With different inlays different challenges are presented. With Mona Lisa the challenge was to recreate an inlay so it had the textures and transitions of a painting. With the Last Supper the painting techniques are less defined, and because the original is in such poor shape, many artists have put their own spin on what the original might have looked like. These representations generally don’t have the kind of dramatic painting effects the Mona Lisa exhibits.
Originally, I had proposed that we put the Last Supper on the back of the guitar. My reasoning was a bit selfish—I would have much more space and, therefore, the inlay could be as big as possible. We quickly abandoned that idea because it would be a disservice to the subject matter. By moving it to the pickguard, the size of the inlay had to be reduced by more than 50%, meaning that we would have to reproduce one of the greatest pieces of art in history within a space of six inches. Keep in mind that the original covers an entire wall!!!
In any art form artists develop their own “signature” something that seems to be a key element to their style. If I had to give a single word explanation about what is unique about me it would be “scale.” I have always been a bit obsessed with making realistic representations on a tiny scale. Even as a child in my earliest artistic endeavors in the model car world, I felt the need to hand paint the letters on the tires and use black thread for plug wires. As an inlay artist I pride myself in being able to cut tiny pieces and combine them to create a photo-realistic composition. The greatest challenge isn’t just cutting a piece, but also manipulating it so that it ends up where it belongs and not on the floor. I like to joke about how the floor of my shop has one of the most elaborate inlays ever created hiding in the cracks somewhere. I have always been amazed how, as I cut tiny scraps of material, broken sawblades fall directly under the cutting board, but when I drop a valuable piece it somehow ends up in the next room. Many is the time I have found myself crawling on the floor looking for some microscopic piece of shell, Corian or precious metal. I usually spend far more time doing this than it would take to cut a new piece, but I just can’t help myself. Maybe it’s necessary so I get up out of my chair and get some exercise.
Parts of this inlay were better than a treadmill. Here is a sneak peek at the pattern:
- Harvey Leach, on behalf of Martin Guitar