My First Sculpture – Wings

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In early spring 2007 I took a 3-part class in Sculpting from Matt Weir at Bernheim Forest – Clermont, KY. I never really pursued much in the way of artistic activities except drawing when I was a kid/teenager. But at age 47 I had admired stone sculptures for awhile and wondered about attempting it myself. I didn’t know how to go about achieving it though. Then along came this class offered by Bernheim – so I signed up.

It was fun and enlightening! He taught us how to use different style chisels to achieve various cuts, surfaces and textures. The class was hands-on. Matt told us to select one of the many limestone pieces he brought along – some were remnants of old buildings in Louisville. We worked under one of the many picnic pavilions at the park. He encouraged our group to simply start carving and let our creativity and whimsy direct how we proceeded with our work.

I already had an idea in mind – – an eagle sculpture I had seen outside the Green Bay, WI airport entrance. It had a Streamline Art Deco style and I very much wanted to tackle something akin to its wing design. I grabbed a rectangular block of limestone about 16″ x 8″ x 8″ and went to work.

Setting The Figure Free

I had acquired and read The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone about 2005. It was inspiring to me! Within the story Michelangelo described his approach to sculpting which resonated with me: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” (I think this is paraphrased)

He had a distinct vision in his mind as to what shape was within the stone and he proceeded to carve until he released that figure to the world. I don’t exactly recall from the book, but I don’t think he worked with clay maquettes before tackling the actual chiselling of the stone. There was no preliminary – he just went right to it.

I’m not an art major like my son so I have zero experience in clay sculpture. I guess it was fortuitous that Matt directed us to simply start carving. I rested my selected block on the bean-filled denim pad Matt provided and chiselled away.

It’s hard to describe . . . but I was filled with driven passion to release the figure from the stone that resided in my mind. (I have goose bumps right now recalling the feeling,) It was almost like I was ‘possessed’ and overtaken with inspiration.

We had three sessions over subsequent weekends – each of which lasted about an two hours or so. Within the total hours to work on our project, I nearly completed my piece – only finally doing so in October 2007 after having acquired a set of sculpting chisels for home.

Of course, it’s not the full eagle sculpture which inspired me, but it IS the part of the figure that inspired me most – its wings. Each year I set the sculpture in my garden during the warm, seasonal weather.

I encourage you to take up something and pursue the things that are like splinters in your mind – they keep returning – – don’t ignore them!

Wings sculpture 01
Wings sculpture 02
Wings sculpture 03
Wings sculpture 04
Wings sculpture 05
Wings sculpture 06
Wings sculpture 07

Carpe diem friends!


Feature image by the Author – James L. Patterson