Although I’ve posed for a multitude of photographers and artists all over the world, I can count on one hand the number of sculptors I’ve modelled for. I’m happy to say I managed to squeeze in just such an experience just before Covid-19 flew into the world and disrupted things (including my modelling tour to the US and Canada in May/June!). Modelling for a sculptor is a fascinating and satisfying thing to do, and one I’ve enjoyed reflecting on.
Read on for my ponderings on this somewhat unusual way to pass the time, and to view the results…
When Hamish Mackie originally contacted me, I was impressed by his body of work and intrigued by what we might come up with together. Meeting for an initial photography session, the aim of which was to brainstorm ideas for poses together, his enthusiasm, natural ability and obvious love for what he does filled me with confidence that this would be a fun collaboration.
Next come confrontation with oneself (having seen thousands of nude photographs or paintings of my own body is not the same as standing next to a clay cast of it in 3D form, which can be viewed from all possible angles, nothing hidden) and, ultimately, acceptance (my leg or my stomach does this thing, but that’s OK and maybe even beautiful; how interesting that the muscles and flesh across the back are so involved and affected by the most innocuous of arm raises).
It’s precisely this interest in anatomy which seems to so fire up Hamish’s imagination — you can see it in his careful and vivid studies of deer, lions and birds, all of which are jaw-droppingly arresting ‘in the flesh’ (their subjects, however, presumably far less prone to stand still or, for that matter, demand tea breaks). He is not interested in merely imagining what a body, human or otherwise, will do in a certain position, or in making it up — he strives to get it right (true to life), and it is this meticulousness which means he has no qualms about chopping off my bottom halfway through the penultimate session, when he realises it’s in need of some slight relocation.
Below are a few ‘behind the scenes’ reference photos which Hamish took for study purposes, though the vast majority of the work was completed with me physically in front of him over a series of days:
One thing I know: sculpture involves lots of knife work. Knives are strewn about the studio, and parts of my anatomy are abruptly chopped off and pasted on, smoothed by thumbs or left with rough texture which might later tell of re-thought or of gusto. It is difficult not to wince when watching your emerging doppelgänger’s shoulder being stabbed or refigured; perhaps modelling for sculptures is not for the very squeamish. Perhaps it’s also not for the very vain. I can’t overstate this: the physical, faithful manifestation of yourself, next to your actual living self, is a bizarre thing to witness. You become at times possessive over the piece and at other times disassociate from it. Sometimes the lump of clay is ‘I’ and ‘my neck’, and other times it is ‘She’ and ‘her torso’.
At all times, I was deeply impressed with how easy Hamish made the process appear to be. As if by magic, seven individual pieces emerged which looked undeniably like me, and of which I’m very proud. They each have different moods and personalities and, therefore, changing, possible titles spun in both of our minds as they were created; all of them felt empowering, strong and positive. I enjoyed the feeling of teamwork as we went along; being a model can seem, or be imagined to be, a very passive role, but it is my opinion that a good model brings something to the table beyond an incidental physicality, and that the best artists are collaborative as well as open to exploration within the form.
If you’d like to enquire about a sculpture or arrange a studio visit, give Hamish a ring. +44 (0) 7971 028 098 / +44 (0) 1608 737 859. If you’d like to be put on his mailing list to receive one of hisr new catalogues later in the year, sign up on the contact page.