[Today’s featured artwork for Day 99 of the 365 Days Project is by Gary LeMaster]
Pushing the boundaries of the traditional Easter Egg – and how a color-blind boy became an artist…
#99 – The Artist Mind knows no limitations. Anything is possible.
I was actually looking for pysanky. I wanted to write a special post for Easter featuring artwork that celebrated the holiday, so I began with the obvious – artists who create those highly decorated Ukranian Easter eggs using wax-resist to produce their intricate designs. I was amazed at the incredible talent and workmanship I found, but was hoping to come across an artist who pushed the boundaries of this traditional craft.
Not only did I find what I was looking for, I also discovered a story of luck, fate and creative perseverance.
Gary LeMaster has been producing art in one form or another all his life. He was awarded a scholarship in music, but turned it down to pursue a teaching degree – not in art, but in history and English. LeMaster is color-blind, so his visual art was limited to pencil, charcoal and pen and ink, which he practiced every day. “I never took any art courses beyond art appreciation,” he said, “because I didn’t think I was good enough.”
LeMaster received a teaching degree in Spanish and was offered a fellowship to obtain his Master’s, followed by another sizable fellowship to study for his PhD. As he was working towards his degree, synchronicity and creative perseverance changed the course of his life. “As luck would have it,” he said, “I’d taken more graduate courses than I actually needed, but still had fellowship money left. So I hustled myself over to the Art Department to enroll in some beginning art courses, full of excitement and dreams. When I tried to enroll, they refused, saying that I was a grad student and therefore couldn’t take undergraduate classes.”
The only possibility would be for LeMaster to take graduate classes in art, but he would first have to be accepted and admitted. He was required to present a portfolio of his artwork to the graduate faculty who would determine whether or not his work was good enough for admission.
“With my lack of confidence, I’ll never know why I put together some of my work and stood before that stern-looking semi-circle of frowning faces. They asked me to leave the room and it seemed an eternity before I was called back. In fact, I’d almost fled in the meantime.”
“When I stood before them again, I was greeted with smiles, handshakes and congratulations on being admitted. You could have knocked me over with a feather! I began taking graduate art courses, wishing every day that I’d had enough confidence to have been an undergraduate art major to begin with, but life takes some strange paths at times.”
Sice then Gary LeMaster has won numerous awards for his artwork, especially for book covers as well as his pencil and pen and ink work.
Expanding his creative talents to the sculptural form, LeMaster began carving eggs, using a dental handpiece powered by an air compressor which generates over 400,000 rpms for the burrs to do their job.
“I personally believe that the time-honored traditions of egg decorating are too exquisite to be lost in the hustle and bustle of modern life,” he said, “and I have tried to take the art to a new level.”
And then another twist of fate. While LeMaster was working in an administrative position, the art director of the facility heard about what he was doing with eggshells and asked him to do a one-man show. “I had a blast standing among viewers of the exhibition listening to what they had to say,” said the artist, “until TV crews and newspapers had my face everywhere and I could no longer travel incognito among the onlookers. I sold a satisfying number of eggs and frequently, around Easter, some editor or producer would remember me and it would start all over again.”
“I’m extremely difficult to please when it comes to my own work,” said LeMaster. “If it doesn’t meet my standards or if it doesn’t look exactly like I’d envisioned it, it hits the basement floor without anyone ever having seen it.”
Gary LeMaster‘s artwork can be viewed at: The Eggshell Sculptor
Description of the images included in this post:
Small Lotus, Trapped, Cameo, Captured Teardrop
Gary LeMaster, Iowa, USA
Carved goose eggs
Lotus, Jigsaw, ReoGeo
Gary LeMaster, Iowa, USA
Carved rhea eggs
Michael Jackson, The Beatles
Gary LeMaster, Iowa, USA
Carved hen eggs
The 365 Days Project
In 2012, Serena Kovalosky committed to writing an article a day for 365 days as an exploration into the lives of artists and the value of creative thinking in our society.
Experience the full evolution of the project! Click below to read the entire collection of articles.
Thank you for bringing Gary LeMaster to our attention. The whimsy or was it courage to step out of the box made all the difference. Oh to follow his example
Often, it’s the artist’s need to create that overrides all obstacles. We might not be thinking how courageous we are when we’re doing it – we just know in our bones it’s what we have to do.