I was born to use my eyes
Dream with the sun and the skies
To float away in a lifelong song
In the mist where melody flies
I was made to love magic
All its wonder to know
But you all lost that magic
Many, many years ago
—Nick Drake, I Was Made To Love Magic
The Scarecrow was an instant appeal to me. I am talking about both the art piece and the video below. The work itself feels intricate, subtle, and unnerving at the same time, while the professionally made video captures its creative process neatly. There is something very Tim Burton about it (apparently I am not the only one who thinks so).
Then I learned sculpting was not even the artist’s main job, and he only started it three years ago. He also directed this short clip and created its music. How crazy is that!
The man behind it all is the many-talented Jim McKenzie. On weekdays, he is a commercial director, designer, and animator at Aardman Nathan Love, and teaches at School of Visual Arts. On weekends, he turns into a “self-forced” clay sculptor. The NYC-based artist described creative life as “breathing” to him in an interview with BronxNet TV.
He cited music as one of his main inspirations, especially that of Nick Drake. Drake’s Made to Love Magic lent him the idea of his first solo exhibition, Lost Magic. Lyrics quoted at the top, the song supposedly laments how people lose their imagination ( “magic”) as they grow older, a theme Jim feels for.
A talk with beautifulbizarre.net also revealed he saw sculpturing as a rebellion against the restrictions of commercial jobs, a way to “explore thoughts and experiment with things I haven’t tried yet,” even though it “might not be the safest thing to do” for a solo show.
Rituals to ensure his flow includes “a large cup of coffee, good scents in the air, relaxing music in my headphones and if possible a room heater blasting on my feet…I also like to pull up inspirational images and artwork that I enjoy on my computer just to remind myself what it’s all for.”
For the creative process, he usually starts out sketching ideas. Then as he chisels, he would take photos of the work-in-progress, put them into Photoshop to tweak and test the details. It requires a lot of “back and forth” till finish. Take his Raccoonicorn as an example, he created many variations and painted its wings five different times just to get the pink right. For him, having one main idea is good, but since he often finds better approaches along the way, it is rare to foresee how a piece would look like in the beginning.
Jim’s YouTube channel currently has 21k followers. The Scarecrow on Vimeo has got over 206K views. People flocked to his signing at the New York ComicCon earlier this month. Yet it is interesting to see how such quaintness fares in the mainstream commercial world. One of his designs, Gut Guy for Valeant’s, turned out controversial, though the bowel-shaped mascot still “attended” this year’s Super Bowl. A FiercePharma article reported “comments skew negative with words like ‘disturbing’ and ‘creepy.’” I personally find it adorable, but understand how some people might feel uncomfortable toward it.