20 Questions: Meet the Artist

AT FIFTEEN, Peter Skidd broke curfew hanging out with friends and carving fascinating puppets out of couch foam. A dyslexic artist with a passion for all things art and science, Skidd found school largely abhorrent. He packed his free time with a (terribly messy) flurry of intricate science and art projects.

When it was time to think about college, he toyed with the idea of attending Cooper Union in New York but ended up with a philosophy degree from a micro-college in New Hampshire. Deciding to focus on art at 22, Skidd studied French academic figurative oil painting under Martha Mayer Erlebacher at the New York Academy of Art in Manhattan.

Post MFA, Peter, his wife and baby girl moved to Arizona and Peter took a job at an art company. He’s a self-employed artist now, selling his brightly colored abstract steel sculpture through galleries, designers, and art shows.

How did you end up way out in Arizona? My wife dragged me – her family is here.

How does one go from studying traditional oil painting to welding abstract steel sculpture?  Accidentally.  Once you dabble in metal, you get addicted.

When I work, my musical muse these days is September.

I wish I had time for all the projects I need to get to. I’ve got to figure out the battery issues with my golf carts.

My favorite artist is Carl Schmitt, my great-grandfather.

When I get a free minute, I’m going to clean out and organize my metal shop.

I’m currently reading holy books.

My top travel destination would be the Azores.

If I had an extra chunk of change I’d buy a super yacht. I’m fascinated by the boat designs and I crave the open water.

When I’m away from home at an art show, I usually dine on Trader Joe’s beef tamales.

In the metal shop, I wear rags. All my clothes constantly get ripped, burned, and paint-stained.

In my pockets, you’ll find a crucifix, iPhone, wallet, rosary, sewing kit, flashlight, Swiss Army knife, flip blade knife, extra 15 round magazine for my Glock 27, and a handkerchief.  People make fun of me but I need it all.

My dream vehicle is a white diesel Range Rover.  My wife wants a black one.  We’ll have to get two.

I just found out about walking corpse syndrome.

When I grow up I want to be some type of engineer.

I’ve always wanted to go on a six-day desert hike out in the middle of nowhere.

Everyday in the studio, I use several rolls of Bounty paper towels while painting the art.  My painting process includes lots of wiping the art down between applications of various liquids and paint.

I can’t live without my wife and five kids.

I’m addicted to Skittles – wild berry flavor. I pour them into my shirt pocket.

Right now, I’m totally into forklifts.

Early Christmas Present

Peter has been wanting a real fork lift for a while now.

What tools does a Metal Artist need?   Real metal art is hard labor and dirty work.  Large-scale metal sculpture requires big equipment and lots of muscle to maneuver the steel supplies and the sculpture in progress.

Peter doesn’t have a real live shop assistant so he got himself a big forklift to help out.

He’s been making do with a pallet jack he bought off Craigslist but continually runs into problems when the steel gets delivered.  The pallet jack can’t be raised high enough to unload the pallets of steel from the delivery truck.

Peter Skidd unloading steel

Peter and the unfortunate delivery driver have to do a lot of heavy lifting and dangerous fussing with the 10 foot sheets of steel to get it all unloaded.  The new fork lift will make life a little easier and ensure stress-free metal deliveries.

He’s also been using the old pallet jack in his metal shop to help him move around and lift his huge steel sculptures.  He might keep the little guy for that purpose or modify the big one to suit.

We won’t talk about how, after only 2 minutes of ownership, Peter took his new toy joyriding around the property and got it stuck in the dirt.  Really stuck.  Then it rained.  Of all the days it has to rain in Arizona…  We won’t mention that it took about 3 days of hard labor, chains, incremental maneuvering (and digging up half the yard & puncturing the tire on his truck) to get the forklift free and available for work.

No big thing.  It’s up and running now and it’s a great shop assistant.  It moved a 3,000 lb delivery of ten foot sheets of steel without a hiccup.  Check out the turning radius on this thing!

Luxurious Red

Peter just packed his vehicle with a new, huge steel sculpture and took a trip to his Sedona gallery.

Making Waves

Lux was nearly impossible for Peter to build by himself.  It’s back-breaking work building steel sculpture and this one is extra massive and heavy.

Building the Framework

Peter undertakes an intense process each time he builds his steel sculpture.  Building the “steel canvas” includes first designing and welding the underlying steel framework to keep the wave stable.  The rear framework is designed so that the art can be hung horizontally or vertically.

Rolling the Steel

Rolling is the next major step.  Peter repeatedly  heaves the 100 pound steel sheet onto his shoulders and into the manual roller.  He then cranks the roller back and forth to achieve one dip in the steel.  The wave then gets pulled out of the roller and again he gets under the steel to feed the 10 foot sheet of steel into the roller.  He repeats this process for each undulation of the steel wave.

Making Steel Holographic

Grinding the steel comes next.  Peter has his own technique and it’s part of what makes his steel sculpture unique.  Grinding gives steel that the amazing holographic effect that makes the art dance with light.  Peter spends hours grinding the entire sculpture three separate times to give the steel that amazing depth.  This is what the grinding is like:

Painting

Applying color to a massive sculpture is an aerobic activity.  Peter applies countless layers of color in shimmering combinations.

Clear Coating

After painting, the sculpture needs a special clear coat applied to prevent fading or rusting.  After the spray was dry on Lux, Peter packed it up and with the help of the gallery owner, delivered his newest piece to Renee Taylor Gallery in Sedona.

Red art by Peter Skidd

Find Lux at Renee Taylor Gallery in Sedona’s Tlaquapaque.  Lux: 108″x48″x4.5″, $13,000.

Arizona metal artist build huge red art