On Monday a friend and neighbor contacted me about a birthday present for her husband. She wanted to know what murders or families of narwhals were in stock. I had just sold a great murder and had a slightly damaged family of narwhals in the shop. I told her I would make the repairs and it could be hers.
She discussed this idea with her children (there are three) and they were a bit worried that my piece only had one young’n. There was some discussion regarding gender and tusks.
We decided that I would design and build a pod that was specific to this family. I made a note of relative age and gender and went to work.
I began with a croquet ball. I had slice a portion off to make a base for a single bird. I like the looks of a 2/3 sphere. I mounted it on a chamfered rim. I layered up 2-3 colors on the base and rim and ended up with a sea blue 2/3 sphere and red base.
I find myself using old patterns less and less for projects as my forms become more ingrained in my head and hand. I tend to draw patterns for the project and never re-visit them.
I began with the dad whale. He was pretty straight forward. I did give his head and tail a bit of twist. I temporarily mounted this whale on the base.
I used the three remaining, smaller whales, to fill the space between these two. With the carving and addition of each component it was apparent where the next one was to go.
At some point I decided that the base looked like an old globe. I scaled and printed out several world maps and loosely transferred the continents to the base and painted them green. A red line marked the equator.
To achieve the mottled backs of the creatures I painted base coats of different shades of brown. Over the brown I ragged a medium grey. Over this I spatters, using a toothbrush, various shades of cream, black and grey. This is a messy process — I’ve several spattered painted journal pages and tools — but I love it!
The entire piece is mounted on a series of steel rods. I’ve had problems with loose joints in former pieces and wanted to avoid them here as placement of the individual whales was so important. I used cyanoacrylate — super glue — as I usually do. Cyanoacrylates can be finicky about setting and I’ve had my share of frustrations. I recently discovered an activator that makes this adhesive very reliable.
I told my client that this piece would be delivered in about ten days. I’m working on building up inventory so it was no problem putting this piece at the top of the list. We’ve been “iced-in” all week and with nowhere to go I finished in just over 3 days and was able to put a lot of extra time and thought into it.
The pod is going home today or tomorrow. It’s been a ball to render a dear family in whales!