How Harry Rosen Makes His Outdoor Sculptures

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Today’s guest post about waterproof yard art is by our friend Harry Rosen.

Harry often shares his work on the Daily Sculptors page, and they’re always a big hit. When I learned that he keeps them out in the garden I asked him to show us how he made them. He very kindly agreed.
Thanks, Harry!

My Outdoor Sculptures…

©2020 Harry Rosen

I start by deciding what I want to express and how to express it. In this case, I wanted a female enjoying the sunshine.

I start by drawing several rough sketches. I then design the armature I need.

Starting the armature.

I sketch the outlines on 1/2 inch thick insulation foam board and cut them out.

Drawing the outlines on foam board.

Then I loosely attach them to the armature with duct tape.

Adding the foam board to the armature.

I add paper between the boards to get fullness, and often some moth balls to appease the Paper-Mache Gods. 🙂

Next I add some paper, foil or inexpensive foil pans to the outside to add shape.

Adding shapes to the armature
How Harry Rosen Makes His Outdoor Sculptures
How Harry Rosen Makes His Outdoor Sculptures
How Harry Rosen Makes His Outdoor Sculptures

Masking tape or hot glue works fine.

At this point arms are just cutout cardboard or foam-board taped on and the head is a modified plastic jug attached.

How Harry Rosen Makes His Outdoor Sculptures

 I add paper to the arms and skull. I then paper-mache the whole project using shop-towels with any paste slathered on both sides.

Adding paper mache to the sculpture
How Harry Rosen Makes His Outdoor Sculptures
How Harry Rosen Makes His Outdoor Sculptures

This gives a little strength and allows me to better assess the shape.

I then add details with paper-clay such as facial features, fingers and breasts.

Then I repaper the entire project with shop-towels slathered on both sides with a mix of water and FlexBond (sold in Home Depot, tile department).

Mix small batches because it thickens quickly.

Once dry I lightly sand and add paper-clay to further refine features. Then again I add another layer of water/FlexBond.

Once dry I again lightly sand and touch up any minor flaws with paper-clay or drywall compound.

Paper soaked with FlexBond mortar added to sculpture

Then I paint a primer all over and later an oil base paint to seal the surface.

Then I do final esthetic painting and seal with 2 coats of exterior Urethane.

I like to use spray “stone” paint as it hides minor flaws, however, it doesn’t holdup well outdoors unless heavily sealed by a clear coating.

Note that the base had several holes drilled thru, this was to stabilize against potential wind damage. Garden spikes are driven thru at different angles once on-site.

I’ve done several figures like this but it’s too early to determine their longevity. So far (several months) all are doing great.

Starting to paint the sculptuer
The painted outdoor sculpture
The finished garden sculpture

For more posts about waterproof sculptures and pots that can stay outside, check out these tutorials:

33 thoughts on “How Harry Rosen Makes His Outdoor Sculptures”

  1. For some reason, there are no images visible on this page. I am wondering if there is a problem with your posting? Or, as I am using an Apple computer, is that causing a problem with my not being able to see any of the images? I hope there is some way I would be able to see the pictures, as they are integral to the instructions.

  2. Harry, about how much water do you have to add to the Flex Bond to get it to soak into the shop towels? Or do you just mix as directed, and then smear it on both sides of the towels without dipping them into the mix? This is probably obvious, but I’m trying to get a mental picture of the process. 🙂

    • Jonni,
      I don’t mix as directed as I’m not using it “as directed” I.e. I’m not using it as a tile cement. I paint it on both sides with a 3” paint brush (I tear strips usually to a 2 or 3 inch width, overlap pieces and try to criss-cross pieces). As to water amount: I mix to the consistency of thick soup, not mayonnaise; think of thick paint. I have to admit that I do add a little water to the mix as I proceed as it does thicken with time. I mix about 2 or 3 cups at a time. I hope this helps. Harry

        • It’s worth investigating paverpol to use as the coating…..there are waterproof accessories for this product…just brush on and it is very weatherproof
          Available in many countries..contacts on international site below

  3. Harry, Love your Lady Sculpture.
    Thank you a million times. I wanted to make outdoor projects using Jonni’s patterns and now I can try. cw

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your technique and wonderful sculpture. I know it is necessary to experiment and test things but I would hate to loose this winsomely, fabulous sculpture. It is so unique and clever.

  5. Hi Harry,
    I love your explanation and step by step photos. I have wanted to do outdoor sculptures and not deal with chisels! Much better with paper mache’. Can’t wait to create! Thank you!

  6. Absolutely love this idea … and the process is simply enough to do without being too expensive or dangerous. Paper mache has endless qualities its’s having the initial vision that makes it such a great platform for imagination!

  7. Harry a true artist inspires, and that is exactly what you do! I Look forward to seeing more of your creations. Can’t wait until I’m able to do some of my own….Martha

    • This is a wonderful article! Thank you for generously showing us your steps for making outdoor sculptures! I live in the southeast so I’m not sure how it might (or might not) survive our hellish hot and humid summers. But don’t think that’ll stop me! I’m already sketching! Thank you, Harry!!

  8. Thanks for the lesson! Looks like they would be a lot of fun to create.
    I too live in an apartment but we can decorate our doors. Definitely could use this technique to make door decor like gargoyle faces or other fun stuff.
    I was wondering what you meant by “shop towels”? Are they the heavier than paper ones that sometimes come in blue?

    • Shop towels are blue, found in the hardware store. They can be expensive, depending on where you live. In in Canada, so we get hit hard in the pricing department. I find them to be cheaper here if you buy them in the dispensing box of 200. Convenient as well.

  9. Thanks, so much Harry, for sharing your lovely whimsical figure. We all need something to smile about these day.s.


  10. Great job Harry. Thank you for sharing. I want to do a Mermaid.
    If I get to it I’ll make sure to post so you can see.

  11. Even if it will tolerate the outdoors for a few months before it begins to suffer, I can see the potential for holidays. It is common here for people to start decorating for Christmas right after Thanksgiving, and remove them over New Year’s. If it will last 2 to 3 months, I’d expect that if at the end of the Christmas season, the displays might need some attention. But once refreshed and seasoned, they could be stored for the next season. And, given that many of us are still somewhat restricted, we still have time to begin our plans. I’m seeing Santa’s elves in their workshop, all wearing masks, appropriately decorated, and maintaining their social distancing. (Unfortunately, I live in a 3rd floor apartment.) I’m sure others can envision some fun images for Halloween, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or even a tribute to our neighbors working from the front line during this dreadful time. Make us smile.

  12. Congratulations Harry,
    Thank you for such a great description of your processes. Your sculpture is such a happy girl.

  13. omgosh this is wonderful. i make odd papermache statues etc for my camp art burning man. Love the process and looking forward to adopting some of them in my next projects

  14. Harry, this is great? What climate do you live in? I want to assess if mid – Atlantic area (with some snow and ice) could tolerate your outdoor creations.

    Thanks, – MO Soneira

    • Martha, I live in Rochester NY, we do get SNOW however cold and rain individually are not issues. If a garbage bag if thrown over these (or they’re placed in a shed) they do well. I’m convinced it’s the freezing water which causes cracking and failure. ‘Hope this helps.

  15. Hi Harry!
    Great job! Lovely sculpture, very funny outdoors sculpture.
    Happy days


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