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Many of you are already familiar with the work of American artist Melissa Terlizzi, who recently joined a show called “FEAR” hosted by an art gallery in her city. Artists from all over the country submitted artworks depicting things that scare them.

“I chose to make a venomous snake from Africa called a bush viper,” Melissa told us about her submission.

“I like snakes a lot, but many people feel a deep revulsion to them, so I thought this would be the perfect subject for the theme of the show,” explains Melissa why she chose this motif. She wanted her snake to be bright and beautiful, just as the real ones are, but also to make people feel a little uncomfortable which truly works nicely as the snake is slithering from the base into the space of the viewer.

Melissa is well-known for her precise, often very cheerful sculptures from polymer clay. This time she composed the sculptural pieces onto a 12 x 12” wood cradleboard so the sculpture can hang on the wall and look ready to strike anyone passing by!

In this particular sculpture her patience and sense of detail is very clear. The same for her style based on realism and stylization as well: “An actual bush viper has light-colored golden eyes, and its scales are keeled in the center, giving it a rough, dragon-like appearance. I gave my snake red eyes because I thought they would look more frightening, and made my scales flat. Creasing all of the tiny clay scales in half would have made me go crazy, so I created a scale cane with a line down the center to give the impression of a ridge,” she says.

Are you curious about the way Melissa created this incredible sculpture piece?

The snake’s head and body were shaped out of aluminum foil and covered with black clay. The scales were cut from her cane and layered on one by one from the tail to the head. Then the snake parts were baked while Melissa created the branch and gradient background, and then attached with Bake and Bond.

“I pressed leaves from my garden into sheets of clay to create the foliage, and added clay vines and berries to make it look like the snake was hanging in the rainforest waiting to ambush its prey. After everything was baked together for a final time, I used heat set oil paints and Gilder’s Paste to liven up the leaves and add shadows around the snake’s eyes,” explains Melissa, about the process of her artwork. True masterpiece!

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