It is Chinese New Year tomorrow.
The Chinese zodiac follows a twelve year cycle. Each year is named after an animal. 2017 is the Year of the Rooster. I’ve always wondered if people really take on the characteristics of their birth animal. If you were born under the sign of the rooster you are probably outgoing and bright. You are communicative, independent and ambitious. You like dressing up too and strutting your stuff!
When I sculpted my three chickens, I was constantly entertained by their lively personalities. I hope I captured the spirit of the rooster in my Brahma Cockerel. It is a stately bird with a distinctive upright bearing. My Young Leghorn Cockerel is sprightly, strolling across the lawn with a jaunty air. My Hen Pecking is busily going about her business, pecking at the earth. It seems a familiar and age-old sight in farmyards across the world, like my Life Size Goose.
A knowledge of anatomy is essential for my work as a wildlife sculptor. Obviously, it provides the building blocks of each piece. However, it is close observation of an animal’s behaviour that really brings my wildlife sculptures to life. I want to show their character and spirit. So this determines how I handle my material. In a loose fluid manner or in a tighter controlled way. With large sweeping strokes or with smaller detail. The sculptures have to be more than anatomically correct. The viewer should also feel the unique energy of the animal.
I was born in the Chinese Year of the Ox. Oxes are patient and hardworking. They are dependable and moreover, extremely determined. I like to think I share these characteristics! My cattle sculptures include Cape Buffalo, Yak, Spanish fighting bulls and the British Aberdeen Angus. Their physique is impressive and their spirit is too. I tried to capture the animal’s power with my Bull Head.
Another animal I have sculpted often is the horse. The Chinese zodiac says people born in the Year of the Horse are independent. They are also smart, entertaining and confident. These are certainly characteristics I recognise from my studies of horses. My bronze Polo Pony sculpture captures the agility and speed of the horse in action. Horse Loose Hunter is another dynamic horse sculpture.
Man’s relationship with the horse is as old as time. It seems our close association with them has also shaped our history. I loved sculpting my Shire Horse because it meant so much. A real celebration of its traditional role in our country’s agricultural and industrial development.
My Household Cavalry Charger was a commission I was very honoured to accept. We no longer rely on horses in battle, but they have a place in military ceremonies. Creating the Goodman’s Fields Horses for the public piazza in London was an enormous task. It gave me the opportunity to really explore the energy of horses running free.
In 2015, I went on a research trip to India to study tigers in the wild. People of the Year of the Tiger are courageous. They are also competitive and confident. Observing Bengal tigers was certainly awe-inspiring! I can see why the Chinese think they have stately, emperor-like qualities. They absolutely command respect. My tiger sculptures show different aspects of the animal. Power, strength, agility, intelligence and watchfulness.
The Chinese are absolutely right. Animals are an inspiration to us on so many levels! And I never tire of observing their characteristics.
So Happy Chinese New Year of the Rooster everyone!