Jennifleur – postscript from the sitter

I have very special memories of the sittings with my lovely sister, Jennifleur. Today I found this comment from her on my blog. I laughed out loud yet was truly touched. She is biased of course.

“Wow! What can I say? Hazel, you have been an absolutely pleasure to work with and when I say work, I mean work. All those coffees and mince pies, high percentage dark chocolate and the occasional satsuma… It was hard going. As for striking the pose, I only put my back out once and that was because apparently I am not as young as I used to be and indeed less flexible. However, me thinking I could hold a full arabesque was nothing short of amusing!

I have now had the great unveiling of Jennifleur who is at present gracing the sideboard in my sitting room, sporting a sumptuous green flecked scarf and designer sunglasses. I have already had my fingers rapped for being a tad disrespectful but what can I say? I have children! And, I must confess, Jennifleur looks simply gorgeous. For me it feels rather strange seeing this amazing piece of art which personifies succinct creativity, artistic prowess and excessive understanding of the subject, which also happens to be me.

Both of my sisters are professional artists but sadly they snaffled all the arty genes on offer. I was left with none but thank goodness I can appreciate art. Hazel, you are a wonderful sister and a truly gifted sculptor and before I reach for a bucket, will simply say a final thank you.”   

And thank you Jennifleur – until the next time….

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Jennifleur – photographing the bronze

The bronze of ‘Jennifleur’ is finally ready. Time to turn the studio into a photography studio. There is quite an art to snapping sculpture – I am still learning what to do and what not to do. Essentials are: no flash, plain background, plenty of time and knowing how to use your camera. Pity I haven’t quite mastered the latter. I always do the photographing in several sessions. This means there is time to review photos and re-shoot the following day if necessary. I am finding that the lighting I have is too poor for the relatively dark bronze. I end up with the bright lights on, removing some of the more interesting shadows. But these will have to do for now. Using Photoshop Elements I edit the background to black, for more contrast. My resolutions? Buy a new camera, learn how to use it and learn how to use Photoshop. Then take some more photos of ‘Jennifleur’.

http://www.hazelreeves.com

  Jen PE for WP 3 Jen PE for WP 1 Jen PE for WP 2

Jennifleur – finalising the bronze

The bronze pour is done, the metalwork is done. Jennifleur is ready for checking. I find her glowing gold. Just a few little tweaks needed. My signature needs to be cleaned up and the edition number added. We check how the sculpture sits and adjustments are made. The granite base is drilled in readiness. Next stop is the bitterly cold patination room. Despite the cold, it’s a real pleasure to watch a skilled patinator at work, an artist himself. We talk about the desired colouring – I want a green with a touch of yellowy brown that can rub back to the bronze. This needs a hot patination process. The differing colouring chemicals are carefully applied with a brush, layer by layer, under the heat of a large blowtorch. The golden glow of Jennifleur transforms into a deeper brown. As more heat is applied, the surface bronze blushes red in places. Then the blues emerge, followed by greens, and then touches of yellowy browns. There is something I like about each layer of colour but we push on until we get to our desired patina. The final step is to fix the colour with layers of wax. By now it’s late, and I’m rigid with cold. Jennifleur is mounted on the granite base and packed up for the journey home. Tomorrow the photographing begins.

http://www.hazelreeves.com

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Jennifleur – working in the wax

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA‘Jennifleur’ is loaded into my boot, clay for ballast. We’re on our way to Bronze Age Sculpture Casting Foundry in the Docklands. Thank goodness for SatNavs. The sculpture arrives safe and sound. I say my goodbyes to ‘Jennifleur’. The foundry now make the mould of the portrait then cast wax into the mould. Two weeks later I am back to ‘check’ the wax. I spend an enjoyable few hours in the Foundry’s wax room, fiddling with the wax sculpture. With their team’s help, the sculpture is positioned to reflect the pose. ‘Jennifleur’ is ready for casting in bronze. The alchemy begins.

http://www.hazelreeves.com

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Jennifleur – finalising the portrait

Time is not on my side. There is so much I want to do. Each sitting I come armed with a long ‘to do’ list. Luckily for me, Jennifleur is the prefect sitter – patient, encouraging, interesting and fun. She is also very generous with her time, so we sneak in a couple of extra sittings. I just want to tweak the hair, the eyes, the lips, the nose…..and the list goes on. But we have to stop. Jennifleur has a life outside of my studio.  I will miss our sittings though. Time to prepare ‘Jennifleur’ for the foundry.

http://www.hazelreeves.com

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Jennifleur – working on the feeling

There is a point in any sculpture when the clay form begins to ‘make sense’. It starts to become a person. Your relationship to the portrait strengthens. Yes, you are still struggling with a few structural issues. But now you want the portrait to evoke the feeling suggested by the sitter in the pose, and evoke the character of the sitter. For me it includes yet is beyond a likeness. When your sitter is family – like Jennifleur – my compulsion to want the sculpture to ‘be’ them becomes quite overwhelming. I want to breathe life into the sculpture. Starting work on the eyes, shifts the sculpture to this next level. But there is still much work to be done.

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Jennifleur – working on the surface

Sculpting a portrait is a continuous process of problem-solving or trouble-shooting. It’s not that there is anything ‘wrong’ as such – but in searching for a likeness you are always asking the question ‘what changes would push this portrait towards the end goal?’. Between each sitting I spend time looking at photos to plan what my priorities are for the next sitting. Time with the sitter is precious. I am becoming happier with the structure and face shape, so I am starting to move onto reflecting more surface movements. This is how the muscle and flesh interact with and reflect the underlying skull structure.

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Jennifleur – working on structure

What a relief – it now looks like a human being. At this stage I am wanting to create a convincing skull and bone structure in the portrait. We decide that we want the clavicles and a hint of the shoulders, as if in an arabesque. This keeps the balletic feel. Fortunately Jennifleur is patient and happy to adopt any pose, regardless of the discomfort. I am beginning to really like this pose as it highlights her elegance and gracefulness. Working with the head turned and tilted is certainly tougher – on the sculptor and the poor model.

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Jennifleur – building up the portrait

With the portrait blocked-in, I can concentrate on understanding Jennifleur’s head and our chosen pose, and applying the clay accordingly.  This is when I reassure my sitter that it might not look like a human being yet, but it will. And it will end up looking like them – honest. These photos reflect the results of two sittings. Amazing how gradual changes build into major progress over the course of the portrait.

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