fiberglass sculpture decoration – first steps

i’ve got my dolphins, two of them.  i picked them up on the loading dock (the whole insides of the aquarium smells like fish!)

here’s the guy who helped me move the dolphins.  sorry about the blurry shot, but you know who you are.  you deserve a raise for your bright, helpful manner.

i left jim and the baby at home to go get them, but took my litle dog sudie, and she ended up going for a walk in the bowels of the aquarium, following that smell.  aside from a small mishap, which can be mended with epoxy, i got two nice specimens into the truck and across town to my side alley, outside the studio, where they are getting atmospherically washed and cleaned in preparation for being sanded and primed.  which, since it’s a three day rain looks like, will be on the weekend, when hopefully i don’t have to mind a three-year old.

sudie is now loose on the loading dock

so i’ve been reading up on the established way of painting these fiberglass sculptures.  there are lots of ways, the recommended way and the starving artist way.  i’ve seen many reprints of the cowpainter tips with different logos on the top; it’s something they provide.  i really like cowpainters.  their people have been so helpful, and so knowledgeable, and i’ve relied on them for information for several painted fiberglass sculptures.  i’m also finding a lot of help in the forums by model makers, since they’re having the same issues as i am, for instance covering cracks and priming fiberglass.

i’ve got to settle on my materials right away.  there’s a choice of what to use to sculpt things onto the sculpture, and a choice of the varnish, and more.  for instance, here’s a discussion of the difference between clays and molding compounds.  there’s the recommended magic sculp at $18/lb, and something a local dealer sells for a tiny bit cheaper but no shipping.  Aves Apoxie Sculpt $15/lb.  then they recommend the very expensive lascaux uv varnish $20 for 8 oz, that’s a lot, or golden’s  polymer acrylic varnish, which is more reasonable – just as long as it doesn’t say ‘top coat only’ because it still has to take the car varnish (polyurethane).  then there are other options.  and other supplies, like readymade bits and pieces of plastics, that i would be gluing down onto my sculpture, like a way to build the pumps and filters, rather then trying to find scale models of them from the manufacturer, if any such exist.

the final drawing, giving the general idea without overwhelming with complexity

i scanned in the final drawing, once i’d seen the sponsor‘s dynamite calendar showing all the work they put into their biggest project to date – the very georgia aquarium that’s the home of all this dolphin hubbub.  hurray, i get to do a dolphin for the guys who put in the pipes and plumbing and the heating and air for the entire aquarium, an enormous job.  i’m trying to arrange for a tour of their handywork soon, so i can get closeup shots of the pumps and filters i need to mock up.  i intend to go have sushi afterwards because of the fishy smell i anticipate will make me either very hungry or very nauseous.

note the variety of hoses, pipes, ducts and controls going in and around the dolphin.  pretty cool, huh?

i may need to go to party city and get a pair of these oversized sunglasses to serve as dolphin safety glasses

the dolphins are different than the drawings we had to go on when we designed them.  these i suppose were silhouettes drawn by the cowpainter artists.  the real water furls are much more pronounced than in the drawing, and the feet are much flatter than i expected.  they’ll need building out.  i can keep the water furls for the pipes dolphin, but for the other dolphin i’m going to have to build the base out extensively just to make it look like not water.

first they both need a good sanding.  and looking over the skin for flaws, holes, cracks, etc.  there are irregularities on their backs that i don’t like, and other things that need to be covered or smoothed out before i start painting.  look at that seam on the further dolphin, i want to sand that down, and the roughness in the back of the closer one.

and how’s this cool look up the skirts of one of the dolphins, eh?  it’s completely hollow, and all the contours are just bumps on the inside, and i can do anything i want to with these things and it’ll be okay if my workmanship is careful and well thought out, if i use adequate materials and use them with common sense and plenty of advice.  i’ve got until after xmas to get them both done, and since i’ve done this before i’m not going to waste as much time or materials as i did the first time.

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dolphin parade at atlanta aquarium

(note:  i got commissioned for two dolphins, and am working on them in more recent updates to this blog.)

there’s a cool fundraiser that cities and other organizations do, where they get a bunch of artists to paint fiberglass animals, then position them around the city, and then auction them off.  you’ve probably seen something like it in your city.  the people who make the fiberglass animals (and other things) supply them, sponsors pay for them, and the artists are chosen based on their designs, given a small stipend, and allowed to use the organization’s logo on their resume (is that a privilege or a right?)

public art.  i’ve done this before.  sandy springs had a turtle trot to raise money, and i designed and built two fiberglass turtle sculptures, both of which sold, one for $19K.  i tried to get a commission when the cows came to atlanta a few years previous, but my proposal wasn’t chosen, so i did my research for the turtles, and got both entries accepted.

what did i learn about this process?

you have to pitch to the sponsors.  for the cows, i thought of things like rhett and scarlett cows waltzing.  cute, whimsical, but did it give any sponsors a thrill?  no.

for the turtles, i looked up the sponsors.  a hospital.  a travel agency.  a gourmet supermarket.  a real estate firm.  and tailored my proposals accordingly.  so, i did a doctor turtle.  and a travel turtle.  and i did a real slick watercolor (the drawing for rhett and scarlett was in colored pencil) and labelled it all professionally and everything.

marketing.  packaging.  that’s what sells.  the content has to be good, but they really love slick.  even tho there’s nothing more contrived than slick.  the public equates it with accomplished.  something you have to know.

anyway.  it’s dolphins, to advertise the aquarium’s new dolphin tank.  it’s a family thing, of course, so i can’t aim it at bars or liquor companies or night spots, otherwise there’d be stripper dolphin.  but i figure coca-cola dolphin, or i could always try travel dolphin and doctor dolphin again.  i could do atlanta braves dolphin, or delta pilot dolphin.  but nobody would sponsor redneck dolphin, or gangsta rapper dolphin, so i’m not even going to bother.

i’m going to spend a few days working up likely proposals, and in the meantime i’m trying to get the sponsor list from the organizers.

i love doing these things.  trouble is, the work needs to be done between august and october, and i’m spending september and october in europe, so it’s got to be done in 30 days.

i worked for months on the turtles.  if i get a commission, it had better be for only one dolphin.