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15 Jun 2015

Jim Phillips Eyeball

I was recently asked to paint a vinyl toy for the legendary Jim Philips show in NYC with Mighty Jaxx. I was so amazed they asked me and kinda bricked it a little, a little more when I saw the line up- what the hell was I doing in this...I'm just a weirrrddooo *cue radiohead. I was so out of my comfort zone here I even had to ask twitter what it was called? Vinyl? Plastic toy? Sculpture? Thanks to twitter the most common reply was 'dildo'. Thanks Twitter ha! So I thought I would take a moment from work here and let you guys know how I went about making the weird thing I made for the show and my ghetto process. I first watched a load of youtube videos which was quite threatening to be honest but I learned some tips. This is the original toy they sent me:

I took some time to look at it, panic, look at it some more, panic a little extra, think about cancelling the gig, then decided I wanted to try horns and a massive evil smile. This is the point where it went hellish for me. I had given myself a week off work to do it knowing that I was going to make mistakes and was going to be learning as I went along. I originally wanted a big tongue sticking out and cut away the front to make a mouth- the whole thing was hollow so it just became this weak loose toy on which nothing could be built. I bought some clay that the youtube recommended and the lady in the shop handed me- I had no idea. On youtube people said it was like butter and very easy to use. I found it impossible to use- it didn't stick, it crumbled, it cracked- and after 6 hours of trying- nothing was happening. I gave up and went home. That night I decided I would ring the guys and beg for mercy and let them know I had screwed up and made a complete mess and had trashed their lovely toy. That night though I remembered the video where one guy said he used tin foil (aluminum/baco-wrap) to pad out the fatter bits. The next day I bought a whole roll and proceeded to stuff the eye ball with it. it was solid at last and would survive the oven. I hated the idea that I would give up, that feeling is the worse feeling n the world.

So, the next plan- after rolling a load of pointed sausages for horns and unsuccessfully trying to stick them to the eye was to get 6 8 inch screws and drill them where I wanted the horns, pack them with more tin foil and roll out a pastry sheet of clay to form a three sided horn...Onto that I could begin sculpting all the detail- it bloody worked!!!. One thing the sickeningly talented sculpture artist said on the youtubes, was the first and best tool you can have is your hands...then that he made a lot of his tools. So I looked around my kitchen and used what I had: a nail, a pencil and a paper knife. They served me well.

When it came to the extra detail I needed to prop it up so I made a ring on clay and stuck it on an old coffee can. Rolling up small sausages of teeth pinching each one till they fit I made the teeth.

Then more clay sausages- it's just like school- I made the lips. At this stage I still had no idea how this was going to turn out but I was on my way to finding out- I just had this thought that I would melt the whole damn thing in the oven.

When I was happy with it I sprayed it with some white paint I had laying around- I think acrylic. It was then that I noticed a lot, A LOT, of imperfections and decided to sand it down. Bad move, acrylic rolled into a hot ball when sanded....but after a long time I had finally got the blobs and scraps off to an acceptable place and sprayed it again.

Originally I had decided to draw it with the veins in red, the eyeball in blue and just do my best at making it look like a Jim Philips eyeball. I spent two days painting it (it didn't melt in the oven BTW). I tried with shaky coffee fueled hands to do my best at painting- I studied eyeballs on google to see which was my best option on how to paint and eye, where to put the light on a 3D object and so on. To be honest it was confusing and made me anxious. After two days of painting I sat and looked at it and thought "well, I tried my best and although I'm not super happy- I tried". That night I actually dream't that I'd painted it black. In the dream someone was holding it and saying "it's good, but its not very 'you' is it". I woke up, got out my acrylic tub of matte black paint and went to town on it. It felt right, felt good, felt perfect. the only original paint that still shows through is the horns, the teeth and the lips...and the lips were a happy accident and I masked the teeth off when I was painting it and when I removed it, kinda liked the remaining red.

The thing I learned afterwards was the varnish- I bought a can of clear varnish to coat it and applied thin coats every 4 hours for a day- then left it to dry. after two days it was still tacky- after three days (deadline was up and I needed to send it to the states ASAP)....it was still tacky!!!! I looked up on line on a bunch of sites that said basically it couldn't be helped and that I'd mixed the wrong paints with the wrong varnish. So I had to send it as is- I constructed the most elaborate box ever- indestructible and none of it touched the piece. Luckily it got there and all went well....until I saw they displayed it upside down in the show hahaha. Luckily by the power of social media I was able to ask someone at the show to turn it round while they stood next to it! cheers for reading guys. Hopefully it doesn't put anyone off asking me to do it again. If I do this again I now have some great knowledge and no fear. Nothing grows in your comfort zone.