Restoring a Vintage Sea Captain Statue

My dad had a statue of an old sea captain that he kept in his backyard. He got it from an antique shop some years ago, and he asked me to restore it after it got worn out from standing outside for several years.

I think he has seen better days! This ceramic statue is vintage from the 1970s, according to the information I found on auction cites. He is 21″ tall and slightly hollow.

The Old Man and the Sea is from the Holland Mold Company, now called Holland Mold Inc. I have seen him painted in different color variations, but the majority of them show him with a grey or blue naval jacket and a yellow turtleneck.

I was given full autonomy for the design idea. One thing that I absolutely wanted to get rid of was the yellow turtleneck!

Holland Mold Company

The Holland Mold Company is a well-known manufacturer of ceramic molds and figurines. It was established in 1946 by Frank Hollendonner in Holland, Ohio. The company specialized in producing plaster molds that were used by hobbyists, artisans, and ceramic studios to create ceramic pieces.

Holland Mold Company offered a wide range of molds for various ceramic items such as figurines, vases, decorative objects, and holiday-themed pieces. These molds provided the base shape and design that artists and hobbyists would use to pour liquid clay (slip) into and then fire in a kiln to create their ceramic pieces.

Many Holland Mold Company molds are considered collectible items today, with many of the statues being sold on online auctions.

Making Changes

Lighthouse Man statues

When I researched some color schemes for the statue, I came across these Lighthouse Man statues. I loved the combination of cream pants, a striped shirt, and a dark navy jacket. I observed the dark creases in the pants and decided to give my statue a weathered look, but with a lot of detail and layers of color.

I also decided to give him my grandfather’s likeness: dark skin and peppered hair. He’s also going to have a thick beard like my dad.

Forgot where I found this picture, but I loved his knit turtleneck.

Originally, I was going to give my old man a striped sweater, but then I found this sea captain and his knit turtleneck.

I loved the v-shaped stockinette stitch of the sweater, and decided to use a similar pattern. I love the look of variegated hand painted yarn, so I used several variations of brown and cream to create texture and color.

The colors of the sweater are inspired by the natural colors of some wool: cream, brown, red, and moorit.

The Base Coats

I used acrylic paint to restore my old sea captain. I decided to begin with his face first and applied several layers of burnt umber, raw sienna, with dabs of crimson and cadmium yellow. When necessary, I used a pin sized amount of mars black.

For those who struggle with dark skin tones, it helps to utilize cadmium yellow and crimson to create a rich orange color, then add burnt sienna and/or raw umber to darken it. Black paint can be too strong and often makes colors look ashy, so only use a pin size amount if absolutely necessary.

The base of his beard is grey, but I go over this with dabs of titanium white and mars black using a small detail brush.

I painted quite a few layers of hand mixed cream and navy to brighten up his hat, shirt, pants, and jacket. There are also layers of colors to add dimension to his turtleneck, jacket, and pants.

The creases in the clothing are amplified using darkened variations of the main colors. My secret for making natural shadows was to mix raw umber with the base colors. If you look closely at his blazer, the raw umber helps to make the collar pop.

I painted in his eyes and gave him light brown lips. At first, I was concerned that the pink I added to his lips would make him look… uncomfortably like a Sambo doll. Thankfully, it worked out and made him look more realistic.

Watch the paint job in action!

Adding Details

The sweater was the most detailed part of the statue, but it was also the most fun to paint.

I almost felt like I was knitting, and I was trying to resist the urge to begin knitting a new sweater (this would be a terrible idea since I still have three in the making).

The yarn in the sweater remind me of those precious hand painted yarns you can find at craft fairs.

To complete his look, I added additional layers of paint to his pants, brightened up his hat and buttons with bronze and gold paint, repainted his peg leg and boot, and the wooden piling.

To protect the paint job, I sprayed him down with an acrylic sealant. It added some nice sheen!

If anyone knows of an excellent non-toxic sealant for art projects, please let me know in the comments section! I generally do not like using acrylic based sprays.

The Finished Look


Overall, I am pleased with how my Old Man and the Sea came out!

More Art Like This

What do you think about the final look? Have you restored or refurbished an old piece of art to suit your aesthetic? Let us know in the comments below!

Recommended Articles


  1. Amazing job on this project. I’m sure your dad was really happy with the final results. Nice video!

    1. Thank you! He was over the moon when he got it! He doesn’t keep it outside anymore 😁

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: