You might not have guessed it, but at Subcon Laser we are passionate about using technology to create beautiful and intricate designs. In fact, the main draw of the laser is the fine detail it allows us to cut or engrave in all sorts of materials.
Recently, we have discovered the work of one artist, Eric Standley, who might just be as passionate about laser cutting as we are. He uses laser cutting to realise his own intricately drawn sketches into layered laser cut art.
We were so excited to find a kindred spirit we just had to share him and his work with you.
Eric Standley was working on a project cutting cereal boxes when he first started to use laser cutting to get in really tight and cut more intricate shapes and lines. It was while he was working on this project that he turned and looked back at a stack of laser cut card.
From this glance back at his work, Eric realised the potential in his laser cut designs. Soon he was researching and experimenting with Gothic and Islamic designs before beginning to create his own laser cut art.
Layers and layers of laser designs, each one unique
“The complexity of multiple layers all of a sudden just grabbed me and I thought, jeez, there’s something here.”
Eric describes himself as ‘old school’ with ‘an unyielding need to create and organize compositions that are first pre-visualized’.
Every artwork begins life as a sketch, drawn simply with pencil and paper, that shows how the layers will develop.
Most of us would be making serious use of CAD to help us design each layer, but not Eric. He prefers to create specific ‘events’ that will be layered within the design and then add in further layers inbetween, a bit like a cell animator. These ‘events’ are particular features within the artwork so adding layers between the events helps to emphasise them.
As you can see in the sketch below, Eric has also considered the intricacies of layers that go mostly unseen. He has also planned how many layers each ‘event’ will require.
Sometimes, Eric uses watercolours to bring out specific areas but in general colour is planned well in advance. He makes colour decisions while he is drawing vectors and assigns colours to layers in his working files for reference. He then cuts each layer into coloured archival paper ready to be layered.
Eric treats his sketches more as ‘maps to a destination’ than plans. However, he isn’t always entirely sure where he is going thinking instead of a loose goal rather than an expectation.
Instead of creating an exact replica of his sketch, he allows his work to grow throughout the drawing process and continues to question everything he does. As he sketches in more and more detail, there are corresponding decisions that need to be made so the project as a whole changes and evolves.
This fluidity in design has its advantages as Eric may find inspiration for future projects during his journey. He says that ‘by the time I am completing a project, I have at least one new pre-visualised composition/destination that has my faith and attention, as well as the maps to get there.’
Inspiring the artist
“My work is very much about faith and doubt from start to finish. I question everything. Likewise, I try to listen to everything.”
Eric’s earlier works were informed by the seemingly infinite detail found in the geometry of Gothic and Islamic architectural ornamentation but his more recent inspirations come from mythology.
As you can see on Eric’s sketches, he has also made notes on his literary inspiration from Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Virgil’s Aeneid amongst others. Eric also cites Søren Kierkegaard’s essay Either/Or and Daniel Pink’s Whole New Mind who both influenced the contemplative process of his work.
A constant theme in Eric’s work is his use of mathematics, what he calls ‘folk math’ to create the intricate curves and shapes in his works. In the description for his piece, ‘Ceres’ he says, ‘I had been working loosely with the Fibonacci sequence here and there, and applied it fully in this work’.
Eric’s new inspiration in myth stems from his fascination with the point at which ‘faith extends human capabilities to extraordinary originality’. He is also attracted to paradoxes. ‘There is a meditative refuge for me in simultaneous logic and codependent opposing thoughts’.
These inspirations perhaps explain why he has remained so fascinated with laser cut art as he is essentially using the laser cutter to create negative space and using his layers to build around the negative space.
Drawing, Laser Cutting and Assembling
“Creativity is a product of sensibility. My sensibility happens to not be conventionally sensible.”
Because of Eric’s labour intensive process and his own meticulous nature, each of his works take months to create. He says ‘most of the larger works take about 4-6 months to complete’ but ‘Ceres’, a project made up of 251 layers, ‘took 10 months to draw and over a month to cut and assemble’.
Eric’s drawing process alone takes months of constant attention. Part of the reason for this is that he is considering negative space in drawing as a physical space when the drawing is laser cut. While he is drawing he is making compositional decisions on spaces and lines that are 0.01” wide. This creates a ‘woven space that is anything but random’.
Most of his projects take 30-80 hours of cut time depending on the number of layers in the work and the node-count per layer.
The vector software and laser cutters Eric uses are just like pencils, brushes, paint and canvas would be to other artists. They allow him to express himself and to realise the potential in his projects.
It is crucial to understand, though, that this is not technology for the sake of it. Eric believes that while the technology is what makes the art possible, it is what he brings as an artist that makes the art meaningful and interesting.
In Eric’s words, ‘if you are relying on the glamour of technology to stand in for your individuality and creativity, be prepared to be overthrown by the future.’ It is how the technology is used, not because it is used that the laser design works so well.
Current Laser Cut Art Projects
Are you working on something now? “Yes – always.”
As each project brings new ideas and potential, it is unsurprising that Eric always has something on the go. He has only recently completed his project ‘Daphne’, a mixed media piece of laser cut paper layers inset into a wood, stone and steel sculpture. This piece will be on display at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke until November.
‘Daphne’ has, like all previous works, inspired other visions, this time exposing the paper in the round. Eric is also in the process of creating a commissioned piece influenced by his trip to the Middle East last year.
Eric’s dedication to his work is truly inspiring. Not only does he work on every piece for months at a time, he uses that time to syphon off ideas for future works too.
By using laser cutting technology, Eric can realise his sketches as layered 3D works of art but he resists temptation and only uses technology where it fits with his vision, and not for the sake of it.
To see more of Eric’s work, you can visit his website at http://www.eric-standley.com/.
At Subcon, we hope to afford the same opportunity to our clients. Our aim is to help them to realise their own designs, whether they are purely functional, artistic or a mixture of both using our range of services. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a laser cutter in your studio, get in touch and see how Subcon Laser can help.