Nearly 1,000 nails pounded, 15,000 left to go

Well, I’m not sure what the upper limit actually is, but it’s a lot. If every “pixel” was filled in, then it would be 22,500, but much of the canvas is without nails. I’m doing it on 3/4″ plywood, and I have this terrible paranoia that it’s going to self destruct as I’m 90% finished threading it and have a muscley swollen right Popeye arm. My general procedure is to mark out a little 5×5 grid of dots using a white-out pen and then I use marker to “label” what kind of nail each will be, selecting from a brass screw, a dark metal nail, or the same thing but rusty, a light galvanized nail, or a copper roofing nail. Then I pound guide holes for the screws, and then nail everything in from shortest to longest and then add the screws. In addition to a couple hammers I have a few nail holders (regular tweezers, and some DIY clamps I made for the purpose out of plastic and foam) and a screwdriver with the head cut off for pounding nails that are below the average landscape height, and also for slightly shifting the position of nails.

This is how far I’ve gotten as of this evening:

The whole thing is 48″ square, so four feet by four feet. I really may have bitten off more than I can chew, but I am trying to fill in absolutely every single moment of my life with something. The second I sit down and am not really focused on something else I descend into the abyss of pain that this damned disease keeps me in. To be honest, even blogging or watching television or any cerebral activity can often not be enough to keep my mind off the hellish agony. So I’ve got a lot of projects on the go. Obviously I can’t pound nails at night (my neighbor Chriznik of Effigy was really cool with me when I moved in and moved his band’s jam space to be considerate of me, so I feel horribly guilty about the wall-penetrating noise already, to say nothing of annoying Caitlin) so tonight I’m going to work on a stuffed animal project — I’m making safety eyes and so on out of plastic resin and this is the test project.

Oh and I also made a ruler that’s got 5/16″ spacing that’s in the picture above, but if I do this again, and I am not sure I would because of how long it takes unless I took on a $$$-generous commission, I have already thought up quite a few things that would streamline the process of creation significantly. Finally, if it’s not obvious from the picture what all those nails are supposed to represent, here it is in context:

I just realized this may be my first true self-portrait since high school, although I guess the paintings that I made for Caitlin for Christmas sort of count, but it’s not the same thing. I’d say this is a self-portrait in the focused, dedicated, formal and traditional sense of the word.

I have so much that I am mad about and want to write about — nothing personal, don’t worry, just more about politics and healthcare and space travel and all the myriad other things that bubble out of my tormented mind — and it seems hard for me to maintain focus on writing without getting worked up, but I think I’m going to leave that for another time because it always ends up taking so much longer than I realize at the time, and I get into pounding away at this keyboard and suddenly I realize that two hours have gone past that I could have spent doing so much more useful things. So see ya later alligator.

Oh yeah — tonight I’m going to start reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s Gifts to Nefarious which I’m hoping will be good. We just finished Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson, which on one hand was a fun and light read, but on the other hand was bizarrely peppered with homophobia and racism, enough that I felt I should post a warning review to Amazon about it, because to my surprise, even though there are a great many reviews of the book in various prints, not a single reviewer has mentioned this.

Should I be upset? I found it odd to say the least.


  1. Jilary wrote:

    I really love the nail self portrait! It looks like it will be amazing when it’s completed.

    Monday, January 24, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Permalink
  2. Mona wrote:

    I love it, immediately made me think of G√ľnther Uecker’s work.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  3. Zandelion wrote:

    I’m reading Le Guin’s The Dispossessed at the moment. It could be a good antidote to a homophobic and racist work.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink
  4. Pyro Lizard wrote:

    Hope your doctors get your comfort level back up soon, Shannon. I really miss your political, and science musings.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Permalink
  5. veg wrote:

    I second Zandelion, The Dispossessed is one of the most brilliant sci-fi/social critiques I’ve ever read!

    Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 4:53 am | Permalink
  6. sfhellwig wrote:

    The self portrait is intriguing. Not that I am inclined to do a portrait of myself but what better medium. Would make an interesting image of the most mundane. Not that Shannon’s image is uninteresting in the slightest.

    I fear for the longevity of your plywood also. Depending on what type of ply you used. Something low grade will surely crack or delaminate. Cabinet grade might have a chance. Pending how deep you are driving these and what the back starts to look like, I would be ready with a second sheet of material to laminate to. MDF would not have been any better on it’s own but would make an excellent receiver for your image, should it need reinforcement.

    How much does 16,000 nails weigh anyway?

    Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  7. Michael wrote:

    Not to burst your bubble but email me, I have a way to do this with a cnc machine that would take like hmm, 10 minutes?…and could be done wiht anyones face.

    Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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