Saturday, December 03, 2005

Building a shadow box

Shadow boxes are extremely useful constructs that artists have employed for centuries to control the light on their still life models. They can range from the very simple to the very complex. The best artist I personally know tapes pieces of foam core together into flimsy tents that look like they're ready to collapse onto the model. It doesn't look like much, but the resulting paintings are drop-dead gorgeous.

Being a born builder, and always looking for any excuse to involve power tools, I opted for a sturdier and more permanent shadow box. I started with an outer frame of 1x2 and 1x3 strips of pine, to which I screwed 24" square sheets of plywood.





The interior cage is painted a flat black. This cuts down on reflected light, as well as obviously providing a deep, deep background from which the objects can emerge.





The bottom has been designed to accomodate another 24" square sheet, so I can easilly drop in any stained or painted piece of wood I like to instantly change the surface. I can also suspend cloths to make a backdrop.




When objects are placed in the box, the resulting effect can be really quite nice. This is a new addition to my studio; I've only done one painting using it so far; one of the tomato pair paintings. It is a lot of fun to use, and I can't wait to do some more.

7 comments:

Chris Howard said...

Brilliant. What did the whole thing cost?

Jeff Hayes said...

Good question... as with most of my projects, it was assembled with spare lumber I just had laying around, though I think I did have to buy a few of the 24" plywood sheets. Best guess would be that somebody could complete the entire project for less than $50 and an evening of work.

Charley Parker said...

Great post, thanks. (Popular Mechanics meets American Artist.) Nice idea to accomodate other base materials and backdrops.

WLM Artist said...

That's funny, about the foamcore that looks like it's going to collapse, that is exactly what I do. I do have one that I made simply from a big cardboard box that I cut so that there are just three sides to it. I've started using that and then expanding as desired with the flimsy foamcore board as you described. I also still have a similar box that I made from wood, but since it's kind of heavy a don't use it that much. Your painting looks very nice by the way, keep up the good work.

splynch said...

Looking for some ideas for building my own shadow-box, this post came up first on Google. Isn't the internet wonderful? Great post Jeff!

labrown said...

Thanks for posting this Jeff. I will be working on one this week!

jetsonjoe said...

lining the box with black velvet just sucks and possible reflection into a black hole...could be over kill...but it works...sometimes a bit of an issue for dust...but it sure is black black black