You Probably Won’t Guess What These Epic Sculptures Are Made Out of
Nashville-based sculptor Herb Williams is quite the Crayola Connoisseur. He meticulously cuts and assembles thousands of colored crayons to recreate everyday objects in hyper colored glory. Holding everything from woodland creatures to household pets, to televisions, bedroom furniture and underpants, Williams’ crayon universe is a delight to look at. We caught up with Herb for a chat about his work.
When did you make your first crayon sculpture?
I made a small American flag in the Winter of 2001 as an homage to the victims of 9/11. Before we went to war, flags were everywhere and there was a sense of patriotism. I’ve always loved Jasper Johns and at that point I had never been to New York, so I tried to be as sincere as possible. I thought children were the most sincere and that they would use crayons so, I asked myself, “How could I use them but not color with them?”
Could you walk us through the process of creating one of your sculptures?
I will typically sketch out my idea for a sculpture or a mosaic-wall-melted-crayon work in my sketchbook. Then I like to make a larger painting, using spray paint and and cut stencils. These paintings I like to think of as sketches to refine the final sculpture. They’re also a lot of fun to go and tag out somewhere in the city. Then I begin to sculpt out a creature in wood or clay or fiberglass depending upon the complexity, and then I paint the understructure.
Ergonomically, oversized dog toenail clippers work best to cut the thousands of crayons that I then attach to the understructure.
What are some of the challenges that arise in your process?
When you add a few thousand crayons to a sculpture they can become extremely heavy very quickly. So, I have been creating the understructures with fiberglass lately to reduce the weight.
What are some of the issues and ideas that you hope to explore?
I grew up in a rural wooded area and now live in an urban city, so I miss the wildlife I would encounter in the woods that surrounded my home. In my work I love to create creatures that become metaphors for more complex human emotions and conditions.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Risk as much as you can afford to lose, and dream beyond the definition of grand.
Is there something you have dreamed of trying with your art practice, but haven’t yet?
I love art history. As Shakespeare put it, “Repetition is beauty.” Great ideas repeat themselves. Picasso said, “Bad artists copy, good artists steal.”
I want to steal from all of them and create a museum exhibit of my own with crayon sculptures of the greatest masterpieces and treasures throughout our entire human history: Michelangelos David, the Rosetta Stone, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus: pulling off the greatest art heist in history and placing a work of my own in the midst.
See more of Herb’s work at www.herbwilliamsart.com