Saturday, September 23, 2006

Children's Books Display - Part 10

The crocodile was pretty complex, especially his frame construction, but ended up being one of the easiest to complete. It also turned out to be one of the best pieces.

Like the monkey, he was not part of the original concept. The crocodile was conceived to fill one of the front to rear beams on the display, opposite the beam that contained the monkey. Since I'd dropped having a dragon in the display early on, I wanted to do something similar, on a slightly smaller scale. A crocodile seemed like a natural. I'd originally toyed with having him and the monkey playing go fish, and then having a different character, such as an el dia de los muertos skeleton opposite them, but realized that I was just giving myself more work.

Fortunately only the photos of the initial steps have been lost. The frame was completely made from cardboard, a boxy crocodile shape stuffed with newspaper to lend support, and held together with masking tape. As in the others, a block of wood was built into the bottom in order to screw it down to a mount.

Even though the initial layer of paper mache has been laid on here, you can still get a sense of the cardboard structure underneath. As you can see, the arms were added on after the rest of the body was covered in paper mache.

To build up the lips, snout, eye areas and knobby scales along the back and sides, I used the paper pulp/wheat paste mixture . The reason it looks burned is that it is. The weather had been so humid that nothing was drying fast enough on its own. I ended up having to cook a few of the characters in the oven. I set the temperature at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, not worrying about the paper burning, because as Ray Bradbury taught us, the combustion point of paper is 451 degrees Fahrenheit. I was more concerned with other materials, such as the garden hoses; and not so much with their melting point, but any fumes they might give off. Still, things dried pretty quickly in the oven, even though the crocodile was so large that I could only bake part of him at a time, and had to keep the oven door open the whole time.

Here you can see the pulp paper lumpy scales added to his side are still wet. As I said in an earlier post, this grey mush solved a lot of problems and was very easy to make and work with.

Here's four views of the finished crocodile before priming. He's about the same size as the bear.

I'd originally conceived the crocodile as wearing a bowler hat, bow tie and perhaps even a monocle. Originally the monkey was going to be given the fez. I know, not terribly original. When I decided to paint the monkey red, I dropped the fez, opting for a paper hat instead. I still liked the idea of the fez, and decided that it suited the crocodile even better than a bowler. The fez is simply a painted dixie cup with a small tassel meant for drapes punched and glued through a hole in the top. It's held to the crocodile's head by two toothpicks glued to the inside of the fez. The points of the toothpicks were coated in white glue and punched through the top of the crocodile's eyebrows.

At this point he's painted but does not have any teeth.

Here you can see the crocodile completed. The eyes are simply plastic cat eyes meant for use on toy stuffed animals. The teeth are the tines of about a dozen or so plastic forks. It looks like a lot of work, but probably took me no more than twenty minutes to glue and insert them all.

He was given a basic kiwi green undercoat with some darker green texturing dry brushed on in a stippling pattern. I'd initially tried giving him some stylized cross-hatch type scales, but they didn't look right so I painted over them.

All he needs now is the book he'll be reading, which is "Peter Pan." It took me some time to find a cover that I actually liked enough to use.

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