Dale Chihuly


Several years ago I spent some time exploring different artists across multiple disciplines. One of the first artists I found that truly ‘spoke’ to me was Dale Chihuly and his glass blowing work. Aside from the work itself (which is a delight and influenced me heavily in my own aesthetic and tastes) his story is inspirational. He literally turned his craft/medium/art/profession on its head and it hasn’t been the same since.

This article is my introduction to his work and why I believe it’s relevant for 3D Artists (particularly those working in layout, lighting and texturing).

Who is he?

Dale Chihuly is an artist whose work takes the form of beautiful glass sculptures and installations, each exploring colour and form in new and natural ways. He was one of the first glass-blowers to take the step from solitary work to building teams in order to create something larger and more intricate.
After studying architecture, he became fascinated with blown glass in the early to mid 1960s and has been furthering the craft/art form ever since with his installations, research, and innovations. A lot of his influences come from his past; his mother’s gardens in Tacoma, his childhood, and his love of the sea.
When he first started out there was a huge amount of respect for his medium, which enabled him to learn from established professionals and study in the first hot glass program in the US (University of Wisconsin).

What Makes Him Noteworthy?

Where Chihuly excels is in his interpretation of life; he uses glass to portray contrasts and forms that you’ll never quite find in nature but are so obviously influenced by them. In fact his work, I would argue, is all about contrast. Light and dark, man made and natural, colour. For an example of this look at the Black Series (shown in examples below), where he spent a lot of time setting the scene with darkness to show off the bright light, colour and life of his forms.

Perhaps more importantly he, as a person, pushed the boundaries of what’s ‘acceptable’ and ‘normal’ in his field. Through building such strong teams and creating such large pieces in glass he’s challenging many of the old stereotypes surrounding glass. Once thought of as a solitary craft, he’s shown us that it can be a collaborative art. He’s doing what he loves because he loves it without worrying what anyone else will think.

Here Are Some Examples Of His Work

Mille Fiori V

Mille Fiori V

Ivory Black Venetian With Cobolt Leaves (Black Series)

Ivory Black Venetian With Cobolt Leaves (Black Series)

Onyx & Kelp Green Fiori (Black Series)

Onyx & Kelp Green Fiori (Black Series)

Yellow Boat

Yellow Boat

What 3D Artists Can Learn

There are two main lessons to take from Dale’s work. First, the way in which he carries out that work directly challenged what was normal by involving more than one person in the production; for 3D Artists we’re used to working with teams, although there are more examples now of people creating films, games, etc alone. What you can take from Dale is to just do what feels right when approaching your work – if that means adding another person, great! If it means working alone, do that. Working on large, super powerful computers? Done. Working on one decent laptop where rendering takes hours for anything complex? You can make that work too.

You are not your circumstances and your industry doesn’t necessarily dictate your work.

The second lesson is linked more closely to the actual work; Look for contrasts in what you’re doing. The eye is drawn to those first and the more you can add into your artwork the more compelling your scenes will be. You can do this through light, dark, and colour, but you can also do this with subject matter.

It’s also a vital component of story-telling, which links it directly to our Mastery series.

Next Steps

What I’d like you to do now is think of your favourite artist and write a comment below telling me who that is and why. I just shared one of my favourites with you; I’d love to hear who you admire.

To view more of Dale Chihuly’s works and explore similar artists, check out his page on Artsy.

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