Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Taxidermy: In which we finish the job.

Hello again.

This time we'll deal with the finishing touches; coloration, antiquing and wall mounting.

First of all, it is important to support the dry mermaid for the painting process.
I used a wire coat hanger which I bent out of shape and slid under its arms.

For painting the body, I mixed a small quantity of paint matching the fish's color; I used burnt umber, burnt sienna, sap green, black, and gold paint to give a slight shimmer to the color.

I then mixed 1 part paint to 3 parts latex, and watered down the mix a bit so it goes on more easily.

Don't worry if the resulting paint is pale, it'll dry much darker. The great thing with this paint is that it won't be uniform; since it's translucent, there will be some natural variation in the color. This is a good thing if you want a realistic paint job. Also, cover the whole fish, not just the body.

More pictures & info after the jump.

Here's the mermaid once the paint is fully dry:

As you can see, it's dark and shiny. Not very convincing! We must thus add a certain amount of patina to the whole body. This is made easier by the fact that dry latex is quite sticky; to age it, I simply rubbed it thoroughly with ashes.

Now, as you can see, it's perhaps a bit too light, and too uniform. So, using a large horsehair brush (the same one I use to shine my shoes), I brushed the excess ash off as much as I could. I then lightly sprayed the mermaid with my trusty hair spray. You can use any fixative or matte spray varnish to do this job. Don't spray it thickly, or it'll soak through the remaining ash and you'll lose the dusty look.

Once this is done, it should look nice and mummy-like.

Now that the coloration and patina is done, It's officially finished! you only need to find something to hang it.

The best would be a large, shiny trophy plate. But I'm poor, so no varnished mahogany for me. Instead, I took a small piece of plywood, and nailed a brass sawtooth hanger behind it. I then drove in two long nails, which I bent in a hook shape.

All you have to do is stick the "hooks" into the body to support it.

However, I changed my mind and decided I wanted my mermaid hung vertically. This proved to be much simpler. I just took a length of thick wire, and bent it into a double pronged hook shape. I stuck this into the mermaid and all I had to do is hang it to a wall with a nail.

Voilà! All done, and ready to hang in your Wunderkammer!


  1. 1st comment on this one.

    I Adore it!
    Its amazing, And I like the way that your not ashamed of your mistakes (fish head)

    Looks really realistic!!!

  2. Fantastic, not only the final result, but your tutorial was so much fun to read it has inspired me to try a mermaid of my own, I'll have to do a lot of online translating for some of the materials but it's well worth it, just a question about the colors you used, were they acrylics? Once again thank you for the wonderful tutorial, you are an amazing and generous artist. Cheers from Chile.

  3. Hi David, amazing tutorial, just wanted to ask you about the paint you refer to as translucent