Friday, December 25, 2015


I was not expecting to be posting this second chapter of my GIANT CRAB CLAW. But the same day I had finished this creature (see my previous post below), I was having some misgivings about my final design. The "crab trap" did not turn out like I had originally was quite a bit larger than I wanted. I conducted a little POLL on Facebook, and the majority of responders liked a simpler approach. So...the next day I went to the basement with my claw...and cut off all of the "trap" (many hours and days of work).

Below you can see that I removed the outer edges of the weird shape that was the "water" and cut out a circle. I felt like the circular shape went better with the motif of the companion piece (Giant Squid) porthole.  I filled in all of the turbulent water surfaces with more mulch paper mache. I then sanded down the surface to try to get it a bit smoother.

I decided to play with some Art Nouveau influences on the new base. I drew up a design of swirling waves. I simplified it a bit from the drawing below, but liked the "mosaic" feel instead of going with a more sculptural approach.
I bought some sheets of foam rubber with peel and stick backing from the hobby store. I freehanded the swirl shapes that were influenced by my sketch. But I had to modify them as I went, since this was going onto a dimensional sculpture. It was like creating a puzzle. Once I had the basic shapes in place, I cut out little grooves to form individual "tiles" for my mosaic.
Here is the finished mosaic, before paint was applied.
I mixed up some GESSO with a bit of acrylic paint, to start building a good base coat. I then switched up the colors, so I knew where I was going. I layered in three different colors, then finished it all with a watered-down glaze of dull brown washes. This unified the whole thing, and allowed color to get into all of the grooves between the pieces.
I then began to paint all of the details with "metallic" acrylic paints. I had five different colors that I used. I liked the "pearlized" sparkle that looked different from the surface of the crab. Then I gave the whole base another wash of the thinned down brown. This gave a bit of aging look to everything, and warmed up the palette a bit.
I am happy with the final results of this, and like the way the simpler curving shapes echo what is happening to the swirls of the squid sculpture next to the crab claw.
Here's how they both look on my studio wall!  I might make one more sculpture to go on the left side, to have a "trio" of giant critters from the deep.

Friday, December 11, 2015

SCULPTURE: "Giant Blue Crab Claw"

 It's time to post my latest paper mache projectTHE GIANT BLUE CRAB CLAW!!!
After I had made my Giant Squid some months ago, I felt like trying a companion piece to go on my studio wall. I'll walk you through the steps to build this. Above, you can see the miniature sculpt that I made, just to get a general idea for proportions. I did a little photoshop magic, and made enlarged it to approximately the size it would be to fit the space next to the door. I also added a bit of color.

Below is the basic armature. I secured a piece of PVC pipe to a board, and added wire for the shape of the claw. Using a heat gun (thanks for the tip, Clint!), I was able to bend the plastic pipe to the proper angle. I filled in the shape with newspapers, and masking tape. I used a drill and jigsaw to cut a hole for the framing wire and screw-eyes for hanging on the wall.
Once I had the basic shape constructed from newspaper and tape, I mixed up paper mache mulch (found at most hobby shops), and gave everything a good coating. I let it dry for a couple of days. I made an old-school style crab/lobster trap that would give the base a bit of interest and add some action to the scene. Looking at the final...I probably should have just simplified the whole thing without the trap. I think it's a little larger than intended. The trap is made from strips of styrofoam that I had cut from some packing inside a box. It was light and worked perfectly for what I needed.
I then began adding more details to the claws following some photos that I had taken from a trip to Maryland, and also images I found online. I also covered the styrofoam "boards" with the mache mulch. Once the trap was dried, I was able to start adding "water splashes" to the backboard. As happens often on my projects, things go off course a little...the trap was too large to fit on the base board. So I added on more wood, and then extended the edges with more paper mache. You will notice the masking tape with plastic wrap at the bottom of each "board" of the trap. I wanted to be able to remove the trap when I painted the crab. When the mache left little "sockets" in the water.
I used "paper clay" (also found at the hobby shop) to spread on top of the rougher mache surface. This allowed me to get smoother details and transitions on the forms.
Next, I added the same paper clay to the boards of the trap. I used a wooden tool to cut woodgrain grooves into the boards, and added little nails.
The most enjoyable part of any project for me is the painting of it. Since this was a blue crab, I gave it a base coat of various blues and aquas with acrylic paint. I blocked in the general color shapes, then dry-brushed various transitional colors. I added a glaze of very watered down golden brown. Then repeated the process with brighter, cleaner paint to punch the colors.
I gave the trap a base coat of brown, then glazed it with thinner black paint. I then dry-brushed some gray on top to give it an old water-logged look. A little bit of rusty red on the nails finished it off.
Once I had the crab and trap painted, I gave the "water" a wash of greenish ochre over the blues. The last touch was dry-brushing some white to give some foamy splashes.
I covered everything with an acrylic varnish (water-based) to give it a nice shine.
I glued the "wooden trap" back into place, then covered the areas at the base of each board with more mache, to cover up the "sockets" and to add more foamy splashes. I painted the new additions, and coated them with varnish.
Here is the FINAL GIANT CRAB CLAW hanging on my studio wall!!

