Blogs » My Turn » John F. Kennedy goes bust, teaches a humbling lesson


Image Video shows J.F.K. taking shape with colored pencils Click link to view

Image Robert's turn at pushing Sculpy around.


Our coffee table drawing area. The white box hanging from the light above held the time-lapsed camera.


Saturday's progress.

The anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination is coming up fast. My husband, idea- man extraordinaire, came up with the plan for us to do a sculpture of Kennedy that would be photographed for the front page of our newspaper. It was a great idea. He pitched the idea to our Editor Chris Cobler and got the go-ahead.

I could hardly contain my excitement as we went to Hobby Lobby to buy packages of Super Sculpy and foil to build the bust ( I've always had a secret desire to sculpt and here was my big chance).

There was just one problem. Actually, there were several problems; the first being that the one artist in Editorial who had any real experience at doing sculpture work was very busy designing pages and was unable to help out. I volunteered to get the thing going. I watched a few videos on Youtube and I was pretty confident I could do it.

I jumped right in, folding, crushing and wrapping foil into a semblance of a head and shoulders. We set up a time-lapsed camera to capture our work. And then the problems began.

First of all, right out of the box, Sculpy is as hard as a brick (I exaggerate--just a little). You have to knead it and fold it and knead it some more and then knead it and fold it and push it around to get it into shape for sculpting. My thumbs and fingers and hands were exhausted by the time I was through putting enough Sculpy on the foil bust to cover it. It quickly became clear that we had to have more sculpy to finish the back of the head and add the features to the front. Back to Hobby Lobby.

But things weren't looking so good for J.F.K. After pushing Sculpy with little plastic sculpting tools for hours, smearing the stuff with my fingers, willing it to take shape, it didn't look like him at all. It did, however, look amazingly like a flat-headed President George Washington.

Robert took over. I kneaded pieces of Sculpy for him to work with. He took a scientific approach, holding a tool up to the photographs of Kennedy to measure the distance between the features in order to get the depth and spacing right. I silently cheered him on and kept up a steady supply of the worked-up clay.

I told you my husband was an idea-man extraordinaire? Well, after trying his hand at sculpting he soon had another idea; let's drop this project like a veritable hot potato and do a color pencil drawing of Kennedy. I told him I liked that idea very much and let out a long sigh of relief.

This weekend we double-teamed a portrait of Kennedy while sitting across from each other at our coffee table we'd brought in from the living room. We hung the time-lapsed camera from the chandelier over the table to catch the process, got out our pencils and found a nice piece of gray pastel paper to draw on. Robert played Stephen King's audio book "11/22/63" over the stereo as we worked (a story about a man going back in time to save John Kennedy from being assassinated).

We finished the drawing early Sunday afternoon and I began work on a song to accompany the video Robert would be putting together from our time-lapsed photos.

You know, I was 6 years old when President Kennedy was shot. I was sitting on the floor playing with my doll as my mom did housework. "As the World Turns" was on television when the announcement was made that J.F.K. was shot. Mom cried at the news and I cried because she was crying, not completely understanding what had happened or what it meant for our country.

Years later I'm sitting at a table with my husband drawing President Kennedy's portrait. But that's life, right? Full of lessons.