Earlier this year I completed a commission from Fr. H to make a 44 inch statue of St.Catherine for his parish. Revd. H sent me some images of his ideal "Catherine" and how the finished statue might look. The range of images were eclectic in style. Some very simple and others highly decorated. From these we extracted which elements of the figure design were essential, and which could be achieved in practical terms.
To create the figure I used water based clay which I find more responsive to the touch than the less traditional plastilene (plasticene -type) modelling materials.
The following images show some of the stages in producing the figure
Designing the figure.
Sketches are an important part of helping the client see how the sculpture may look when finished. This older statue of St.Catherine shows how the proportions of the wheel had to change in order to make sense in three dimensions. (Note: The sword for this statue is missing.) To the right is a sketch combining elements of the flat back, and my interpretation of St. Catherine.
Building the figure Support
To support the weight of clay used to build the figure, David constructed a rotating platform and scaffolding jig. This would hold the armature which has to be shaped to fit the pose of the figure. It has to be strong enough to support the clay, in this case around 50 + kilos.
Modelling St. Catherine's face
Its helpful to have a live model from which to make notes when planning to sculpt a figure. Yet an artist will not always copy this slavishly, consideration is given to creating a more pleasing shape than would appear in reality. In the same way a portrait artist, may strive to bring out his subjects "best" features.
The head is sculpted separately, and added to the torso.
Moulding and casting
Once the clay model was completed, we made a mould for the figure.
and separate moulds for the hands, crown and dove. These were cast seperately and attached later to the plaster cast.
Once the plaster was fully dry, polychroming could begin.
Consideration was given to the colours of the clothing, the detail of the cloak clasp, and the dove. Fr. H asked that the dove be coloured like that of an African species which would have populated the Jordan in biblical times. The complexion, eye and hair colour were matched to that of his beloved granddaughter. Finally, the statue was complete and ready to display for the feast of St.Catherine on 25th of November.
This 40 inch plaster nativity set needed some TLC. It had become rather grubby and damaged with years of handling.
As work began, we found a number of " shortcuts" had been taken in the past. The ends of this shepherds, bagpipes had broken, and the remaining stub painted over. The pipes were rather truncated and needed to be rebuilt.
So here are three stages of my re-building the missing "chanters" or pipes.
(fig 1.) the proposed correction far left,
(fig 2.) Supports fitted to rebuild the mouth of chanters and fingers,
(fig 3.) Shaping the fingers to match the originals.
Partial restoration requires that the restorer has to prioritise which areas need her attention most. Old repairs even if unsightly or poorly modeled, sometimes have to remain if they are sound.
However, this king's crown was too prominent a feature to over look.
Just as the bag pipes, the central point was broken and over painted in an attempt to disguise the break. It spoiled the king's regal appearance, and was a definite candidate for renewal!
So here are the stages of correcting the old repair;- I'm sure you will agree that the appearance is much improved.
And so, let us return to the "pipe-less" shepherd...
With the missing chanters re-built, The shepherd definitely appears to be playing a musical instrument - and not sucking orange juice through a large straw.
The following images show the areas which were missing, and the completed repairs.
.Masking tape covered the break in this shepherds neck. When it was removed, I could see that the neck had been misaligned at some time in the past.
realignment of the broken neck showed that the area to be repaired and filled were greater than first appeared. Support wires which should have been deeply embedded, were protruding through the surface.
From the reverse view, the neck and head had been poorly modeled; giving a " lollipop" appearance. As a consequence of the narrow neck, the head was also too narrow; improving the appearance would be somewhat limited. The average human head weighs around 5kg, and we have large muscle groups to support it. (as shown)
Re-modelling the shepherd's neck
What had begun as a straightforward repair became more of a re-model.
I decided to thicken the neck to make it look more natural, and add further supporting irons. This made the neck area stronger against future wear and tear, and make the statue more durable for my clients.
With the right hand side of the neck corrected, the head needed a new ear to finish the job! As the modelling on the hands were simply done, I kept the modelling of the ear to the same style.
Below; The restored nativity shepherd admires his new neck and ear!
Caroline Wilkinson, an anthropologist from Manchester has reconstructed the face of St. Nicholas from images taken of his remains during the 1950's.
Forensic reconstructions do not normally include the artistic nuances which a sculptor might use in making a portrait. Interestingly, the researchers studied painted images of the saint to help with the final appearance.
The reconstruction revealed that he had a severely broken nose. Can't help wondering if this injury was a result of his altercation with Aruis - we can only conject!
Santa makes an appearance
When Fr. D brought his statue of St. Patrick for customisation, changing the face to resemble what forensics revealed would have been a major issue... as in giving him a brand new head!
We decided to change the book and the beard, not to mention dispensing with the shamrock!
He was completed in time for his feast day on 6th December, and now resides in a school of the same name .
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