In the amazing world that is art, there are a myriad of creative venues and expressions.
Since humans first displayed an ability to scrawl on cave walls art has continued to grow and be expressed in a seemingly endless variety of ways.
Consider for example, Paradise, Montana resident Darroll Abercrombie. He has taken art on a new course.
His medium? Sheetrock.
From his modest home/studio in Paradise, Abercrombie has crafted stunningly detailed pieces of art using simple tools and an artistic eye few possess. Even more impressive, he has only one eye. The other was lost in an accident years ago.
A commercial and residential drywaller by trade for more than 40 years, Abercrombie saw beauty where only plaster board existed.
But his interest in art began long ago when at age seven, he became interested in cartoon characters.
His first attempt at art came when he replicated a drawing of Woody Woodpecker and found what he said was something he “just liked doing.”
Later he enrolled in an art school in Connecticut when he was 14 but being a teenage cartoonist was not exactly profitable. One day he was watching some men hanging drywall while he was working as a carpenter framing houses.
“I never really liked framing,” Abercrombie said. “I saw those guys doing the sheetrock work and texturing the seams together and I thought I’d try that. I was a lot of work, but the money was pretty good.”
Over the years he plied his drywall hanging trade throughout the Northwest, including Alaska, Washington and Oregon. When his mom, who lived in Post Falls developed cancer, he moved to Idaho to help out and then settled in Hot Springs, Montana.
It was in Hot Springs that he got his first paying job as a result of his art ability when he was hired to paint business windows with decorative scenes and messages.
All the time he kept hanging sheetrock and texturing seams until one day he looked at a spot of texture material that hard dried on his coveralls.
“I got to looking at that spot on my pants and I began to see what looked like a duck coming in for a landing,” he said. “I was doing work for a guy who was an Alaska State Trooper and I started adding designs to the drywall finish. The trooper liked what I was doing and asked me if I could do a drywall reproduction of their trooper patch and things just took off from there.”
Soon he would be producing artwork for a variety of customers, mostly as a way to supplement his income during the winter months, when drywall and construction jobs were less numerous.
Many of those initial art requests were for business logos, sports team emblems and other things. Before long, word of his ability and talent began to spread to the point where now he works mostly on sculpting, although he still does sheetrock taping and texturing “during the season.”
“You have to look at what you are going to make,” he said. “You have to get a feel for what it is you can do and go from there.”
Typically the sculptures are done in layers which are carefully trimmed and fashioned in astonishing detail. One of his most well-known creations is a large mural depicting the face of Jesus which he keeps in his studio.
As the sculpting process takes place, layers of sealant such as lacquer are added to the work to protect the delicate material from the elements. Although most of the works are left in the original color and utilize lighting for amazing shading and shadowing effects, he does paint some.
Sometimes the customers themselves will apply finishing touches with paints or other colorings.
In the 30 years he has been creating drywall art, Abercrombie said he has received requests for all kinds of projects.
“A lot of people want personal stuff, like sculptures of their wives or girlfriends,” he said with a smile. “I tell them sure, I can do that, but I will need to borrow your wife for several days or weeks.”
His work has appeared in places throughout the Northwest, including a mural-like piece for the Coeur d’Alene Casino and sculptures of killer whales and other animals for a variety of businesses.
“I can do whatever someone might want,” he said. “Animals, flowers, Betty Boop, whatever.”
At one point he had a website where he displayed some of his works. Prior to moving from Hot Springs to Paradise he listed 14 such pieces on the site and they sold out in short time. His creations often fetch more than $2,000 each, he said.
“I’m the only one I know doing this kind of art,” he said. “At one point I had an agent in Seattle and a two-year waiting list, but I never really liked doing things like that.”
The best art, he said, is the kind that comes from his own mind.
“I just envision what I want, then scrape it, curve it and shape it until it looks like what I had in mind.”
Art in it’s purest form for sure.
But in a form no one would expect that speaks to the creativity and uniqueness of each piece.