Sirius was created as part of a fund raising project for Pathways for Children. The project was called Pathways Unleashed. Various artists in the Cape Ann area of Massachusetts were given fiberglass dogs to decorate for auction. B.J. rebuilt hers to make it more realistic and covered it with paintings of dogs and calligraphically rendered sayings about dogs. The following is the story of the creation of Sirius.
“Are You Sirius?” or “The Tail of a Dog”
Out of all the artists who were invited to paint this year’s fiberglass dog sculptures, I’m the only one whose everyday subject is dogs. My case was called a “seated lab,” but he looked more like Bart Simpson’s cartoon dog. I worried people would assume both the case and the decoration were my work. I asked a fellow artist experienced with making fiberglass casts how I could change the dog’s body. He advised me against it, saying no one would notice the form once it was painted. I took the dog (whom I called Sirius, after the Dog-Star) home and got my hacksaw out. Cutting off the tail, which was curled, cat-like on Sirius’ too-tiny haunch left a gaping hole. There was no turning back. A boat-builder friend advised me to talk to the fellows at Gloucester’s C.A.P. auto Supply, where they sold me fiberglass cloth, Bondo Epoxy Resin and a few other unfamiliar things that looked useful. Using window screen and wire, I built new haunches, a deeper chest and tummy and (to put it delicately) a puppy-maker. Drilling holes in the cast I wired everything in place. Working in my basement, I learned all about epoxy resin. First I learned that after mixing the red goo with the gray goo, one has about three minutes to work before the resin hardens, becoming unspreadable. Second, one’s house and everything in it absorbs and retains the smell. Third, sanding hardened resin in-between coats by hand takes a lot out of a person. Fourth, one never buys enough resin. Fifth, wearing a respirator gives me two black eyes. This caused me a certain notoriety at the auto supply store, to which I returned on a daily basis for more supplies. This stage took about four weeks. Next, it was time to use Magic Sculp, a stiff putty-like material for changing Sirius’ skull shape, nose, mouth, eye-sockets, paws and muscles. Sanding this was far worse than the fiberglass, but at least my hands had stopped bleeding from cutting myself with the window screening. Also, I only had to re-order this three times: things were looking up! By now, the seasons had changed, enabling me to sand in the garage with the door open. From a distance, Sirius looked real enough to stop traffic on Southern Avenue. Having developed tendonitis from all that sanding, I switched to an electric sander which only made the pain worse. A neighbor, seeing the splint I was wearing told me Bondo made a product that would fill in all the holes and cracks. I was off to the auto supply store for the sixth and last time. After two months of labor, I had re-made Sirius. I was back at square on, with a fiberglass cast (albeit infinitely doggier) that now needed to be painted.
For those unfamiliar with Part I, after two months of my re-constructing the fiberglass “seated Lab” whom I called Sirius, he was ready to be painted. As an artist whose main subject is dogs, I felt I would be limiting myself by simply painting Sirius to look like a real Lab. Besides, I had already done that in re-building him. “Sirius,” I thought, “should represent all dogs… a doggie totem.” I began painting miniatures of past canine models, along with breeds I hadn’t yet studied. Sticking with pure breeds would encourage people to look closely for their favorite breed. To link these pictures I looked around for interesting quotes about dogs, which I wrote out with a dip pen (those years of studying calligraphy finally proved useful!) After a months’ work, Sirius was covered with 34 miniatures dog paintings and 14 quotes. Early on, I had decided to leave his face undecorated but painted as a realistic yellow Lab. The brown glass eyes I had ordered from a taxidermist really brought Sirius to life. He turned heads when I drove him, safely seated belted in the passenger seat, to or from home or studio. In order to integrate the portraits and quotes into a whole, I dug out my old airbrush, which I hadn’t used since the late 70’s when I was an abstract artist. Mixing up a color suitable for a yellow Lab, I airbrushed the areas in-between the paintings and quotations, softening their edges. Now, instead of appearing to be pasted on top of Sirius, the images seemed to emanate from him. Lastly, I fastened around his neck the blue dog collar. I had purchased, with its’ gold star-shaped tag reading “Sirius-B.J. Wayne.” A brass tag on the collar’s back has the following inscription, “M I 2 Sirius 4 U?” Having ordered this over the phone, I confounded the sales person who asked me, “What kind of dog is the collar for?” I replied “fiberglass.” And with that, gentle reader; we have come to the tail end of Sirius.