Pet Sculptor Immortalizes Fido and Tabby

By Heather Holland on January 2, 2013 6:23am 

CARROLL GARDENS — A Brooklyn artist is capturing pets in their cutest poses for eternity.

Gary Oshust, a sculptor living in Carroll Gardens, creates permanent sculptures out of clay and resin that will keep fido or tabby close by forever.

Oshust — who charges $2,999 for a cast bronze sculpture of a pet and $2,499 for a sculpture using cast resin with a faux bronze finish — picks the perfect expression by studying photographs of the pets, and speaks to their owners for a better understanding of each subject’s personality.

“Pets always have certain head tilts and stuff like that, that people when they’re commissioning something like that, they really identify with that,” said Oshust, 45.

“If there’s a certain thing that they remember about the person or the pet, then you try to incorporate that in the sculpture.”

For Oshust's current project, a clay portrayal of a bright green parrot named Scooby Doo, he etched Scooby’s resemblance into a clay tablet. Once the client approves of the way it looks, he will begin the mold making.

He uses wire frames, molds and sometimes casts of animal skulls to shape the base of his sculptures. He purchases the skulls of animals such as cats, horses and coyotes from various companies who sell them, and then makes a cast of the skull before using it as a base for his pet portraits.

“It’s a little morbid and a little strange, but there are a couple of companies out there where you can get various animals, from fairly exotic things to a house cat,” said Oshust.

As an example, for a portrait of a chihuahua called Nacho, Oshust used a wooden base, wires and a balled up newspaper to form the basic shape of the dog’s face, he said.

The two key things to capture when doing a portrait of a person or a pet are the eyes and the pet’s facial expression, Oshust explained.

“We do so much communication with our eyes, whether it’s person-to-person or person-to-pet,” Oshust said.

He worked as an IT professional for 15 years before he began pursuing a full-time career in sculpture. Growing up in Michigan, Oshust was influenced by artistic family members such as his mother, who was a ballerina, and his father, who dabbled in photography, Oshust said.

Oshust started his pet sculpting business, called Green Whisker Works, out of his Carroll Gardens home a few years ago. His living room doubled as a workshop and it got a little messy, Oshust said.

“Home wasn’t really conducive to working,” said Oshust. “Sculpture gets messy. You start at one corner of the living room and end up messing up the entire living room.”

Soon he moved out of the living room, and went from one studio to the next. As the demand for Oshust’s work grew, he knew he had to find a more permanent location for his workshop.

After an attempt to land a space in Gowanus fell through in September, Oshust started a cooperative space called Spark Workshop, located at 33 34th St. in Bush Terminals.

The Sunset Park workshop offers studio spaces, classrooms, workshops and storage spaces for artists and qualifying members.

During the sculpting process, Oshust keeps in close contact with his clients to inform them of his progress.

"He took a lot of photos and showed me the progression of the piece," said Brenda Dungan, owner of Nacho the chihuahua, one of Oshust's first pet portrait subjects. "He communicated with me the whole time to make sure it was perfect."

Once Dungan saw the finished product, she said she could identify the sculpture as her Nacho right away.

"It's Nacho," said Dungan. "I have three chihuahuas and I could tell that it was Nacho exactly.

"It's neat to have a 3D thing of [Nacho]. It's more than just a photo."

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