Just for the heck of it, I compared my original rough little sculpture and photo comp with the final sculpted version. It's a bit larger than I original intended (mostly because I had to make the backboard larger), but I like how it turned out overall.

Monday, November 9, 2015


This morning I painted in a field next to my church (a regular occurrence now, after my men's bible study). There were two combines and a terrific old blue truck out there, and I couldn't resist.
 After finishing the painting, I decided to grab my sketchbook and get a more detailed drawing of the machines. The lighting had dramatically shifted, since it was about noon when I finished adding color. These were mostly in cast shadow, so no highlights to speak of.

Friday, November 6, 2015

SKETCHBOOK: "KC Symphony Ensemble"

I had a fun and challenging evening sketching tonight. I was invited to draw an Ensemble that played at the offices of the KC Symphony. This was their first year to participate in "First Fridays" in the artistic Cross Roads District. I had about 10 to 15 minutes to sketch during each musical set. It was hard to capture musicians in motion!! smile emoticon Thanks to  Amy Winterscheidt and Jeff Barker for helping to make this happen for me!! 
These are all 9"x12" on Bristol. I started with a mid-tone made from graphite powder, then used 4b and 8B pencils with a kneaded eraser for highlights.
 Below is my set-up and two of the four musicians getting ready to play.

Monday, November 2, 2015

NEW PAINTINGS: "Last of The Cabbages"

Here's a new painting I completed this morning. This is the last lonely row of cabbages left at my church's community garden. The sun had already gotten up pretty high before I started painting, so it was not the best lighting. Wonderful weather, though.  
8x10 oil on canvas board.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

SKETCHBOOK: "End of the Season"

Today was a gorgeous Fall day and I just had to get outside to sketch. The image above is at my church's community garden, at the end of the season. Everything got plowed under this week and it will soon be prepped for the winter. All the wheelbarrows were stacked against the fence.

Below is my front porch. My flowers have just about had their run for this year. I will soon be moving the pots and chair indoors.

Monday, October 19, 2015

New Paintings...another one

A dangerous morning..."hedge apples" were falling all around me as I painted this tree which is on a little nature trail on our church property. Thump! Crackle...Crash...THUMP! Of course they aren't really apples at all...more like mutated giant yellow softballs...which aren't soft. 10"x8" oil on board.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

New Paintings...a few more

Today, I finished a painting that I started yesterday. This was in the "Community Garden" at my church.  I had finished the painting, but wasn't happy with the lack of darker values. and I wasn't crazy about the little shed's details.  So...I reworked much of the painting. I'm not sure it was entirely successful...lost some bits that I really liked in the first version better.'s the final, final version below...I reworked a bit in my studio.

I think I like my first version below the best...but now it's too late. WHEN WILL I LEARN?!
Here's the view in the real world.
This painting below was done last week at a construction site near my home. It was fun talking to the work crew. I'm sure they didn't really get the "impressionist" technique I was going for. But they were nice about it.
This next painting was also done last week, over two consecutive mornings. My family had just gone to a parade and crafts show here the weekend before, and I really wanted to paint that huge sycamore tree.  So...I did. :)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

SKETCHBOOK: "Shawnee Indian Mission Fall Fest"

Today, I went to sketch my friends Bill, Dave and his wife Patty. They make up the dynamic folk trio "Anchovy Fishermen" ( They were playing at the Shawnee Indian Mission Fall Festival. Afterwards, I wandered around and drew a couple more sketches. A gorgeous day!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

SKETCHBOOK: "Return to Japan Festival"

I spent the whole day sketching at the JAPAN FESTIVAL in Overland Park, KS. It's held each year at the Johnson County Community College. Here are the results from my efforts.