Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Field Trip to Studio EIS

Chris Waddell, GCA sculpture teacher and member of Studio EIS, treated the first year students to a field trip at his workplace. Studio EIS is a high-end sculpture studio with a focus on figure and portrait work. It is one of the few studios in the world producing quality figurative sculptures for museums, memorials, monuments, etc, so we counted ourselves lucky to be allowed a glimpse at the working process in the studio. 

This unimposing door in Brooklyn serves
as the entrance to Studio EIS

Unfortunately, due to the production environment I was not allowed to take pictures, however, Chris did shed light on the process of creating a figure sculpture at the pace and quality necessary for the level expected from the studio. Essentially, it occurs as follows:

1: Chris receives a project brief with photo reference, model statistics such as age and body measurements, and any direction on the feel/pose of the sculpture.
2: Studio EIS hires a figure model that fits as close to the given measurements as possible. This model is covered in plaster bandages (usually) over their entire body, much like a medical cast for broken bones. This cast is then cut in half, removed, and placed back together, before being filled with foam and reinforced with a metal armature. This method of casting from the live model allows Chris to cut down on unnecessary time spent sculpting parts of the figure that will be covered by clothing.
3: Chris will now use his photo reference and understanding of the human form to sculpt the portrait in water-based clay. Translating the 2d images into an emotive and proportionate 3d sculpture requires much skill; while we were there it was astounding to see Jiwoong Cheh’s (another GCA sculpture teacher and member of Studio EIS) sculpture of a horse jockey done from several press and family photos. Cheh has even sculpted the Kennewick man, a prehistoric man who lived in the Americas, using only the skull provided to him by the historical organization.
4: The head will now be attached to the body, and the figure will be clothed. Often times the organization commissioning the sculpture will provide historically accurate clothing (especially in military sculpture commissions). The figure is dressed using these clothes, and the clothes are then hardened into place using a resin.
5: If there are any parts of the sculpture that are visible or have an effect on the draping of the clothing, Chris will whittle down/build up the plaster cast to be more anatomically correct, since the live figure casts are almost always messy and require clean up and extra work to add that final touch of realism.
6: The sculpture is now complete and ready to head to the foundry to be cast into bronze, steel, wax, etc.

Although GCA is known for its drawing and painting program, the sculpture program is also very robust. We’re required to take sculpture through our years at GCA, beginning with cast sculpture and ending in figure sculpture. I’ve found that sculpture is a lot of fun and has a direct effect on my understanding of form, so I wholeheartedly recommend it. It is also a great way to get some hands on action and take a revitalizing break from the pencil and paper!

See Studio EIS's website: http://www.studioeis.com/
See Chris Waddell's work: http://grandcentralacademy.classicist.org/cwaddell.html
See Jiwoong Cheh's work: http://grandcentralacademy.classicist.org/cheh.html

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