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Foam and Plaster "Dawg" Sculpture

See how Colleen Black's passion for art results in the creation of her impressive lifelike sculptures.

For Colleen Black one art just isn't enough. She dabbles in everything from bronze sculpture and painting to ice sculpture and craft foam creations. Her day jobs have been nothing more than a means for her to keep performing her art and have ranged from a store clerk to encyclopedia sales person. Her breakthrough came when a friend asked her to create 12 small statues for medal-of-valor winners returning home after the first Gulf war. She created the statues of men in battle from bronze. The soldiers, including Colin Powell, were so touched by her work; she realized it was time to devote herself to her creative passion full time. Now she spends her days with daughter Kayla in her studio creating impressive lifelike sculptures.

Materials and Tools:

aluminum armature wire
20-gauge wire
plywood base
pipe with a flange to attach to the base
wood screws
wire cutters
glue gun and got glue
4' x 8' sheets of pink or blue foam insulation
wood rasps and files, all shapes and sizes
hot wires
measuring tape
straight edge
permanent marker
nylon rope
Foam Coat plaster
container to mix plaster
Rigid Wrap plaster tape
safety materials: rubber or silicon gloves, a facemask, and goggles
sculpting tools
bronze spray acrylic enamel
acrylic colors: black, light creamy green, blues, reds, yellows and oranges
paintbrushes, a good variety, the rattier the better
cotton swabs
palette of paper plates


1) Sketch a drawing of the dog sculpture.

2) Using a pencil and paper, measuring devices, and calipers if working from a model, devise a skeletal plan that will support the sculpture. Measure the scale model to figure out the approximate measurements. To estimate about how many layers of foam that will be needed, mark the drawing in 2-inch increments vertically.

3) Attach the flange to the wooden base using wood screws, making sure that it is in a good spot to support the sculpture and provide balance while working on the construction.

4) Attach a short 5-inch pipe to the flange. The pipe will extend up into the first few layers of foam and be removed later.

5) Measure out the sizes of foam pieces needed and lay out the design on a 4' x 8' piece of foam using a straight edge and permanent marker. While wearing safety gear cut out the foam pieces with a jigsaw.

6) On the first few pieces of foam, make a hole in the center to fit onto the pipe. Stack the foam pieces onto the pipe, hot gluing them together. Continue stacking pieces of foam following the basic shape of the sculpture.

7) Begin shaping the body of the dog by cutting away the pointed ends of the foam using hot wire. Continue shaping the foam using rasps and rough sandpaper.

8) Form the limbs and tail from armature wire. Wrap each piece of armature wire with 20-gauge wire to provide strength to the structure. Push on pieces of foam, gluing them together with hot glue. Shape the limbs by carving the foam using rasps and sandpaper.

9) Form a hanger from armature wire, wrap it with 20-gauge wire and push it into the dog's mouth. Hot glue it in place. Loosen the braids of a piece of nylon rope and glue them around the armature wire hanger, tying a knot outside the dog' mouth.

10) Shape armature wire into ears for the dog. Cover the ears with pieces of wet plaster tape (Rigid Wrap) to form the shape. Let dry. Attach the ears to the dog's head by pushing the ends of the wire into the dog's head and secure with hot glue.

11) Mix plaster and water in a small bucket.

12) Using a paintbrush, apply the plaster to the foam and smooth it, carefully shaping the outline. Let it dry.

13) Cut 2" to 4" squares of plaster tape (Rigid Wrap), dip them in water and apply them to the limb joints. These will add strength to the legs. Let dry.

14) Remove the sculpture from the base by removing the pipe from the foam. Apply a final coat of plaster to the entire sculpture using a paintbrush. Let the brush strokes show in the plaster to resemble fur. Let dry.

15) Spray paint the dog with bronze spray paint. Let dry.

16) Add touches of color with various colors of acrylic paint applied with an artist paintbrush. Use rags to wipe away paint while it is still wet, leaving some color in the crevices to create a patina finish.

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