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Out of the Blue
Photo courtesy Arianna Rees

We met up with Arianna Rees, the creator of the famous ‘Out of the Blue’ whale halloween costume to talk inspiration, art and process. Check out our Q&A below.

1. What made you choose the 9th and 9th whale for your halloween costume?

I love Halloween, but I don’t really do scary Halloween costumes or cute Halloween costumes. What I’m really drawn to is funny Halloween costumes, like someone pop culture related or a meme that went viral. Last year I went as the guy who does the no bones day with Noodle the Pug. This year I didn’t really have any ideas I was in love with and so I was having a hard time deciding.

About a week and a half before Halloween, I thought oh my gosh, the whale would be so funny. I’d obsessively followed the story and the controversy around it this last year just because I’m so in love with it and I live semi-close to it in Sugarhouse. I couldn’t figure out how I was going to make the whale a costume, so I kind of just nixed that idea. But as the week went on, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and more and more I was like, “no, I have to do the whale. It would be so funny.”

The easiest way I could think of to make it was paper mache, so I watched a couple of YouTube videos about how to make paper mache animal heads. I didn’t fully decide to commit to that idea until the Friday before Halloween, so it was absolute chaos to get it made in time.

2. How long did it take you to make your costume/describe the process.

On Friday I drove around town getting the materials that I needed, and then I started building. In total, it took me about 25 hours. I worked several hours on Friday, all day Saturday and most of the day Sunday. I would not recommend doing that in the future!

Construction started with cutting, rolling, and shaping a large square of chicken wire so that it formed a tube-shape similar to the whale’s head that would be big enough to go over my head. This would be the frame for the paper mache to stick to. Chicken wire is pretty malleable, so that process was fairly simple. I taped the disconnected ends of the wire together so that they didn’t poke me and the surface was smooth for me to paper mache newspaper over it. After that, I made and wrapped several layers of paper mache around the wire head. Once the paper mache was smoothed all over the chicken wire, I set up some fans and a hairdryer and had it drying in my living room in front of south facing windows—anything I could do to make that process go faster.

Next, I used a pen and a box cutter to draw the shape of the fins into a folded cardboard box, laying my arms against the box to make sure I was getting them the right size. This allowed me to create two layers of fins that were the same shape. I bought a big box of acrylic paints and used a picture of the whale online as a reference to paint the right colors onto both the fins and the paper mache head once it was all dry.

While the whale head was drying, I mixed acrylic paint with a textile medium so it would set on fabric and then I painted a white t-shirt I had with the whale’s body colors and did my best to line them up with what I had on the fins and the head.

I drew and then painted eyes on the head and then I used a pencil to poke two holes into it so I could see.

The easiest part of the process by far was the gnomes. I knew I needed to incorporate them somehow, and while I was at Michaels I lucked out and found these cute little felt gnome Christmas ornaments that I tied onto a string through the belt loop on my shorts so they looked like the little gnomes that are at the base of the real-life whale.

3. What is your favorite thing about the 9th and 9th whale?

It’s hard to pick one thing, but I think what I love most about it is that it totally commands the street. Like, when you’re driving over the hill on 9th and 9th, and you see this big, colorful behemoth rise out of nowhere, it really takes your breath away. I think it brings so much character and curiosity to the neighborhood, and if it’s starting a conversation, then it’s doing exactly what art is meant to do.

Read Arianna’s article about the ‘Out of the Blue’ whale.

The Salt Lake City Arts Council is a division of Salt Lake City Corporation in the Department of Economic Development and also maintains a nonprofit corporation, the Salt Lake City Arts Council Foundation with 501(c)(3) status.

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