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Cow on a skateboard

Mini moo

My Wanstead cow is almost ready for his walkabout. Or should I say wheelabout? After nearly a month in the making the cow is receiving his finishing touches for his big day on Saturday. I hadn't banked on nearly my entire summer holiday being taken up with making a giant bovine!

I decided to make a 3D cow as a promotional tool for the launch of my new book. With a book signing arranged for a Saturday afternoon I thought what better way to grab people's attention than a near-lifesize cow being wheeled up and down Wanstead High Street? It would also coincide with the start of the Wanstead Fringe and Wanstead Art Trail. The Fringe's Michelle Linaker had often expressed her desire to drive a herd of cattle up the High Street in a nod to past times, but had been unable to secure the necessary permissions from the local council. Well, here's the next best thing.

I'd made a model cow for the top of a Christmas cake a couple of years ago. All I needed to do was make a bigger one. I started with cardboard bulkheads for the body, supported by plastic plumber's tubing for the spine and legs, lashed together with thick plastic coated wire.

Cardboard carcass

Legs and spine attached

Chicken wire attached to carcass.

Then a frame of chicken wire tied on with string. A layer of Modroc (plaster-coated bandage) was next, and the cow was beginning to take shape. It was still a bit unstable though, and took to blowing over in a gust of wind. I wondered how I could keep it stable on its platform when walking about with it, but without attaching it permanently to the base. I decided to attach thinner plastic tubing to the base; the wider tubing of the legs could slide over the narrower tubes which would provide stability.

Modroc, or plaster bandage added

Brown paper, ears and hooves added

After the Modroc layer, I added strips of gummed paper tape and little bits of bubble wrap as padding here and there for the hocks and to smooth out the overall texture. I didn't want to refine it too much as I quite like the rough-and-ready appearance. Hooves next; stiff card cut and bent to shape and more layers of paper tape. It's quite surprising how paper tape gives a form such hardness and rigidity once dried.

With the construction part completed I could now concentrate on the final stage of painting the cow. A base coat of white emulsion paint is a good base to work up from, and highlighted a few areas that I needed to re-paper before going any further.

Ghost cow

Next, black splodges. Where to put? There were still a few areas I wasn't quite happy with so to minimise them I made sure the black would cover them. Eyeballs were fashioned out of a couple of polystyrene balls, cut down and impaled on the eye stalks, and attached to the rest of the face with a thin layer of plaster bandage and brown paper. A bit of filling and sanding of the eyes was required several times to get them nice and smooth again.

Cow had a coming together with the garage door so a repair job was required on the nose

Finishing touches added. Painting in the irises really brought the cow to life. Fake grass base added, an offcut kindly gifted by a Wanstead resident,as I didn't want to contribute to global warming any more than I had to by buying a new piece of plastic grass. And the cowpat is real!

At this point I finally settled on a name for the cow. Arnold. It came to me in a flash. Well, doesn't he look like an Arnold to you?

See you in Wanstead!

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