Mitch McGee calls what he does “somewhere between painting and sculpture.” First, he illustrates an idea and then he cuts, sands and stains individual wood pieces by hand. Then, he starts building – from top to bottom – assembling the final pop art piece, sanding and staining the exposed edges.
“The most challenging part of the process is figuring out the layering,” he tells us. “The piece changes from the original sketch a little as I go because what works on paper doesn't always work three dimensionally. I want everything to stack up in a way that makes sense so, even if most of a layer is hidden, the edges need to match the layer on top of it.”
From illustration to framing, one individual work of art can take McGee, on average, between 35 and 40 hours to complete. The artist doesn't mind the laborious work, however, stating, “I love working on these. I love watching them come together as the layers start to stack up.”
If you thought McGee's art seems to be influenced by American pop art legend Roy Lichtenstein, you'd be right. “Lichtenstein with a Red Bow was the first piece that started me down this rabbit hole,” he says. “I have always been fascinated with pop art and the ability of artists like Lichtenstein and Oldenburg to take everyday objects we are bombarded with and make them fascinating. Roy Lichtenstein took comic strips and repositioned them as lithography. In an almost tongue in cheek fashion, I wondered how I could take one of his pieces and recreate it in another medium?
“The easy answer for me was wood. I grew up working with it, and combined with my graphic design background it left me with something that I think really works.”
Birch Stack Pieces
So where is McGee going to take his work next?
“I am going to run with it a little while and work on a few pieces that feel nostalgic to me,” he says. “There is something about the wood that softens the colors and along with the grain really gives these pieces a vintage feel. I spend most of my day thinking about new ideas and different directions to take these and I want to try them all. I have always worked with oils and mixed media, but in a way this almost feels like a new medium, and I am really enjoying the process.”