How to buy a $75,000 piece of art for $1,200!

Cai Guo-Qiang's Tiger and Eagle

Cai Guo-Qiang's Tiger and Eagle

Stick Vega's Overburn

Stick Vega's Overburn

In 2007, the artist of my inspiration, Cai Gou-Qiang sold a a painting for $601,000 at Christie's in New York City.  The piece, Tiger and Eagle, is gunpowder and ink on paper and roughly 118 x 157 inches.  I love it.  

But in thinking about it and doing a few calculations I computed the cost per square inch of Tiger and Eagle is $32.44.  My work, Overburn by comparison is 52 cents per square inch.  At 48 x 48, Overburn is less than 2% of the cost.  At this market valuation Overburn could be worth roughly $75,000.  Incredibly, you can buy it today for $1,200.

I learned my process by watching Cai work.  My work is smaller.  Brighter.  And in some cases I do more pop (pun intended) art than abstract work.  But, I use the same gunpowder.  The same black powder, fuses, fire and explosion.  The cool uncertainty of the explosion and burn is a great feature of my art.

So one of two things. I need to charge a lot more for my work.  Or, you need to buy a Stick Vega.  I hope you love my art and find value in it!  

Boom!

Stick Vega is the American Gunpowder Artist.  He creates modern, primitive, explosive art and blogs from Stick Vega Studios in Madison, WI and Bucktown, Chicago, IL.  Follow Stick at Facebook and/or Twitter

 

 

How To Make Explosive Gunpowder Art!

Harald. The Norwegian.

Harald. The Norwegian.

Harald. Explosion.

Harald. Explosion.

Discovered. (Sold)

Discovered. (Sold)

Gunpowder. Acrylic. Paper. Boom!

Gunpowder. Acrylic. Paper. Boom!

Here are seven of my key points.  Seven rules of thumb.  Seven stepping stones. Seven things I did not learn in MBA school.  Follow these religiously and you will see explosive results, or at least an explosion!

1. Make sure your audience will care about what you are making.  Then blow it up! 

2. Make sure your gunpowder is dry.  Nothing is worse than doing a lot of planning, prep work, laying the gunpowder, then lighting the fuse and nothing happens.  A dud.  A disappointment.  This sucks!

3.  Bring a gang of your friends and customers over when you explode your art.   If three or more of them hate your work, you might have a problem.  Or, perhaps you are a genius.  Talk to them, figure it out.  Blow it up again!

4.  A bigger explosion does not mean a happy ending.  Your fans will love bigger, but the art sometimes gets blown to bits.  So it goes like this.  Light the fuse.  Boom.  Everyone cheers!  Then you pull out the art.  A charred mess.  Fans look at you like "WTF". 

5.  Love your work. But have some conflict.  Gunpowder naturally conflicts with things. Blow it up.

6.  Pick the design and look of your art.   Think about it over and over again.  Visualize it in the shower, when you are out for a walk, even when you are at Genna's Lounge.  See what happens in your mind.  How all the substrates, paints, explosion and fire interact.  Hear the explosion.  Feel the heat of it (don't stand too close).  This is your art.

7.  Draw it. Paint it.  Know your situation.  Will the neighbors narc?  Will the surrounding foliage start on fire? If not, light the fuse. Explode it.  Brush it off.  Frame it. Hang it. Admire it.  Be proud.  This is your work.    Few people get this far.

So creating some incredibly beautiful gunpowder art isn't rocket science, if you know what you are doing.  Follow these steps and you will see results.  Or, at least you will have a blast trying.    And who knows, if you know how to handle fire, you'll  know how to light up a room.  

Please hit me up and follow along.  There are a lot more tips, images and artwork on facebook and my blog!

Here is a follow up post for a more details! 

How To Make Explosive Gunpowder Art! (An Open Letter)

Boom!

Stick Vega is the American Gunpowder Artist.  He creates and blogs from Stick Vega Studios in Madison, WI and Bucktown, Chicago, IL.  Follow Stick at Facebook and/or Twitter

 

 

 

Vega Exploding Experiments!

BUZZMAN #5  stencil and gunpowder.

BUZZMAN #5 stencil and gunpowder.

BUZZMAN #5

BUZZMAN #5

Rock and fuse. Prepping  AQUA BUZZ .

Rock and fuse. Prepping AQUA BUZZ.

AQUA BUZZ  explosion.

AQUA BUZZ explosion.

AQUA BUZZ

AQUA BUZZ

I've been on the hunt for a way to produce new looks with gunpowder.  And, I have had a desire to make a few smaller, more intimate pieces. Over the past several weeks I have been testing new papers a few new techniques.  Two of them have brought great results.

The first technique was to cover and wrap the gunpowder artwork with cardboard prior to blowing it up.  I used watercolor for a base color and shape.  Then cut out a stencil to protect the main design from the blast.  I put a layer of gunpowder on the piece and created a form by moving it into place with a small brush. Next, I covered the entire piece with cardboard and put rocks on top of it to force the blast back into the piece. 

