In February of 2016, I was privileged to spend the afternoon learning one on one techniques and tools of paper sculpture with a well-known and amazing artist, Reinhard. (I told you these blog posts were a long time coming!)
When I was searching ETSY for people who are currently working in paper sculpture, I came across this amazing image:
It went against all the advice I was seeing that you couldn’t achieve true realism in paper sculpture, particularly in portrait work.
I began digging and doing some research on the artist, Siegbert Reinhard. At the time, he still had a shop on ETSY (although it has since closed), and a contact email. His website, http://reinhardstudio.com/, appears to still be operating at the time of this blog post. His bio on the website has some of his interesting life history, so I won’t repeat it here, but it’s worth a read.
Sidebar: my daughter has a crazy (love!) music teacher who is so bold at reaching out to artists she admires to connect them with either her students or children. My daughter’s school got to have American Author’s come sing “Best Day of my Life” with them at their Christmas concert one year.
So, following the example of Samantha's teacher, and faking a bravery I don’t possess, I emailed Reinhard and asked if he ever taught classes or would be willing to meet with me to talk about his process.
To my amazement, after a series of emails, and submitting a portfolio for review, Reinhard agreed to spend an afternoon with me at a farm where he was living, and to go through his process with me! (He also explained that he only goes by “Reinhard”, which is in fact his middle name. He dropped his German last name after moving to the USA in 1960 for “obvious reasons”, which he didn’t elaborate on, and on which I can only speculate).
I then went into the bedroom and informed my husband we’d be flying out to Ojai, California for an anniversary trip in two weeks! (Actually, Ojai is a very lovely little town north of LA, and we had a wonderful trip).
When we got to the little farmhouse, Reinhard pulled out some of his original pieces, and showed me an amazing replica of his paper sculpture that was generated as a resin cast! He had in fact patented a process for casting some of his paper sculptures so that they could be replicated in resin (sadly, he didn’t share that process with me.)
Note: these are not the piece I saw, but are an example of his other work. This piece is listed on ETSY by TheVintageCoopUK.
I think the timing of our meeting was serendipitous, as Reinhard was working on what he said would be his last paper sculpture. His eyesight was failing (I believe he was 75 at the time), and he was wanting to spend more of his time composing music on the computer. I think this ending of his career made him willing to share his knowledge with me without any concerns of proprietary information. However, I will try to be somewhat judicious in what I share here and in other posts out of respect for his intellectual property.
I have decided that rather than itemize our whole afternoon in one or two posts, I’m going to highlight in the upcoming materials, tools, and techniques blog posts where some of the information has come from Reinhard. (So you’ll have to keep coming back 😉)
A few key takeaways from the afternoon though:
1. I was impressed, particularly given his age, how much Reinhard utilized the computer in his artwork. He would print the image or shape in reverse on the paper, to save redrawing. (That will make more sense in future posts). He would also colorize some of the shapes on the computer for the images where he was not working purely in white paper.
2. I was really impressed with the technique of the resin reproductions, because that is an issue with paper sculpture – other than printing, the actual sculptures are hard to replicate. This resin technique will have to be discussed on my next visit (😊).
3. Lastly, Reinhard explained that he had tried to teach classes in paper sculpture several times in the past, and the class had not gone well. He felt this was due in large part because he could not replicate the custom tools he had always used, so the students did not achieve the results they expected.
When Reinhard began working in paper sculpture, he could not find tools that would function how he wanted. So he had his friend who was a machinist make him a series of tools with very specific shaping edges, etc. He very graciously allowed my husband to examine the tools and to take pictures of them. He also said it was fine for Jeff to recreate the tools – surprised that he would have the ability. My husband is a Prosthetist/Orthotist and designs and fits artificial limbs. There is a still a great deal of customization in this industry, and at his lab, Jeff could access the appropriate machines to make the tools. After two 8-hour days (!) of grinding, my husband made me two sizes of embossing tools. (You’ll have to wait to see them!) Best gifts ever.
I am so grateful that Reinhard was open and willing to share his knowledge with me. This is part of the reason I have no hesitation in sharing my process on the internet. Unlike some industries or products, I feel like art can only develop when people share with each other. (Of course, to a point – I certainly don’t advocate theft of actual images). Sharing my process is no different than watching Bob Ross paint – we can start with the same basic tools and materials, and yet end up with very different results. It comes down to design and decision making, and no matter how much we wish we could learn the magic formula to making strong images, that skill can only come through ourselves and hard work.
Tomorrow: The fun begins! Expanding the initial Inktober drawings!