Self-taught and instinctual
Bruce is acutely aware of the increased pressure from man on the environment of the animals he sculpts. “If my art can inspire a greater empathy and appreciation for these creatures I will have contributed something valuable to our relationship with nature.”
Bruce has spent over twenty years in the African bush as a game ranger, giving him an unparalleled knowledge of the subjects he holds so dear. Very few sculptors of African wildlife have had this breadth of opportunity. It gives Bruce an authoritative insight into the animals he sculpts which reflects in his work. The thousands of hours spent observing, allow him to capture the power, agility, presence and spirit of the animals he sculpts.
Photography has always been one of Bruce’s passions and, from his earliest days in the bush, he has used his camera to document the landscape and its animals. He has built up an impressive portfolio of beautiful wildlife images which he draws on for inspiration in his sculpture projects.
Although he is first and foremost a sculptor of animals, Bruce has embraced the natural journey of exploration that every artist must take. He is currently developing a new direction, touching on a deeper meaning and understanding of his subjects, which he feels results in a more contemporary feel to the finished work. Bruce has always wanted to sculpt the human figure and his recent figurative work fulfils this ambition. The motivation for these new figurative pieces was the desire to explore the indelible bond that we have with nature, and the spiritual journey it affords us.
An image can inspire an idea for a sculpture or simply flesh out a concept that you are developing. Bruce uses photographic references for concepts and then sculpts mainly from an instinctive knowledge of his subject. Bruce will often start with a smaller ‘Maquette’ version of the final sculpture in modelling clay, his preferred medium. This often requires the construction of an armature to give the clay sufficient strength, particularly in a life-size sculpture.
Using his hands and the traditional clay shaping tools he works surprisingly quickly to flesh out the form of a new sculpture. Bruce reveals the musculature of his subjects, while retaining a surface texture. His clays define an impression of the animal’s character rather than an exact anatomical replica of the living animal.
Bruce’s studio often contains a number of sculptures in varying stages of completion. The remoteness of his studio means that the foundry that he uses have to make a mould in situ, rather than transporting the delicate clays. The completed clays will be in the studio for several months, allowing ample time to rework and change minor details.
The Bronze Work
All of Bruce Little’s sculpture is cast by specialist foundries, in bronze, using the ‘Lost Wax’ method. The first step in this process involves making a latex mould of the original clay sculpture.
This is carried out at Bruce’s studio where key points in the original are measured for reference. This is particularly crucial if the original is to be cast in several pieces.
The latex itself has to be strengthened and key parts of the mould are ridged to ensure that it keeps its shape for the next part of the process.
The mould is cut and peeled off the original clay and taken to the foundry. The latex mould is then used to create a wax replica of the clay original.
This wax replica has wax pipes attached to it to form tubes that will allow the molten bronze into the mould during the pouring. The completed wax mould is then coated with refractory clay and allowed to dry.
The refractory mould is then heated to allow the wax to drain out. Finally the refractory mould is now ready for the casting.
The mould is heated to a temperature close to the melting point of bronze. The bronze is then poured into the mould and allowed to cool. The refractory mould is then chipped away to reveal the new bronze sculpture.
Raw bronze is a coppery colour and is usually given a patina both to enhance and protect the sculpture.
Patination can produce a very wide range of colours and is usually achieved by spraying chemicals onto the bronze and applying heat.
Finally the sculpture is coated with beeswax and polished.