This is what happens when you put statues that aren’t designed for outdoor use outside anyway. But hey, nothing a couple of weeks of grueling and backbreaking labor can’t fix!
NOTE: This article is also available as a video!
Before we begin, check out what the state of this statue was before I started.
Entire chunks are missing, and there’s even a large hole in the bottom-right.
I had to fill up a lot of damage, and I figured since it’s a stone-like material, non-shrink wall-filler would be the perfect choice. I used this Pattex product that I picked up on the cheap.
I tried wearing nitrile gloves so my hands wouldn’t constantly get dirty while applying the wall filler, but the thin layer that would get stuck to the glove would dry quickly and begin cracking and leaving chunks almost immediately, so I quickly gave up on that idea.
You may have also noted the Popsicle sticks, I have a bunch of these for various crafting purposes and I hoped that they might help with application, but it just ended up making things more difficult.
In the end I just used my hands and settled for cleaned my fingers every other minute.
I wasn’t sure how to get started, so I figured I’d just start applying the filler in the most obviously damaged areas, and work from there. It was very hard to apply this smoothly, as you can see on these photos.
I recognized early on that not only was this going to take longer than I’d originally intended, but I was probably going to have to spend a lot of extra time sanding afterwards.
Speaking of sanding, remember that large hole in the front-bottom-right? Since it was too large to “just fill” (especially given that the statue is hollow) I instead sanded down a wood dowel to a a tight fit and then put that in with an absurd amount of glue to make sure it’d hold into place.
This left me with a much tinier hole that I could actually use the filler in. Then I just applied more filler on top of the wood dowel until it disappeared completely.
Even before I was completely done, I could tell that I was going to have to start doing some sanding because the rough surface of all that filler was starting to get in the way of trying to fix it up. I used a variety of methods including emery boards and just chunks of sandpaper.
Sanding this statue caused quite a mess because I inevitably took off chunks of the old paint as well and that got mixed in with the dust. I made sure to wear a mask while sanding and you can see why. This stuff looks NASTY.
Sanding did make a huge difference though, and after a while the statue started to smooth out and I could go back to adding more filler.
I noticed that the shoulders were also more damaged than they’d initially appeared to be, so I did a couple of fill and sanding passes until that was smooth as well.
By this point I’d given the statue enough filling and sanding passes that almost all of the damage was gone. A lot of the fine detail was gone with it, but I knew this ahead of time and we agreed that a loss of detail would be worth it if the statue looked pristine again afterwards.
The next step was to add a primer. Since some of the original paint was still on there, and much of it wasn’t, and there was a mix of materials, I decided to go with a slightly more expensive stain-blocking primer to make help make sure the base color would be identical everywhere on the statue, with none of the original layers coming through.
Unfortunately I have the bad habit of applying too much primer at once, and I did the same here as well, and I paid for it. The primer’d started to form droopy drips that I hadn’t noticed until after it had already dried, which resulted in what looked like a crying Buddha that I had to carefully sand back down a bit.
I also realized after I’d already applied the primer that I’d made the shoulders TOO smooth.
The definition of the Buddha’s robe is meant to be visible there, and in repairing that damage that detail was lost completely; so I took a knife and my rotary multi-tool and started cutting and multi-tooling away at it until some of that definition returned.
I was going to have to apply another layer of primer to cover up those last changes and fixes again, and when that was done I applied another two layers of black primer as the statue’s new base color.
I let the primer dry and then… WHAT? NOOOO….
Apparently I’d been overzealous with my primer application again and this had caused it to begin cracking as it had dried completely. There were in the black primer in several spots.
In the end I decided to just paint the cracks in with a black acrylic paint. I was going to paint over it anyway and I crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t be that noticeable when it was all finished.
I wanted to make the statue a chrome-oxide green, but as I started airbrushing I “noticed” the green wasn’t very noticeable on the black base color. I should have done a test beforehand, but I was already committed now. I mixed in some cover-all white in with the chrome-oxide green, but that made it milky rather than lighter. Still, I figured I could use that first and then add another layer of chrome-oxide green on top to get it close to the color that I’d wanted.
I made sure to mask off the parts of the statue that I didn’t want to color in just yet, and yes, that resulted in this amusing Mummy-Buddha.
Heh. Can you imagine a Mummy-Buddha?
He wouldn’t be all that zen.
Around this time I also realized what chrome-oxide green was missing, and that was some of that sparkle the original paint had. To get something similar, I airbrushed on another two layers of paint, but instead of using pure chrome-oxide green I added a few drops of metallic-gold effect paint. THAT all but got me the look I was after.
By the way… in the course of coloring I accidentally chipped a chunk off his chin…
Since it worked before, I just filled it up with some black acrylic paint and crossed my fingers again.
With the green paint completely done, it was time to pain the rest. To make sure I wouldn’t ruin the green I worked so hard on, I masked off the entire rest of the statue, using low-tack sensitive masking tape, and a whole bunch of newspaper.
( And by the way I’m aware of the irony of wrapping the statue of the Buddha in bits of newspaper covered in ads for largely superfluous commercial products so you don’t need to bother pointing that out. )
I decided to paint the main body and face into a dark-brown bronze color, and since I loved the effect the added drops of metallic-gold effect paint had, I mixed in some here as well.
I was really happy with the result… untiiiiil I noticed these hands and the sharp visual line caused by the sudden color change.
By lowering the pressure of my compressor and limiting the airbrush paint output to a fraction of what it normally puts out, I was able to slowly and very gradually turn the harsh line into a smooth gradient.
I was really happy with the result…. untiiiiiil I noticed there was one more thing I could improve.
I loaded up some black paint in my airbrush and used the same technique to ever so slightly darken the insides of many of the folds of the robe. This can be surprisingly difficult to spot if you don’t know what to look for, but it gave the statue a certain added depth that it just didn’t have without that minor change.
And genuinely, I was really happy with the result at this point. I treated the statue with several layers of a matte acrylic clear coat to protect it, and with it completely finished I finally brought it back home.
To prevent it getting all damaged all over again, the statue is now in the centerpiece of the large cabinet in our living room, and everyone likes how it came out.
I hope you like how it turned out as well, or at least enjoyed this look at how I got to the finished result. For your viewing pleasure, here’s the comparison picture once more, and I’d like to imagine it’s an impressive improvement.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments and share this article with your friends if you liked it.
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