Lizard Art: Sometimes You Just Need A Little Quirky Fun in Your Life
And, Lizard Art may be it.
Now, before you hit the ‘Exit’ button, I can tell you I have two Lizard Art characters in my living room and they’re the life of every party.
My husband and I met Gary and Susie Hutchinson at the Arts & Crafts Festival at Red Hawk Ranch in Wimauma last April. Now, mind you, my husband and I rarely agree when it comes to design or art issues, but we were both immediately drawn to the lizards. We couldn’t stop laughing and we left with two: Lederhosen Lizard (my hubby is from Germany) and MacLizard (I am a Scottish girl, a Macdonald, until marriage changed my name).
Why? They’re unique. They’re fun and it’s clear Gary and Susie both have a great sense of humor. Just look at some of the names they’ve given their Lizard characters:
“Why not,” Gary jokes. “It’s actually a pretty funny story,” Susie, his wife, says.
Gary tells the story of how the lizard art came to be, “We had just come to Florida on vacation. I was hustling our bags into the hotel and I stepped on a lizard. It was gruesome and I think I have been atoning ever since,” Gary says.
The Magic of Making Lizard Art
The lizards are made from a deceptively easy papier–mâché process. Gary starts with two coat hangers to form and create the ‘skeleton’. From there the form is wrapped in strips of paper and then the papier–mâché mixture (flour and water) is applied. That’s the easy part.
Next, Gary primes the lizard, paints it green (or another base color – see Blues Lizard), and then adds the scales. “The scales take some time,” Gary says.
The more tricky, and creative, part of the process comes in bringing each character to life.
“We always come up with the name first,” Susie says. “Then the character comes to life. Our visions usually match when we start talking about what the character will look like.”
In all, a lizard takes about two weeks to complete, including drying time, although some characters have taken as long as a month. It depends on how complex the props are that need to be made or fitted to the lizard.
Over 150 Characters and Oodles of Special Orders
The Hutchinsons have lost count of the exact number of lizard characters they’ve created. When you buy one, however, each is signed and numbered. They’ve also made many special order lizards: everything from Chef Lizards to Equine Vet Lizards to a Wheelchair Lizard.
“The Wheelchair Lizard was particularly fun,” Gary says. “A woman came to us and wanted a lizard for her husband, who was in a wheelchair. She described him to us as tons of fun so we painted flames on the side of the wheelchair and put a Coke in one hand and wrap-around sun glasses on him. He was a hit!”
Other fun and odd characters they’ve made on commission:
- Nixon Lizard (with arms outstretched)
- Sumo Lizard
- Pope Lizard (This one comes with a story. Gary, who went to Catholic School, was showing his lizards at a festival. He saw a few nuns approaching the table. “I’ve never seen him move so fast,” says Susie, “Gary had Pope Lizard hidden under the table in seconds.”
“I was afraid of getting my knuckles whacked with a ruler,” he laughs.
Below we see It’s Not Over Until the Fat Lizard Sings, Surfer Dude, Blues Lizard, Mary Catherine Elizardbeth, Junior Varsity Lizard, and Wizard Lizard.
Props Make the Lizard Characters Come to Life
Gary and Susie are always coming up with new characters. The name comes to them first, but it’s often a prop, or an unrelated item, that inspires them. Susie was looking at bathroom scrunchies one day in a home goods store and she immediately thought it would make a great tutu. Mouserina was born. Capes, like the one shown below, and dresses are often made from file folders, while fingers and small pieces are made with Model Magic clay.
A disco-themed Christmas ornament inspired their Saturday Night Fever Lizard character and a miniature saxophone toy became Blues Lizard’s main prop. Two buttons inspired the It’s Not Over Until the Fat Lizard Sings lizard chest plate below.
Gary and Susie
Susie is a researcher by trade and Gary is a Technical Illustrator. Both have always needed a creative outlet and art was it.
Susie taught Gary how to do papier–mâché. “Now, he runs with it,” she says. “The lizard characters really take on Gary’s energy. I cannot do one from beginning to end like he does.”
Throw Caution to the Wind
Lizard Art? Well, it’s just fun. You won’t see it anywhere else and it’s a sure conversation starter. It’s also guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Contact / Purchase Lizards / Upcoming Exhibits
For more information or to purchase a lizard (or two):
Standard lizards are $40.00
Custom Lizards are $50-$60
The Hay Barn in Myakka City Fall Festival: November 19-20
Red Hawk Ranch Native American Retreat Powwow and Cultural Festival: December 2-3-4
Bradenton: Art Walk. First Friday (6-9:30PM) and Saturday (11-4) of month. Gary and Susie show their Lizard Art outside of Arte Caffè Italian Bakery and Market
Which is your favorite Lizard Character? Comment below.