Making a fish sculpture: My brother’s 50th birthday is this year and I really wanted to make something special for him that was personal to him and to me. He is really into boating and things nautical, and they have an outdoor barbeque area that lends itself to wall decoration, so I thought that I would make a fish sculpture to go on the wall. I have described previously my first efforts at making Powertex figurines; this time I thought I would try making a fish sculpture.
I decided that rather than making it at home by myself I would attend another workshop so that I could learn new techniques while I was at it and also because it was a good excuse to spend some time with my friend Dominique who also loves making figurines. As it turned out, we were the only two at the workshop which was absolutely fantastic.
I spent quite a bit of time before the workshop researching different fish shapes and looking at all sorts of different fish sculptures. This gave me a good idea of the sort of thing I was looking for although I knew from past experience that I would end up with something completely different – and that was okay too.
The first step was to draw out the shape of the fish body onto a thick piece of polystyrene foam (approx 5cm thick) and then start to carve out the body shape using a Stanley knife. Use wooden skewers to form the basis of the fins and tail.
The next part got a bit messy so I don’t have lots of photos of the process, but first I painted everything with Powertex Bronze.
Then I mixed up some Easy3DFlex powder with Powertex Bronze – approximately 50:50 but use less Powertex to start with and mix it together until forms a dough-like clay. Roll this out to about 5mm thickness between 2 pieces of clingfilm, then apply to the fish body (it is easiest to do this a bit at a time and blend the edges together with your fingers) until the whole body is covered.
Easy3DFlex is designed to crack as it dries, and the thicker your layers, the more it will crack so you need to think about the final texture you are aiming for. Initially I had been planning to go for a totally sleek finish without any cracks – using Stone Art powder instead of the Easy3DFlex – but then thought that it would be fun to try something different.
Some parts of the fish you may not want to crack – such as the lips – so make sure you use a Stone Art clay for these area. Make an impression for the eye area, and I used a glass bead (flat on one side) to form the eye.
For the tail and fins I used PaperDeco fibre to make a filmy textured finish but then discovered that it didn’t really have enough support so ended up putting a thin layer of Stone Art clay behind it. Continuing some clay out at the base helped anchor the tail in particular to the body and gave a more realistic look.
Then I tried to think how I could give more of a fish scale texture to the body and eventually used a small shell that I just pushed into the surface of the clay in a semi-regular pattern. Joanne suggested I apply a spray of a brown Bister solution to add some depth of colour and also assist with the cracking. This had the unexpected benefit of also colouring the glass eye. Then I added another couple of fins using wooden skewers, Stone Art clay and PaperDeco to give texture.
We left our sculptures to dry for about an hour while we had lunch. At this stage I was just thinking of it as a generic fish and had been planning to colour it with blues and greens. Over lunch Nick (tutor Joanne’s husband) asked what sort of fish I was making. A fish fish, I replied. But after a look he decided that it was very definitely a snappers. So we had a look at different photos of snapper on the computer and I changed my plans to a orangey-pink and silver finish so that it would be a more realistic snapper.
Because I now wanted a more silvery finish, Joanne suggested that I mix some Powertex Ivory with the bronze Powertex and brush it over lightly to lighten the colour. Then I used ColourTrix powders mixed with varnish to complete my sculpture – silver, pearl red and a touch of copper. I was so pleased with the result: the colours shimmer and change depending on the angle of the light and it looks surprisingly realistic. Powertex sculptures need to be left overnight at least to dry and then 2-3 weeks for them to harden completely.