Posts Tagged ‘giraffe’

Safari base

21 Mar

My thoughts on how to mount the giraffe stemmed from the original idea of it looking like a safari trophy mount. I was going to cut a flat board or piece of nice plywood, then sand it and finish it to look like the taxidermy mounts we’re all so used to seeing. Then I got to thinking, what would make a unique piece look even more unique? I posted before about how I began the process of cleaning up the drawer and painting the inside to look like the African Savannah, so now I show the outside and what the finished giraffe looks like mounted in it.

"Suitcase" exterior detail

I used scrap paper around the edges to simulate the leather trim on a real old fashioned suitcase, but how to pull off the stitching? I thought about actually using a large needle and thick cotton string as the stitching and actually STITCHING the trim. I then thought, “Are you crazy? That will take forever and not look right…” I finally decided to paint a darker tone “trench” to look like a dirty shadow, then I bought some ivory colored 3D puffy paint and using a ruler to guide my hand, I squeezed a 3D dashed line to simulate stitches!

Stitches close-up

The effect is quite convincing…

Next, I had to create the hardware and handle. I could have found an old suitcase at a garage sale, but it was winter in the Great Lakes area…no sales. I guess I could have looked at a resale or thrift shop, but as ling as I was hand-making everything else….

So, I cut the handle out of scrap plywood and painted it to match the stitching, then attached it using some little brass hooks that looked like handle bracket hardware.

The suitcase handle

But what about the hinges and locks, you ask? Handmade as well, from cut paper, re-purposed medicine vial pop-off tops and wooden sticks, with a little paint for effect…

So, here is the finished piece, in all it’s weird glory.

Walter in his finished glory!

Sorry it’s take so long to chart the progress!

Your comments are welcomed and encouraged…I’d love to hear what you have to say!


The eyes have it!

03 Mar

Have you ever paid any attention to a giraffe’s eyes? They are very large, beautiful and protruding and it’s amazing how long their eyelashes are. In order to make this piece as life-like as possible, I wanted to give the eyes all the realism I could. That started with giving them a bright, shiny clear coat. I think you’ll agree that the gloss makes them look very alive.

Bright, shiny eyes add life!

Eyelashes and eyebrows complete the look and add further realism. Now Walter looks like he could reach out and grab that cracker you’re holding!

No mascara needed!

These eyelashes were just cut from a black piece of paper using little detail scissors, then gently curled a bit using the old technique we’ve all used on ribbon; dragging one side along the sharp edge of the scissors.

Next, I’ll talk about the base of the giraffe and how I mounted it on the wall, so stay tuned!

Have you created any animals in art that you’d like to share?


Filling in the pattern

11 Feb

Now I start painting in the spot pattern on the sides of the giraffe. Remember that I kind of arbitrarily chose my own pattern based on what I’d researched as well as what I thought looked good.

Face spots

Some interesting details are how the inside of the ears look painted. I had to go really dark inside, then blend my way lighter as I came out iof the ear. When I applied the latex caulk, I had tried to comb it in such a way that it looked like the fur was oriented linearly coming out of the ear. Once the paint was applied, it had a very pleasing, natural look.

Ear canal details

Backing away, you can see how the pattering for the rest of the whole side looks. I think it has a pretty natural feel and I like the reddish tint that the spots have. All in all, I think the effect is quite pleasing.

Side patterning

My kids thought these colors looked good on the side too, but I asked them what they thought of the idea of making the spots multi-colored! Oh well, maybe I’ll do that if I do another one.

Next time I’ll show some details on the face. These details really add the final touches to the look and realism of the giraffe. What have you noticed that is cool about a giraffe’s eyes?


Bringing the giraffe to life

11 Feb

Last post, I showed you what the wall mount looked like. Now I’m going back to the giraffe and beginning the final painting. Putting color over the “fur” texture I showed you awhile back is going to really give the giraffe a lot of realism.

Realism of a glossy painted eye!

You see how painting the eyes and giving them a gloss also breathes life into an inanimate object. You almost expect the giraffe to turn to you for a carrot!

Face painting!

After the eyes, I started adding the color to the top of the face and around the eyes. I looked at a lot of reference to get the color of the spots correct and also the pattern, and you know what I discovered? There is a huge amount of variability in the pattern and even the color of the spots on a giraffe. Spot color ranges from tan to more orange while the light color behind the spots could be nearly white to a creamy tan. The shape varied from rounded trapezoids to very irregular starry shapes with light veins or star bursts within them. I finally decided to make up my own pattern by picking shapes and colors that I liked, was aesthetically pleasing and I felt in harmony with.

Top of face and nostrils

Next time I’m going to show the side painting. What patterns have you noticed in giraffes?


Wall mount for giraffe

03 Feb

My original vision for this giraffe sculpture was to make it look very much like a safari mount. You know, when a hunter of any kind bags an animal in the wild, they often have it mounted as a trophy of sorts. I’ve seen fish, deer, water fowl, game birds, antelope, rhinos and others, but I’d never seen a giraffe. I imagine that mounting a giraffe would be an enormous undertaking (pardon the pun!) because the neck is so long. I’ve since learned that it does happen, but is very expensive to do, and that’s not even counting the cost of the safari or the transportation of the animal back to the states for the taxidermy. I was told that the mounting alone was $30,000!

In any case, my thought was to make my creation on a fancy and decorative wooden plaque with a routed edge, just like you’d see on a hunter’s wall. Then I thought, since this a rather exotic looking thing anyway, why not make the mount look more interesting? For a long time now, I’ve been collecting dresser drawers…yeah I know, my wife’s a saint. She puts up with my dumpster diving. But I thought that if you need some sort of box to present something in, why not use a pre-made wooden box that’s going to wind up in a landfill otherwise? Out of that notion came the idea to put the giraffe in a dresser drawer with the inside painted to look like the African Savannah and the outside painted to look like a suitcase or steamer trunk? So that’s what I did.

