ALPHENART, kunstroute Alphen aan den Rijn (a local art event).
Kunstroute (art route) are cultural events where you walk along a specific path. During this walk, you will see art pieces from a wide range of disciplines. I was asked to join the kunstroute of Alphen aan den Rijn in November 2017, which is better known as the ALPHENART event and you can find pictures on social media under #ALPHENART. While brainstorming with the organisers about my art style, the suggestion came up to make an outdoor art piece which would float in the water of a small canal. Up until that point, I had not made an outdoor art piece of significant size, let alone something for display in the water, but it sounded like a good challenge. After some research, I decided to make a statue, and its primary material would be Styrofoam.
Concept design and small scale test.
Since the process of making a statue out of styrofoam was new to me, I first wanted to test out my materials by making a smaller version. I needed to apply some form of coating to strengthen the styrofoam. There are many options out there, I used a product called paverpol. Cut out sections of styrofoam sheet where clued together to create a block. Next, I carved the statue out of that block using a styrofoam cutter. This tool is fantastic since it burns through the material resulting in a less of a mess then if you use a saw, rasp or knife. Below a photo of the styrofoam statue so far.
Subsequently, I coated the statue with several layers of paverpol. This coating will add structural strength since styrofoam is easily damaged. Furthermore, it will also protect it against varnishes that are used to weatherproof the paint against autumn storms. After the coating had dried, I added a base layer of a white spray on gesso. After the gesso had dried, it was time to create the linework. I made some of the linework with markers, but I quickly realised the somewhat uneven surface was not working as smoothly as I liked. Also, I realised that it would be impractical for the big version. So I used brushes and black acrylic to create the remainder of the linework. In the photo below you can see the results so far.
Next, it was time to add colour for this I used brushes and regular acrylic paint. The last step was to add a varnish. For my other work I use spray-on varnishes, but the paverpol brand had a brush-on varnish, so I decided to use that. I made the mistake of underestimating the time needed for the coating plus paint to thoroughly dry out this resulted in some paint smears while adding the varnish. Overall I was still happy with the result and was ready to create the big statue for ALPHENART (kunstroute Alphen aan den Rijn). In the images below, you can see the final result of my test statue.
The big leagues.
After another brainstorming session, I decided to roughly recreate the basic shape of the smaller statue for its big brother. The first step was to glue together a whole lot of styrofoam sheets to create a massive block.
The second step was carving out the shape of the statue. I quickly found out that I had made an error in judgment. My styrofoam cutting tool was terrific for a small-sized piece, but it would take forever to carve the shape of the big statue. As a result, I decided to go old school and use saws of various sizes together with graters. It was hard but satisfying work.
Next up was to coat the statue with several layers of paverpol, a whole lot of paverpol. After the coating dried, I added a layer of spray-on white gesso. Again after waiting for a day to let everything dry, I painted the creatures on using acrylic paint. In the images below a couple of work in progress photos.
ALPHENART finish line.
I was ready just in time for the event and even had time to squeeze in two paintings on Tyvek, read more about that in another blog. Kunstroute Alphen aan den Rijn aka ALPHENART lasted two days, but my statue was allowed to stay in the canal for a couple of months extra. Overall we had over 4000 visitors during the event, which must have been a record. I had a lot of fun and can’t wait to join again next time. In the images below, you can see the final result of my big statue laying proudly in the water.