Gerald Scarfe: Stage and Screen at the House of Illustration was the first major exhibition of works by political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe that focused on his works for film and theatre. We conserved a wide range of materials readying them for this fantastic exhibition, including character workings for Disney’s Hercules, set and poster designs, hand painted animation cells, props and models.
One of the pieces was a painted wooden model of a bird/plane which later appeared in animated form in the video for Pink Floyd’s Goodbye Blue Sky.
The model had several broken and detached elements which we were able to simply reattach with adhesive, however, a significant section of the tail was missing and needed to be in filled for the piece to have the visual impact it deserved. Time was limited, and it wouldn’t have been possible to carve or mould a new section that was light enough to safely attached to the existing balsa wood tail section.
Instead I created a flat thin fill that would lie alongside the top surface of the existing tail, creating temporary visual fill that would match the colour and detail so as not to distract the eye from the over all display.
I adhered four layers of thick Japanese tissue together with Lascaux 498, pressing them flat as I dried them. Once dry, I cut a section to mirror of the remaining tail with an edge to neatly nestle into the break line of the tail.
The new tail fill was then colour matched with layers of arcylic paint. As the model had a very high sheen to it, a layer of arcylic gloss medium was applied over the top.
The line gold lines on the model were glued to the surface and were sightly matt in appearance. To replicate this I painted a thin layer of Japanese tissue with golden acrylic paint and once dry cut thin strips which I then adhered to the tail using lascaux 498.
The other broken elements were secured back in place using lascaux and toned Japanese tissue. Some other smaller missing elements were recreated using milliput and were then toned with acrylics and secured in place with Lascaux 498. Once the model had been positioned within the display the tail infill was supported in place using Plastazote.
Given the time, I would have loved to have completed a more convincing and stable fill to the broken tail, however, I think this was a quick and effective idea which still greatly improved the visual impact of the piece within the exhibition.