presenting the marriott courtyard dolphin


it’s taken me a couple of days to write all this up, but the dolphin was delivered after the stormclouds passed on monday afternoon.  as always, i had great help and wonderful conversations with the people at the aquarium, and enjoyed avoiding the crows and going wandering in the back halls instead.  smells like fish.  my dolphin is going for that polyurethane topcoat and a cement base this week, and then it’s going to be delivered to the hotel for an extended stay, i suppose by the beginning of next week.

before putting it in the truck and delivering it to the aquarium loading dock, i took my finished dolphin out into the front yard and photographed it in the hazy sunlight.  i was surprised at how many details i could see in the bright light that were completely invisible in my studio.  i won’t mention them here because practically nobody will ever notice them, but i will look for them if i come across my dolphin again.

presenting the marriott courtyard / carnegie library dolphin.  it’s to be installed in the elevator lobby, and this is how it’ll be seen when the elevator doors open.

this is how it’ll look from the front desk.

nobody will ever see it from this angle.

you’ll be able to see this in the mirror at the end of the elevator lobby.

and now for some details.

you might not be able to read the titles, and only the black titles are at all clear, but it still looks like books.

some you might even recognize.

here’s my little joke.  on the front cover of the book that’s being pulled out of the bookshelf – his tail fin – there’s a picture of the carnegie library, and also a tiny figure of a dolphin in a bellhop’s jacket walking up the street.  i love slipping this kind of thing in.  about 1/16″ high.

here’s a view nobody will see, because it’s above eye level.  those distortions really are something, aren’t they?  maybe i should have darkened the inside of his mouth, but then i would have had to deal with what to do about his tongue.  dolphins have tongues, right?  they’re pink.  and teeth.  there’s an architectural detail called a dentil (right below the red of the roof), but it would be out of place inside his mouth.   and a black tongue, what’s that about?  symbols – the mind boggles.

here’s another much underviewed angle – the back.  i had to do different things at each top and bottom on all of these columns, all around the dolphin’s head.  there were lots of places that looked okay when i first drew them in, but then looked funny until i changed them. it was all done by eye in the end, because measurements changed every time i went a few inches, either up and down or around the head.  a demand for absolute accuracy here would have driven me mad.

now we get to the most important angle on the dolphin’s head.  the eyes.  that’s what keyed the whole ‘mapping the building onto the head’ idea, was the roundness of the windows and the arch of an eyebrow.   once i added the bellhop cap, the whole thing was a no-brainer.    a building, duh.

you might notice a gleam in his eyes.  at the very end of the process i decided i wanted to set the eyes off somehow.  i could have made them blacker than the black of the windows (which is really a dark grey), but i decided to put iridescence into it.  i recently came across a bunch of gravel newly laid on a nearby alley.  it’s granite gravel, so there’s quartz and tourmaline and mica in little chunks all up this hill.  anyway, i’ve been collecting really nice shiny specimens of these stones, and decided to scrape off a mess of mica and glue it on to the eyes.  and so i did, using acrylic medium.  i dipped the flat of a brush into acrylic medium, then touched it to a pile of mica, and then brushed it onto the eyeball.  and when it was dry, i did it again, little tiny flakes of mica.  bigger than the commercial product, but real mica anyway.  when two layers of mica and medium had dried, i put a coat of brass iridescent paint (dry pigment and acrylic medium), and then a coat of interference gold on.  so it’s going to shine a little no matter what light, but won’t look that off from black – just shinier.

the problem, of course, was what to do with that hugely protruding snout.  it made a mess of the lines of the columns, played havoc with how bent a line had to be to look straight, and made the placement of the figurehead obvious, but also made the carnegie label laughable.  inside his mouth, what a thought.  is the dolphin eating the library?  or just the front entrance?  symbols.

anyway, because the distortion worked, it all looks fine, and nobody’s going to be hunting for abstract reasoning behind why i put what where.

the kind people working at the marriott courtyard made up this great employee badge for me to stick on.  it’s the real thing, and makes it all official.

the really tricky part was the base.  the look was supposed to be of strewn pages, loosed from some old book and fallen in a big pile all around his feet.  originally the idea had been for the bellhop to be toting someone’s bag that spilled all these pages out as it opened unexpectedly.  but that would have required a whole lot of work i didn’t have time for.  so the idea evolved into pages loose on the water, being carried about by the waves.  and for that i had to mold them to the waves.  and for that i needed to lose the paper and reduce the bulk to a layer of ink.

and i did that using an image transfer technique i found on the internet.  and it worked brilliantly.  you can read the pages, if you can hack the distortion.  because they stretched and molded beautifully, only giving me a little trouble coming up around odd bends and hollows.  on some of these closeups you can see a whitish area around crinkles and in dips.  this is gel medium that hasn’t yet cured, even after several days.

the selection of pages took me some time, and reveal the history of the carnegie library, a glimpse of society a century and more ago, and a general view of atlanta as a small city.  i avoided mentioning most of the troubles that have grown up with the town, because we don’t need political statements in these troubled times unless i agree with them, and the sentiments i would have concentrated on if left to my own sensibilities would have offended practically everyone else.

my favorite part of the things i stuck to the base were the ads.  there are ads for coal stoves, patent medicine, and several great travel ads for companies that were long ago eaten up by what we know as usair and csx.

finally, i’d like to say a few words about the marriott label i used at the base.  the manager kindly asked the people in corporate to forward me a logo that i could enlarge and apply.  having worked in a corporate print shop for years, i know what kind of result this request usually gets me.  it gets a tiny thumbnail logo that becomes so pixilated at extreme magnification that i have to throw it away and paint the damned thing on myself.  and i don’t like to do this, because my paintings are never exact, and always show my particular way of seeing and representing things.

what i got from corporate, however, was as if i’d called up there and talked the the girls in the department myself (sorry if it’s guys in the art department that i’m actually referring to).  i got a file showing all the logo files and giving all the rules for how they’re to be used.  and i got an .eps file of the image, something that could be vectorized to the dimensions i needed and look wonderful and smooth-edged.

i’m making such a big deal about this because mostly printing is an artform that everyone thinks they understand because they have a printer attached to their computer.  but it’s so much more.  and corporate printing standards are no joke, either, because they’re a whole nother, political layer on a complex mechanical process already made infinitely more complex by having a computer interface.

so to get not only a good logo but the spec sheet for using the logo was a real blessing.

and to show my pleasure and gratitude for this wonderful response, i took out my gold paint and carefully added a layer of gold to the four colors originally that printed out of my printer.  and the reason i did this was because the spec sheet called for five colors.  and there are only four printer colors – yellow, magenta, cyan, and black.  so a fifth color meant spot gold.  so i whipped out my smallest paintbrush and spotted in gold on the trees and the border of the cartouche.  whee.

just a little extra bit to express my warm feelings toward this particular dolphin.  i have to say that i had so much fun doing this dolphin, i can’t tell you.  after being done with my other two dolphins, to suddenly get one more dropped into my lap was a real surprise, and a real pleasure.  i love doing this kind of work.  it’s so different from my regular work, which nobody wants to see, and it’s a real chance to reach out and touch an audience with as much warm humor as i can express.

so, thanks, scot, for giving me this opportunity, and enjoy your dolphin, and thanks, celeste, for making my contribution possible.


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