By Dewayne Bevil
The pieces are falling into place for Oviedo artist Doug Powell. The
massage therapist and Navy veteran has developed an unusual art form:
mosaic portraits created with random jigsaw puzzles. It’s so unusual
that Ripley’s — which knows oddities — bought one.
Powell paints a canvas black, then glues individual puzzle pieces to
it to form famous faces. “Each puzzle piece is like a stroke of a
paintbrush,” said Powell, who has no formal art training. Powell uses
the puzzle pieces in a nontraditional way — he doesn’t interlock the pieces.
“This is very anti-puzzle,” Powell said. He calls the procedure
“Duzzle™ Art” — a mash-up of puzzle and his first name.
Powell, who started duzzling in 2007, read a newspaper article this
year saying that Orlando-based Ripley’s Entertainment was seeking unique
art of movie stars. He contacted Edward Meyer, Ripley’s vice president
for exhibits and archives, and soon he was working on a 4-foot by 4-foot
portrait of actress Sophia Loren based on an image from the 1964 film,
“The Fall of the Roman Empire.”
“I think the art style itself is very, very clever,” Meyer said.
“Even if no one recognized it as Sophia Loren, I think everyone would go
‘…that’s a pretty interesting piece of art.’”
Powell’s first puzzle portrait in 2007 was of another classic
actress. “I did the Ingrid Bergman just to see if I could make puzzle
pieces show actual detail in a human face. How detailed could I get?” he said.
Next was a representation of Steve McCurry’s eye-catching photo of Sharbat
Gula, best known as the “Afghan girl” and a National Geographic cover
“Eyes are integral to each portrait,” Powell said. “That is the part
that takes the longest. I could spend 15 hours on just the eyes,” he
said. Typically, he spends 100 to 120 hours on a project. At first, he
used 30 or 40 pieces for an eye. For Loren, there are 300 pieces in the
eye. He just finished a Lady Gaga portrait, which has 400 pieces for one
eye. “I’m figuring out my own method of madness with putting these
things together,” he said.
Powell, 49, never paints the pieces. He applies a clear coat of
protective finish to protect the cardboard pieces from moisture and seal
them into place. He buys jigsaws at yard sales, flea markets and on
Craigslist and dumps them into a bathtub-sized bin. Powell estimated he
has 100,000 puzzle pieces. He used 3,100 pieces for Ripley’s purchase,
he said. Ripley’s has the Loren portrait in its Orlando warehouse and
plans to ship it to its California museum when renovations there are
done. In the meantime, Loren might hang in the International Drive
museum, Meyer said. Neither Powell nor Meyer would say what Ripley’s
paid for the work.
Powell creates the portraits at home but said he may rent space for a
gallery. He has appeared in art shows and is seeking an agent.
His interest in art dates to his youth in New Jersey, where he fiddled
with creative projects such as string art. But he didn’t do puzzles. “I
missed out on it,” he said. “The older I get the more I seem to want to
get back in touch with the things I left behind before I joined the Navy
and all of a sudden life got serious,” he said.