David Norcross

Coal Mining Man

We spent the 4th of July holiday with some of our best friends in Pittsburgh. The weather was perfect and we took full advantage by hanging out at the pool, going to the zoo and going to a Pirates game. While I was there, I got to share a project that I have been working on with a guy I have a deep respect for, Russ.


St. Patrick’s Day 2010

Months ago, our friend, Maria, asked me to do a painting incorporating two photos of her dad that were taken in 1959. The photos were very important to him and he had only recently found them after his mother’s passing. Worried about losing the originals in the mail, she scanned them and sent them over to me.

The photo on the left is of Russ and his father after a hard days work in the coal mines. Russ was just 8 at the time he was helping his dad work in the mines. The photo on the right is of Russ and his dad with a bike and a puppy. What more could you want as a boy?

My first step was to go to Kinkos to enlarge the photos as much as possible and print them on a heavy, uncoated paper. I scaled the image to roughly 11×14 which meant that the image fit nicely on one of my 10×10 birch panels. Next, I prepped the surface of the panel and used a heavy glue to adhere the paper to the panel. I used some random stuff from around my studio to weight down the panel and apply even pressure to the image while it was drying. Then I waited. 24 hours seemed like an eternity to see how they were going to turn out. Once they were dry, I trimmed off the excess paper and sanded down the edges. Finally I was ready to paint.

I wanted these paintings to look like the way you would remember something that happened a long time ago. The important parts of the memory are clear as day, but other parts are a bit fuzzy. The important parts of these photos were definitely the father and son, so I tried to make those pop while I made the backgrounds blurry. I ended up doing three paintings, one for him and one each for his two daughters. I wanted each one to be its own individual artwork, so I used the same painterly technique on all three, but varied the details of each.

This weekend was so much fun and I loved every second spent with our friends. One of the best moments was watching Russ look at these paintings for the first time. His reaction was one of the best responses to my artwork I have ever had. And that is the best part of being a maker – creating something by hand and watching it become valuable and meaningful. Thanks to my friends for letting me be part of such a great memory.

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