses only low-tech tools. All he really needs is loads of archival cardboard, an Xacto knife, drywall screws, a screw gun, and glue.

Seattle-based Fife has been exhibiting his works across America since 1976, and while his technique hasn’t changed much since then, his incredible cardboard art is just as fresh and popular today as it was back then.


World’s Most Expensive and Amazing Children’s Beds

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Every parent wants the best for his child, but would you pay the price of a luxury car to get them the fantasy bed they’ve always dreamed of?

Posh Tots, a company that makes “the most extraordinary children’s furnishings in the world”, is offering you the chance to buy your little princess a real palace bed, complete with a fiberglass slide, staircase and enchanted balcony, for the modest price of $47,000. No, I didn’t add an extra zero by mistake, that really is the price of a children’s bed. It looks perfect, and I’m sure any little girl would be happy to have it (if not, the company’s also makes a Fantasy Coach bed, for the same price), but you’d need to be shoveling cash to pay almost fifty grand for it.

If the beds mentioned above are a little out of your league, Posh Tots offers a few cheaper alternatives, like the $22,605 Woodland Princess Castle Bunk Bed. Still way too rich for my blood, but after reading about the world’s ultimate children’s playhouse, I’m sure some people consider this a bargain. Still, if you can’t afford to buy one of this furnishing masterpieces, you could try building one, like this guy.


The Microscopic Marvels of Vladimir Aniskin

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Vladimir Aniskin is one of the few people in the world who can create microscopic artworks so tiny they fit on half a poppy seed.

The 33-year-old scientist, who works at the Syberian branch of the Russian Academy of Science, in Tyumen, has been practicing microminiature art since 1998, and devotes several months to completing a single piece. Over the years, he has learned to work in between heartbeats, which gives him about half a second to do a controlled movement before his hand shakes. “While working I hold my creation in my fingers. Even one’s heartbeat disturbs such minute work, so particularly delicate work has to be done between heartbeats.” Vladimir says.

His miniature masterpieces are created using powerful microscopes and a set of tools he himself designed, and to fully appreciate the fine detail of his art, one also needs a microscope. That’s because some of his works are measured in microns. Aniskin’s amazing portfolio includes a grain of rice inscribed with 2,027 letters, which took three months to complete, a caravan of camels in the eye of a needle, and a Christmas scene on a thin horse hair.

The following photos don’t do Vladimir Aniskin’s work justice, but if you’re ever in St. Petersburg, you can admire 80 of his microscopic wonders at the first Russian museum of micro-miniatures – The Russian Lefty.


Upcycled Action Figures Made by a Soldier in Afghanistan

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This wonderful collection of junk action figures was put together by Private First Class Rupert Valero, who is stationed at a forward operating base in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

A former oil rig engineer, Valero has been collecting and customizing action figures for years, but ever since he was sent to Afghanistan, he had to create his own action figures from recycled materials like bottle caps, soda cans and fabric. The artists/soldier says he has the mind of an engineer and never stops thinking about building things, whether they be robots, buildings, or anything else for that matter. It’s just his way of staying sane in a dangerous place like Afghanistan.

Because toys are universal, people react to them the same whether they are in the middle of the desert or in America, and Private Valero says they have allowed him to interact with the locals. By giving a child one of his upcycled action figures he puts a smile on his face and maybe takes his mind off doing something that he shouldn’t do.

You can buy Rupert’s upcycled action figures at reasonable prices, on his Etsy shop, and you can find an extended interview with him, here.



Arthrobots – Steampunk Insects by Tom Hardwidge

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Using nuts and bolts to connect various bits of metal, English artist Tom Hardwidge creates beautiful steampunk insects he calls Arthrobots.

They may look like metal toys, but Tom’s arthrobots are actually intricate steampunk sculptures inspired by real insects and built from various recycled metallic parts. The Manchester-based artist starts by drawing up a series of sketches, then starts looking for parts on sites like eBay, and local small shops. The assembling happens on the dinning-room table, to make sure no actual dinning takes place there.

In case you’re wondering what arthrobots are made of, Tom says most of them start off as pieces of deactivated ammunition, that are later covered with sheets of copper, brass or aluminum. Limbs, wings and antennae  are then attached, and no respectable steampunk creation would be complete without some old pocket watch gears and springs.

Arthrobots come in a cool-looking wooden box, together with a small leaflet which includes a series of details like the sculpture’s name, the phylum, order and class it belongs to and some of the early sketches. If you’re a fan of steampunk, head over to the arthrobots official site, for more details.


Wayne Kusy and His Impressive Toothpick Fleet

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Chicago-based artist Wayne Kusy uses thousands of ordinary toothpicks and gallons of glue to create impressive-looking models of famous sea vessels.

50-year-old Kusy remembers he built his first toothpick model when he was just a child in the fifth grade. It was an Indian tepee and it got him a B+ in class, but toothpicks were to play a much bigger part in his life. He moved on to build a house out pf toothpicks, then a year later he started working on a ship that didn’t come out perfectly, but wasn’t far off the mark either, so he decided to build another one. And, before he knew it, he was pretty much obsessed with toothpicks.

Wayne Kusy’s amazing toothpick fleet began to take shape when he bought a plastic Revell model of the Titanic, studied the blueprints and deck plans, and spent the next three years recreating it with 75,000 flat and square toothpicks. It was impressive to look at, but it was so big that his small Chicago apartment could barely accommodate it, and there was no way to move it out without hitting the corners of his home and damaging the ship. The Titanic lost a lot of toothpicks on its maiden voyage out of Wayne’s apartment, but it taught the artist a valuable lesson – from there on he designed his ships so they could be reassembled from multiple segments.


The Crocheted Portraits of Jo Hamilton

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Portland-based artist Jo Hamilton has a house full of balls of yarn,which she uses to create amazing crocheted portraits and landscapes.

Jo remembers she was only six when her grandmother taught her to to crochet, but it wasn’t until ten years later that she really dedicated herself to the old craft and started crocheting in a crafty way. She attended the Glasgow School of Art, where she experimented with both painting and drawing, but she felt that she needed an original medium to help her express her talent.

She was inspired to use crocheting as an art form after seeing an exhibition at the Portland Craft Museum that inspired artists to use techniques that are originally considered to be art. Happy that she had finally found a means of expression that she was comfortable with, Jo immediately started crocheting a cityscape made of six blocks, named “I Crochet Portland”. She now spends anywhere from forty five hours on a portrait, up to three years on one of her cityscapes, but the most important thing  is she never gets bored of crocheting.

The portraits Jo creates are incredibly detailed, and many people have speculated about the techniques and stitches she uses, but the artist claims her pieces come alive from the inside – it’s an organic process that implies no graphs, plans or charts. Of course, this means she doesn’t know the exact outcome of her effort, but Ms. Hamilton says she has learned to trust her way of working.


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