Entry 05 – MGA Spotlight

ENTRY 05 – MGA Spotlight


Since I’ve mentioned working with Mark Aeling and MGA Sculpture Studio in previous entries, I thought it would be fitting to post a quick write-up about just that. 

MGA has been located in the flourishing Warehouse Arts District of St.Petersburg since 2005 and continues to provide iconic and site-specific art in public and private spaces across the United States. The studio is a fully equipped sculptural fabrication facility. Specialties include cast and fabricated metals, glass, carved wood, cast fiberglass, plaster and cement. The expertise within extends through every aspect of sculpted art, from concept to installation.


A shot of the studio when I first arrived.


I have had the pleasure of working at the studio with Mark and the team since the winter of 2014. In this time we’ve completed well over dozens of projects. They’ve included a breadth of work from figurative fiberglass casts to larger-than-life metal works of art. It has truly been and continues to be a remarkably rewarding experience.

Budding Vortex

Installation of “Budding Vortex” in Tampa, Florida.


Recently we completed two large commissions for the new police headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg. The building’s lobby features “Shielded” – a 30-foot eagle’s wing hand crafted with 240 aluminum feathers and suspended above the glass-walled grand vestibule. 




However, visitors to the headquarters will be greeted firstly by “Gladiolus” – an enormous stainless steel sculpture as a take on the legendary flower of the gladiator, a symbol of beauty and strength.




Looking Ahead


Next up for the studio is “RISE” – a monument in the Warehouse Arts District that will serve as a symbol of America’s resiliency and will be dedicated to 9/11 community heroes, first responders, and the events that happened that day. This multifaceted piece will feature at its center a large piece of steel recovered directly from the World Trade Center site. Behind it sits a 25′ tall copper phoenix wing. Fabrication is underway and we look forward to bringing this project to life! Visit https://risestpete.org/ for more information about the project and how you can help.


“RISE” – digital night time render

Feel free to stop by and visit the studio to take a look at what’s brewing, especially on the monthly 2nd Saturday Art Walks. There’s always something interesting going on and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be involved with MGA Sculpture Studio. 

See you in the next post! You may get a sneak peek of what I’ve been working on in my own personal studio!


Entry 04 – Hammer Away!

ENTRY 04 – Hammer Away!

In my previous entry I mentioned that the mentor I was paired with is Mark Aeling. We’re a few meetings deep by now and I’m pleased to report that they’ve been quite productive and inspiring. At the outset we created a rough outline of topics to cover over the duration of the grant period that we could use as discussion points for each meeting. A sample of topics we included are my personal plans (1 year, 5…10…), exercises for creative process, business plans, contracts, networking, staying connected to the creative process, and artwork reviews. Even though I’ve been working with Mark for going on six years now, having this formal process to engage in deeper creative discourse is proving to be most beneficial. I’m confident we’ll both see the fruits of these discussions in the years to come. 

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Roman philosopher Seneca

First of all my assignment was to develop the parameters for the body of work I aim to produce during the grant period. Hence I seek to create a new series of sculptures that enable me to use this opportunity to get back to basics and just simply ‘play’. I am creating up to five pieces that will serve as maquettes with the potential of them being further investigated and made into larger than life pieces in the future. The sculptures will be additive in nature and explore a theme of portals via biomorphic abstraction (a term I have pleasantly reacquainted myself with).

I aim to work primarily with steel and will invoke an emphasis on pattern, repetition, movement, balance, and harmony. Form, texture, and space are the crucial elements I am to consider while experimenting with these new pieces. I don’t expect that any piece will exceed two feet in any one dimension. In addition I’m open to them being presented in the round or wall-mounted depending on the result. 

I had a busy weekend getting the studio space reset after finishing up the commission I showed in earlier posts. With new tools and materials on hand, I’m eager to get in and start playing around. This week’s addition to the studio includes an order of sandblasting abrasive media. I’ve had a small sandblasting cabinet laying around and figured this would be a perfect opportunity to get it up and running. That’s all for now, see you in the next post!





Entry 03 – Clamp Down!

 ENTRY 03 – Clamp Down


The installation of “Light as a Feather” went off with out a hitch!


I am pleased to be completed with the project and to have another satisfied client. With that commission wrapped up I am excited to focus in my thoughts and efforts on my goals for this grant period.

Since receiving the initial grant funds I ordered myself some other tools. A set of flexible socket extensions were a most valuable asset in the installation of the piece above. Along with the Affinity software I also purchased an external hard drive. The last thing I’d like is for my digital existence to vanish with no back-up copies. Currently I’m looking into getting a new welding mask. The first welding mask I inherited from my father was a fixed shade flip-up mask with no head-strap…severely limiting to say the least. Before I began fabricating “Obeliral” a couple years ago I upgraded to an auto-darkening mask. The technology has come quite a ways and I’ve been looking into some newer masks. Many now feature even larger viewing screens with less color distortion. Especially as a sculptor, having the right tools for the job is essential.

For the duration of the grant period we grantees have been paired with a professional artist from the community to serve as our mentor. I have been paired with Mark Aeling, whom some of you may know I have been working with at MGA Sculpture Studio for over 5 years now. I’ll dive into our initial discussions and my goal for the grant period in the next entry. See you there!  


Entry 02 – Take flight!

Entry 02 – Take Flight!

In my first entry I briefly mentioned a commission that’s in process. I’m getting much closer to completion and looking forward to beginning the installation of the piece. “Light as a Feather” is a steel sculpture I created for a private residence in the Tampa Bay area. It is approximately 48″ x 60″ x 2″ and features a brown hammered finish. Essentially it all began with a photograph of a feather I captured and manipulated digitally using the Affinity software referred to in my previous post. The resulting design was replicated with sheet steel via a CNC plasma cutter. Following that I welded it to a frame for depth and support. After sealing it all up with the paint and getting the hardware ready, it’s all set!




 The next entry is on the way and will include this piece installed, along with some other tools I procured, as well as a recap of what else has been going on. Until then….





Here we go!

Hello art world!

My name is George Retkes and I welcome you to the first post of my 2019 Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist Grant Blog!

Firstly I’d like to thank Creative Pinellas for this wonderful opportunity. This is the first grant I’ve been awarded during my budding professional career and am very much looking forward to the whole experience along with its culmination in just a few months time. With all that said, let’s get busy!

While I primarily enjoy working in 3-D and manipulating physical materials I’ve been no stranger to playing with and learning various computer programs to aid in my creative endeavors. I’m sure most, if not all, that may read this are familiar with Adobe Photoshop and the slew of other programs they have released over the years. Ever since Adobe transitioned to a monthly subscription based cloud service for their programs I found myself searching for something else. About a year or so ago I came across Serif‘s Affinity Photo.

With the first disbursement of grant funds I promptly acquired the “Affinity Trinity”. It is a software suite which includes Photo (Photoshop), Designer (Illustrator), and soon-to-be-released Publisher (InDesign). One thing is for sure…. it’s always nice to have the right tools for the job. I’ve been enjoying jumping in and playing around with these newer programs. If you’re also not too big of a fan of Adobe’s monthly subscription costs I’d highly recommend checking them out!


I am currently in the process of finishing up a private commission for a client that was looking to have a creative solution for an external wall opening at their residence. We’ll jump into what it’s all about in my next post which will be coming later this week!


See you next time!

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