The portraits start out as large photographs that Gundersen takes of his subjects. The photographs are then used as a reference, as he renders the faces into a large scale pencil portrait. After shading and contouring, he is ready for the corks!
Stacked around his studio, the corks are separated according to tone and color. Gundersen has a place for each cork, first scrutinizing the drawing to determine the placement of the tonal range. Using the cork, he “paints” the image, gradating from light corks to dark to create the dimensions of his subject’s face, neck and hair.
The corks are packed tightly together, and affixed to the portrait backing. The giant 96 x 66 inch portrait of “Grace” took Gundersen 50 hours to actually build up. “Grace” used an incredible 9,217 corks to it! Gundersen’s cork portraits have been featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not and on many news programs. He uses the cork as a way to draw attention to the importance of recycling and sustainability through art.
Cork, once the standard used in wine bottling, has been in danger in recent years, being replaced by plastic corks and screw tops. The wine industry has directly affected the cork forests of the Mediterranean- as demand decreases, the forests are ripped up to grow other crops. Gundersen’s beautiful portraits utilize the precious sustainable material, giving it a place in the art world, other than at the reception bar.