I exploded the artwork.  Flames shot out the side of the cardboard.  I loved what the fire and explosions left behind.  The result, BUZZMAN #5, looks like the lines of an explosion imprinted on the piece with a nice gritty texture.  I will continue to work in this process with both watercolor and guache. 

The next experiment was using one of my classic techniques with gunpowder and high speed fuse held by rocks on a new acrylic coated paper.  The fuses burn so hot and destroy most substrates.  But in this case the paper chars and erupts with texture, but does not burn through.  The first of these is AQUA BUZZ.  Small in scale but big in impact.

I love the uncertainty of the explosions and the resulting work.  Pushing to learn more techniques and tesing new substrates gives me more tools in the arsenal to create beautiful art.  Boom! 

Artists Among Us: Stick Vega

The Monona Lakesider, page 2,  March edition.

The Monona Lakesider, page 2,  March edition.

Stick Vega and  BUZZING.

Stick Vega and BUZZING.

Explosion event.

Explosion event.

Written by Rachel Digman and published in the March edition of The Monona Lakesider (BVM).

Artists Among Us is a chance for you to meet and appreciate painters, writers, bloggers, musicians, dancers, and other artists in the greater Madison area. Each month we’ll interview a local artist about their life and latest work. Enjoy the inspiration provided by your neighboring artists.

Long-time Monona resident, Chris Vig, also known as Stick Vega, is an artist who has a blast, literally. Working with gunpowder, fuses, and more typical art materials, Stick explodes his art to create a final piece. Check out more about his work and explosions at www.stickvega.com. 

BVM: How does your background in Mathematics and Economics inform or play a role in your art?

Stick: There are two types of math - pure and applied. Higher level math, “pure math”, is very abstract and creative, much like painting and poetry. Some of the math “geeks” I know are the most creative people I have ever met. Gunpowder, fire, explosions, and substrates all have physical problems. In a “pure” sense, I am driven by abstract problems and in an “applied” way I use fuse and gunpowder to make them concrete. I tread both grounds.

BVM: What inspired you to explode your artwork?

I had been painting for a number of years. Then, in 2007, I read an article in the New York Times about Chinese gunpowder artist Cai Gou-Qiang. He had just completed some massive gunpowder murals and was preparing the fireworks show for the 2008 Olympics. The process looked incredibly fun and the results were beautiful. I learned many of the basic techniques I use from watching him. I then developed my own artistic way of doing it. My work is much smaller, more intimate. I continue to learn and evolve.

BVM: What was one of your most exciting explosions?

The first piece I did, THE ORIGINAL STICK was a blast! We had friends at our house for a cocktail party. I had just received some high-speed fuses and the base compounds to mix gunpowder. I did a small sketch on a 24” square board. Friends watched warily as I mixed the gunpowder then sprinkled it on the board. It did not look like enough, so I put more gunpowder on the piece. Then, even more. At that point I layered some cardboard on top to force the blast back into the piece along with some rocks from the garden. I placed many rocks from our garden on top of it. I lit the 20-foot fuse.  Nearly immediately, and before anyone was prepared, the piece ignited. Boom! There was way too much gunpowder. Rocks blew into the air and all over our guests!  All the oxygen was sucked out of the area. A thirty-foot high mushroom cloud of white smoke appeared. I was hooked.  I still have the piece - it looks cool.

BVM: Would you describe the inspiration behind one of your favorite works of art?

Stick: BUZZING (2012) was inspired by my crazy dog. Working with high-speed fuses and gunpowder shaped and held in place by rocks, the painting was exploded onto red/orange acrylic painted board. The result expresses happy energy and is bold, bright, and textured.  BUZZING was recently acquired at the One Inspired Evening art auction to help the homeless in Chicago.

BVM: What advice/words of wisdom would you give to artists who are looking to push the boundaries with their artwork?

I would say to keep trying things. Don’t settle. Study. Learn. Test. Try again. If you find a process you like, work on it every day. I work on my art 7 days a week. Some days for just a few minutes, others for hours at a time. Realize that perhaps out of an uncertain, smoky, hazy, explosive process, comes something beautiful. And, if you are going to try painting with gunpowder, start small!

The Original Stick

THE ORIGNAL STICK

THE ORIGNAL STICK

The first piece I did, THE ORIGINAL STICK was a blast!  We had friends at our house for a cocktail party.  I had just received some high speed fuses and the base compounds to mix gunpowder.   I did a small sketch of my trademarked stickman on a 24” square board.  Friends watched warily as I mixed the gunpowder then sprinkled it on the board.  It did not look like enough, so I put more gunpowder on the piece.  Then, even more.  At that point I layered some cardboard on top to force the blast back into the piece.   I placed many rocks from our garden on top of it.  I ran about a 20 foot length of fuse to it, thinking it would give us some space and time to get to a safe distance and anticipate the explosion.  

I lit the fuse.  And, it was a fuse that burns ten feet per second (which was much faster than expected).  Nearly immediately, and before anyone was prepared, the  piece ignited.  Boom!  There was a huge flash. There was way too much gunpowder.  Rocks blew into the air and all over our guests!  All the oxygen was sucked out of the area.  A thirty foot high mushroom cloud of white smoke appeared.    

I was hooked.  I still have the piece, it looks cool.