Sunday, December 29, 2013

First draft in clay

Once the armature is up, I block, in clay, the general movements of the figure.  These photographs take you to the end of the first draft.

Matt Johnson in South Australia

Back in August Deputy Agent General of South Australia, Matt Johnson, undertook a short, but highly effective trip around South Australia to promote the Matthew Flinders memorial statue project and introduce collectors to the maquette.  His efforts resulted in numerous maquette sales and partnerships with key individuals and organisations.  Some photographs of his trip have recently surfaced.  Here is Matt in full swing at, appropriately enough, Flinders University in Adelaide.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Full-size armature

The armature for the statue is made from mild steel welded into a rigid structure. It is
organised so that the metal runs inside the form and supports the clay.

The frame on the left is a pointing machine.  This is usually used for transferring 1:1 from plaster to stone.  I use it to find my extremities.

The steel frame is then packed with polystyrene to reduce the weight and tightly wrapped with chicken-wire which gives the clay something to hold on to.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Full-size setting out

Now that the lay figure is well on the way, I set out the armature for the main figure.

Preparing the base-board

I use the wire mock-up to get an idea of where the most weight will fall and to plot the back-iron (see early maquette making post for back-iron description)

Felicity marks out plumb points for the armature


As I was starting the armature for the lay figure, I noticed a stranger, in the car-park, looking the studio up and down. Her name was Tricia and it turned out that her grand-mother had been born here when it was a workhouse in the 19th century and that her family came from the village.  Imagine being in one of those places.

If that was not fascinating enough, it transpired  that she was from Melbourne.  And then Tricia revealed that she had, that same day, driven from Donington where she visited Matthew Flinders's birthplace.  My first thought was that she was a plant (the day I start the first of the two large figures, a Flinders fan turns up at the door), although I could not imagine who from. This notion had, on reflection, sprung from a baseless feeling of self-importance that had overwhelmed me since being filmed by the BBC earlier in the month.  In any case, Tricia, it turns out, is a gem and this is a big thank-you to her for her encouraging words about the sculpture.

Lay figure

Once I am happy that the geometry of enlargement on the three boards is in concert, I make a lay figure to set the drapery on.  This is a very time-consuming stage in the process and has, so far, taken me about 3 weeks.  It is not a matter of making a has to be a form that works as a convincing figure when real fabric is applied...actually it looks quite odd unclothed...not like a body at all.  Moreover, I use sections of life-cast for the stretch moments (ie, the right knee and left elbow) and, while this is useful, it is nigh on impossible to cast a joint in exactly the correct position, so they need a lot of filing and building-up.

When the lay figure does come together, however,  it is invaluable as a reference for how the drapery moves, but getting there is a hair-puller and stretches the team's patience  Each revision to the clay, which is then clad in cling-film, means that Liz has to un-stitch and re-sew the clothes.


Setting out the enlargement

The first step to realising the final work in clay is to set out the maquette on a lined board.  In addition to my board marks, I identify several points on the figure from which to enlarge the maquette, firstly to the life-size lay figure and then to the full-size 1.25 life-size work.  The position of the points is determined by whether I can plumb to the ground and, at full-size, whether they fit into my largest calipers.

The lines are then enlarged x 4 for the lay figure....

...and by 5 for the full-size statue

Full-size mock-up

To help us work out the perfect height to view the sculpture, assess the font size for the base and align the figure with the base and plinth, we make a full-size mock-up with wire and wood.

Felicity working on the wire mock-up

                                   The full-size mock-up on actual size base and plinth pattern

Felicity uses the mock-up as a guide to making the base-board for the full-size clay sculpture

Consulting with members of the Committee on the height of the statue.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Planning clothes

While working out the general movement and anatomy in the maquette, I try to be mindful of what might develop well in the full-size.  This includes the drapery (clothing) and the possibilities for abstract forms therein to balance each other and generate visual flow around the work.  Simplified drapery offers opportunities to compose harmonies and occasional dissonance that give the work character and excitement.

In my composition for Matthew Flinders, there are three main drapery 'groups'.

1/ The breeches: in this position they have a fast, dynamic stretch to them.  I need to make sure that the pulls strung between anatomy (ie where is is wrapped onto flesh or bone) explain the air beneath to catch that speed.

2/The waistcoat: this has a slow-moving quality on the front that is full of langorous folds while the back is gently describing the turn of the shoulders. The overall effect is of thicker, more homely fabric; avuncular even.

