I began cutting gemstones after a 25 year hiatus and by the time I had cut a few hundred cabochons, I started thinking about how to creatively take gemstone material in new artistic directions. I have begun work on a few ideas, gemstone mosaics and gemstone sculpture, but the most obvious creative expansion for me would be to paint upon the stone.
I had actually done this some 30 or so years ago on opal specimens while living in the outback of Australia. I worked with my friend Marijan Anic, an opal miner in Andamooka. He had many pieces of stone that had interesting opal patterns but not enough opal to cut gemstones. I basically made some souvenirs by painting kangaroo’s and koala bears on these “painted ladies”. They sold very well.
When you cut a gemstone cabochon, you start with a slice of stone and study the pattern and color and thickness and faults. I am often enthralled by this natural beauty and at times find it difficult to cut one up into designer cabochons. There are slices of stone called “end cuts, which is the first slice from a rock. One side is flat from the cut, the other side is rough like the rock. These cuts often can not be used for cutting a cabochon due to the rough side. It was a super cool piece of Indian Paint Stone, so I gave the painting a try and I thought about the Native American name of the rock (which had very cool patterns), and decided to paint a horse in the wild. I gave it to good friends who had given me the rock as a thank you and they were really thrilled.
The reaction lead me to paint some more pieces, and another friend showed them at a gem show in Los Angeles and the public reaction was great, thus my new artistic endeavor. The next four pieces I did sold immediately.
I have begun studying master miniature painting techniques to improve my skills, classic India miniature painting, European Illuminated Manuscripts, and a few intense comic book illustrators. I purchased an “Optivisor” magnifier worn around my head to improve the tiny detail work. This endeavor does create severe eye strain, and I can not paint for more then one hour before I have to rest my eyes. This form of painting is so different then painting large canvases!