And, I admit, showing off at the same time.
First off, I never expected to be away from the blog so long, but it’s been a surprisingly busy several days, coupled with a minor digestive ailment which tended to sap my creativity. “Okay,” you’re thinking, “but what does that have to do with your writing or photography?” Don’t lie to me; I know that went through your head.
Anyway, a few years ago I had hand-painted a green sea turtle onto a vinyl spare tire cover for The Girlfriend, who is a sea turtle enthusiast. Ostensibly it was a christmas present, but it ended up taking longer than I wanted so she didn’t get it until later. She was not at all displeased over this, however, and has been ensuring that it stays in good condition as long as possible.
This year, The Girlfriend’s Younger Sprog recently bought her first car, and got the same model as her mother – this made my christmas decisions a little easier. She’s a Doctor Who fan and has been planning the personalization of this car since before she bought it, plus the car is bright blue, so naturally there had to be a TARDIS on the cover.
I had to do all the work on this while she was out of the house, and of course during good weather since I had to work outside – this, by the way, was the primary reason I needed the airbrush cup. It took a few weeks, not from labor but just from finding the right times, but I finished plenty early.
On christmas morning, I sneaked out and mounted the tire cover on her vehicle, then when gift exchange came around, I presented her with a card which hinted vaguely that she should be looking at the spare tire. As we went outside, it was apparent the moment she spotted the cover, from the sudden exclamation, and even more gratifying when she ran her fingers across it and asked incredulously, “You painted this?” I think she’s pleased with it.
I was smart enough (or egotistical enough – your call) to document the progress, and made a webpage detailing the whole painting process. I’m not talented enough to do something like this from scratch, and copied the design from an image brazenly stolen from the web (for which I have indeed tried to establish the original artist, with no luck as yet.) But if you have the interest, the whole project can be found on a dedicated hand-painted TARDIS tire cover page. Most of the work was, in fact, careful masking, and not half as arduous as it might seem at first.
On to The Girlfriend. A couple of years ago was the saga of the stray kittens, and two of those remained with us. The Girlfriend had never had cats and didn’t consider herself a cat person, which makes it all the more amusing to watch her carrying around Kaylee like an infant, including rocking her – Kaylee, for her part, actually enjoys this and does not get motion sickness at all. So I decided The Girlfriend needed a cat sculpture this year; in a previous year she’d received a newly-hatched sea turtle and a manatee, both carved from soapstone.
This was was presented as a gift much the same way, with a card hinting at where to look – in this case, it was “Find Kaylee,” which was a little misleading since she was winding around our feet at the time. But The Girlfriend took the hint and began searching the various favorite haunts of her cat, soon finding the sculpture nestled in its own nest on the bed where Kaylee often curls up. There was no mistaking her delight in the piece.
This project actually went a lot smoother than I anticipated. I had a cylinder of white soapstone that I received as a present myself some years back, and the color and shape lent itself to the idea, since cats curl up into balls anyway and tend to mold themselves to their surroundings. I located a couple of images as a guide and sketched out the rough shape, and somehow managed to keep the proportions correct throughout the work (the biggest exception was the left foreleg, which was a little large at first.) Pieces like this are difficult to photograph well enough to see all the details at once – they usually benefit from being able to be turned in the light so the shadows fall differently – but I think you can still faintly make out the curl of the “fists” that marks a happy cat, something Kaylee does frequently and The Girlfriend finds adorable.
This one also had to be done while The Girlfriend was away, plus putting away all the tools and cleaning up every last trace of the work, which usually consists of small chips and fine white powder all over everything after being hurled there by the Dremel power tool (which are wonderful things, I think I’ve said before.) Definitely something you want to do outside, someplace that can still be cleaned up easily. Soapstone is easy to work with, but this also means it’s easy to make a mistake with as well – one slip of the power tool or detail knife can produce a gouge that has to be eradicated somehow, so while soft materials can save a lot of time and effort, there’s a tradeoff like everything. I finished the piece by wet-sanding with 400 and 600 grit sandpapers to produce a lovely smooth texture, and did a light treatment with mineral oil to bring out the stone’s translucency. Now I’m ready to graduate to marble! (Yeah, right.)
A little later the same day, Kaylee made a spirited attempt to mimic her likeness on the bed, almost exactly where I’d placed the gift earlier – she often covers her nose with her paw, and that was a detail I knew I had to include. She wasn’t cooperative enough to pose like this before I started work on the piece, so I had to cheat and again work from images gathered online.
The rest of the time since then was spent in scattered ways, everything from helping design cards for a major game project (not mine) to moving a greenhouse (not ours,) celebrating a birthday in there (not mine,) and repairing a computer (mine). Hard as it might be to believe, I barely lifted the camera at all in the past ten days, which just isn’t right at all. I’ll see what I can do pretty soon.