Drawing with Steel
Updated: Dec 31, 2019
It all started with a contour line drawing. Excuse the dirt, and burns... it was kicking around my shop during the fabrication process. The fact that it survived is a small miracle.
Years after drawing this, I came back to it while in design school (artists, always keep your sketchbooks). At the time, I was studying perspective and learning to run a gamut of CAD programs. Everything started to feel very tight and linear. When I stumbled across this, I remembered the freedom that I had while doodling it. There were no design parameters and no stylistic expectations - only creativity for creativity's sake.
I decided to make this my summer project.
Turns out, I was a little ambitious... this took way longer than a summer. But let's start with the basics: material. This is 3/8" hot rolled steel. Very economic, and you can bend it "cold" using the proper leverage. Round stock, as opposed to square, allowed me bend the iron in any direction without having to worry which way the edges were facing. I ran a coal forge to hammer out the nose, and to split the iron that held his eyeballs. His tail, feet, and ears are all made from 14 gauge sheet metal.
One key aspect of the original drawing is that none of the line work criss-crossed. There's a "V" shape that is repeated throughout the piece to accomplish this. Imagine if the bars that define his underbelly continued back to his tail- they would have intersected with his rear legs in the side view. I mirrored a similar shape on his forehead, and loosened the "V" shape into a gestural "U" on his front shoulders.
Against a white background, it's easy to see how the final sculpture relates to the original sketch. The greatest challenge, and all the fun, was translating those lines into 3D space. I imagined myself drawing with steel, and was always stepping back trying to make the iron look visually soft and flowing- almost carefree, like a line on paper. Of course, it wasn't that easy, but if you're good, you make it look debonair, as grandma would say.
Quinn Morrissette is an American artisan based in Portsmouth, NH, USA, specializing in sculpture, bespoke furniture, and architectural installations. To view his work visit quinnmorrissette.com