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  • Writer's pictureDavid

Dry Docked Pelican Floats Again

Dry Dock Pelican

In sculpture, a bit of patience is a must, or should it be called a talent for distraction? As some might have seen in a previous blog post, I started sculpting a pelican over a year ago. I just completed it last week! Why? Well, lots of reasons come to mind. Pelicans are very complicated! Pelicans have an extra web in their feet! Pelicans are capable of blending in amongst the junk in my shop! Okay, no genuinely good excuses have surfaced. So I guess I’ll just go with, “As with Rome, no pelican was ever built in a day!”

I know some types of people will insist that Rome and a bronze pelican are not really the same sort of thing. Whatever reasons I may conjure up, the fact is, my pelican could have been finished in December of 2019. But between the various things going on, it got set aside, and then neglected during the early months, then the middle months, and then finally picked up again in the more recent months of the pandemic. I guess my best defense is that a level of uncertainty crept in as the gallery closures wore on, and then something new and different took a better hold of my scattered attention, and so my pelican stood in the corner, neglected. Dejected. But not infected!

I liked what I had going in the piece, and never really thought about giving up on it. That whole Bernie Sanders thing was working for me. That curmudgeonly, but wisened look, that

short-necked slump, where the jawline sort of juts out from well below the shoulders, and that expression that makes it look as though they might be able to recite an entire encyclopedia of facts and figures, cover to cover, without looking at any notes. A rare confidence in being, in their own feathers, without apologies for missing, (or setting) the latest fashion trends. I guess I find the attitude of a pelican reassuring, and almost can’t imagine that any of their species, nor Bernie’s, for that matter, could ever have experienced an adolescence. Maybe that is why my pelican was old before it was even born!

I like how the piece finished up, and I particularly liked seeing how the belly patina played with that of the bill; two bulging forms, vying for attention with one another, like a couple of well tended beer bellies at the end of the bar. Along with the hard lines and angular composition of the wing and tail structures, the piece has some of the charm of an old sailing vessel, or fishing boat, while still coming across as a pelican.

The boat-like body is shared with the other bird piece I did this year, as a second in a series of three birds I intend to make. The layering of the folded wings was a fun part of this design for me, and a technical challenge in the mold making, as well as in the final assembly. I initially wanted to be able to take these birds apart, as they seem terribly fragile for shipping, but then I became enamored with the bolt-on features, as that method of attachment seemed to go well with the mechanical aspects of the forms.

A Darwinian Conundrum (photo, Melisa Kroening)

There is something of a puppet-like feel to these two birds, whereby I find myself tempted to animate them. But of course if I did that, I might only complete two more pieces by the time I’m 90. So while I’d love to see these creature walk, I want to still be able to walk, myself, when they are done.

Time is always a factor, no matter how free we feel to create. Do we do a project that takes a year to complete, or twelve projects that take one month each to create? We make these decisions. Sometimes I like to move very quickly on a form, and go straight through to completion, without interruption by any other project, and on some forms, I work in bursts, with periods of inactivity, as if I’m waiting for an idea to fully form. I can’t really say which way is more satisfying, or whether the product is more likely to please me, one way or the other. Some of my favorite pieces have been slow to materialize, and some have sailed along. But the one thing that never varies, is that if I ever lose interest in the form, or the idea of a piece, it is done for. I have several things laying around in my shop that I started long ago, that will never dance beneath the gallery lights.

As tardy as the completion has been on my pelican, even after a year in the works, I enjoyed seeing it come together in metal. To me, the bird has retained all of the charm that drew me to it in the first place. As one of nature’s truly spectacular designs, the pelican is just naturally charismatic, and even enviable. I mean, consider this “fact”! An adult white pelican weighs only 14 pounds, and yet, as anyone can see by looking at my “accurately rendered” figure, it can easily store three ham sandwiches and a quart of beer in its beak! Scale that up to human size, and, how cool would that be?

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