I have always been fascinated by nature, especially animals. My first job was Interpretive Naturalist at Hueston Woods State Park, and in one way or another, I’ve managed to keep my hand in the world of natural history throughout my subsequent career.
I have no formal training in art, but I have a passion for illustrating animals in as anatomically correct and detailed a way as possible (my early influences were Glen Loates and Robert Bateman). During my time in the Biology Department at Miami University, I have produced illustrations (pen and pencil as well as watercolor) for several publications, most recently “Amphibians of Ohio” (2013) and “Reptiles of Ohio” (2021).
I’ve only recently taken up 3-dimensional art. The ready availability and ease of “firing” polymer clay inspired me to make the attempt. I now have a long list of animals (and cartoon figures) that I would like to sculpt in the future.
I attended Summer Fair at Coney Island in Cincinnati several years ago. While there I stumbled across an artist who sculpted figurines of frogs and lizards that were quite whimsical. She told me they were made of a polymer clay called “Sculpey,” which had the advantage of hardening in a home oven. I was intrigued because in high school I had attempted sculpture in an art class, but that “regular” clay needed to be fired at high temperature in a kiln: not easy to come by in Chillicothe Ohio. However, because polymer clay can be baked in a home oven, I decided to try sculpting again. My first attempts were quite crude, but over time I began to learn what I could and could not do with the clay and began to focus more and more on producing figures with a great deal of realistic detail.
I’ve always been fascinated by animals. Part of my career path involved working as a Naturalist at Hueston Woods State Park, so perhaps it was inevitable that I began to sculpt animals first, particularly native Ohio species. As I refined my techniques I discovered that years of observing animals allowed me not only to recognize when my sculptures were not accurate but also what I needed to do to make them so. However, I do rely a great deal on images from the web to discern details about the particular species I am working on.
All of the animals I’ve sculpted have special meaning for me. For instance, I sculpted a flying squirrel early on because when I was eleven years old I was given two orphan squirrels when a tree company discovered them in a sycamore tree they had cut down in my neighborhood. These squirrels were part of my life for the next ten years, often running loose in the house and launching off the curtains, landing on anyone who happened to walk by. They also spent hours sleeping in my shirt pocket!
At some point, I began to sculpt figures from children’s literature and, later, cartoon characters. I’ve been an avid reader from an early age: one of my first (and current) favorite books was Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak so, not surprisingly, Max and the wild things were the first whimsical figures I sculpted.