I’ll never get tired of sculpting birds, especially the game bird! I enjoy interpreting the feathers into clay and the opportunities for interesting mark making. Sometimes I use a carcass to study wing shapes in more detail and the precise number of feathers.
When sculpting a game bird in flight, there are other challenges. One needs to find a pleasing composition without the bird appearing to be supported. It is a delicate balance between the aesthetic and the technical!
The game bird is a subject I return to time and time again. Not least because I love getting out into the countryside and on the moors to see them! Recently I made Grouse 2019 and Grouse Flushing 2019. Red grouse are arguably the king of game birds. They are native to Britain and inhabit upland heather moorland. They fly low and fast, at speeds of up to 80 mph, often changing direction suddenly.
My Black Grouse 2013 shows the bird displaying; its lyre-shaped tail fanned out to reveal the under tail feathers. Overgrazing and a loss of habitat have meant a decline in the Black Grouse population, although things are starting to improve for these birds with more positive management of their natural home in upland areas of the UK.
I’ve recently finished making a woodcock, which is at the foundry being cast. With its long straight bill, sturdy body and short legs, the woodcock looks at its most graceful in flight. My earlier sculpture, Woodcock Rising 2013, shows the game bird taking off. I enjoyed the challenge of creating the attractive patterns of its cryptic plumage, which allow it to blend effectively into its woodland habitat.
English Partridge Taking Off 2011 is a celebration of another game bird, rising in all its glory from the field in flight! I chose to cast a limited edition of 3 in silver as I felt the deep fluid richness of the metal enhanced the texture. When it came to Guinea Fowl 2012, a game bird originally from Africa, I also decided to cast a limited edition of 6 into silver. The precious material really emphasises their endearing comical charm.
I was pleased to receive a commission to sculpt a pheasant, arguably Britain’s commonest game bird and an important part of traditional country life for nearly a thousand years. Pheasant 2017 was made for the Cotswold Distillery, a copy of their company logo. It shows a pheasant in classic crowing posture, with beak open and wings outspread. Pheasants spend a lot of time on the ground preferring the edge of wooded agricultural land.
All my game bird sculptures reflect my love of the British countryside and my interest in country life.