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The Birth of a Bison

Happy 4th of July and happy birthday to my golden buff! Though this animal mount's gestation lasted months, I'm deeming him born today as he has finally been brought to life with eyes that pierce your soul and horns gilded with 23K gold leaf. Named "Ralphie" after the University of Colorado's (CU) football mascot, this bison also commemorates that I got my master's degree (Germanic Language and Literature) from CU.

Ralphie was a concerted effort with my husband, Rolf. The prep work, before I could begin embellishing my buff with surface design, was no small task. He arrived as a pretty realistic taxidermy replica of a buffalo head, cast in white resin with textured fur, etc. We had to knock that down with specially concocted spackle and primer so I could draw and paint on a smoother surface; still a challenging task. I would often cradle Ralphie's cranium in my lap, turning him this way and that to draw Zentangle patterns behind his ears, under his chin, and on his dangling goatee. Working with various gold pens, I had to be patient for sections to dry before continuing with the patterns.

Designed with the American buffalo's history, habitat, and its ties to our indigenous people in mind, the patterns I chose symbolize that relationship, prairie sunrises, swirling plains storms, nets of ensnarement, plains vegetation, and the animal's brute strength.

Once I finished the drawing, painting, and gilding, Ralphie went back onto Rolf's workbench for the finishing touches - various archival glazes were applied to different parts of the mount, glossy, matte, and semi glossy depending on what we wanted to highlight.

This project afforded me many hours of creative comfort during the difficult months of lockdown and social distancing caused by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ralphie will remind me of those challenging times marking them with a bold exclamation point. I just ask for a bit of the American bison's strength and resilience that brought it back from the brink of extinction to withstand the Corona virus with a matching stamina.

I will eventually put Ralphie up for sale, but I'd like to admire him for a while first.

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