Sculpture courses

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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Sculpture isn’t new to any of us. Ever since we first rolled out our first marla snake in Junior Infants, the seed was planted. Sculpture, whether we notice it or not, is everywhere.

Residents of Dublin are used to statues of loose-moralled women and their accoutrements – the Floozy in the Jacuzzi, the Tarts with their Carts. So it seems a natural enough step to think about giving it a go for ourselves. The amount of furore there was about the Millenium Spike in the middle of O’Connell Street – ‘Jaysis, even I could do better than that’ – suggests that there are a number of budding Michealangelos waiting in the wings.

Sculpture in Renaissance times was often based on a commission system. This meant that the sculptor got contracts for a particular sculpture that were extremely detailed and specific. Today, the sculptor has much more of a free rein in both choices of material and subject matter.

Some of the main sculpture course options you can choose from are clay modelling, woodcarving and metalworking. Clay is probably the easiest option to start with. You need a minimal amount of tools for shaping and even then you can improvise with the contents of the cutlery drawer. So basically all you need is a big lump of clay that can be bought from any art supply shop.

People giving clay a try for the first time often choose to start with plasticine. It is less messy than traditional clay and you can produce a fully coloured model of a man in a matter of minutes. You can then force him to bend and stretch into compromising positions for the amusement of your work colleagues.

Wet clay isn’t daunting, however. Making a simple, three-dimensional model is a good place to start. A human head, for example, is satisfying to construct, and you probably have a number of models running around the house, just waiting to be insulted by your efforts.

Many an old, grizzled but loveable character on American family entertainment shows had a penchant for whittlin’. Grandpa from the Waltons is a case in point; he loved to carve up a storm on the front porch. He did have something of an unfair advantage however, what with wood being the family business.

Woodcarving doesn’t have to fall into the narrow constraints of Americana. Ronnie Graham, for instance, has been sculpting with Irish bog wood since 1982. According to Ronnie, “The bog wood seems to emit a haunting power – the perfect medium for the imagination of a sculptor who chooses to work with the material. ”

You can view Ronnie’s sculptures at www. irishbogwoodsculpture. com.

Woodcarving is a craft that requires some training and basic tools and materials but once you do get started it can prove addictive. Fortunately, there are a number of courses available that can teach you the fundamentals and perhaps even get you whittlin’ on your own porch.

Metalwork sculpture came to the fore in the twentieth century, partly because of technological advances. Welding tools gave metal sculptors a new edge, and if Flashdance has taught us anything, it’s that welding tools are a prerequisite for success in the arts. The tools can be used for both joining and cutting metal, but a combination of methods is often used – the metal can be snipped with shears, or fired and hammered.

So if you’ve just been fired because you were hammered, perhaps metalwork sculpture is the craft for you. Courses can teach you anything from how to construct simple shapes to building a modern art masterpiece from the junk lying around your back garden. Who knows, you might even be able to flog it to some well meaning financial institution.

Sculpture of all kinds is an outlet for creativity and you have the bonus of producing something that you can stick on your mantelpiece for the admiration of all.

Frank Bolger

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