I’ve been asked by some lovely people to design and make a penguin weathervane for their barn roof. Their house has been in the family for several generations and the new weathervane will replace one that went missing, at some unremembered point in family history.
After mulling the design over for a while I came to the conclusion that I really didn’t want to present a stereotypical standing penguin; to me, it just didn’t seem to capture the essential ‘penguiness’ of a penguin. Instead I felt I should investigate the possibility of depicting the penguin in its true element, as a streamlined underwater hunter.
Looking at source material I was interested in the dynamic patterns of bubbles created when penguins dive into the water. I wondered whether I could use network patterns of water ripples and bubbles to add dynamism to the design. Thinking about Gaudier Breska’s bronze sculpture, Bird Swallowing a Fish, I felt that adding a fish for the penguin to chase would add dramatic tension. Structurally, the fish would serve as a directional pointer while the penguin and water splash would act as the sail.
As the weathervane will be in a high position, using a two-dimensional design set against the watery blue of the sky would work well for the lines and bubbles, but as flashes of yellow and orange are key to the identity of the many penguins, I felt that introducing these colours would bring the design to life. Along with the yellow and orange, the white breast would be an obvious addition. To pick out the fish in a separate colour I added two shades of green. This could all be achieved with coloured glass, which would look stunning lit up in the sunlight.
I then set the resulting design against a photograph of the sky to mock up what the weathervane could look like in situ. Whilst it mostly worked, I didn’t like the penguin’s body showing up as blue. So I added additional grey body panels to complete the design.
Penguin weathervane design gallery
The gallery below shows my design process from source material, through initial sketches to refinement and completion of the final design.