This commission is the restoration and painting of a 4-foot high statue of Our Lady of Lourdes that was recovered from a garbage bin.
I was determined to document the whole project with lots of photographs because I always forget to document what I do. This time, I made sure I had lots of photographs, especially since this would be quite a challenge. I took several photographs from different angles. The photo on the left is from the rear, right.
The next photo to the right show the back, which was rough, dirty, and had several chips and chunks broken from the cape. A rusty pipe also stuck out from the back, most likely an attachment to a fountain. The pipe had to be sawed off, which also took off a tiny chunk more of concrete, but it didn’t make anything worse than it already was.
The photo below shows the left side of the statue, where you can see a large crack under the left arm. The photo to the right show the full front.
This close-up of the face shows chips on the nose, the corroded front, and hollowed-out eyeballs.
The photo on the right shows how corroded the base is. This is from the left side of the statue.
The rear bottom of the statue had a hole where the pipe exited; there were bits of rusted metal inside, most of which I was able to pry away. This is worrisome because there’s no telling how much mold and mildew was inside the statue itself.
Panning out a little in the next photo, you can see the chipped cape and pockmarks, most probably from mold as well as pieces of granite falling out from the concrete.
This close-up of the back shows more cracks across the shoulders and where the pipe came out–about 2 inches of it protruding from the back. There are also cracks across the lower part and several chips out of the folds of the cape, as seen below as well.
August 16, 2016: This is the statue after it had been scrubbed and hosed down. In its original state, it was cracked, moldy, and had layers of old paint. The first phase would involve removing all the loose paint and cleaning out chips and cracks, and smoothening the surface so there would be as little difference as possible between the original surface and the surface where the old paint would not come off.
August 21, 2016: The next stage involved patching up the statue: repairing chips, filling in holes and cracks, and smoothing the roughest parts. This included a little “nose job” as well! I preferred to use my fingers to fill in the cracks with a nice spackle that promised not to expand or shrink. This was important because the statue is going to be put outdoors and expanding or shrinking of the filler could compromise the statue and create worse problems in the future. I’m hoping the product is true to its claim! After the cracks and holes were filled, I applied a sealant to make sure no moisture would get into the really fine cracks and holes left from concrete and granite separation.
August 28, 2016: Finally, the actual painting work could begin! I started with a good primer.
After the primer, I painted the whole statue white, then applied the base skin color to the face, neck hands, and feet.
The next biggest swath of color was the blue cape and the sash. I selected a lovely sky blue color for this. I deepened the shadows in the folds of the cape with a bit of purple.
Then, I decided to work on the base next, painting in the roses on the feet, leaves, branches, and the rock.
The final touch for the day was a tinge of pink on the cheeks and shaping the lips with the same tinge.
I planned to work the whole weekend, but the weather was damp and rainy, so I never got to return to the statue that weekend. I finally got back to it the next weekend, which, thankfully, had lovely sunny weather.
September 3, 2016: I worked on details. I started with the face, working on the mouth because that would be the easiest. Then I worked on the eyes, starting with an outline and layering on the white, the pink flesh inside and around the whites, a brown cornea, black for the iris, then the most delicate lines on the cornea with black, white light spots, eyelashes, and the eyebrows. I also added shadows to the face, neck, hands, and feet, then did the fingernails and toenails as well. I used brown on the rosary to simulate wooden beads. Finally, I applied a gold trim on the veil and cape as well as a touch of gold thread/trim on her collar and cuffs. I even touched the cornea with a few very fine gold lines to make them look more real. At the end of the day, I sprayed the whole statue with a layer of non-yellowing transparent matte overcoat.
September 4, 2016: I returned to the statue for finishing touches, retouching spots where there was white on blue or blue on white, brown on flesh, touching up the shadows, cleaning up edges of lines, before the final couple more layers of finish. I wish there was more light from the back so you could see details of the cape, especially where there were chips and chunks gone from it.
The statue will go to St. Francis Church in Cornwall, Prince Edward Island, where I hope they will take good care of her. I have given instructions for them to apply a couple of coats of spray-on finish once a year to preserve the colors.
It’s so satisfying to complete a project and see it turn out so well! I’m always sorry to finally finish a job, but also glad that each commission I complete opens up doors to more similarly satisfying jobs. It’s work I would not mind doing for the rest of my life! The biggest challenge with this project was the restoration first, then working with the rough concrete surface. And then the worries about how the face would turn out and if I could do justice to the subject.I could tell it had a lovely face from the start and I was excited to see what I could do with such a damaged statue. I’m really happy with the finished work.