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Dick Termes : Termespheres


Termespheres are three dimensional "inside out" views of the physical world around us.
Dick Termes has been painting spheres for 37 years. His work has been recognized in America, France and Japan and has featured in many articles over the years.

For those of us who want to attempt this style of painting he has a booklet on the 6 Point Perspective he uses to create his spheres.. although the concept is clear, getting you head around painting in a 6 point perspective on a globe takes some doing!

Cover of "Math Horizons" magazine, Sept 2001


Was there anyone in particular that influenced you to choose this path of painting?
There were a number of artists and other people that influenced me in my art form. M.C. Escher of course influenced me with his ideas connecting illusions with the realistic world. He also had a wonderful tightness l liked in painting and drawing. I seemed to run into his work with every new idea I came up with. Bucky Fuller excited me with his three dimensional geometries and his philosophies.. Seurat help make science and art come together for me.. Picasso and Klee helped me to know a painting is its own thing and not a copy of something and Victor Flach, an instructor from University of Wyoming taught me to put thinking into my work.


What made you choose a sphere to paint on rather than the traditional canvas?
The sphere became important to me because I needed an endless canvas to create endless ideas, ideas that showed north, east, south, west, up and down directions. The sphere also gave me a new set of geometric substructures that I could use and explore in my paintings. The geometry of the sphere and the flat surface are totally different. It was an area that had not been explored before by a painter.

"Gargoyles In Saint Denis" France

How long have you been painting on spheres?
I have been painting on the sphere since 1968-9. I started painting flat work in High School in 1958.

Are there other 3 dimensional shapes you have used?
I have explored the regular polyhedra which consist of the tetrahedron, octahedron, hexahedron, dodecahedron and the icosahedron. Also I have explored the rhombic dodecahedron and other complicated polyhedra. What is interesting about painting on these different enclosed forms is their geometries for me seem to dictate where the subject goes. My interest was to apply my six point perspective to each of these forms and be able to create up, down and all around worlds out of them. These polyhedra would make it possible to reproduce my ideas. The sphere was very hard to reproduce in those early years. The cylinder has also been fun to explore and the moebius strip both create art you would never expect.

Can you explain in “layman’s terms” how you go about painting using the six-point perspective system?
The easiest way to explain my six point perspective is to imagine you are inside a beautiful building like Notre Dame in Paris or Hagia Sophia. You take along with you a transparent sphere. You crawl inside a transparent sphere. With you head in the center you copy everything you see outside the sphere onto the surface of the sphere. As soon as you have copied everything you move to the outside of the spherical painting to look at what you painted. As I can't get inside all of the spheres I paint I had to come up with a system to create these ideas from the outside of the sphere.
This part of my site helps to explain that perspective system from one through six point perspective.


 Dick Termes working on "Platonic Relationships"
 How do you make your Termespheres? Do you paint directly onto the globe?
I use to make my spherical canvases out of fiberglass and others out of Styrofoam but now I buy light fixtures from the factory. These plastic spheres are made out of polyethylene and polycarbonate plastics and are much stronger and more spherical. I have to sandpaper the surface of the sphere to rough it up before I gesso it. Also I usually have to fill the seam to make it a perfect sphere.   

Do you paint in oil or acrylics?
I use Acrylics because I need something that will dry faster so I can turn the sphere to work on the back side of the sphere.

"The Pantheon" : click to see more views

What type of protective lacquer do you use if any on the finished product?
When I am finished with the acrylic paint on the sphere I usually spray with an acrylic matte or gloss finish.

Normal painters use an easel. What type of prop do you use to steady the sphere while painting?
The sphere is held in a padded cylinder while I paint on it. This easel is different as it also can spin because motion is very important to my work. I also can adjust the height of the easel so the height is just right for sitting or standing.

Have you ever treated the sphere as a 3 dimensional canvas, where the subjects you painted have different depths in the sphere?
Sometimes I have painted on the inside of the sphere when it is to be out in the elements outside. This protects the paint some. I have played with black and transparent spheres so you can look through the sphere and see the back side along with the front side. I have used mirrors inside spheres and hemisphere, I call them hemismirrors. I have played a little with spheres within spheres for different effects.


"Food For Thought" : click to see more views

Are there different ways of displaying your spheres? Such as a tabletop prop that you can use to rotate the spheres?
Most of the time I hang the spheres from ceiling motors so I can control the motion speed. Some spheres I have mounted from below so they can come off of a pedestal. An outside sphere at the Law Enforcement Academy in Wyoming is mounted from below. So is a piece I did for Coca Cola Corporation.

They look very complex and time consuming. How long does it take for you to finish a project?

Most of my spheres take two to three months. The larger ones, can take 9 months.

What makes a good subject for a Termesphere?
In order to be honest to the sphere, the subjects for the spheres have to talk about spherical ideas. I have painted a variety of subjects from the interiors of great architecture..

Forward to the Beginning, "The Stairway of Life"

This is a twenty-four inch diameter spherical painting. It was commissioned by Avera St. Luke's Hospital in Aberdeen, South Dakota. The stairs symbolize our paths and choices through life.

Surrealistic worlds.. "To Build a Hole" :
click to see more views

Geometric worlds.. "Platonic Relationships" : click to see more views

What is the project you are working on at the moment?
I am working on three different spheres at this moment. STONEHENGE, where I am standing in the middle of the monoliths and turning in a circle. Wonderful geometry comes from the Sun and the Moon on the horizon. I think it is exciting that early man was so curious about the order of the universe.

MOUNT MARTY in Yankton SD has commissioned me to paint a sphere of the interior of the campus Library.

WRIGLEY FIELD in Chicago also is a commission I have been asked to do on a sphere. It should be fun to wrap that 1914 ball field onto the sphere with the history of the past and the excitement of the moment.

You have painted hundreds of Termespheres. What is there that you still want to explore and that keeps you painting on spheres?

You know, I don't think of it as painting on spheres. I think of it as painting in a different dimension, a dimension that allow total worlds around you, like the world we live in. This dimension has as much or more to say than the flat surface and look how many paintings have been done on the flat surface. Once you have played in this dimension it is very hard to come back to the flat world. Have you read the Flatlanders?

The flat artist allows the viewer to look into his or her window, I allow people to come in through the window and turn around and see the whole room, even the people outside the window. The computer people are now allowing people to crawl through the window, look around in a circle and take a walk in that room and even enter into other rooms.

photo by Paul Horsted      

How do you see your work evolving in the future?
Every day when I get up I think about what is the most important thing I can do for that day in case it is my last day. Of course if I knew where my work was going I wouldn't have to explore to find it, right? So, I don't know where I am going. I just go in circles anyway. That's kind of a joke, or is it?


For more information about Termespheres, visit his web site at www.termespheres.com and be sure to check out his Gallery for more spheres

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