Friday, April 19, 2013

His Sad and Usual Heart, Dry As a Winter Leaf

"His Sad and Usual Heart, Dry As a Winter Leaf"
from Aspects of Robinson by Weldon Kees

I have a friend named Deb Petronio who by day is a dentist in East Aurora, New York.  While I am sure she is a wonderful dentist I can testify that she is a wonderful artist.  I had the chance in a Michael de Meng workshop at Valley Ridge Art Studio to sit next to Deb and watch her make stuff.  Her talent and her style inspired me (i.e.:  made me want to copy her), so this piece is dedicated to Deb for her inspiration.

 Deborah Petronio, Gary Warren Niebuhr, Holly Holloway, Kelley Clarke, Belinda Spiwak and Lynn Ovenden relaxing after the workshop by going bowling! (photo by Katherine Engen)

Photo by Katherine Engen

These are the pieces Deb made in one weekend (I know!!!) and the one I fell in love with is the roller skating octopus trolley guy.  So, having some of the same inspirations (i.e.: junk) that motivated Deb, I went hunting in my basement for my own art.

I started with a vintage toy truck, a doll torso (don't ask where the other parts are!) and the damn octopus that has been haunting me since I saw Deb use it in her work.

Unlike Deb who used it like a lead horse, I decided mine would be the face of the main body.

Then the dude got painted up...

and attached to the truck.

Then, as often happens with my art, I looked at the piece and said--"That ain't right."

So, unfortunately for the process photos, I went into a frenzy of changes.  I use a metal face bead I had to fix  his octopus pus. His ears became two insect wings. I added beads to the tentacles.  Originally, I intended not to paint the vintage vehicle.  That went out the window.  Then I gave him a twisted tail.

Then it was done.

No, wait--still something not right.  I finished the piece with a thematic decision--a whole plate of issues that this poor traveler has to deal with including his heart on a platter.  Every time I added something, I needed to paint the whole thing again to get a blend.  Each time I painted it, it got better and better.  Finally, I was done.

That is when I searched through my notes and found the cutting from Aspects of Robinson by Weldon Kees, "His Sad and Usual Heart, Dry As a Winter Leaf."

So after ten hours of construction and $24 worth of supplies later, I have His Sad and Usual Heart, Dry as a Winter Leaf.


  1. Great job, Gary!

  2. Oh Gary! I'm honored! BTW I have a whole procession of those vehicles now. I'll have to post a picture! Awesome piece!