oh wow, another dolphin project

this one’s in the negotiating stages yet, and hasn’t actually been handed to me, but i’m working on the proposal at the moment.

yesterday morning the folks at the georgia aquarium contacted me directly about decorating a fiberglass dolphin for a particular sponsor – a hotel in downtown atlanta, which is in an historic spot, and wants to showcase just how historic it is.  which is great, because atlanta used to have a lot of great old buildings and damned few of them have been preserved.  so that’s great.  i was into it.  and so i sat there and thought up a couple of ideas.

historic atlanta exbuilding

this took a few hours, more like four, sitting there thinking up ideas and writing and rewriting my email.  it was just my answer to an email asking if i had any ideas, but it was in effect a proposal, so i gave it a bunch of time, and got the project firmly imagined before replying.

it’s got a two-week deadline.

wow.  me, the artist who took four months to decorate two dolphins, they want me to knock one out in two weeks?  at first i just laughed.  rule #1 says everything takes twice as long as you budget for.   i know that some of the other dolphins in the project were done in a matter of days, and look like it, pardon me.  maybe two weeks is attainable.  if it’s paint only, and i cut out the additions, the putty work, the anchors and drilled fiberglass and buildouts.  if there’s no messing with just the right shades of paint for matching actual clothing, and i can get right down to the details, which require commitment and discourage waffling.

but even with ‘paint only’ as my mantra, i still started with the premise of putting collage on the base.

after several hours of thinking and writing, i had this – a dolphin painted to look like the exterior of that particular historic building, his head and shoulders, anyway – painted white, with the architectural details of the building over his features – i.e., the rounded recesses over his eyes and the dentils near the roofline surrounding his crown like a hat.

then for his legs, shelves full of books, to go with the historic theme.  these could be lined up neatly on the shelves, or they could be stacked and leaning haphazardly.  the bookshelf could be seen from afar, or close enough to read the titles.  i’ve done bookshelves before, and love to put in titles.  since it’s historic, i could even go back and get the titles of books that would have been on the shelves during a certain period in the past.

then at the base, i want to print out a bunch of actual pages of text, and make a collage of them on the waves, like a pile of scattered pages.  possibly about the history of atlanta.  possibly an aquatic theme.  pictures mixed with text.  it would depend on the sponsor, ideally.  maybe book covers instead of written pages, but that wouldn’t be period.  book covers with pictures started with pulp.

it sounds funky, it can be done.  here are a few examples of the kinds of things people paint.

as i was writing this up in my email proposal, i suddenly saw a slightly different dolphin in my head.  this one had on a white tuxedo, with tails.  the tux was painted with building details, just like the head, with the same books on his legs and at his feet.  i saw the coat tails as marble columns.  it was a compelling vision, so i added it to my proposal email, and sent it off.

and then i waited to hear back from the sponsor.

that was yesterday morning.  after lunch my friend santa came over, and the moment he heard what i was thinking of doing, and for whom, and the theme, he suggested i make him a bellhop, and the whole thing just boinged into my head.  it was such a simple change, oddly prefigured by that image of the dolphin in a tux, and it made so much more sense.  thanks, santa.

a bellhop.  for a hotel.  so, a retro bellhop, for a hotel in an historic building.  so, a bellhop with a pillbox hat and rows of shiny brass buttons, and gold braid at the collar and cuffs.  i can paint the buttons and stuff, but i’m going to have to attach some sort of round pillbox shape to his head.  pvc pipe, perhaps.  a three-inch slice of mailing tube, maybe.  santa wants me to put a suitcase at his side and have all the spilled pages be actual books.  but that means attaching a suitcase, and attaching some books (or some wooden blocks representing books).  and i have two weeks.  and i know how much trouble attachments are.

paint only, paint only.

so i went and wrote another email about making him a bellhop, hurriedly detailing the new idea.  i was excited now.  now i really wanted to do the dolphin.  before, i was kind of lukewarm.  all that work – in two weeks?  but by turning him into a bellhop, we turn him into a hotel employee, and that’s something i really love to do.

anthropomorphism.  my turtles for sandy spring, way back in ’05, were dressed up as a doctor and a backpacker.  and the dolphins i finished this winter were an engineer among his pipes and fittings, and a home depot associate.  they are dressed like they worked there, they’re making references to the company they work for like any employee would, wearing the logos and the shirt and pants and the name badge.

the dolphin project was structured so that the artists could work with the sponsors on the design.  for the turtles, we submitted designs and potential sponsors chose them.  for this one, i’m going to go back and forth with the sponsor to get something that will tickle them, and something that will be fun for me to do.  i enjoy working with sponsors.  i’m trying to make my dolphins look as much like typical employees as possible, so they’ll see my work as insiders would, maybe get the visual jokes i’m trying for, get the feeling that maybe for an instant the dolphin is one of them, could come to life and work beside them.  like that twilight zone episode with anne francis.

by the end of the afternoon, the sponsor wrote me an email saying they were interested, and i sat working on a couple of preliminary drawings for several hours yesterday.  so, that’s four hours on the proposal, no make that six, and three on the drawing, so far.  and i’ve spent two hours on it this morning.  and this blog post, another two hours.  so, even before it’s commissioned, i’ve spent 13 hours working on it.

rule #2 is that you can never account for all the time spent on a project.  something always comes up.  that’s why i’m writing down how long the proposal is taking, as tedious as it is.  just so you’ll know.  i wrote it all up, well, i put it in a spreadsheet, after finishing the other two dolphins, and tho i kept fair track of my time and all of my receipts, there are unanswered questions on the order of ‘where did X go?’  so i’m going to try again.


update – i just got off the phone with the sponsor, and the project is on.  i left word at the aquarium that i want to come over asap and pick up my dolphin, and then we’re off.  the sponsor and i, let’s call him scot, discussed the overall concept, and agreed it should be pretty classy, not like putting ronald mcdonald in your lobby.  he wants it to be almost a photo opportunity, so it’s going to be very eye catching, but not whimsical.  which means as close to photo realistic as possible.

scot’s idea on the pants / bookshelves was the simpler the better, so we’re going to strive to paint the books life size, and have three, maybe four shelves.  and they won’t look like books on a library shelf, either, all scattered and disorderly.  they’ll look like an old fashioned library, with sets of books in good bindings, matching bindings, leather bindings, gold-tooled bindings.

we’re not settled on what genres or titles, or what subject the pages at the base will be about.  he’s leaving it up to me at this point, so we’ll see what i can find.

as for the bellhop uniform, it’s got to be a single color, to offset the complexity of the building facade above and the bookshelves below.  but the sponsor’s company doesn’t have a set color for their bellhop uniforms, so he’s leaving it up to me again.  so i was thinking that the retro bellhop uniforms are scarlet red, and he was fine with that, and with brass buttons.  it’ll be very eye catching.  especially since the lobby is black and gold.  i’ll be going over there next week to check out exactly which shades of black and gold, so i don’t clash.

one really good suggestion.  scot was describing the endpapers in old books, the marbled ones.  and i suddenly saw all the trim on the uniform in just that kind of marbled pattern.  the interesting thing is going to be achieving the faux marbling with paint.  it can be done.  he mentioned that the duvet covers in the rooms are marbled, and i’m going to want to see and photograph it as a possible go-by.  the hotel is recently renovated, and i can’t wait to see it, because it’s going to affect the work i do on the dolphin.

so.  as soon as i can pick up a brand new plastic dolphin from the aquarium, i’m ready to roll.


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