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Sculpted Trees with Nest of Succulents

Nesting Trees2
The succulents have four to five inches of soil,
I don't need to water them. The nesting material is composed of
bright green moss from pines in my area,
circling the pots of succulents, along with Spanish moss.
Birds steal the nesting material, leaving threads of moss
to randomly cover the bases. I don't mind the mess.

I am currently at work on the idea of concrete bonsai
with succulent folliage.

these photos by Allan Droyan



I cannot help but bring my ideas to life. First, I made a line drawing of the idea of bishop pines in the distance, then another in close-up, a drawing of the tree's foliage represented by a sketch of a circular cage for the life at the top of each tree. Don't trees protect nests? My abstract drawing drew me to make it real. I used galvanized fencing and threaded steel as superstructure, bending and twisting the metal wires together to emulate my drawing's gesture of a cage at the top of a trunk and branches. The root structure grasping the pedestal base appeared like gnarled fingers reminding me of stepping over roots while walking through a pine forest. I felt no need to weld this tightly wound wire sculpture; it was stable. The trunk of threaded steel penetrated one foot into the base of concrete, sand, and Pearlite. My trees can sway in the wind.

My superstructure was sprayed with a waterproof primer and left to dry for twenty four hours; I then put my first coat of freshly made paint over it.

I had to invent the paint; I chose a commercial concrete bonding agent, mixed into it a liquid latex, to this I added the cement. I discovered that latex at full strength curdled the cement regardless of how little cement I added, so I watered the latex down until that liquid mixture and bonding agent would accept the cement to make my paint. My final mixture was that of a thick gravy I could use with a brush.

I waited a few hours between coatings. I painted the sculptures four times, building up to what you see here, much like how an abalone paints its shell, layer on top of layer. The feel of the final dry/cured concrete is that of linoleum.

They have been in the elements for over six months, going through winter, spring and now summer. I don't see any degradation from the extremes in temperature from full sunshine to shadows.

- James Maxwell

Nesting Trees 3

Nesting Trees 4

Wisteria Left
  Wisteria Center
  Wisteria Right

My first three paintings coming back after cataract surgery, two foot square acrylic paintings on raw canvas; the arbor of wisteria covers my patio studio.
I revisited this subject matter, as twelve years earlier I painted this four foot by eight foot canvas of the arbor. (see below)
I had applied metalic leaf at the time to the background to suggest the glare I was experiencing, not realizing that was the first sign of the cataracts.
These paintings are for sale from my personal collection.

Large Wisteria

The Bone Planter
Planter Embedded with Bones and Succulents Growing


The Bone Planters

Personality - succulents are quirky folks - I love them; they are opinionated, hearty, they don't demand much but they do catch my eye.

In my travels into the Western Pacific I continually got caught off balance by the power of the islander's art. I've indulged a study of my viseral reactions to objects since my teens. A surface decoration can make you think/react in terms of why the hair on the back of one's neck stands up. I look for that, it means something is going on between the observer, and the art maker. Some folks call this scoochy phenomena, ju ju.

I had saved all the bones from my cooking throughout the holidays, put them next to the fireplace to dry enough to clean them with a wire brush in the spring. I painted some white, some black. When those were wrapped in a stainless steel picture wire with extra wire to be embedded within the concrete mixture, I painted bright acrylic colors patterns like Japanese candy wrappers.

After one session I had used up all my bones with wires attached, and had only about twenty-five remaining I would attach them the following day; I called it quits, and left everything outside overnight. A racoon came by and chewed all the ends off my extra bones, ruining them. It took two barbequed chickens from Safeway, picked clean, and a box of bones from a friend to complete the project. I used a deer jaw, dog's vertebra, breastbone from a turkey, and some long bones from a cat. When the vessel was cured I poured Ferrous Sulfate over the rim and let it drip down staining the concrete a bloody rust.

The racoon has not returned; it must be my ju ju.

My next painting after cataract surgery, I chose one of my sparrow planters as my subject matter. I like the look of the patio after hosing it down. All the plants seem to love that. I tend to get inspired from the humidity being a watercolorist, maybe it is all the reflections. However I've been using acrylic
so I followed my inclination to work my painting wet on wet
This painting is on raw canvas stretched over a waxed two foot square piece
of quarter inch plywood. I adhere the canvas with Gorilla tape.

I like acrylic now – I don't need to put my paintings behind glass.

Painting Blue Succulents


The Sparrow Planters

I chose the behavior of nest building from swallows to make some planters. They use mud; I use wet cement – one daub at a time for a perfect meditation on staying on purpose. You can read a further account of my musings during the creative process here: http://www.mendocinostories.com/ART_J_Maxwell.html

Three Sparrow Planters

The Bone Planter

Eldon Ljubljana Slovenia

Watercolor during vacation to Ljubljana, Slovenia - August 2012

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last entry Dec 15, 2012

Recent Work 20202019 - 2018201720162015201420132012


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This site promotes James Maxwell - multimedia artist and author.

Its contents supports the work of James Maxwell multimedia artist and writer. As a graphic designer his work consists of being a teacher of watercolors, oils, acrylic, and other graphic media. He is commissioned for paintings in private collections, and public venues. His print works ranges from etchings to glicee. Author of "The Concrete Gourmet's Cookbook - Solid Recipes" - the book consists of 12 chapter of how to make objects using the referred concrete recipes, cement recipes, using concrete as fine art material, cement as media. The how-to use these concrete projects range from making garden planters to food safe serving vessels, worm bunkers to sculptural mixes, and day to day usable objects to follies.

Names and words associated with James Maxwell are: artist James Maxwell, author James Maxwell, illustrator, Graphic designer, painter, watercolorist, sculptor, multimedia artist, writer, The Concrete Gourmet's Cookbook, cement recipes, concrete recipes, how-to mix concrete, concrete art projects.

© James Maxwell 2010 | P.O. Box 2627 | Fort Bragg, CA 95437 | jasmax@mcn.org