As a woodcarver for over 25 years, I've carved over 200 cartoon-like characters in wood, along with a few wildlife and religious pieces as well. One day, I was driving around town, and I saw a billboard for Octopus Car Wash, and I wanted to carve a similar octopus, with a goofy look on its face. So, I did.
I cut nine pieces of wood...shaped them all, and glued them all together. The friendly octopus measured about 8 inches across and about 4 inches high. It was painted with a dark brown stain and a dark green wash. The people at Octopus Car Wash even bought one of them, and had it hanging on the ceiling of their business.
"One of our greatest powers is often simple patience." Joseph Cossman
Over many years, I have participated in over 40 arts and crafts shows all over the state of New Mexico (USA) where I live. The wooden octopus was my "attention-getter" at all the shows, as it sat up high on my display at the art shows, and it certainly got its share of attention.
All my wood carvings, were photographed, and almost all had captions, headlines, and a story about each piece. Many of them were photographed in a natural setting. For example: The wildlife pieces were photographed out in the forest; a fisherman was photographed near a stream or pond; a snowy owl was photographed in a snowy scene, and so forth.
During this long period of time, I managed to photograph all my wood pieces except for one...the octopus! How could I photograph an octopus in a natural setting? It couldn't be photographed in an aquarium, for that would be cheesy! A lake or a stream was out! The only thing I could think of, was to build a seascape for it...but how?
Week after week went by, and I couldn't figure out how to build a seascape for the octopus! I kept a few notes in my home office on the project, just to keep it in the forefront of my mind. But, the more time would elapse, the harder it was to come up with the answer. Three to four months went by and...NOTHING!
For over ten years, and as a technician, I worked for a large engineering company. Many of the small parts that we manufactured, like sensors and probes, had to be filled with foam to keep the parts inside from moving and to keep the elements out.
"Creativity is a sudden cessation of stupidity." Edwin Land
One day, I was pouring foam in one of the probes...and BINGO...I lit up like a Christmas tree! "THAT'S IT!" I said to myself! FOAM to make the seascape for the octopus! Why didn't I think of that before! It's one thing to come up with an idea...it's quite another thing to make the idea work. I knew the foam would work...but now the question was...HOW?
The juices inside me were now flowing, because I had worked on this project (in my mind) for about 4 months without success. I decided to use an ordinary cardboard box that measured about 3 feet by 3 feet. I cut all the flaps off the box, and I cut it in half (diagonally), from corner to corner.
Now, I had the housing for my seascape. For those of you, who are not familiar with liquid foam (two part), it dries very quickly after being mixed. It has to be mixed in small amounts and poured quickly where you want it. I knew that the center of the box, or the corner would be for the octopus den, so I had to pour heavy in the corner to build up the foam.
The den would be carved out later. I mixed up about half a cup of foam, and started on one side of the box and poured foam down the sides of the box. I knew it would take several pours to get the right thickness and consistency. The foam was a "sand" color, so the scene was beginning to take shape right away. It took about 40 minutes to do all the pouring...from one side of the box to the other, and all along the flooring had to be built up,too.
Because foam dries so fast, I took an x-acto knife and started cutting and shaping the foam. Sand paper was also used. Some of the decorative swirls that were made during the pouring, were left alone, which added to the beauty of the scene, etc. After carving out the octopus den in the corner (center) of the box, I sprayed the hole with black spray paint, to give it a shadow-effect of the hole inside. The entrance of the den was painted with a wash of dark brown stain and dark green...and the scene was now starting to shape up! I set the wooden octopus down in front of the entrance to the den, and it fit perfectly! WOW!
To add a little humor, I cut a small piece of hard board (1 inch x 2 inches), and wrote the words, "Home, Sweet, Home" on the little sign, and glued it over the entrance to the octopus den. After all the shaping to the seascape was complete, I sprayed the foam with a light "sand" spray paint, to bring out the high-lights. At the hobby store, I bought some mini-plastic plants; small pieces of dead-wood; rocks of various sizes; twigs of assorted sizes; and I bought powdered grass to sprinkle throughtout the seascape.
The final touch, was to place several sea shells, about the size of a dime, thoughout the scene...and WOW...the piece was looking so realistic! I photographed it, and when I got the photos back, they looked GREAT...and this was one of my best projects...EVER!
"Creativity is the type of learning process, where the student and the teacher are located in the same individual." Arthur Koestler
Mind you, there aren't many people who are going to go out and construct a seascape anytimg soon. But, the message here is to stay with your ideas and projects, and keep them in the forefront of your mind, and you too, can have those fire crackers, go off in your head...in the form of the ideas you were looking for! GOOD LUCK!
"Creativity requires the courage to let go of the certainties." Erich Fromm
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