Nation citizen Tommy Roe Mitchell uses a grinder to create
feather effects into his metal artwork on Jan. 30 in his studio
Nation citizen Tommy Roe Mitchell says he grinds his metalwork
to create 3-D shapes, including feathers on birds of prey.
He then either paints the piece or heat-treats it to bring
out colors in the metal.
Nation citizen Tommy Roe Mitchell's metalwork piece "Dance
of the Phoenix." Mitchell first sketched the design on paper
before transferring it to metal to be cut out and smoothed
down with a grinder. Once polished, it was painted and sealed
with an automotive clear coat.
Nation citizen Tommy Roe Mitchell also creates "Phoenix Spirit
Feathers," which are his interpretation of what feathers on
the mythical bird would look like.
piece that Tommy Roe Mitchell creates is also signed and comes
with information about its origin on the back so that buyers
can understand its significance.
YUKON Though it's taken several years for Cherokee metal
artist Tommy Roe Mitchell to find his stride, his distinctive style
is now giving him the opportunity to pursue his passion while stepping
out from his father's shadow.
He grew up close to the art business, as his father Ron is a
well-known Cherokee artist who began his career in the 1970s. While
both have experience in metal art, Tommy said he's now setting his
work apart with painting and grinding techniques.
"Dad was doing metal artwork, but he wasn't doing it to the
extent that I am now, not with the color," Tommy said. "He would
actually cut the piece out, grind the edges and heat-treat it, but
he wasn't putting the grinding marks in it like I have. Dad never
even thought about using the grinder the way I was doing, so already
this was out of his league."
Tommy said he usually draws inspiration from things he sees
on television and YouTube. Once he completes a design on sketchpad,
he transfers it onto poster board and then onto 14- to 18-gauge
sheet metal with a magic marker.
The design is then cut with a plasma cutter before he uses a
grinder to smooth jagged edges and polish out imperfections. Once
satisfied, he grinds grooves into the metal to give the illusion
of feathers and depth.
"I want a nice, smooth, flat surface to start creating, and
that's when I start with the grinding effects," he said. "I want
a three-dimensional look. People have come up to it and actually
felt behind it because it looks thicker than it really is. It's
just the way the grinding is."
Once the overall look comes together, Tommy heat-treats the
piece or moves it to his paint booth before sealing it with an automotive
clear coat for a smooth finish.
While expanding his range to include hummingbirds and cardinals,
his roots lie in mythical symbolism, including his piece "Dance
of the Phoenix."
"Metal artists, they like doing the eagle feathers. I wanted
to do something similar, but I don't want to copy anybody's work.
We thought, 'Phoenix, why not?' Who knows what a Phoenix feather
looks like? It's a mythical bird so this is my interpretation of
what the flaming feathers look like. It's the bird that rose from
the fire, kind of like me."
In addition to creating versions of the phoenix, Tommy creates
his interpretation of what individual feathers might look like on
the creature. The feathers are called "Phoenix Spirit Feathers."
He has also taken inspiration from Cherokee myths and legends,
including that of the Raven Mocker, a feared witch that preys on
the sick and frail.
"I was wanting something a little scary, and I started looking
into the Cherokee myths, and we came up with something rather scary,
which was the Raven Mocker," he said. "That one is just a little
more dramatic, a little more scary."
Strangely enough, the blooming of Tommy's metalwork came after
being diagnosed with acute anxiety disorder. "When I was diagnosed
with acute anxiety disorder, I did not want to rely on the medication.
They gave me that to begin with, and I couldn't take it. I struggled
with that so we talked to a therapist, and he suggested art is a
relaxing way of dealing with stress. So I thought, 'OK, I can do
this. This is something right up my alley.'"
Tommy said this is the first time his artwork has been something
he "truly enjoys" and is "eager" for the public to see more. "I
think they're really nice-looking, and I feel really comfortable
doing it. The greatest compliment on this artwork is when I take
it to an art show and someone loves it so much that they're willing
to pay for it and take it home and hang it up on their walls. That's
the compliment that I like."
For more information, visit www.dragonfiremetalart.net
or search "DragonFire Metal Art" on Facebook.