The drawer below is an old, ugly one with a fake carved wood face made of plastic…yuk!

Nasty, plastic front, but decent wooden construction

The basic construction of the drawer was solid, so I took off the plastic face and sanded the rough edges and glued the bottom in place to stabilize the whole thing. Then I trimmed the uneven edges on my table saw.

Plastic face removed

Then I base coated the entire piece and painted the inside to look like the African scenery. Later, when I show the finished piece with the giraffe mounted in it, you’ll see the “hardware and paint details I added to the outside to simulate the suitcase/steamer trunk look.

Painted inside to look like Afrikan Savannah

I hope this gives you ideas to use for your own projects. If you have questions about how I did certain things, please drop me a line in the comment box!



Base paint

25 Jan


Now I add a base color to the entire giraffe over the tooled latex. If you’ve ever paid attention to what a giraffe’s fur actually looks like, it’s a beigy-tan color with the darker tan to reddish brown and squarish patches. Sometimes these patches have very solid edges and sometimes they sort of blend. Sometimes they are very block shaped and other times they’re very jagged with “cracks” of beige inside. I’m not sure if that’s natural variation or if it has to do with age, gender or region. It could even be like a dalmation’s spots…just random. In any case, I’ll probably do a free form combination of the shapes.

For now, I base coated in a beige then dry brushed over that with a lighter version of the beige for depth. Next, I’ll paint the eyes, add details and do the darker spots on the face and neck.

Stay tuned!



Texturing the giraffe

17 Jan

Last post, I said that I was going to start painting next, but I decided to add a texture over the cloth mâché. I thought that instead of being smooth, the giraffe might gain some character if I applied a filler and tooled it to look a bit like fur. This might sound a bit odd, but I just bought some cheap latex caulk, squirted it on and tooled it using a piece of hair comb. The effect was pretty good as you can see.

Fur texturing

Around the eye, it looks like this…

Eye detail

And still more!

Mouth detail

Next, I’ll start getting a base color laid down over the texturing. Couldn’t you just imagine this hanging in the kid’s section of your local library? It would definitely get noticed!


Giraffe skin

07 Jan

The holidays are over and now I have a little time to post. I just added an outer layer to the giraffe. I like to use a cloth mâché technique, although the cloth tends to bubble and wrinkle a bit. Sometimes that looks great, sometimes it doesn’t. It helps if whatever you’re sculpting is something that is supposed have wrinkly skin, but there are ways to smooth the bubbles out a bit. You can also go over the cloth with a flexible filler to smooth it out a little. It all depends on what you want the surface to look like.

Once the cloth is dry, I can begin the painting process.




Giraffe takes shape!

05 Dec

It’s been awhile since I posted any progress on the papier-mâché giraffe sculpture I’ve been working on. Last time, I showed the wooden armature with paper padding to bulk it out and form the “musculature”, but it looks quite a lot different now. I’ve added some detail to the body and head, as well as made the lower jaw and tongue armature. I had always envisioned that the giraffe would be somewhat comical, not serious.

Tongue and lower jaw armature


Giraffe head with some detail added

This next view has those pieces in place after being painted first. Anything inside a mouth or other cavity should be pre-painted. It’s very difficult to paint inside of cavities. The head now has a few detail structures placed on it, including antlers and eyes, nostrils and cheek structure.

Giraffe face...what a tongue!

And now with even more of the “facial features” fleshed out and more apparent. You can tell it’s a giraffe now. Before, my kids said it looked like a goose! Next time, I’ll show how I add substance to the neck itself.

What projects are you working on?


Taking shape

12 Oct

Now, over the top of the armature that you’ve already seen, I begin to add paper twisted into rolls in order to flesh out the neck of the giraffe. By doing this, I’m imitating the musculature of the giraffe’s neck. The twists are first reinforced by wrapping with masking taped, then I hot glue them roughly in place.

Fleshing out the giraffe's neck

With the shape established, I then cover the rolls with flat brown packing paper that has been folded into several layers in the shape of the area I’m covering. This paper is just stuff that I rescued from the trash in order to reuse and recycle! I also use a lot of masking tape for the under structure, partially for strength and partially for the relative water-resistant nature of it. That way, when I go over everything with papier-mâché later, the water in it won’t soak the brown paper beneath.

Neck and head with flat paper added

I still have to flesh out the head, and you can see that I have begun to do that, but in the next post I’ll focus on that process. What animal sculptures does this inspire YOU to try?


Faux safari trophy

28 Sep

I’ve had an idea for a long time that I wanted to do a “faux animal trophy”. I’m not necessarily a safari enthusiast, but there’s something odd and comical about mounting an animal’s head on a piece of wood, so I thought, why not make one that doesn’t harm any animals and looks even funnier than the real thing?

In keeping with my mantra of reusing things, I built an armature out of scrap wood and junk screws. The armature has a base that is the shape of the “cross section” of the animal’s neck. My plan is to build out the piece using paper and cloth mâché and I’m not sure if I’m going to make it realistic or funny, but the result should be a lot of fun.

Armature for the the giraffe

I’m also not sure if I’m going to steampunk it or not…we’ll see! Clearly, you can see that my “safari animal” is a giraffe and it’s about 5 feet long! Yup, that’s going to stick out into the room a bit! Fortunately, it’s not going to be too much of a head banger because it heads up towards the ceiling as it goes out into the room, but what an impression it’s going to make! I’ve turned to picture below so you can see what I mean about it heading up as it goes towards the ceiling.

Giraffe; "hanging view"

Let me know what you think. Would you make it serious or funny?