Friday, April 25, 2008

Making of 'Big boy', my large Cane Toad sculpture

I thought I'd post a blow by blow series of pictures of Big Boy, my large Cane Toad bronze.
I started out by obtaining a live toad to keep as a model for a while, and I made some smaller toads before doing the large one.

I only had him for a few months, but he was such a greedy fellow, he went from 4" to 6" long in that short space of time, which volume wise could be nearly three times his mass. I wish I'd weighed him.




I made a very sturdy internal structure from foam, wood, metal brackets and the like, over which I smushed liquified (heated in a crock pot) clay. I was using an oil based plastilene which contains sulphur, now I use a wax based clay without sulphur. You get less complaints of bad smells that way! I made his back feet the final size based on measurements, which looked really wierd, but I trusted in my measurements and went ahead fleshing out more of him.

Visitors to the house wondered if I was making some kind of strange haloween decoration.
I wanted to finish the base and the feet early so that when all his huge fatness started to get in the way I wouldn't be struggling to make toes in inaccessible places or anything.
The temporary ping pong balls for eyes were a nice touch I thought.
Still a very long way to go mind you.
Working from my fine live model, who was changing in shape as he gained weight daily it seemed, I continued adding and adding, until he got pretty heavy.

I was pretty glad I'd made such a sturdy armature at this point, since the last thing I wanted was a collapse on the way to the foundry after all that work.

Lots more belly, and lots of warts along with some facial features were needed. His belly just kept eating up blocks of clay with alarming speed. I started to wonder if the kitchen table might break under the strain!

Since, like me, cane toads love to eat I picked a pose which is typical of cane toads when they are looking at something tasty. They can sit blob like all day long, but they perk right up at the sight of some food.
If Big boy and young Sprightly mouse (seen in the pic down there) were not made of bronze but real creatures, I wouldn't be fancying Sprightly's chances very much if they were ever to meet like this!


In case you were wondering, I fed my toad a mixed diet of jumbo mealworms, crickets, some locust sized grasshoppers and enormous caterpillars which you grow up to size in pots that you buy them in from the pet store.

The enormous shapes behind his head are poison sacks, full of bufotoxins.
Some people lick them to get high.
The lethal poison is one reason why in Australia, where they were introduced to control the sugar cane beetle, they have instead been wiping out indigenous species and taking over the northern end of the country. Anything they can fit in their mouths they eat (they'll even try ping pong balls if they see them moving!), and anything that gets a mouthful of that poison will die. So there's no opportunity for species to learn to avoid them, they just get wiped out.

I have heard that crows have figured out to flip them over and attack the belly side, but I could not personally verify this since I don't live in Australia, and have never seen it done.
Mind you, they also live in Florida and Texas too (as well as Hawaii, the Philippines and South and Central America). I don't know why they don't run as rampant there. But Australians do have a bit of a history of introducing things to the peril of the country, starting I suppose with themselves, depending on your point of view.
Well, back to the toad in question.
Since being cast (he weighs in at about 60lbs in bronze) I have had the good fortune of having a pair of them purchased by Loveland High Plains Arts Council in Colorado, to be installed in their famous Benson Sculpture Park in the summer of 2008, which makes me very happy indeed. They'll be sitting troll-like guarding one side of a bridge which crosses the pond in the park, and they'll be in some quite distinguished company. In addition to that, private collectors of course have bought some, so it shouldn't be too long before the edition of 15 is sold out.
My sculpture website (click on this line).

6 comments:

Carol Howard Merritt said...

What a fascinating process! Really amazing.

Thanks

Greenie said...

Ah! I love the Sprightly Mouse, bronze mice & your site. Looks like you & your wife have an excellent adventure unfolding. Best success to you both. :)

SDRoads said...

This is amazing work you are doing. -SDRoads

JULES JOYCE said...

Hi Steve,

I checked out your website. Fun sculptures -- especially the elephant in Rodin's The Thinker pose!

I also looked at your Storyboard Squad website. Cool colorful drawings!

To you and Meridee ~ Keep up the good work!

Cheers,

Jules

Reverie said...

Wow...beautiful, artistic pieces...very impressive. Love your U-tube videos too.

Sandpiper said...

Wow! Beautiful art! Thanks for the comment you left on my blog.