Commissioning an Artwork

After the initial conversation, an analytical site meeting is held between the artist and the client, regarding the location of the piece, the size, scale and material that is required, the subject matter, and a general assessment of the property as to what would work and what would be the most suitable and imaginative approach.

The second meeting sees a portfolio presentation of my actual sketches, painted designs and pencil drawings, maquettes of the proposed panels, art historical mood boards showing my drawn ideas as visualised in the locations. These are re-drawn as visualisations by CAD (Computer Aided Design), to give as near as possible a rendition of the design in its location and the quotation is presented outlining all the costings.

(The drawings are sketched concept ideas showing mainly the composition of the panels and how the figures relate to each other. The main focus of my work is line, form and composition so it is these aspects that are explored in the drawings and developed through the clay modelling process.)

A contract is then drawn up between the client and the artist in the form of a Commission Agreement detailing the Artists Fee, the costs of producing the work, the confirmed and agreed measurements, the confirmed materials to be used, methods of hanging the completed work and an estimation of the delivery schedule. A signed copy of the contract is returned to the Artist with the full fee as agreed and the process is started.

The Process

1. Drawing

Taking my original sketches, the images are worked up in scale to the exact measurements required in the final panel and which will exactly fit the location. Different layers of the drawing, fabric, etc are drawn on tracing paper and overlaid. These drawings are scaled up on cartridge paper, enlarged and subsequently used by me as the final ‘cartoons’. The cartoon is an image used for the purposes of pouncing out into the clay or plaster as in the process of Fresco and carving. A cartoon, from the Italian “cartone” and Dutch word “karton”, meaning strong, heavy paper or pasteboard, often shows pinpricks along the outlines of the design; a bag of soot was then patted or ‘pounced’ over the cartoon, held against the wall to leave black dots on the plaster (‘pouncing’). I use exactly the same technique and pounce out the holes with chalk dust onto the clay surface.

2. Clay

These enlarged cartoons of my drawings are laid over the previously rolled out clay. Steel pins are taken and pressed through the lines in the paper and the drawn image is transferred in a series of dots into the soft clay. Chalk dust is pounced through the perforated holes and these chalk dots are drawn together in lines. The clay is cut out, the basic clay shape removed and placed in its position on the clay back board. It is from these clay shapes, which are laid out onto the clay bed, that the frieze starts to compositionally come together and any decisions about altering the composition can be made by me. When I see the entire horizontal composition laid out I fully comprehend the depths required in the vertical composition of modelled clay and descisions can be made about the placing of the figures.

A drawn image will communicate form, via the use of tone, in one dimension. By changing the 2D into 3D you can fully gain all the information needed to model the clay forms in actual depth and not just visual depth. The composition now not only now works in a linear drawn way but in an actual physical way. A range of depths of material in the piece will add shadow and the more that you build out the clay panel, the more tonal contrast you will eventually see. That is why the alto relievio is practically the whole figure seen in the round and is attached at very limited places. This obviously casts the most shadow and creates the most dramatic effect.

Using this basic composition the shapes are removed from the clay bed and modelled up into the Alto Rilievo.

When the clay has been completed, the Client is invited to see the clay or is sent images and approval is gained prior to starting the mould making process.

3. Mould Making

The clay-work is covered in rubber and a fibreglass ‘jacket’ is made to cover the rubber and give the rubber strength. Here the process separates into the methodology required for the chosen material for the final cast.

(There are many different methods of mould-making specific to different casting materials. For example, the Cire Perdue or lost wax process where a wax cast is taken and re-moulded in ceramic shell ready for the process for glass and bronze casting. Another technique is to make a rubber mould, where a directly poured plaster cast could be used as could its acrylic version called Jesmonite where high durability and strength is required. This is particularly good for outdoor uses as it stands the natural elements well and its surface ages with time.)

Complicated clay panels require a multiple-piece mould to be made which is a highly involved and skilled process. ‘Keys’ lock the mould in place and frames are constructed to surround the mould and stop warping.

4. Final Piece

The final piece is de-cast from the mould and the finishing process for the chosen final material is executed. This will involve polishing, colouring, waxing or patination. Crystal glass is polished using acid polish which gives a clearer finish and takes it away from an opacity. Shellac gives plaster a tough shell which can be highly polished to resemble ivory.

5. Installation

When the artwork is completed, the client is contacted and the installation arrangements implemented. The piece is collected from the studio and transported to the site where a professional team hang the piece with the artist. The panels are made in conjunction with bespoke museum brackets which are designed, manufactured and supplied especially for the piece in either bronze or steel depending on the client.