Just before the 2020 Covid 19 lockdown began, I spent several weeks sculpting from a life model.
The figurative sculptures were to be a change from my more usual subject matter. It was a chance to work through ideas inspired by various sculpture I have seen, such as the magnificent Venus of Samothrace in the Louvre.
I started the project with a few rough ideas and stances in my head. I then spent a day with my life model, Ella Rose, exploring my ideas through photography and taking anatomical reference. Working with a life model has to be a collaboration and so together we narrowed the ideas down to seven sculptures. I wanted to push my capabilities so they are all different in composition and size, and the series includes my first relief panel.
Observation from life is the way I have always sculpted and it is no different when sculpting the human form. Using a life model has the advantage of being able to study a static subject in the round. However, life modelling is tough on the body. It’s much harder to stand still than one would imagine! So I got Ella Rose to rotate through the poses to keep her moving during our modelling sessions.
Here is what Ella Rose says about modelling for these figurative sculptures:
Although I’ve posed for a multitude of photographers and artists all over the world, I can count on one hand the number of sculptors I’ve modelled for. It is a fascinating and satisfying experience, and one I’ve enjoyed reflecting on.
When Hamish originally contacted me, I was impressed by his body of work and intrigued by what we might come up with together. Meeting for an initial photography session, the aim of which was to brainstorm ideas for poses, his enthusiasm, natural ability and obvious love for what he does filled me with confidence that this would be a fun collaboration.
Modelling for sculptures is a strange psychological journey. It starts with curiosity. What will the end result look like? What do I look like? Will I be bored standing in the same position for ages? Then comes some physical discomfort, as the simplest of poses can become quickly unbearable. Hamish had the excellent idea to keep moving between the various sculpture positions to avoid limb deadness.
Next comes confrontation with oneself. I have seen thousands of nude photographs and paintings of my own body, but it is not the same as standing next to a clay 3D model of it! It can be viewed from all possible angles and nothing is hidden. Ultimately though, comes acceptance. My leg or my stomach might look like this, but that’s OK. Perhaps it is even beautiful. How interesting that the muscles and flesh across the back are so involved and affected by the most innocuous of arm raises.
It is precisely this interest in anatomy that seems to fire up Hamish’s imagination. You can see it in his vivid studies of deer, lion and birds, all of which are so arresting when you see them, especially when you consider their subjects are less prone to stand still or demand tea breaks! Hamish is not interested in merely imagining what a body, human or otherwise, does in a certain position. He strives to get it right, to make it true to life. It is this meticulousness that meant he had no qualms about chopping off my clay bottom halfway through the penultimate session, when he realised it needed slight relocation!
When I arrived at our first proper session after the initial photography, life-sized, printed images of myself decked Hamish’s studio. I’d held individual positions on a turntable, rotated in small increments for the lens. Those were the various poses he’d chosen to pursue in clay and then bronze. It felt quite surreal. Hamish took measurements including the distance from armpit to elbow, from shoulder to shoulder, from thigh to ground. Also several ratios involving my belly button and the circumference of an arm. By the time we began the first ‘proper’ modelling session, Hamish had fashioned the armatures to support the clay.
As the model, I found it fascinating to watch Hamish building up my likeness in clay. Occasionally, I winced. He chopped off parts of my anatomy and pasted them back on, smoothed by thumbs. Some he left with a rough texture which might later tell of re-thought or gusto. Perhaps modelling for sculptures is not for the squeamish. Perhaps it’s also not for the vain. The physical, faithful manifestation of yourself, next to your actual living self, is a bizarre thing to witness.
I enjoyed the feeling of teamwork as we went along. Hamish made the process appear so easy. As if by magic, seven individual pieces emerged, each with different moods and personalities, which looked undeniably like me! I’m very proud to have been part of this creative collaboration.
Ella Rose’s modelling website is www.ellarosemuse.co.uk where you can read more about her work.
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