These photos illustrate the 7-month process of creating a sculpture, from the idea to the finished bronze. Press the play button above to start the slideshow, or you can use the arrow buttons to step through at your own pace.
The process starts with an armature supported by a back iron. For the limbs of the armature I use aluminium which is soft enough to bend easily but rigid enough to hold its shape when the clay is on.
I have roughly applied large lumps of clay to the armature.
I have covered the armature and started to model some very rough anatomy.
I have molded and cast the hammer in resin because the real one was too heavy for the arm.
I have refined the anatomy and added some rough features to the head.
A bit more work on the body
I have refined the anatomy a bit more and started to define the face.
I have added some eyeballs and done more work on the whole figure.
Sarting to add some very rough clothing. The lumps around his belt will be the gnome heads.
I've roughly modelled in the gloves and boots.
I have removed the head from the body so that I can work on it more comfortably. I use a pivot gear to allow me to rotate the head back and forwards.
The head is still very rough at this stage but the overall look has been established.
This is a very different process to that of a portrait sculpture because I'm making it up as I go along rather than working from real reference material. My years as a portrait sculptor have given me enough knowledge of facial anatomy to be able to invent a realistic looking face.
I try the head back on the body regularly to check that I'm achieving the overall look that I want.
Here is a detail shot of the face in progress
More work on the face. I have started to refine the skin texture and I've added more to the chin.
I've decided to make some gloved hands for reference. I've molded my own gloved hands using dental alginate.
Here is one of the reference hands. This will be very useful for getting the detail right on the clay model.
Head and hands back on. I've achieved the look that I want for the piece but I now have a lot of refining and detail work to do.
A bit of work on the boots. I want them to look like they're made of animal skins so I'm taking care to make the folds look soft.
I have made quick casts of the legs and dressed them to use as reference for the folds. It is important to use reference when modelling drapery as the way cloth hangs and folds is very complicated and it never looks right when it's made up.
I've added some chunky brass studs to his bag strap. These will look great in the bronze.
Here's a trick I first used on my portrait of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I remove a thin layer of clay at the temples....
Then I add a bit of bent wire in the shape of the veins that I want to create.
Then I put a layer of 'skin' back over it.
The result is a convincing looking vein at the temple.
The head is finished. I've decided to mold and cast it now to avoid the possibility of it getting damaged while I work on the rest of the sculpture.
The first layer of rubber is dribbled and brushed on. This will pick up every detail.
The second layer of rubber has a thixotropic agent added to allow it to be applied like butter. It's very sticky and I've found that the best way to smooth it is using a piece of potato.
I am making a rigid jacket over the rubber using plaster.
After the jacket for the front is completed I turn the mold over and repeat the process for the back of the head.
To get the fur cuffs looking really realistic, I have made them out of this fur material. I'm going to soak them in resin to make them rigid.
I've removed the clay from the head mold and I'm painting the first coat of resin in. I will build this up with 3 layers of resin reinforced with fibreglass.
Izzy pops in to help.
Using string to create realistic looking joins in the sheepskin jacket.
Molding the right hand using the same method as with the head.
I've supported the arm so that I can cut through the armature. I will replace the clay at the shoulder and use a wire to make a perfect cut.
Taking a break to help Jake with his homework...
Taking another break to help Harry with his homework.
The shoulder bag finished and ready for molding.
All of the cast resin pieces with their molds.
After a long period of tidying up and detailing, the body is ready for molding
After 4 days of carefully applying 2 layers of rubber.
I have added lugs to hold the rubber into the jacket and seams where I intend to cut it.
I've decided to use resin for the jacket as it's lighter and stronger than plaster. (smells awful though!)
I've added lengths of steel for extra strength.
I've removed the clay from the mold and washed it out.
I've cast the body using 3 layers of resin and fibreglass. I now have to remove all the seams using a combination of filing, sanding and filling.
The figure fully assembled in resin and ready for sending to the foundry.
Using my resin original, a production mold has been made at the foundry. Wax is poured into the mold and allowed to cool.
The seams are removed and runners and risers are added. These will allow the bronze to flow in and air to flow out during the pour.
The wax is dipped in a liquid ceramic mixture.
Layers are built up.
The wax is fully coated with ceramic shell and ready for firing.
The shells are fired and the wax melts out leaving hollow heat proof ceramic molds for the bronze to be poured into.
Molten Bronze being poured into the ceramic molds.
The ceramic mold being broken off the bronze.
The top of the head is welded back on.
Bronze parts ready for assembly
All of the pieces have been welded together and all evidence of joins has been carefully removed. Joint areas have been re-detailed.
The patina process starts with an application of liver of sulphur and a good hard scrub.
The bronze is heated and various chemicals are used to colour the surface of the bronze.
The skin areas are left with a traditional liver bronze patina while the clothing is coloured with lighter browns and greys.
The final process is a coat of wax while the bronze is still warm to seal the colours and add a lustre.
Seven months from the day I started the sculpture, I receive the finished bronze.