Turtle tale

Meeker artist commissioned to create sculpture for Illinois park

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When John Kobald was approached to do a sculpture of a turtle for a park in Illinois, he knew he wanted to create something special.

With a degree in sculpting from Northern Illinois University, the Meeker resident began work on the 650-pound project, first forming a rebar armature and a Styrofoam body that eventually would be covered in bronze.

"A private party in Illinois had some of my work and wanted to donate a sculpture to the city of St. Charles (Ill.)," Kobald said. "This is the largest piece I've ever done."

Kobald, the son of a well-known sculpture artist, began his career by carving duck decoys with his father, Ray, while he was in junior high school.

After college, he took his father's advice to create representations of things he was familiar with, and began carving fish and water animals.

"It just took off from there," he said.

Moving to Meeker to guide hunters and anglers only increased his knowledge and appreciation of wildlife.

He teaches watercolors in Meeker through Colorado North------western Community Col--l----ege and has made his living as an artist for more than a decade.

Most of his work is tabletop sculptures of fish, though he created a life-sized dolphin in college.

When officials in St. Charles saw the sculpture, they were so impressed that they found a more predominate spot for the piece in a bigger park, Kobald said.

After forming the sculpture in clay and creating rubber molds to form each section, the bronze was cast in 25 pieces, which Kobald welded together.

The finish on the turtle was originally shiny, "like a new penny," he said, before being treated with acid for the effect the artist desired.

"Outdoor pieces need a stable color that won't fade or change," Kobald said. "The patina is formed by a combination of chemicals on the bronze."

The finished sculpture requires a wax be applied each year to keep the finish protected.

Kobald is especially excited about delivering his artwork to St. Charles, where his father already has some sculptures on display.

His next commissioned work is for a red-tailed hawk in flight, ordered by a Texas client who had seen his work.

Kobald has not needed to advertise his work, because word of mouth has been keeping the artist busy. People see his sculptures on display, and others find out about his work through his guide job in Meeker.

His newest artwork will be right at home in Illinois, in a park on the Fox River, where it appears that a giant turtle has made its way out of the water and has been frozen in time.

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