Glow Parade 2019

So ends another year of Quarters arts Glow.

For those unfamiliar: Glow is a Lantern parade organized by Quarters Arts to celebrate the spring equinox. I have been working with Glow, as a lead artist, for the past 3 years to help people bring their ideas into fruition. Its a one month whirl of workshops thats ends with us parading our amazing pieces throughout the Quarters!

No matter how busy the month is, I always have time to create a piece of my own for the parade. With this years theme being outer space I knew I had to do my take on an alien.

The plan: An alien with feline features. It will be able to move its head and perhaps open and close its mouth. It will be distinctly feline but still clearly other-worldly. It must have distinct personality and it must fit through doors.

like with any project, I start the process with researching references.

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I knew my Alien would have feline features. So cats were important to research.

note: In the past I refused to use references for my concept art because I felt it was cheating. If you also think this way, stop it!

Because I swore not to us them for so long I’m still learning how valuable having a reference is. example: if you make a reference, use it. Refer back to it every step you take! (don’t just stick it in a drawer and try to remember what you drew… *this advice is brought to you by real life experiences.

concept art for alien cat front

concept art for alien cat front

Concept from the front.

alien cat, side view.

alien cat, side view.

This is the finished concept art I created for the Alien head. From here I knew that I needed a structures for it to sit on my head. That way when I nodded, it nodded.

Supplies: I needed a helmet that could support this large creature.

How much for that one?

How much for that one?

haha jokes…

But it did lead me to these! Only $3 dollar more then a bike helmet, and with a lot more support that will prevent shifting on my head. This was very important to me because I wanted to be able to have complete motion of my head, without feeling like it may slip off.

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The rest of the supplies consist of: bamboo curtain, dowel, tissue paper, wall paper glue, a baseball helmet, and of course the reference. Followed by a few different attempts at shoulder support for the bottom jaw.

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attempt one for bottom jaw: Pool noodle with straightened curtain rod for shape… it didn't hold the shape.

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attempt number two: one made of bamboo and tape. This one is better!


I felt, at this point, I had a fairly good grasp of the bottom jaw. So it was now time to move on to the rest of the head.

I started with the eyes because they helped me establish the the size of the rest of the head.

The first test was a dish from the Dollarama. However in testing, It didn’t allow enough light to pass through. I attempted paper macheing my tissue and wall paper glue using as a form. However, it just kept ripping to pieces when I attempted to remove it. Third was a lamp cover I tried to cut and melt into shape but it was much more resistant then expected… and fourth were puck lights from the Canadian tire. I removed the electronics from them and used only the covers to allow the light to pass through.

Though they weren’t the same shape as the eyes in my concept, the puck lights seemed like the best fit. A structure was formed around these and then attached to the helmet to create the lips and rest of the head.

Eyes structured together

Eyes structured together

Head and jaw structure beginning to be attached.

Head and jaw structure beginning to be attached.

Technically nearly done, but not happy...

Technically nearly done, but not happy...

At this point I see that, rather then a fierce feline, I have a dog; specifically a pug. With five days left before the parade I realize that I may need to remove the entire jaw and begin again…

So I did what I usually do! I waste a full 3 days angrily staring at the piece. Occasionally I would hold a stick up to an area and then, inevitably, putting it back down.

note: I have mastered fantastic avoidance techniques. If I could harness this pure will of stubbornness into actual productive behaviour… Well, I think I could be unstoppable!

Finally I decide it’s time to remove my reference from the drawer and take a good look at whats happening.


considering how much time I wasted, the changes only took about 5 hours to make. I am infinitely happier with the results (so much so, I forgot to take a picture before I began papering it… sorry)

fixed and beginning to paper!

fixed and beginning to paper!

I pulled the cheeks inwards, but lost the puffy red cheeks in the process. the philtrum (the skin between your nose and top lip) was shortened, and the lips brought into a straight curve to form a smile.

Now that I had the shape I wanted, I needed to work on the fur. One evening, while goofing around, my partner wrapped some fur fabric (that I had long forgotten I had) around my head.

It was love at first sight.


I’m temporarily holding the fabric here so that I know how it will fall around the bottom jaw.

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speaking of the bottom jaw!

Originally, the jaw would be a separate structure, allow the mouth to open and close. However, once the top portion of the head was finished, I was extremely pleased with the motion and personality it had already! This is genuinely not a decision made from laziness, but purely a mid-project design change.

Note: These changes are something I would not have been able to embrace in the past. or at least, not without ruining the project ten times, getting upset and then waiting a year to try again!

with the choice to connect the bottom jaw straight to the head made, it was extremely easy and fast to finish up the rest of the project!


It does have its differences from the original concept art ie. I chose to connect the jaw, the eyes have been rounded, and most notably- the lack of colour. In the end I wasn’t confident in making the colours look vibrant and… well, not tacky. I chose to stick with white because it is the traditional colour anyway.

Here is the view from my perspective. I had very little peripheral vision and could not see me feet at all.


Dean and I together just before the parade (Dean is a spaceman)


and some shots of the the finished piece during and after the parade!

photo by: Dean Welsh

photo by: Dean Welsh

Photo by: Amber Hope

Photo by: Amber Hope

Photo by: Amber Hope

Photo by: Amber Hope

Note: I was very worried my sculpture would scare children (like to the point of trauma!) but it turns out the children love it! I was stopped so many times by someone gently tugging on my coat to get my attention. I would kneel down to their level and they all looked so happy! I was very relieved.

photo by: Amber Hope

photo by: Amber Hope

I would like to thank you to Quarters Arts for giving me this opportunity every year! As much as I enjoy the process of creating my own lantern, I also love being able to help others develop their ideas and bring them to life.

See you all again next year for glows fifth annual spring equinox parade!