It's hard to miss the giant Dutch clogs that now populate downtown Albany as part of this year's Sculpture in the Streets installation. They're fun and kind of whimsical. (We've seen people attempting to "try on" the shoes, which has been funny.)
Curious about how one goes about decorating an enormous replica of a Dutch wooden shoe, we asked talented local illustrator Elizabeth Zunon to share how she created her clog, which sits outside the Olde English on Broadway.
It's interesting to hear about her inspiration for the piece, and some of the other projects she's working on...
How did you get involved with the clog project?
My boyfriend sent me the link to Downtown Albany Business Improvement District's call to artists for the clog exhibition. I sent in three images from my portfolio, my artist's bio and resume, and was thrilled to be one of the 10 artists selected.
What was your inspiration for your clog?
I drew inspiration from a few different places: The official seal of the City of Albany, which shows and Indian man and a white man was something I wanted to refer to. I looked at local artist Len Tantillo's harbor paintings that depict the Albany/Hudson River area in the 17th and 18th centuries ("The Return of the Experiment" and "A View of Fort Orange, 1652") . I also thought about my own Mohawk Indian and Dutch ancestors, who met in Albany in 1634. Lastly, I was inspired by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer's painting "The Milkmaid" (1658), which I marveled at in person last summer during a family trip to the Netherlands (on the right).
I had to come home before visiting a clog factory there, so painting this clog was like my taking advantage of a missed opportunity!
So, how does one go about painting a clog? Can you walk us through the process?
1. The first step was to sketch and brainstorm ideas on paper.
2. Research the era a little bit.
3.I took pictures of myself posing as the characters I plan to paint after fashioning myself a bonnet like the one in Vermeer's painting.
4. Find other reference photos of people and faces.
5. I painted a layer of Gesso on the clog (thick white acrylic paint).
6. I then painted a layer of pinkish-orange acrylic paint on the clog
7. I placed the top and bottom borders and painted them in
8. I outlined the three figures on the clog, then painted them
9. Then came the sky, boats, river and background.
10. I added the "ALB" seal on the front, which was the first official seal of the city.
11. I finished up with the blue design on the border, which I wanted to look like traditional Dutch Delft designs.
12. I painted a UV coat on the clog
13. I sprayed the clog with a clear coat of varnish for protection.
14. Then it was ready to transport!
(There are more clog-in-progress photos at Liz's Facebook page.)
How do you hope people receive the clog?
I hope that my clog initiates a story in the viewer's mind: where are these 3 kids going? What was life like back then (in 1673, when Albany was taken over by the Dutch for a year and re-named Willemstadt)? What group of people were here? How did they interact? What would these 3 children think of the changes in the city if they were plopped down in present-day Albany?
You also illustrate children's books. And one on your most recent works -- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind -- was named to Amazon's "Best Books of the Year So Far" list. How'd you start illustrating children books? And are there any experiences -- or books -- from your childhood that have provided inspiration for your style?
I went to the Rhode Island School of Design after graduating from Guilderland High School in 2002 and majored in illustration. I was always interested in children's books which were a constant throughout my life.
Growing up in the Ivory Coast (West Africa), which is a French-speaking country, my mother often read English-language books to us at bedtime (since she is American). My illustration style is influenced by the bright colors and fabrics of African print fabrics. I've also been greatly influenced by the art of Ezra Jack Keats, who wrote and illustrated my favorite book: The Snowy Day.
What other projects do you have going on? What's next?
I work on painting, jewelry-making, silk-screening projects there, where I have a little shop set up to sell my beaded jewelry, books, handbags and T-shirts. I have a show of different work every weekend as well. Visitors are welcome to come by Tuesday-Friday: 2-7 pm and Sundays 11 am-7 pm. My next show is for First Friday, July 6, from 5-8 pm.
I'll be offering some craft workshops during the month of August at The Drawing Room: jewelry-making, silk-screening, paper-making and who knows what else :) I hope to both write and illustrate a children's book in the near future, so I'll spend July re-writing and editing my manuscripts. I can't wait!
This interview was conducted via email and has been lightly edited.
clog-in-progress photos courtesy of Elizabeth Zunon
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