Archive for Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Hero hawk to parade in Lawrence

May 28, 2003

Mike Davis and Tim Bishop have been so busy working on their Jayhawk that they haven't had time to look at any others.

But chances are, plenty of folks will be looking at theirs.

Today, the newest in the line of Jayhawks on Parade is expected to go on display in front of the Lawrence Hallmark plant.

The bronze-colored "Heroic Hawk" stands nine feet tall, from the base of the mountain to the top of Heroic's crest. The mythical bird, complete with a flying cape and a "K" shield on his breast, is ready to soar.

But its creators, after three months of work on the project, are likely ready for a good night's sleep, along with some time with their wives and children.

Davis and Bishop have worked alongside family and friends, including Tim's brother, Shane Bishop, for three months.

The last two months of work have taken place at a barn four miles west of Tonganoxie near where the Davis family lives. The barn belongs to Davis' mother-in-law, Carlene Myers, who has played the gracious host, treating the workers to breakfasts, lunches and dinners, as well as endless pots of coffee.

On at least a half-dozen nights, she's gone to sleep at midnight, noticing the workers still in the barn, and awakened in the morning to find them still there.

The rest is history

Their involvement in the project occurred by chance. Davis and Bishop are production artists at Hallmark in Kansas City, Mo. When Davis attended a party for his sister-in-law's 25th anniversary with the company at Hallmark's Lawrence plant, the plant manager asked him if he'd be interested in painting a Jayhawk.

"I told him I would be interested but I would have to get some help," Davis said. "I called Tim, he said it sounded good and the rest is history."

Tim, who Sunday took a rare break with Davis and sat in the shade, peered from beneath the brim of his New York Yankees baseball cap, nodded toward his Jayhawk partner, gave a smug grin and added: "So it's his fault."

A year ago, even months ago, neither would have imagined they'd be spending every spare moment outside of work, and even using vacation days, to finish a Jayhawk for their employer.

"Not in my wildest dreams," said Davis, who sat with a soft drink in hand and his 5-year-old son, Austin, on his lap and his 8-year-old daughter, Micaela, beside him, gazing at a jar of snails fresh caught from the nearby pond. "I've never done anything like this before and I don't think Tim has either. I had no idea how much time and effort and expense this would take."

And how much knowledge.

The two have been artists all their lives. But nothing prepared them for this.

"Between the two of us, we had a little bit of knowledge about the materials used," Bishop said. "But not in this format -- the Bondo, the mesh."

Reshaping the Jayhawk

And, to reshape the bird's proportions, they also used spray foam insulation.

So while it was easy for them to draw their design, actually building a wood frame for the mountain, wrapping it with wire mesh and covering that with auto body putty, was more difficult, and time consuming.

And then there was the surgery to the Jayhawk itself.

"I think we were kind of shocked at the size of the proportion of the thing," Bishop said. "The head was huge and he looked a little stumpy. We thought it could automatically use some improvement."

They started by cutting off the legs and making them eight inches longer. And, they added about four inches of feathers to the top of his head. Side wings were added, as was a flowing cape and a chest medallion. Then there was the mountain, which turned out to be 3 1/2 feet tall and about 8 feet in diameter at the base.

Highway landing

Even the drive home with the bird turned out to be more treacherous than imagined.

Mike drove to Lawrence to pick it up.

"The guy that was helping me load it in the truck laid it down one way," Mike said. "Because of the way it was put in the truck, the wind caught it and flipped it out of the truck."

The unadorned Jayhawk landed in the middle of U.S. Highway 24-40, near TeePee Junction.

"It cracked the beak, put a hole in one of the feathers and made a couple of other cracks in it," Mike said.

Fortunately, the road was clear of traffic, said Mike, who hoisted the 75-pound bird into the truck, strapped it in and made his way to Tonganoxie and then on to Olathe to start the work in Tim's garage.

Today the bird has grown -- to about 300 pounds. It now takes not one, but several men, to lift it up to its mountain perch.

Ah, the innocent days

This is not exactly a high-paying job. Mike and Tim work four 10-hour shifts at Hallmark each week, so they thought their three-day weekends would give them plenty of time to finish the Jayhawk.

Tim smiles and sighs as he recalls his innocence.

"There was one day I remember calling Mike and saying the weather looked so nice, how about taking a day off and spending time with our families," Tim said.

That's been a rarity lately.

"At first we were working one day out of the three, soon it got to be a two-day weekend thing, and ultimately it turned out to be an all-nighter thing a couple days a week," Tim said. "It's been very extensive, it just gradually took over our lives."

Tim said they just didn't expect the work to take so much time. As of Tuesday, both Tim and Mike each had used three vacation days to work on the bird. As they toiled, the bird evolved.

"All during the whole thing we were looking at the legs, looking at the wings," Tim said. "We'd get the wings looking great, and then we said oh those legs look scrawny. ... It did evolve. The whole thing was a work in progress. It wasn't as if we nailed it right off the bat."

A timeless piece

But they did know early on what color it should be.

Bronze auto body paint was part of the original theme.

"We wanted it to look like a turn-of-the-century sculpture," Mike said. "We wanted something timeless."

The men realize the bird will first be displayed outdoors. But they hope, if and when the bird is auctioned, it will be kept inside.

"It would pretty much last for a long time, but if it's outdoors, it's going to wear down," Mike said.

Wherever the Heroic Hawk lands, they're hoping people like it.

"I can't wait to see people jumping around on it and taking their pictures by it and really getting a good memory out of it," Tim said.

That's going to make the sleepless nights worthwhile, Tim said. "If it's something that you really want done and you really want done in a way that satisfies, you have to make those sacrifices, as painful as it may be."

The best part of the project, longtime friends Mike and Tim said, is that together they saw a project through from start to finish.

"I think the best part of it is seeing it come alive and being what we envisioned from the beginning," Mike said. "I think we're really pleased with the final product.

Tim compared the size of their six-inch drawing with their 9-foot-tall sculpture:

"You have no idea how large it's going to be and when you see it that big in real life it's quite amazing."

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