Sunday, March 02, 2008

Big wooden sweetlip

There's a story behind this. As you know, I have a connection to PNG, and from that, an enduring love of the tropics, the ocean, reefs and fish in general. Especially squid. Anyway, since those days, many years ago, we have all planted ourselves in Brisbane and we no longer boat or swim in the ocean much at all. It seems like a dream, remembering the Easter long weekends spent covered in zinc cream and a perpetual crust of salt, moving from onboard bunk bed to surfboard, paddling to the beach in the dawn light, watching the tiny crabs feasting on old fish corpses, back to the boat for a breakfast of hot baked beans on toast, and then the endless days of swimming and exploring.

Dad used to go spearfishing. Sometimes he'd bring back a fat coral trout, and we'd have it for dinner. Once, on an early-morning paddle on my surfboard, I heard a strange grinding sound, and thought it was a distant motor. Putting my ear underwater, the sound was almost deafening. When I squinted through the shallow pre-dawn water, there was an enormous 5-foot grouper barely ten feet away, using its massive beaky teeth to scrape breakfast off some coral. It was so huge, and so close, that I panicked, and scrambled back to the boat. Imagine those sharp teeth taking a chunk out of your arm.
The point of all this is that we all feel very strongly about tropical open-water fish. We have happy and special memories that represent a past time in our lives when life was different, we were our most essential selves and things seemed simple, and boating and fish are connected to that.
Anyway, a few years ago I decided to make some art to represent our PNG past. Of course, it had to involve a fish. I ended up making a wooden coral trout, which now hangs in pride of place at my parents' house.
In December 2007, my sister asked me to make another one for her house in Melbourne. We went through Grant's Guide to Fishes and she picked out a sweetlip. Then it was my job to make the fish.
First, I photocopied the sweetlip from Grant's onto an overhead transparency sheet. Then I stuck a sheet of A2 paper on the wall and projected the fish so that it filled the sheet, and traced over it with a fat pen.
I bought a sheet of 6mm MDF board from Bunnings, cut out the fish from the paper, blutacked the outline to the MDF and drew around it again. Then I used a jigsaw and a scroll saw to cut out the fish. I sanded the edges and undercoated the whole thing with sealer.
The fish then was painted using craft and folk art paints to match the original image from Grant's. I used metallic paint, 3D fabric paint, sequins and bugle beads to make the image more defined. When the whole thing was painted and finished, I poured on two coats of resin to completely cover the surface of the fish, make it glossy, thick and shiny. The second coat was spread with a wooden stick to give it more texture around the top side of the fish, where light will most likely reflect from. Then we just had to mount it to the wall.
The fish is about a metre long.
Next, I'm going to make a lionfish.

No comments: