The Craft Project

Who Knew Puzzles Were So Hard?


The second installment in my detailed descriptions of the creative process that went into some recent work deals with my new piece “The Puzzle”.  I really liked the idea of creating a piece that featured a girl standing alone in a black world assembling pieces of a puzzle to create a new, vibrant, joyous world.


I realized right away that in order to make the puzzle pieces have enough physical depth on the canvas, and to have the most realistic shapes I would need to work off of a real puzzle.  I picked up a children’s puzzle, assembled it on my studio floor, and then built a whole landscape image on top of it.  The landscape was built of many layers of cut paper, ink, acrylic paint and matte medium.  I wanted to create a world of funky trees and flowers, blue skies, and bright sunshine.  I created trees in the form of spirals, detailed flowers in black ink that over-ran the image, bright and colourful butterflies, and tons of texture created by building up of many, many layers of media.


Then came the piece’s great challenge – cutting apart the puzzle.  It was really important to me that in the finished puzzle you would be able to see the divisions between each piece as clearly as you would in any normal puzzle.  This involved flipping the finished puzzle over to see the original outlines of each puzzle piece and then using an xacto knife to cut out each individual piece.  This step was really hard.  All of the layers built up to create the world of the puzzle had to be carefully cut through.  It took two days to do the cutting, and my forearm, despite it’s conditioning for rock climbing, hurt for a day afterwards.  Then I had to sand all of the edges of each puzzle piece to make sure they were smooth and clean.  And then I had to decide which pieces actually made the final cut.  Since the character in my artwork would be assembling the puzzle not all of the pieces could be used.  I had to axe some favourite sections including a portion of the sky with the word “peace” written in it as a play-on-words to the fact that it was made up of puzzle pieces.


Once I figured out how to arrange my puzzle on my canvas, which I had painted with black acrylic, I created my girl character who would be assembling the puzzle with a combination of paper, acrylic and ink.  I then wrote a phrase that I felt spoke to the piece, assembled it using a combination of children’s fridge magnet letters and cut chipboard letters, and painted the resulting words in acrylic before adding them to the piece.


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