Creating a 'Ruffled' Flamingo on the Beach

I think pink flamingos are interesting birds. They are fun to watch — the way they can twist those long necks all around — even laying them on their backs and then falling asleep. I am surprised flamingos can support the weight of their bodies on those skinny legs and then, stand on just one skinny leg for long periods of time. I also love the color of the flamingos, the beautiful pinks and coral with tinges of oranges. I knew eventually I would have to make a paper-sculpted pink flamingo.

My first step in creating the pink flamingo was to gather lots of reference material. I try to get as much information as I can on the subject matter before I start the project. Next, I had to decide if I was going to make the flamingo free-standing or as a framed piece. Next, comes the sketching stage.

Once I am happy with the sketches, the next step is choosing which white paper to use — lightweight or heavy or somewhere in between. Oftentimes I will use a different paper for different areas. After choosing which paper I wanted to use, I started cutting out the paper to make the different parts of the flamingo.

First, I started making the beak and the head. The curve of the neck came together pretty nicely — bending the paper shapes gently into the ‘S’ curve. Next, I tried cutting out feathers using the same type of paper, but the feathers felt too heavy. They looked and felt like the feathers belonged to a strong, majestic bird such as an eagle — not the feathers on a pink flamingo. I wanted the feathers to look soft and delicate. So, I decided to switch to a lighter-weight paper. After some experimentation, I found a paper I was happy with.  

For the flamingo, the most difficult thing to figure out how to make was the legs. How do I make it stay standing upright? How will two legs hold the weight of the body and have the right balance of the body with the curve of the neck? I didn’t want it to fall over because it is top heavy. The legs had to remain skinny. I didn’t want to use any wire inside the legs. I wanted to keep it as paper for the legs. After many failed attempts, I finally figured out a way to keep the legs strong, but also skinny.  

I also didn’t want to make the flamingo with just two straight legs. I contemplated having her stand on just one leg, but then decided it would be interesting if I could add a sense of movement to the flamingo and make it appear as though she was walking across the sandy beach: a paper flamingo walking.  

After I finished cutting, forming and gluing all the paper elements together, it was time to paint. Once I get to this stage of the sculpture, I feel as though I am in the home stretch and the hardest part is done. Sometimes that is true, and sometimes, the most difficult part is coming up. (Often, figuring out how to frame the piece is the hardest.) But, for the flamingo, painting the bird was really fun. I love the all the pink, orange and coral shades of colors I got to work with.

Next up, the sandy beach. I didn’t want to just mount the flamingo to a wooden base underneath a glass dome. I wanted to add a nice, soft sandy area for her to walk on. I added hand-painted paper “sand” and a few green grasses for this flamingo to walk on. I hope you enjoy “Ruffled” as much as I enjoyed the challenge of making her.