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Taxidermy Class
swizz
post Nov 27 2010, 06:55 AM
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I'm taking on fish taxidermy as a new creative outlet and will have my first lesson today! fish.gif
I have a 26"-27" male Rainbow which I caught a while back for my first specimen.
My instructor is a world renown and award winning taxidermist (fish, birds, big & small game) and professional photographer, check out his work! Freestone Fine Art
I'm honored to have the opportunity to learn from the best. Kevin is also fine woodsman and prospecting buddy.
I may post pics of my progress but I think that the process will take a while since I'll be doing it one weekend at a time and there are many steps.
Wish me luck!

Disclaimer: Kevin does NOT offer classes or lessons to individuals or the general public, he's doing this for me as a friend.


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CP
post Nov 27 2010, 10:18 AM
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Sounds like a fun class to take and good luck on the project Swizz, we'll all be looking forward to seeing how it turns out too.

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swizz
post Nov 29 2010, 08:38 AM
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Doing well so far after two days.
I carved and sculpted my fish body from a block of taxidermy foam. This was difficult but really fun. I used calipers and numerous reference points on the actual fish, then transferred them to the foam block. Using Sharpie markers, knives, rasps, and sandpaper I sculpted my fish form. This step took me most of day 1 as my instructor is very particular when it comes to shape, size, and anatomy. If it isn't perfect the skin will not fit the mount properly. Most commercial taxidermists purchase pre-formed generic foam fish bodies (which lack detail) and work from there.... not Kevin, he sculpts incredible custom forms in his shop tailored to each specimen.
Next I skinned the fish which was difficult. I had filleted many fish throughout my life and figured that this step would be easy for me but it wasn't. Completely different technique and tools used for this as the skin must be preserved well and have absolutely no meat or fatty tissue attached. Skin is now soaking in mineral spirits.
The head was carefully removed. I then learned to create an exact cast of the the actual head which is an incredible process! Again, MOST commercial taxidermists just purchase a factory pre-formed head from a supply house and fit it to their body. This is another thing that sets Kevin apart... exact replication of the head rather than a generic trout head.
My next lesson will probably be mid-week, looking forward to it! I think the most difficult steps are behind but still very much work and many steps to go.


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swizz
post Nov 29 2010, 08:51 AM
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QUOTE (swizz @ Nov 27 2010, 06:55 AM) *
I have a 26"-27" male Rainbow which I caught a while back for my first specimen.


Correction.
Upon closer inspection it has clear Cutthroat markings under the gill folds and is hence a hybrid Cuttbow (as are most "Rainbows" in CO).
It measures 24.5", not 26" - 27".... must've shrunk in the freezer. slaphead.gif
Honestly, I had caught this fish nearly two years ago and couldn't remember exactly until unfrozen. It's from a location that produces trout up to 30"... many in the 22"-27" range. I harvested this one as it was a particularly well proportioned and colored specimen, not so much for its size.
At least I got its gender right! biggrin.gif


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swizz
post Dec 9 2010, 11:20 AM
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Update.
Pictured below is my fish head in progress. My next lesson is Saturday and I have this to work on as my week's homework.
The head is made from an actual physical casting of the original fish's head. It's hollow and made from about 1/8" thick Bondo which molded it with surprisingly accurate detail. My homework is to smooth and/or fill all imperfections with a putty-like epoxy which is sandable. Meanwhile, back at the shop..... during my last lesson I had attached and stitched (stitching on the backside) the fish's skin to the body which I had carved and shaped previously. The skin takes approximately 1 week to dry and shrink to the form so it should be a workable piece for my next lesson which will involve attaching this head.



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swizz
post Dec 29 2010, 03:56 PM
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... another quick update

This is a pic of the fish's skin fitted around my foam body. The skin is sewn together on the reverse side. This pic was taken after the skin has totally dried and I have also attached some of the fins as you can see. The fish skin is very much like leather. The fins were formed from the actual fins and poured with a flexible material. Once cured, I attached and sculpted them into the body using reference points obtained earlier in the process. I have also attached the head which is not pictured here.

The finished product will not look much like this at all. The skin has darkened significantly and lost its color throughout the process - which is to be expected.
The next steps involve airbrushing and are very involved. This fish will be painted completely white and I will have a clean slate to work with. The fish's natural colors will be replicated using reference photos taken when it was alive. The skin will retain its natural texture which is extremely important.

