The last step in finishing the snake is to paint him. I decided on a good bright green for the main color, with a yellow underside, but before getting to the color, I wanted to prime him first, and I wanted to make sure I got well into the deep recesses. So, I untied the cord and removed all the pieces, 64 in all, including the head, and laid them out on my bench on top of some newsprint.
It was a bit stunning to see all the individual pieces all spread out like that. Up until now, I’d always kept them ordered by stringing them on the rope, and now I was going to lose my numbers as well, so I was quite careful to line them up in sequence. Once they were all in place, I grabbed a can of spray primer, and the painting was underway!
After the primer had dried, it was time for the colors. I knew I wouldn’t get enough coverage if I tried to get deep into the recess with the green, and I really wasn’t worried about it since those areas would be mostly invisible in use anyway. That meant the next step was to put all the pieces back on the rope once again, minus the head, lay them out on the bench and start spraying. As it became clear that I was going through the paint faster than I had planned, I worried much more about the top side.
I had to go back over the tape line repeatedly, pressing the tape down hard with my fingers at each segment, and adding extra layers of tape until at last I had the top part pretty well protected, with the tape coming down to the newsprint I used to lay him on.
I left him like that for a day or two while I pondered what else, if anything, I wanted to do to him. I didn’t want to buy any more paint so looking through my collection of old paint cans, I decided that a line of red and black dots running the length of the body might add a little bit of interest without getting too gaudy. I cut a few small lengths of dowel, and glued small 1/2” diameter leather pads, suede side out (I have lots of these, leftover from punching holes in leather for our bellows, and keep them to use as feet for small boxes, bumpers for doors, etc.) to the ends. I made up another stick using smaller felt buttons, and using them like a stamp, I did a row of alternating red and black dots along the top, using the larger pads, and two more rows along the sides using the smaller pads.
I was very tempted to leave the snake there and call him done, but I finally decided to do a little more with the head, adding some sense of scales, and putting slit pupils on the eyes. (though I was surprised to find how many snakes have round pupils). I’m not exactly Rembrandt with a paintbrush, and the little brushes I had to work with weren’t exactly artist quality, but I used them to draw in some lines suggesting the appearance of scales on the head. I just painted them in freehand after looking at a drawing of a non-venomous snake head I saw on Google Images. The lines are a bit thicker than I wanted, and the drawing pretty crude, but I thought of it as stage makeup, a little exaggerated close up, but meant to be viewed from a distance.
It was a good learning experience. I think the wedge joints work pretty well, but they also point out a problem I’m going to have with future projects, namely, support. The snake drapes over things nicely, but can’t be positioned with any part of him vertical and stay that way. He has no musculature, and if I’m going to eventually make critters with spines that can stand and be posed, I’ll need to figure a way to provide the support that muscles would supply in real life.
I’m not sure what I’ll take on for the next project, but I think this problem of support needs to be addressed as part of it. For now though, I’m quite happy with my snake. I didn’t keep real careful account along the way, but I’d guess he has something between 15 and 20 hours of work in him, spread out over more than a month. My total out-of-pocket cost was around $15 for the primer and the green paint; the other paints were leftovers I had laying around. It was a fun project, and I plan to have him laying about the yard in various poses for some time to come.
I hope you have enjoyed seeing him take shape, and will check in and see whatever I end up making next. So take care, and thanks for reading.