I got the inspiration for this art project from the 1932 Bella Lugosi movie, White Zombie. In it, there is a dark and gloomy island castle, most likely a matte painting.
I didn’t want to recreate this castle, but rather create a stylized piece that reflected its sense of doom and darkness. My idea was to use scraps of wood, all oriented with the grain in one direction to enhance the long verticals. We often like to think of art as being very free-flowing and off-the-cuff. While that is often true, I find that sometimes a little planning can produce a better product. In this case, I spent a couple hours playing around with various configurations in Sketchup so I could get a feel for the dimensions and overall layout. This helped out a lot so I didn’t have to experiment in the shop.
In the shop it was just a matter of cutting various thicknesses of boards to different lengths and widths. I glued them together and to a base board.
Burning the wood
This was the fun part. I decided to burn all the wood rather than just paint this piece black. It was kind of like painting with fire! I used a propane torch and kept a fire extinguisher handy so I wouldn’t accidentally burn any more of California than is already burning!
The burning wood imparts a really cool, organic texture. The glue held up fine, but some of the ends of the boards shrank and curled apart. Other parts became scaly looking. It really turned out looking like a rocky castle!
I sprayed a clear matte finish over everything to eliminate the burnt wood odor and to prevent the charred wood from getting black all over everything.
I made a simple display case and found some wide-head roofing nails to hold it together. I burned this too. I painted the plywood back, though. The plywood doesn’t seem to char as nicely.