Miniature works of art from pencils
One of the most fundamental art materials, pencils may be used for everything from technical drawings to creating very complex paintings. Nevertheless, the detailed pencil lead statues created by Bosnian artist Jasenko “orevi” elevate pencil art to new levels. He painstakingly creates every piece, utilising the delicate graphite core as his canvas, converting every pencil from a simple art-making instrument into a work of art in and of itself.
Orevi, who has always been attracted to creating small-scale artwork, tried out a number of different materials before settling on pencil lead. Dalton Ghetti, a founder in this kind of art, served as his initial source of inspiration for him to attempt his hand at small pencil sculpture. Nevertheless, the gifted artist has now infused the medium with his unique style and passion, learning from mistakes along the way.
We had the opportunity to speak with the tiny artist and discover more about his method and love for creating sculptures out of pencil leads. Continue reading for an exclusive conversation with Jasenko Orevi from My Contemporary Met.
How did your passion in miniatures first start?
I’ve always demonstrated passion for art miniatures—as far back as I can remember. My first experiences with sketching and forms were in preprimary school, and even then, the size of my paintings on the paper was quite modest. I also sculpted tiny clay figures. But the content altered as well as I did. I formerly had a strong interest in origami, the practise of folding paper. I set out to create the tiniest form I could, which I succeeded in doing in 2000. I folded a tiny paper boat that was 1mm in diameter using a sheet of paper that was 1.5mm by 2.5mm. I submitted an application to the Guinness Book of Records; however, it was denied for administrative grounds. Of course, I was informed that, at least temporarily, they did not have a similar record.
When my brother provided me a reference to an artist named Dalton Ghetti, who is thought to be the originator of this art, at the start of 2010, he challenged me to create something akin. This is how I first learned about the craft of cutting graphite. After a few days, I was capable of sending him the completed work. Although the initial statue wasn’t very good, it was enough to pique my interest in this genre of art. Ghetti was the only sculptor creating these kinds of statues at the time I started, and after me, a few more artists followed suit.
What is it about pencils in specific that makes you want to stick with that tool for all of your work?
Although it has always been a tool for creating art, in this case the pencil is the art itself. And that was the initial inspiration for me. The pencil has always held a lot of symbolic value for me, as well as every piece that is made from it has a purpose and a backstory. The second justification is the difficulty that graphite presents. Graphite is a delicate, damaged or broken substance. To prevent any interruptions during manufacturing, it takes a lot of focus over an extended period. Additionally, there isn’t much room, particularly not for mistakes, as the diameter of the pencil ranges from 0.5mm to 0.4mm (depending on the pencil). A mistake is defined as a deviation of tenths of a millimetre. Each artwork presents a different difficulty, and the way it is finished is completely unforeseen.
How do you generally come up with your sculpture inspiration?
My motivations typically change with the project. Pop art is sometimes required for a project. In other cases, the motivation comes from the natural world, well-known architectural structures, replicas of well-known works of art, etc. Additionally, I frequently make sculptures that address a certain social issue, both locally and internationally. I started out by drawing simple shapes that would fit on the graphite surface without any difficulty. My artworks today are far more difficult and labor-intensive. The majority of the time, the client selects the design, and I really like these best since they are objective.
I consider the technique that will be followed as well as any possible risks during manufacturing while deciding what to sculpt. When I examine everything, the majority of ideas are immediately dismissed. The client is largely ignorant of the sculpture-making process and has no understanding of the risks. They are also unaware of the sculpture’s proportions and other specifics. The client only understands what they are looking for in a design, and it is my job to bring that vision to life. Of course, there are instances when I have to decline a project because it is not technically feasible.
What steps are involved in making each piece?
The first step is picking a design. There are limitations to the graphite’s surface, therefore not all concepts can be put into practise. I start by sketching a motif of the final product on the pencil. Second, I make an estimation of the sculpture’s weak spots—the locations where it might readily crumble. I prepare the appropriate equipment (different kinds of surgical scalpels) based on the design I select and the type of pencil (round or square), and then the procedure may start. There are two stages to the carving process.I try to obtain a general idea of the artwork during the initial stage, which can take anywhere between five and ten hours and suggests what the ultimate piece will look like.
I take a few elevated pictures after the first stage to check whether any more adjustments are necessary. Since the artworks are only 4mm in diameter and 10–20mm high, it is incredibly challenging to see even the smallest details with the naked eye. Phase two may start if I am convinced that the artwork fits all of my desired aesthetic standards. The second step is the detail phase, during which all the small details are completed. It might take up to 2 days to complete this part, which calls for a microscope and depends on how complicated the artwork is. The statue will be finished once phase two is finished. I take a few pictures for my archive as the final step and serialise each one.
What aspect of your artistic career has proven to be the most difficult?
The hardest part was starting from scratch because I didn’t know how to carve statues at the time; I only had the concept. I utilised the pencil as a tool without giving its thickness, the quality of its graphite, or even its identifying marks (H and B) any thought. Additionally, there are no tools designed specifically for this kind of work. I eventually discovered the ideal pencil and the appropriate instruments after learning the variations in graphite types and their hardness.
What has proven to be most satisfying?
That would have to be between 2015 and 2016, when online forums and different news organisations started to take an interest in my work. It consequently spread throughout the rest of the planet. I had a lot of doors open to me during that time. Even in Norway, I held my first global show. I believe I made the right choice at that very moment to follow this particular course of action.
Have you worked on a specific project or piece that you particularly enjoy?
A couple of my endeavours and causes hold a special place in my heart. I created a series of sculptures for Project Literacy that reflect on civil rights as one of them. Helping those who have been wronged was a purpose of the assignment I conducted for Amnesty International. These initiatives allow me to use my work to address a variety of social issues, which is why I enjoy working on them.
Do you have any more information to give about your work?
I’ve been doing this for quite some time, and I’ve never grown tired of it. In addition to chances, significance, and joy, it has most crucially offered me liberty. Liberation from the routine of daily life, as well as, occasionally, independence from my own thoughts.