3/ The shirt: this is seen only at the collar and arms and has a buoyant feel.  It should help lighten the top half of the figure and go some way to suggesting movement.  This is going to be a bugger to model...hundreds of interlocking turns and kicks that have to be simplified down to something coherent.

To start looking at this and create something for reference, I have commissioned the fabulously adaptable Liz Gurney (Liz has worked in and taught costume-making for years and can turn her hand to anything) to research and mock-up an historically accurate set of clothes from source patterns and with fabric that is as close to the character and weight of the originals.

Liz unpacks the clothes

Liz does the first fit with our model, Robert Doyle.  Notice how much extra fabric there is on the backside.  The reason for this will become clear in about 20 posts time.

Rob prepares to test drive the togs.

I like the breeches...see what I mean about the speed?....and the shirt...look at those folds on the sleeves..depending on your point of view, they look like either Brancusi's endless column or a modular rubble shute.

 The waistcoat, however, is simply not the right looks too Liz makes adjustments to the size so that she can use it as a pattern for the next one to be made in felt or wool.  Moleskin might do the job as well.

"The Man Who Mapped Australia"

A parcel arrived the other day from Amanda Purdie, a friend in Melbourne.  Amanda was a PR supremo in London and is now back at home following a 20 year spell with us.  The parcel had this book in it...

...the cover and blurb suggests a ripping yarn woven around historical fact.  

This will be my second book on Matthew Flinders.  The first is by the indomitable Peter Ashley of the Royal Navy.

Pierhead Press.

This book is a finely honed and beautifully written summary of Matthew Flinders and his achievements. It does not shy away from the uncomfortable and, sometimes, toe-curling realities of 18C naval life.  The book continues to be my way in to my subject.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Press after launch July 2013,life-size-statue-of-matthew-flinders-to-be-erected-at-euston-station

Launch day. 24th July 2013

Today the project is being launched with a reception at Australia House hosted by the Government of South Australia.  It is a big event and my first port of call is Euston Station for some publicity shots.

I only have two suits and the other is a made of flourescent green corduroy.

Thanks to photographer Andre Camara for good shots under pressure.  Just behind me is a fifty foot sheer drop onto the concourse and in front of me Andre was manoeuvring himself in and around an increasingly disgruntled luncheon party to get the right angle.

The maquette unveiling ceremony was held in the magnificent Downer Room at Australia House, Strand, London.  The project is being funded by sales of maquettes.  There are 75 available.

I explain my ideas to the guests. 
 With me are Australian High Commissioner, The Hon Mike Rann and Agent General Bill Muirhead

Sir Michael Marshall (left) and Sir Stuart Rose discuss the maquette

The wonderful evening was marked by brisk maquette sales and rounded off with a group photograph of the Flinders statue committee.
From left to right: Barry Kitchener, standard -bearer Gil Richards, Peter Ashley, Allesandra Pretto, John Allen, Matt Johnson, Pauline Lyle-Smith, John Flinders and Mark Richards.

Maquette in bronze

The figure of Matthew, Trim the cat and the base map are cast to bronze separately and assembled.  I had originally conceived it as one cast; the figure merged into the base.  As the maquette developed however, I felt that the base needed to be crisp and clean-cut against the textured, organic feel of the figurative elements. I felt that it was more in keeping for the elements to be cast apart and then joined.

Ben is a master of chasing metal. Bronze sculptures are cast in sections (with sprues for running metal and releasing air), welded together and cleaned back to the original form.  It takes precision and a good eye to do this well and Ben has both.  Here he is positioning and marking the contact parameters prior to drilling the fixings.

I check the position.  With his left leg so far out, making the contact points roughly equidistant from the circumference would send his head and torso too far over to the right leg side, so I juggle this to get a balance.

Scott does wonders with chemicals and can transform base metals into pretty much anything. He is also a man of karmic patience.  This is the first of his three attempts to read my mind as to how I wanted the base to look.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Mould and wax

Silicon rubber is pasted over the plasters

And a fibre glass jacket goes over the top.

Juggles, or registration handles, lock the rubber mould into the jacket.  The mould for the base is on the left and the tube in the background is for Trim....note that Trims mould has no jacket - this is because an alternative with smaller pieces, is to use a drainage pipe as a wall, place the sculpture inside and simply pour in the rubber.  The thickness of the rubber holds its shape. 

Each section of mould is registered to its neighbour with nipples.

A section of mould, or 'cap', snug in its jacket ready to be painted in with hot wax.

Once the hollow wax positive is made, here by Amy Sterly at Castle Fine Arts Foundry, I check it over...

....using the plaster master copy for reference.