Head modelling in clay

Boris Johnson by Imogen Long

Historic Carving students have been working from make-shift workshops at home during lockdown, supported by their tutors through online tutorials, demonstrations, discussions and one-to-ones.  We recently posted a blog about the acanthus bracket carving project that our first year woodcarving & gilding students have been working on.

First year students on our BA (Hons) Historic Carving: Architectural Stone course have also been busy at the kitchen table-come-workbench, making their first life-size portrait head models in clay, guided by our fabulous Sculpture, Modelling & Casting Tutor, Kim Amis.

Students had been timetabled to work with a life model every day in the studio, where their observational skills would be combined with anatomical study and an accurate system of measuring using callipers. Then came lockdown.

In lieu of working from a life model, students have instead been focusing their attention on a series of familiar faces: five female leaders (Cressida Dick, Arlene Foster, Caroline Lucas, Gina Miller, Nicola Sturgeon) and five male cabinet ministers (Michael Gove, Matt Hancock, Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Rishi Sunak). All ten are high profile and  visually accessible through media every day during the pandemic.

Caroline Lucas and Michael Gove by Callum Antonelli

The challenge began with a ball of clay approximately the size of a large orange, suitable for modelling safely at home in the smallest of spaces. Each student modelled ten portrait maquettes at speed. Every morning at 9.30, tutor and students met in Zoomland to share the results, debate and move on to the next character.

Dominic Raab, Arlene Foster, Caroline Lucas and Boris Johnson by Emma Sheridan

Students carried out visual research on their subjects, looking out for particularities in their profiles and facial characteristics and making preparatory sketches. They also studied portraiture and modelling styles and techniques used by artists such as Honoré Daumier, Auguste Rodin, Giacomo Manzù, Ernst Barlach, Camille Claudel, Käthe Kollwitz, Jacob Epstein, Suzie Zamit, and Germaine Richier.

As ideas progressed and developed, proposals were explored for public sculpture and architectural interventions as a way of presenting all ten figures together as an artwork.

This blog was first published on the Art School’s Material Matters website.





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