Tom’s Life-Sized Bear Sculpture

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Waterproof paper mache bear sculpture

What a treat – our friend Tom has agreed to show us how he started with the bear pattern on this site.

Tom created a huge life-sized standing bear sculpture, and even added fur. It’s now displayed outside his home, and you can just imagine how impressed his neighbors must be.

Thank you, Tom, for letting us see how your amazing bear sculpture was made!

Making “Walter,” the Life-Sized Bear Sculpture

©2018 Tom Gargano

My name is Tom and while now retired, my life’s passions, besides my family, have been music, poetry (The Poet’s Crafts is my blog) and arts and crafts. I hope you enjoy my guest post and thanks to Jonni for having me.

In Denver, Colorado, there is a giant big blue bear with his nose pressed to the glass, peering in at everyone, staring in through the front windows of the Colorado Convention Center.

The 40-foot, 3-story fiberglass construction has become an icon of the Denver area, representing a “playful reflection of curiosity” to all those who come there to meetings.

I have long admired Lawrence Argent’s whimsical creation for its out of the ordinary presence in the city; hence,when Jonni made her bear trophy mount pattern available, I thought I would try to create a full size bear sculpture. Thus, it became a passion for me and my second attempt at an outdoors creation.

The Walter Project

Step 1: First I found various pictures of all kinds of bears in the upright position. Next, my thinking was to use pvc pipe to construct the armature until my wife, who works at the local Jo Ann’s store, brought home some very strong cardboard tubing which I used instead. Starting with his feet, I used an old pair of gym shoes to which I attached the tubing with bolts and duct tape.

First Step in Creating the Life-Sized Bear Sculpture

Step 2: I sort of envisioned a “walker” in setting up his lower body shape, placing a taller tube in the middle of his back to serve as the spine. Later, I would add another tube to give him height. I used my grandson, Austin, to pose up against the tree to give me a visual about what I was thinking in my mind.

Creating a life-size bear sculpture, step 2

If you look back at step 1 you will see how I started using cardboard strips, first in circles and then connecting them with straight strips. Using this method, I was able to envision how bulky I wanted his legs relative to his feet, etc. Continuing in this fashion, I made a larger ring up where his shoulders might be and ran longer cardboard strips, connecting the bottom portion with the top portion.

Step 3: Next, I wadded up newspapers and put them inside the cardboard frame, and wrapped the frame with masking tape. Keep in mind that you may be doing a lot of adjusting along the way in this process, as your creative mind thinks aloud in your ever-changing mind. Exploding ideas are not static, right?

Paper Mache bear sculpture step 3

Step 4: Next, I had to run a higher tube to hold his head, which I placed in a furnace duct vent elbow piece so as to be able to move his head to the angle I wanted.

Bear sculpture, step 4

Step 5: In step 4 as well as step 5, you can see where I have started experimenting with his arms, which I made by using hangers inserted in tubing before covering them, so I could fixate how I planned to lean him up against the tree.

Life-sized bear sculpture step 5

Step 6: In this step, I have moved him back inside to mask his skinny frame. At this point begins the layering of masking tape, adding more newspaper in spots, more masking, etc., until you are satisfied with his body form, at that moment. Of course, you have to let layers and improvement areas dry before proceeding. And, of course, it is important to note that I have used paper mache paste and straight glue in certain spots to provide more strength and to simply satisfy my thinking. You may not be as insecure in your thinking.

Life-sized bear sculpture step 6
Step 7: Now you can notice how much he has transformed.

Life-sized bear sculpture step 7

Step 8: I now start another layer of plaster cloth before I add another layer of paper mache.

Creating a life-sized bear, step 8

Step 9: A new product had come onto the market when I was starting my Walter Project , a product called Flex Seal®. This product was introduced not only as tape but also as a sealer, with numerous applications such as roof patching and basement cracking, among others, to hold out water leakage. When dry, it becomes rubberized. I decided to cover my bear in white Flex Seal.

Covering paper mache with Flex Seal to waterproof.

Step 10: And after adding nails to his appendages, I was ready to add fur. However, at this stage I started falling behind because I could not find a glue that would adhere the fur to the shiny flex seal surface. This hold up curbed my enthusiasm and I also became ill and incapacitated for a few months.

Bear sculpture, step 10

Step 11: Finally, I resolved the problem of adherence by applying black Flex Seal to the white Flex Seal and pressing the fur down, holding it in place with poster board tacks/pins until it dried thoroughly.

Bear sculpture with fur attached with Flex Seal

Step 12: This stage may challenge your patience, frustrate your joy and produce unfavorable thoughts as you have to measure and cut and line up many patches of fur as you meander your way covering this big boy’s body with “hair.”And, by the way, the fake fur was purchased at JoAnn Fabrics, where locally, it carries it as a regular shelf item.

Adding more fur to bear sculpture

Step 13: I would assume that it doesn’t matter where you start with the fur, whether it is the feet or the head. At first, I thought it would because when my wife showed me which way to comb the fur, I thought I had to keep that in mind when cutting it and applying it on the bear, to make sure it all ran the same direction. When applying small patches, I discovered I could make the fur run any direction. Here, he is coming along handsomely. (Note: When cutting the fur, make sure you cut it from the fabric side not the fur side. You will figure out why.)

Lifesized bear sculpture with fur added

Finished: Finally, Walter is finished and is happy waiting for any varmint that might happen to pass by Thanks again to Jonni who made available this wall mounted bear plan which enabled me to add a little more body to him. For that, Walter says thanks!

The finished life-sized bear standing outside

May your creative days be bountiful and blessed,


54 thoughts on “Tom’s Life-Sized Bear Sculpture”

  1. How do you keep him from falling over in a heavy wind? Did you scale up the head pattern or go with the template you downloaded? I’m starting this project using PVC skeleton. Mine so far is a wider than yours, I may change it to be more pyramidal like yours

  2. One other thing I wanted to say was have you seen those skeletons of animals they sell at halloween time. you could start with one of them and go over it like you did the bear.
    might be a little easier to make, let alone faster

  3. Wow, Great job on the bear
    I was thinking maybe you could thin down the flex seal with something?
    I’ve never used any of it, so I don’t know if you can, but seams to me there must be a way.
    that way you could cover him all over with the thin stuff then use the thick stuff as a last coat
    Just a thought Good luck with your adventures in the future.
    I Make stuff like this but way smaller.
    right now I’m working on some Wood Fairies, with Paper mache, but there only around 5 in tall…
    I was thinking of making a man to stand next to my big wheeled bike from the 1800’s or maybe even riding it…
    you have given me some good idea on now on how to make him now.


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