Every time that I gave a tour at the Roger Brown Study Collection, the visitors would spin on their heals mesmerized by the myriad of art pieces that Roger Brown had collected. My eyes would always be drawn up to one particular piece, a paper mache jaguar mask, the size of a jumbo pumpkin. It was painted yellow with stylized black spots and accents of red. I loved it, and wanted to be swallowed by it.
So, in redecorating the Spring Bird Cottage, I decided to create some sculptural pieces that reflected that same sort of animal spirit. I chose three animals, a screech owl, a fox, and a buck. These are three significant animals to Spring Bird. The Spring that I spotted the a pair of screech owls launched the beginning of the process of moving to Spring Bird, and the fox is a symbol creative ferocity for me. The buck, of course, acknowledges the presence of the lovely, sweet deer at Spring Bird. BUT, I ran out of materials to finish the buck. So, I abandoned it. (Another time, buckeroo)
If you are interested in starting your own menagerie, it's super simple and easy, and it doesn't require too many supplies. Below is how I made these!
1. recyclables such as plastic bags, yogurt containers, milk jugs, and cardboard tubes. (whatever will help you to achieve the shape of your animal.)
2. masking or painter's tape
3. plaster cloth
5. bowl of water
7. acrylic paint
8. acrylic gloss medium
9. assortment of paint brushes
10. card stock
Build an Animal Armature
Use the recyclable and tape to build the shape of your animal. You can omit any details like ears that might be small and delicate. You can add these later!
Cover your entire armature with plastic bags-- or as much as possible. This will make it easier to remove the armature from the plaster cloth later.
Applying the Plaster Cloth
Cut the plaster cloth into managable strips 3" - 4" wide or into small squares.
Dip the cloth into the water, wipe off the excess, and drape over the armature.
Lay strip by strip --overlapping a quarter inch or so until the entire armature is covered.
You can apply multiple layers to strengthen the sculpture.
Before the sculpture starts to set, you can manipulate the material to create eye sockets or whatever shape and detail you like! I dug my thumbs in to shape the eyes.
Let the sculptures dry.
If you are in a hurry, you can speed up drying in the oven at a low temperature. (Check the plaster cloth package to verify temperature).
Finishing Your Animal Sculpture
Once your sculpture is dry, you can add those details (like ears) using cardstock or whatever materials you want (like bottle caps) to refine your sculpture's design.
Afix details with masking tape.
Cover your entire sculpture with gesso. This will help to strengthen the cloth and prepare the surface for paint. Be generous with your application.
Let the gesso dry before adding acrylic paint. Paint your animal however you'd like -- realistic or stylized.
After the paint dried, I coated the sculptures in a glear gloss, gel medium to give them an added layer of protection and shine. This last step is optional!
This project was a hoot (sorry)! Have fun creating your menagerie!!!!
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.