Friday, May 15, 2015

Phase 1: Buiding the clay model

The Robert Hayes Bust, Saint Mary's University, Halifax

The Saint Mary's commission team has given the okay to publish updates on the project. There will be three: (#1) This one, prior to finishing the clay model, (#2) correcting the wax positive at the foundry the second week in June, and then, (#3) the patina firing (colour), in late August, once the bronze has been cast and polished.

 I never met Robert Hayes  as a living person; in 3D like I'm sculpting him. The more I learn about him the more I wish I had met him. I wasn't able to take a bunch of posed, high-definition pictures on which to base my work, but my colleagues on the commission team from Saint Mary's, Dave Murphy and Paul Puma, have been very resourceful at digging up snapshots either from the university archives or from Robert's family and friends.

I spent a week or so scouring the first set they brought and finally settled on a look I thought portrayed him well, and portrayed him in the context of his position as Director of Athletics at St Mary's.

I scanned group presentation shots into the computer, cropped him out of the groups, and enlarged them to create this ensemble to use as a sort of bench mark even though the photos were taken a few years apart. In the center photo he is in his forties, while the right and left shots have the more receding hair line of Hayes in later years. The shots were grainy but lately, the team has brought me higher quality shots of him in other non business related settings which I can use for my detail work in finishing.

The Robert Hayes Bust will be life-sized; twenty-four inches tall and fourteen inches wide at the shoulders. It will take a prominent position on the University campus where he was Athletic Director for so many years. It's taken 54 pounds of clay to create the clay model. That amount of clay wouldn't hold up on its own, rather it's supported by a very sturdy steel armature to which the clay was applied as the sculpture progressed. You can see a picture of the armature in my original post announcing the commission.

I use synthetic, odourless clay. It comes in two pound blocks. It softens when manipulated in hand, firms up again once it's applied to the sculpture, but doesn't harden fully. It's great for sculpting fine detail. I much prefer synthetic clay over natural clay which has to be kept moist while sculpting and wrapped in a wet towel when not.

Update #1; The clay model in progress...prior to finishing.

I've progressed with the clay model to a point where...well, where everything is in its rightful place. Over the next two to three weeks I will concentrate on the key facial features, one by one, referring back to my stack of photos, adding a touch of clay here, taking off a touch of clay there. I've done a first pass with the hair (receding hair line) but now I need to blend it together. Slowly but surely I will refine and balance the overall presentation. I haven't really worked on the eyebrows yet, which are key to his overall look, since I am forever bumping them while sculpting and would have had to redo them over and over again. I'm happy to be at this point in the process since I'm no longer moving a lot of clay around. Now's the fun part; capturing that elusive Robert Hayes smile and accompanying facial expression.


I'm sculpturing Hayes with his unmistakeable, slightly off-center tie, overexposed under a seriously challenged collar. If you're looking for a neck, stop looking, Bob didn't really have one. The open sport jacket and barrel chest are all Hayes. Almost all of the photos I've seen show bits of hair or part of a curl in creative disarray; pulled down to shorten his high forehead. Deep-set eyes give him an intelligent look. His features are strong; the high nasal bridge, the full cheeks, and that marvelous double chin. In many of the snapshots his curly hair is evident, in others he broke up his double curls into disarray, while in others he combed them out entirely into waves. I've chosen a middle course with a mix of waves and curls. His head was always canted slightly downward but his gaze was straight on. I chose to portray him with a softer, closed-lip smile which is a significant departure from the bench mark photo set shown at the beginning of this post. Bob smiled with his whole face.


I hope, within my sculpting style, to portray Bob...as bold but approachable. I'm told he could have a bit of an edge too. At the very start of the project I visited the University to get a feeling for the environment in which the sculpture would be placed and I was struck by Saint Mary's open, unpretentious atmosphere. Bob's finished bronze will fit right in.

Next Update: #2 The wax positive, the second week of June.

The next update will be from the foundry in Inverness, Quebec. It will show the finished clay model and have comments on the mold, as well as the retouching of the wax positive prior to casting the wax in ceramic for the lost-wax process of making the bronze.