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 SharbatGula, best known as the “Afghan girl” and a National Geographic cover subject.

“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.




Artist turns puzzles into pop art
Artist turns puzzles into pop art
June 08, 2011

Doug Powell looked content as he slowly ran his fingers through an estimated 100,000 puzzle pieces, carefully studying the myriad colors and shapes.

“In some ways, this is my paint,” the Oviedo artist said as puzzle pieces filtered through his fingers back into the large wooden bin.

Powell stood over his most recent project, an oversized portrait of the late comedian/actor George Burns, as he analyzed his next step. There aren’t any paint brushes to be found in this artist’s studio; only a partially decorated canvas in a room filled from floor to ceiling with hundreds of puzzle boxes and a bottle of glue. Powell said he is practicing the fine art of “Duzzling,” a term he coined to describe his unusual puzzle art technique. The name is a combination of part of his first name with the word “puzzle.”

A Navy veteran and Winter Park massage therapist for 14 years, Powell unleashed his more creative side in 2001 when he glued random puzzle pieces to a canvas to add interest to his enormous spin art projects. It was his attempt, he said, to return to his more imaginative side from his youth. Though Powell never had formal art training, he said he was always encouraged as a child to experiment and be creative. As a young teen, for example, he was known for his enormous “String Art” creations, which he sold at a local boutique.

“I never do anything mainstream. I just refuse to follow that,” Powell said.

About five years ago, Powell let his creative juices flow as he repurposed tons of remnant granite leftovers from a countertop business and created containers, planters and sculptures, many of which can be found on display throughout Orlando.

“And then one thing led to the next,” Powell said.

In 2007, Powell developed the idea to create a detailed mosaic of a human face using unaltered puzzle pieces. Using Hollywood icon Ingrid Bergman’s face for the project, Powell set out to create a detailed work of art inspired by artist Andy Warhol. His success at recreating the intricacies of the facial features as well as shadow and light led Powell to recreate an image captured by photographer Steve McCurry. His well-known photo of Sharbat Gula, known as the “Afghan Girl,” was featured on the cover of National Geographic in 1985.

“I wanted an image that was somewhat iconic so people would recognize it and I would get feedback, and have a fair comparison,” Powell said.

When Powell learned Edward Meyer, vice president of Exhibits and Archives for Ripley Entertainment, was searching for unique portrait art for the Ripley museums, he immediately introduced him to his signature form of Duzzle Art. In one year, Ripley’s has purchased five portraits from Powell depicting Ingrid Bergman, Sophia Loren, Lady Gaga, Lady Liberty and a portrait of Abraham Lincoln made using more than 4,000 keys from leftover computer keyboards. The portraits will be displayed in numerous cities, from Hollywood, Calif., to Times Square in New York City.

Powell’s impressive mosaics on canvas, which are typically 4 feet by 4 feet in size, incorporate between 2,500 and 4,000 random puzzle pieces. He said it takes him between 100 and 150 hours to complete a highly detailed piece.

“It’s totally my passion to do this,” he said. “I have been collecting puzzle pieces from thrift stores and garage sales [and] Craigslist. It takes a whole lot of patience.”

Powell said he typically begins with the most detailed part of the project first and works outward.

“At first it’s a challenge; when you start it looks awkward and doesn’t look right, but you have to believe it will work out,” he said. “A lot of it is interpretive; I’m not trying to get the color just right because it is still an abstract.”

Powell said he does cut the pieces sometimes to make them fit and accentuate detail, but he doesn’t paint them. He said he takes pleasure in surprising the viewer by including pieces that reveal another printed object upon closer viewing, such as a flag or part of a barn.

“With the Lady Gaga, I was almost finished with it when I cut the lights off and headed off to bed and realized she glowed in the dark; turns out I had some glow-in-the-dark puzzle pieces and they were spread out all over,” he said.

Powell said he has been thrilled with the response to his work as an artist. In addition to his pieces being purchased by Ripley’s, his work has been on display in the Scott Laurent Collection in Winter Park and in multiple art shows.

“My head is still spinning; I didn’t realize this was going to go somewhere,” Powell said of his artistic rejuvenation. “Biologically speaking, I will be 50 this August and I was wondering how long I was going to hold off before jumping back in. One door would open another. You don’t know that door is there until you jump in.”