Today on Artist Strong we welcome Bob Morehead, a self-taught artist and musician who has been creating his entire life. His most ambitious project is Bob’s Toothpick City. The city has been under construction for many years and currently consists of well over 300,000 toothpicks. No molds or forms have been used in the building process, just toothpicks and wood glue. Bob also paints and draws mixed media abstract pieces.
Carrie: Can you please describe your artwork to Artist Strong readers?
I use toothpicks, wood glue and my imagination to create structures and sculptures of various sizes. A small piece may consist of only a few hundred toothpicks, while my larger projects are several thousands of toothpicks.
Carrie: How did you come to discover toothpicks as an artist medium?
About 35 years ago I visited Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum in St. Augustine, Florida. There was a very tall toothpick Eiffel Tower on display and I thought to myself, I can do this.
Carrie: When did you first realize your passion for the arts?
I realized my passion at a very early age. I’ve always been interested in creating, painting, drawing and I’ve been a professional musician for close to 30 years.
Carrie: How do you get ideas for new projects?
In different ways, the most interesting being having a dream over and over about an idea, waking up and bringing it to life.
Carrie: How does your life experience and emotional state feed into your art?
I was born in Naples, Italy and all the beautiful seaside towns throughout the country are seared in my mind from which I draw inspiration to this day.
Carrie: Can you describe your artistic process to readers? For example, do you follow the same pattern and track when you develop an artwork from idea to product?
This may sound a bit cliché but I usually allow the pieces to build themselves, realizing new ideas as I go. I don’t have a basic blueprint or routine that I follow, and I don’t enjoy building replicas of structures.
Carrie: How do you know when a project is completed?
That’s a tough question to answer. Of all the works I’ve created over the years, I don’t consider any of them fully completed, though they appear to be. For example, I’ll have a painting or toothpick sculpture that has sat around for some time; I’ll get an idea and work on it again. My Toothpick City, while complete enough to display, will never be finished. I’ll just keep letting it grow.
Carrie: How do your interests outside of art fuel your artwork?
I think everyday life in general inspires me and gives me fuel to create.
Carrie: Advice for people who are learning a new skill?
Since I’m a self-taught artist, my best advice is don’t give up, keep trying and learn from your mistakes. Basically, repeated varied attempts or trial and error.
Carrie: Who/ What inspires you?
As stated above, life in general inspires me. Nature, music, a good movie, comedy, sports….oh, and my wonderful wife of 25 years.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
The ability to see something, whether visually or mentally, and turn it into an object or thing that others can appreciate.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Have you embraced Bob’s advice of trial and error, and repeat? How does working with your perceived “mistakes” inform your artist practice? I want to know. Tell me about it in the comments below.