Paulportrait

Paul Carbo

functional art
paulcarbo.com

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Interview

June 2009

AOD:
You started out as a graphic artist/illustrator. What led you to change career direction?

PAUL CARBO:
I started messing around with wood in 1999 while still working as a graphic artist for the Los Angeles Times. We all worked on computers at that time and I was craving to do art with my hands like I used to back in the “dim time” before computers. So during off hours, I started building strange little things in the dark, spider-infested garage of my tiny rental home. I initially started to build small functional art pieces for children. Things like paper and pencil holders. As more tools started to magically appear in the spider hotel, I began to build larger projects like the Abe Lincoln and Mark Twain cabinets – all still intended as furniture for children. I put the finished cabinets in my living room and began using them to store CD’s and books. At that point I said to myself “Why wouldn’t grown-ups like this kinda thing”? I forged on and continued to build.

In 2000, my father passed away. I moved back east, where I grew up, to help my mom relocate and to start her new life. The Times graciously gave me a six-month leave. While in the process of starting my mom’s new life, I realized I was starting a new life of my own and decided to stay and pursue my art.

AOD:
How did you learn to sculpt wood?

PAUL CARBO:
Mostly self-taught from books and hours of trial and error. I had miraculously retained some basic skills from high school wood shop and knowledge gleaned from my dad and brothers.

AOD:
How has your background in graphic art helped with crafting your furniture pieces?

PAUL CARBO:
For starters, having computer knowledge has helped in the layout and designing of projects. But the biggest influence has been the way graphics force you to take something complex and simplify it. Newspapers, in particular, pounded that concept into our pliable little heads on a daily basis. So taking the wild hair of Albert Einstein and converting it into layers of simple shapes came easily to me.

AOD:
Your work is whimsical and eye-catching. Who or what has influenced your creations?

PAUL CARBO:
Picasso, Art Deco and Cubism has always fascinated me with the use of simple, repeated and overlapping geometric shapes. Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser were the biggest inspirations to me as a burgeoning young graphic artist with their illustrative styles and imaginations. Al Hirshfeld, Paolo Garretto and Miguel Covarrubias were insanely gifted caricature artists. Their work continues to astound me.

AOD:
Every piece in your collection is made by hand. Take us through the design and build process of a favorite piece.

PAUL CARBO:
After researching each subject on the internet, I do a series of simple, quick pencil sketches. From there I work up a comprehensive drawing on the computer. I use a program called Freehand which allows me to draw in actual size. As far as building the finished piece, I usually work on the head first. After printing out the actual size drawing I start laminating pieces of wood to obtain the proper width and thickness needed. Using a band saw, I rough out the main forms of the head. From there, it’s all chisels and sandpaper. The same procedure is followed for the hands, feet and any complicated pieces that need sculpting. The main body is constructed like a traditional piece of furniture ending up with staining and finishing.

AOD:
Your clients come to you to create people they admire. Who do you admire and have you created anything for yourself?

PAUL CARBO:
Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Bob Dylan, Groucho Marx were the first four cabinets I created because they’re all heroes of mine. The Twain, Groucho and Dylan cabinets have all since sold but “Abe”  is still with me. He was my first and I could never let him go even though he has been relegated to standing in the garage holding cat food and laundry detergent.

Knock on wood (pardon the pun), all my commissions to date have been subjects that I’ve admired…Ben Franklin, Johann Sebastian Bach, Frank Lloyd Wright, Buster Keaton, Jerry Garcia…all fun to do. But I’m sure some day someone will request a cabinet of some barbarian from the past like Hitler, Vlad the Impaler or Britney Spears.

For more information about Paul Carbo and to view more of his work visit:
paulcarbo.com