I have another one-of-a-kind commission to show you today. Although it is more straight forward than the heart talisman I showed you yesterday. This is a seahorse I was asked to make for a birthday present.
I haven’t made many sea-living creatures before (but I think I might have made a blue ceramic fish in my second year of secondary school). So, as ever, my starting point was with research. I gathered plenty of images of seahorses and decided what variety of species would best suit my design ideal.
My experience with the Threadbare Bug Collection really came into play here. Structurally, I just needed to work out the three dimensional form of the seahorse. When I was learning to draw, I had the typical lesson of learning how to break down objects into geometrical shapes in order to correctly and accurately capture them. For example, a glass wine bottle can be broken down into a cylinder for the main body of the bottle, half a sphere for the rounded part adjoining the neck and another smaller cylinder for the neck itself. Breaking down the object in this way can give you a solid starting point for your drawing. It allows you to have a firm foundation upon which your more detailed drawing can be worked upon.
The same goes for making a three dimensional object. If I remember correctly, the seahorse is made up of the following; spheres for the head and neck, a small cylindrical shape for the long distinctive nose, a large sphere for the upper body and a customised cylinder with a curved end to make the seahorses tail.
I made all of these geometric shapes out of felt. I love using this versatile material. It is great for sewing in to and provides a strong base for additional materials. I also like being able to create every part of the art piece, it gives me total creative control. I don’t have to rely on a manufacturer for different shapes and sizes of product, I can make my own to suit the scale and number I need.
With the foundation structure complete, I was able to move on to the decoration of the seahorse or the painting of my canvas, if you will. I was asked to use turquoise, green and a little red in the colour palette of the piece. As with working with the bugs, I have found it wonderful how the beads and sequins I use in my work made very convincing substitutes for exoskeletons and now scales. I sewed the beads on in stripes to show a regular and natural feeling pattern which gave a texture that I had observed in my research. Obviously there is always room for artistic licence and I don’t claim to be making an exact replica of any seahorse species. I wanted the piece to be an interpretation not an up-scaled model.
As with the heart yesterday, when this seahorse was complete, I suspended him in a glass jar. I have been doing this for years with my art work and I was glad to carry on the tradition with this piece because it very much seemed to suit the subject matter. An aspect of my work that I enjoy is creating these unexpected oddities that live and take part in a person’s home interior.
I imagine this seahorse sitting on a shelf or on a desk and I think that although it is a little strange to have a turquoise seahorse suspended in a jar in your house, I think how good it is to own something strange, something unusual. There is so much today that is global, hum-drum and ultra accessible. I like things that are a bit more difficult to incorporate, things that require a little space to be seen, things that require us to contemplate where we position them and how to display them, things that tell a story about who we are in a small way.