“Ghost Cat” – Snow Leopard Sculpture

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This is one BIG cat. 28″ long, 22″ high and 16″ wide. I really enjoy making the large sculptures, especially now that I’m using the home-made paper mache clay recipe, but really – what was I thinking? The snow leopard needs to be transported to Bellingham in time for the after-Thanksgiving art show. I’d better go find myself a really big box.

If I was doing this cat over, I’d put the spots where they belong. Other than that, I think he came out rather well. I’ll title this one The Ghost Cat. Some of the people who live in the same rugged environment as the snow leopard call him that, and I think it’s wonderfully descriptive. He hunts at night, he would shine in the moonlight, and there are very few of them left. In just a few years, his ghost may be all that’s left.

After I finished this big cat I did an online search to see what other sculptors are doing with snow leopards. I found some truly inspiring work:

These life-sized cats are made from sisal fibers – it’s hard to believe they aren’t real cats. I would love to see these up close and personal.

I love the tail on this ceramic snow leopard, near the bottom of the gallery page. (And the water buffalo is great, too.)

30 thoughts on ““Ghost Cat” – Snow Leopard Sculpture”

  1. Hi. Jonni,
    We are making a leopard as a school project for my grandson and I noticed you have two different recipes ( paper mâché clay recipe and air dry clay) which do you recommend? This will be our first project.
    Thank you

    • Hi Maryjane. I recommend using the original paper mache clay recipe for large sculptures, like my snow leopard. The air dry clay is good for smaller sculptures where smooth surface and fine details are needed. It’s a little more difficult to work with, because it isn’t very sticky and you can get some cracks if you don’t carefully meld each new piece to the older ones. Both should be used in very thin layers over an armature, so they can dry all the way through. And the linseed oil in the original recipe should be left out, or use mineral instead, when working with younger kids.

      They both use the same ingredients, for the most part, so you might want to mix up small batches of each and just see which one you prefer to work with.

      • Hi my name I Kai I have a school project in biology and they ask us to make a 3D animal out of ehatever we wanted I’m making a dik dik a small deer out of paper mache but I don’t know what to use to make the body do you have any suggestions

        • Hello, Kai. I usually make a pattern out of cardboard for the main shape of the body and head, and four more patterns for the legs. Then I round out the shapes using crumpled paper or crumpled aluminum foil, cover them with masking tape, and use some form of paper mache for the final skin. Almost all the animal sculptures on this site were made that way. You can make the patterns by using good photos of your dik dik from the side.

    • Hi Jared. Yes, I could make a meerkat, but I don’t want to at this time. 😉 However, you could make one. There are tons of tutorials on this site that will show you how.

  2. Hi! Im only thirteen and I love all of your paper mache crafts! So far I made a horse and a duck out of paper mache clay, and it’s so fun to use. Your snow lepord blew me away! I love your work!

  3. Hi again Jonni – to reiterate on ghost cat- he’s great. What I did is go over my original attempt of a snow leopard you have posted under my self-portrait. I wanted to see if I could get it more realistic with the paper mache clay. I will send you a picture tomorrow along with “my cat” sculpture that I did as a result on your on-line class. This one used my own armature and a slightly different pose. I’ll send you a picture of that too – both are unpainted, but I wanted you to see the work in progress. Just one more thing – I would appreciate a critique of the snow leopard that I reworked – it still lacks the realism I was hoping to get. Thanks.

  4. It seems much lighter than sculptures made with laminated paper, but the stuff is amazingly strong when it dries. I really appreciate every single one of your works.

  5. is this expensive ? i really want to do this for my room decor but as the economy is not getting better i would like to know if this is expensive. thank you your work AMAZES me .

    • Hi Ana. If you make your own sculpture, even one this large, you can do it for less than $20. The only real “cost” of paper mache, even when you use the clay recipe, is your time. The snow leopard took about two weeks to finish, much of it drying time. Give it a try, and see what you come up with – it’s a lot of fun.

  6. Just one more thing on snow leopard – how did you paint him? The painting of the piece is really an important step, and yours are always underdone – by that I mean it doesn’t look as though you have globbed on tons of acrylic paint, but onlly lightly touched the surface with delicate washes. Anyway the grey I’m guessing is a mix and then stained over with something beigy tan.

    • Yes, I do put on washes to get a fairly understated look. Often, I remove most of the wash with a paper towel, and leave it only in the deeper parts of the texture. I’ve been using a lot of Golden’s Acrylic Glazing Liquid, because it gives me time to work without the glaze drying.

  7. I love cats -of all kinds and of course your snow leopard is magnificent – can you tell me what kind of armature you used for this sculpture?

  8. Hello! I’m 15 years old and in my AP [advanced placement] Enviromental Science class we were all supposed to make a model of an endangered species. I found a picture of this amazing sculpture and well, I’m going to model my Snow Leopard after it! This is amazing, thank you so much for doing a piece like this, I really appreciate every single one of your works. Absolutely incredible!

  9. Wonderful!!!
    So, did you “skin” the entire piece with the “clay”? Or are you just using it for details?

    I’m SO exCITED!!!

    • Hi Xan. I’m using the paper mache clay for all the skin. It seems much lighter than sculptures made with laminated paper, but the stuff is amazingly strong when it dries. Drying does take time, though. Now wish me luck for finding a box big enough to hold him.

      • How ’bout this; I’ll wish you luck to find a box if you need to ship him to a buyer.

        I can’t wait to try out your paper clay. Now I have time to! Maybe tomorrow, even!

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