When I was a child my father made garden ornaments out of coconut shells. They were inspired by Oceanic art. They usually had holes for eyes and mouths. Dad painted them with enamel paints or left over household acrylics - whatever was handy! After refurbishing some of Dad's weatherworn shells I made a few myself: a beagle, Ludo from Labyrinth, The Crow, and Astro Boy, plus a bright ginger cat in collaboration with my brother. They are all are still hanging at my parents' place.
As adults my brother and I collaborated on a cat face inspired by our father's coconut shell art. It was a realistic depiction with the raw fluffly coconut fibres left on to create fur, a carved and painted nose, and plastic eyes fitted into its eye sockets. That one stays inside the house and was not intended to be weatherproof. It was a faux taxidermy head.
The Dear Father Brief
'Lord Coconut travelled the world circa 1900 and sent back a postcard and small gift to his father back in Australia from each country he visited. The exhibition consists of the postcards and gifts interpreted by 15 plus jewellers and artisans involved in the exhibition.'
I was supplied with a vintage postcard from the Rock of Gilbralta. On this outcrop there is a famous - or infamous - colony of Barbary Macaques (also known as Barbary Apes although they are not true apes).
This provided an ideal opportunity to make another realistic, stylised animal, coconut shell face for the most oppropriately named venue.
When dealing with an unfamiliar animal subject I like to draw a number of studies to get a feel for the form, distinctive features and character of a species.
I started with some black lead studies to get a feel for the expression and profile...
... and finished with a colour study of what I regard as the Clint Eastwood of Barbary macaques.
The Finished Product
Souvenir, detail of nose
The nose is made from the end of another coconut shell in order to create more depth as well accuracy of nasal form and profile. One end of a coconut has 'eyes', the other usually has something that can be formed into a common mammalian nose.
Souvenir, detail of eyes
The glass eyes were painted from the front and back of plain glass droplets. Inspired by techniques used in stopmotion animation, a small turn table was involved ... and a great deal of trial and error!
12 x 11.5 x 9
coconut shell, glass, acrylic paint, enamel paint, PVA glue
Souvenir was exhibited as part of Dear Father at Lord Coconut.