I've been doing lessons at a rate of about 12hrs per week on weekends, excluding Christmas weekend. Next lesson is on Saturday. He has me airbrushing on a scrap fish in the shop now before he unleashes me on the real thing. That may be a while - airbrushing is really, really, tricky... but I'm getting it!



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Denise
post Dec 30 2010, 08:51 AM
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Very cool Swizz, and what a fascinating process. I have always wondered how they do that, and it looks like its coming along nicely for you.
OOOOOO, airbrushing is fun, you will have a blast with that! I have one, and it definately takes a bit of practice getting use to the way it flows, but once you get the hang of it, you will be amazed at what you can do. happy088.gif

Im looking forward to seeing the finished piece, but sure enjoying the processes thats getting you there!
Thanks for sharing with us, and keep up the good work! Its looking great!



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Denise
post Feb 16 2011, 10:07 AM
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Hows the project and air brushing coming along Swizz? Inquiring minds want to know. biggrin.gif


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swizz
post Feb 16 2011, 11:51 AM
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QUOTE (Mrs.CP @ Feb 16 2011, 10:07 AM) *
Hows the project and air brushing coming along Swizz? Inquiring minds want to know. biggrin.gif


Hi Denise,
I'm getting there. My fish is ready to paint but I have been practicing on a dummy fish for the last few weeks before I apply it to the real thing. In addition to airbrush I'm also working with powders and acrylic dab & smear techniques. I've had some major breakthroughs in the last couple of classes and am really enjoying it! The process has been relatively slow since I typically have been working on it only one day each week as he's only available on weekends.... but I ain't in no hurry. Probably a couple more classes before I'm comfortable enough to paint the real thing. I've become pretty handy with the airbrush now though.


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ASTROBLEME
post Feb 16 2011, 06:29 PM
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QUOTE (swizz @ Feb 16 2011, 11:51 AM) *
Hi Denise,
I have been practicing on a dummy fish for the last few weeks...

swizz,

What do they taste like and is there a limit on those dummy fish? Most fish seem to be way more "smarter" than me, so when I finally get into those dummies, I want to make sure I don't keep too many! fish.gif

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swizz
post Feb 18 2011, 12:24 PM
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QUOTE (ASTROBLEME @ Feb 16 2011, 06:29 PM) *
swizz,

What do they taste like and is there a limit on those dummy fish? Most fish seem to be way more "smarter" than me, so when I finally get into those dummies, I want to make sure I don't keep too many! fish.gif

ASTROBLEME


laught16.gif
Don't keep em! This one would taste like injection molded epoxy. wacko.gif
My practice fish is a detailed cast from an actual fish... he has a few spares (replica casts) that didn't quite make the grade but are good enough for me to practice on.


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Coalbunny
post Feb 18 2011, 09:34 PM
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I'd love to get me a "stuffed" rainbow trout.


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swizz
post Feb 19 2011, 06:41 AM
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QUOTE (Coalbunny @ Feb 18 2011, 09:34 PM) *
I'd love to get me a "stuffed" rainbow trout.


yum



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Denise
post Feb 24 2011, 07:13 AM
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QUOTE (swizz @ Feb 16 2011, 11:51 AM) *
Hi Denise,
In addition to airbrush I'm also working with powders and acrylic dab & smear techniques. I've had some major breakthroughs in the last couple of classes and am really enjoying it! The process has been relatively slow since I typically have been working on it only one day each week as he's only available on weekends.... but I ain't in no hurry. Probably a couple more classes before I'm comfortable enough to paint the real thing. I've become pretty handy with the airbrush now though.


Sounds great Swizz! The processes sound facinating and challenging. I have never worked with the powders and acrylic dab & smear techniques.
You feeling confident enough to show more pics of the process? biggrin.gif Pretty please!


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swizz
post Feb 24 2011, 10:11 AM
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QUOTE (Mrs.CP @ Feb 24 2011, 07:13 AM) *
You feeling confident enough to show more pics of the process?


Any pics at this phase would be kinda boring. My mount is currently painted 100% white and ready for final painting. It'll be like that until I'm comfortable enough with my practice pieces to move on.
This is what it currently looks like (two sets of fins yet to attach):


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