Sculpting Dinos in a T-Rex economy
Local sculptor Cliff Green will showcase another nationally known project later this month as he unveils his life size replica of an 11 foot tall prehistoric short-faced bear at the Eccles Dinosaur Park.
The conclusion of this project marks a turning point in the artist's life as he looks toward a difficult economic climate for most in the fine arts world.
Green, who has been sculpting since he was was a child, has recently returned to college in order to finish obtaining his teaching degree. Not only because he is anxious to share his knowledge and experience with others but because of the need for a steady paycheck.
"Me going back to school should tell you something about the economy," said Green during a Tuesday interview at the Sun Advocate. "When you can make more as a teacher than as a successful fine artist you can tell times have gotten tough."
Green's life as a professional sculptor started in 1999 when his studio designed and sculpted original bas reliefs of a tyrannosaurus and camerasaurus on the east and south side of the North American Museum of Ancient Life in Lehi, at Thanksgiving Point. His studio also has 25 full sized 18 to six foot Triassic and Jurassic pterosaurs for the same museum. They were cast by the dozen and now adorn the museum's ceiling.
Around the same time Green's bronzes were included in the palaeontological art volume; "Dinosaur Imagery, The Lanzendorf Collection." The bronzes are now on permanent display with the rest of the collection at the Children's Museum in Indianapolis, Ind.
Green's art continued to become incredibly popular and in the winter of 2001, he completed a large seven sculpture assignment from the Discovery Channel for their "When Dinosaurs Roamed America," documentary.
The seven prehistoric animals sculpted include a triceratops, torosaurus, einosaurus, centrosaurus, pachyrhinosaurus, zuniceratops and the gigantic pterosaur quetzalcoatlus. All were rendered from a one-fifth to 1/10th scale.
Green then returned to Carbon County to produce local works for the College of Eastern Utah's Prehistoric Museum. He sculpted and painted nine 1/10th scale dinosaurs which are still on display within the local facility. All sculptures were rendered to the specific instructions of the paleontologists who discovered and named them.
"These sculptures are being used for educational purposes also," said Green in a statement concerning his career. "Copies of the nine dinosaurs have traveled extensively in a lecture circuit to public schools in Utah and Colorado to teach children about natural history."
Green continued to work on commissioned projects throughout the decade until funding sources began to dry up, at times in the middle of large scale projects.
"I have had several projects default, leaving me holding the bag on thousands of dollars worth of work and materials," explained Green. "When private grant funding for national parks was re-allocated it hung me out to dry. Things really just fell in place for awhile and I've never wanted to be anything but a full time artist but the current economy has made things tough on all fine artists."
On a more upbeat note, his current work toward his teaching degree is going well and the Eccles bear project's completion will free up time for him to look for new commissions.
"The bear has taken more than four months to construct, it ended up being a much larger project than I had originally thought," he said. "But I think it's going to be a very accurate representation of the species."
According to Green, the bear which will take more than 20 hours to paint, was modeled after remains found in the same area as the Huntington mammoth. And it the largest ever discovered of the short-faced bear species.
To construct this particular type of sculpture, Green starts with a steel skeleton or armature and then roughs out the animal's muscle mass with foam pads to produce the general shape. The mass is then cast in clay and rubber molds are produced. When the molds are removed they are filled with a layer of fiberglass and resin and allowed to harden.
The dried resin and fiberglass is then formed around the original armature at which time the sculpting is finished and the animal is painted.
Green says that he likes this form of sculpture because it holds a particular muse for him.
The local artist is looking to expand his artistic abilities by starting production of one ups, (a single piece sculpture) made of cement that are not meant to be re-cast.
"You make one sculpture and then don't replicate it," he explained.
Green sees the future as wide open and is excited to be working in Utah as it is seen as one of the hottest spots in the world for new animal discovery.