Copper in the Arts

May 2007

Whimsical Wildlife: The Art of Andy Cobb

By Vanessa Finney

Copper frog with flowers Frog Flower Girl, Copper Sculpture

Photo by Andy Cobb

A heron looking through binoculars, a frog painting a landscape: These are the types of figures Andy Cobb coaxes from copper. It's a cast of characters that would be at home in a children's storybook-in fact, his first frog was inspired by The Wind in the Willow-but adults around the country find them immensely appealing.

In many ways it's a typical story. Cobb first created the sculptures as a hobby and gave them away for several years before people convinced him he could actually sell them.

"Just for fun I started putting up some pieces in local restaurants-that's how a lot of amateur artists get started-and they started selling rather readily," says Cobb. "I just did the math and figured if I budgeted, I could probably make a living, and it's worked out."

Those budgeting skills and a sense of discipline were what assured Cobb's talent would become financially viable.

I knew a lot of people who made art for living who had trouble with the business side," says Cobb. "But coming from the business world, I set up a routine pretty quickly, because I was used to getting up and going five days a week."

Cobb started out working with clay, but ultimately chose metal for its durability.

"I've done steel, I've done aluminum, and several other kinds of metals," says Cobb. "But I wanted to do statues that used copper. Copper has this wonderful warmth to it that no other metal does. It's almost alive; it has colors, it moves, it's malleable, it feels like skin."

Cobb begins creating his copper sculptures using Revere brand 16-ounce sheets bought wholesale through a nearby roofing company. He then brings an image to life from the ground up, welding, sautering and braising his way from a figure's toes to the top of its head (or hat). Along the way, he constructs a steel infrastructure, since the gauge of copper he uses "is not strong enough for sculptures you want to last for hundreds of years."

He then uses either a black or a green patina for frogs, and if the sculpture is destined for the indoors, he may add some paint to complete the costume.

Frog Gadot Frog Gadot, Copper Sculpture

Photo by Andy Cobb
In the early days, Cobb worked through his downtime between commissions, until a bout with skin cancer made him re-evaluate his life.

"Cancer took me out completely for about two years, so I'm down to working when it's the right thing to do," says Cobb. "And having the commissions come in and being able to pick and choose is making life easier as well."

He concedes that doing shows is necessary when an artist is starting out, but they're also a lot of hard work. He now markets exclusively online and says it has been years since he's been between commissions. Over the years, his pieces have been bought for display throughout the U.S., the majority of them landing within 150 miles of his home in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Although Cobb began with serious wildlife pieces and still does those on occasion, the majority of commissions are his whimsical sculptures.

"The frogs can do anything so I get a lot of requests," adds Cobb. "The whimsy is delightful for me."

Resources:

For information, visit Andy Cobb, call (910) 617-2195.

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