7 sculptures in bronze: Rebellion, Abandon, Liberty…

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…

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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. 

Modelling for sculptures — ones which, like Hamish’s, aim to be life-like and authentic — is a strange psychological journey. It starts with curiosity (what will it end up looking like? What do I look like? Am I going to get really bored standing in the same position for ages? Is this the first step towards my immortality?), then travels through physical discomfort (the human body is not designed to stay still for long periods of time and the simplest of poses can become quickly unbearable – thank God for Hamish’s excellent idea to keep moving between the various sculptures/positions to avoid limb deadness, and for music and conversation; meanwhile, it turns out that bronze patination gas torches make excellent heaters!).

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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).

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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.

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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:

When I arrived at our first proper session, after the initial photography, Hamish’s studio was decked in life-sized, printed photographs of myself holding the various poses he’d chosen to pursue in clay and then bronze — you can imagine the surreality of entering such a den. For these photographs, I’d held individual positions — ones we thought could work well — on a turntable which was rotated in small increments for the lens. Measurements were taken and confirmed (the distance from my armpit to my elbow, from shoulder to shoulder, from thigh to ground; several ratios involving my belly button; the circumference of an arm…), and by the time our diaries aligned for us to begin the first ‘proper’ session, with actual clay involved, Hamish had, amazingly, already fashioned the armatures ready to support the sculptures. These rough structures would give him a headstart in the game of layering, loading and refinement (perhaps these are not the technical terms for the work of sculpting, which largely remains a mystery to me even though I was there for every second of it; for one thing I can’t quite decide if it is an art or a science — I suspect it is both).

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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’.

clay model of nude female for figurative sculpture

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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.

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Hamish’s seven nude studies are Torso Life SizeEmergence TorsoRebellionLibertyAbandonComposedModel in Studio Relief which can all be shipped worldwide directly from his studio.

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three nude figurative sculptures in bronze

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.

Swords & Stares

You might not want to mess with me after seeing my ‘Judith’ side… (It’s been put into commission a couple of times recently!) Yes, even someone as serene & pacifist as me can quite enjoy wielding a sword, now and then…

Thought I’d share a few photos from a shoot in June with Ross of Posbrook Pics. I really enjoyed working with him, and how he took his time to get the results he was after. He came with a theme in mind (Judith of biblical fame; as wiki tells us: ‘She uses her charm to become an intimate friend of Holofernes, but finally beheads him allowing Israel to counter-attack the Assyrians’) and then we did a bit of extra experimentation at the end for some classical nudes.

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Set square

Today (because I like to keep you guessing): some images by the wonderful Paul Jefferey (I think this was our fifth shoot together) taken in a working woodworker’s workshop… Despite all the ‘work’ in that last sentence, we had lots of fun making use of various things we found in there and I think Paul wished he’d booked more time as we had plenty we still wanted to try.

So cool to mess around in different settings and locations. I love it when people put a very classical figure (moi) against something rather unexpected!

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Mercy, Stoke, Butterfly Maiden

A real medley, here!

I’ve enjoyed quite a few shoots with photographer James Hall, over the last year or so, and here are some of his results. We’ve got everything from an image depicting Judith and Holofernes (featuring wonderful male model Joel Hicks, and which, to me looks somehow reminsicent of a Bollywood film poster – I did feel terribly guilty killing my co-model for the shot, but Joel is dedicated to his art and took one for the team), to me as ‘butterfly maiden’, some simple nudes and portraits, a striking nude with male model Tim, and some classic art (Rembrandt) inspired duo work with Ivory Flame (including one shot that, to me, looks straight out of a scene from Pride and Prejudice). There is also one image featuring both Tim and Joel, amusingly titled (by James) ‘Mercy protecting Stoke’! Stoke is James’ neck of the woods, but it’s hard to know how effective my protection was. 🙂

Working with James is always interesting and lots of fun, as he tends to have a specific vision which we then improvise around. It’s great to work with so much variety!

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Babe in the woods?

Hi everyone! Thought I’d share some images from a recent shoot in the ancient woodland here in Oxfordshire, taken by the brilliant Bokehlicious. I’d modelled for him before, years ago, and was actually the one that suggested this shoot as I had an idea in mind.

I’ve seen a lot of outdoor lingerie shoots over the years that look beautiful, but also a lot that just look a bit odd, i.e. ‘Why would she be outdoors in her underwear?’ It can seem a bit incongruous and I’m personally more keen on images which have a sense of narrative (even if a nebulous one!). You could argue the same about nudes (‘why would she be outdoors without any clothes on? What’s going on here?’) but, for me, nudes have always been instinctively natural. That probably doesn’t make much sense, but there you go!

Anyway, I LOVE lingerie and have a huge collection so it’s something I’d like to remember to shoot more of. I have a very natural, classical look and didn’t go for a full-on ‘glamour’ vibe with these, more something that straddles ‘commercial-ish’ and ‘romantic’, maybe.

Which (if any) are your favourites?

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Colour gels & Dreams

I was lucky enough to have had two shoots last year with photographer Owen Lloyd – first in August at Atlas Studios, as part of an event organised by Nicole Rayner which brought us together along with Ivory Flame for a ‘trio’ day at the brilliant (but very filthy) industrial indoor location. Owen was one of the photographers attending the day and got some amazing images, then in December he booked me at Sandon Studio in Staffordshire, where we made the most of a few of its atmospheric sets (and I half-froze to death due to the heating not being on there, despite Owen doing a great job of hauling mini heaters around with us from room to room!). I’m convinced our third shoot might be both warm and clean (though I’d better not jinx it..!). 🙂

Owen is a total pleasure to model for as he really takes his time with his lighting and is very experimental and creative. I find photographers often apologise incessantly to me when they feel they’re taking too long setting up lights, as though I they might think I’d feel my time is being wasted somehow, but really it’s completely normal to keep tweaking things until you get the results you’re after, and if there was a choice, I’d far rather a photographer faffed for much of the shoot and got some amazing images by the end, than shoot ten thousand images without stopping to check, only realising later that they would have been improved by pausing to assess the results as we went along and making some simple changes to the angle/intensity/effect of the lights.

[Interlude for announcement… (drum roll)… Those of you on my mailing list will know I’m now planning a big tour of the US/Canada for next year. It’ll be a whistle-stop tour of quite a few places, and a huge job to organise, hence me taking bookings already, 10 months in advance. Send me an email (ellarosemuse@live.co.uk or via the contact form here on the website) if you’d like more info!]

With enormous thanks to Owen, whose use of colour I adore:

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