Northern Express Article
by Eric Daigh
The Push-Pin Man
Traverse City artist Eric Daigh is not only passionate about his creative works, he’s also intent on earning a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
While other artists typically work in oils, watercolors or charcoal, Daigh has chosen to express his abilities through a very unusual medium – push pins, those run-of-the-mill, plastic colored pins that are jabbed into bulletin boards in offices around the world.
“We’ve applied to the Guinness book for ‘The Most Push Pins Applied by an Individual,’” says Daigh, an affable, energetic artisan whose lifelike character portraits are catching eyes at the
InsideOut Gallery in Traverse City.
Daigh will be featured in a one-man show, “Portraits: 50 Thousand Pieces of Plastic,” from 7 to 11 p.m. at the gallery on Sept. 19.
From a distance, Daigh’s works look like compelling, insightful portraits of a uncertain medium. But up close, a viewer is surprised to find thousands of common push pins transformed into a vibrant piece of creativity.
“Push pins are only the medium. The image is what is important to me – the gaze has to be really compelling,” explains Daigh, whose works are all oversized portraits that reflect passion, much like the works of one of his favorite artists, Chuck Close.
“He’s far and away my biggest influence,” says Daigh, who also admires the work of portrait photographer Martin Schoeller and his father, Rick Daigh.
Close is noted for making huge oversized portraits, using a grid as an underlying basis for the representation of an image through digital or photo-mechanical means. It’s a simple, but versatile process that offers more creativity than one might expect.
Like Close, Daigh considers himself a “process painter” whose works combine creativity with hours of diligent application.
“It’s the humanity that we’re trying to show,” says Daigh. “It’s really tricky sometimes, trying to get the exact curve of a cheek or wrinkle under an eye.”
Daigh begins his projects by taking a series of photos of the subject. After carefully analyzing the photos, he uses a computer and specialized software to break an image down to a very low resolution and force the computer to make the image out of only five colors, the primary colors of red, blue and yellow, plus black and white.
“With the push pins, I don’t have every color in the rainbow to use. It’s a limited color palette,” he explains. “Push pins only come in a few colors.”
Daigh gets his multi-colored packs of 500 pins through local retailers. He and his wife, Meghan, sometimes spend their evenings sorting pins into the five colors he uses. Push pins don’t come in black, so Daigh has to spray paint green pins to black.
After breaking the image down to a low resolution, Daigh produces a row-by-row grid that dictates where each color pin should be placed to form the image. Daigh then places the pins, one-by-one, following the grid map. It takes some 11,000 push pins to complete one of his 3×4-foot works.
“If I can do 1,000 pins a day, I’m pretty happy,” says Daigh. “But one advantage to working with pins is that I can work on it for two minutes and place a few pins or I can work for two hours at a time.”
CIRCLE OF BLUE
Born and raised in Southern California, Daigh was 15 when his family moved to Traverse City. He graduated from TC Central High School and later the University of Montana.
After college he moved back to Traverse City in 2004. When not working on his art projects, Daigh works for Circle of Blue, an international organization that focuses on the global freshwater crisis.
While most of his recent works utilize the colored pins, Daigh is already planning on expanding his medium into thread and colored duct tape. He tried working with colored star stickers, but they were too reflective.
No matter the medium, Daigh is very pleased that the public has expressed interest in his works.
“It’s impressive to me to think that someone has paid their hard-earned money to have one of my works in their home,” he says. “It’s quite an honor.”
For more information, go to www.daigh.com/pins or www.insideoutgallery.com.