Statuary Dreams

Notes on collecting and finishing classic statues

My pandemic hobby is collecting statues and painting them and taking pictures of them. This blog is a record of some of the statues I have worked on, and how I did it, and what makes them interesting.

Statue collecting is an ancient hobby. Some of these designs have been passed down for centuries and are the product of many revisions. Many people worked on and perfected these models. I am just a link in a chain that stretches back to ancient Greece and beyond. The figures are interesting enough when they are raw, but they tell vivid stories when the paint is applied.

The Faun

The Faun

Take for example this precious faun. He is kneeling and serving, and he is naked. Is he a slave child? Perhaps a child of another race who was captured in a raid and given to the queen? No, that is not the faun’s story.

Fauns are woodland creatures. They have the body and head of a boy, but the legs, hooves, ears and tail of a goat. They spend their time playing with wood nymphs. They are playful and seductive.

Somewhere along the way, a sculptor gave the little faun heart-shaped pupils. The pretty boy is looking at you with love in his eyes. He is playing a love game. He is flirting.

Fauns are ancient creatures, and their stories are mostly forgotten, but the art persists because it has satisfied generations of artists.

Unfinished Faun

Finishing a Statue

Painting a concrete statue protects it from the weather and reveals its ancient mystery. Start by preparing the surface. I brushed it and scrubbed it to reveal the textures. I patiently filled all the little bubble holes with concrete patch and sanded the rough patches. Then I sprayed lightly with clear acrylic top coat. That sealed the surface and made it slippery. I added the colors with acrylic craft paint. I applied the paint in very thin layers, one section at a time. Most sections use two or three complimentary colors. The darker shades are applied in watery layers and wiped off. The light shades are applied with a dry brush and whisked across the surface. The general idea is to make the valleys darker and the hills lighter. When I was satisfied with it, and it was fully dry, I sprayed it with several more layers of clear top coat.

Concrete statues will last a long time if they are painted and sealed. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have dramatic weather. Unpainted statues will erode and fall apart, but a finished statue will last for years.

In the beginning, I was only painting statues gray, because that is how I have seen statues. But a bit of research revealed ancient statues were painted with bright colors, so now I am painting with colors too. I am not a professional artist, but it has been a long pandemic and my skills have improved with practice. I don’t take artist’s credit for the work, though. These statues passed through many hands before they got to mine, and I just added the finishing touches.