At the end of last year I was commissioned to sculpt a life-size head portrait of a Salers Bull in France. The bull in question - named Ferdinand - was the main bull on a large farm in a beautiful area of Normandy surrounded by rolling countryside and extensive forest. Salers are a large breed with a thick mahogany coat and long, lyre shaped, light-coloured horns. Ferdinand was a particularly large bull, and was best observed from a safe distance.
A few years before my arrival the farmer was driving his tractor into a field to drop off some hay in the field. Ferdinand was in a particularly grumpy mood and was so strong that he managed to lift the whole tractor up! I was therefore determined that my portrait will convey the sense of underlying power.
As opposed to diving straight in with the life-size sculpt I first needed to head to Normandy in my car with my sculpting tools in order to start a small maquette.
I spent three days in front of Ferdinand who was stationed in his eating lock. I'd tempt him with food whenever he looked like he was getting impatient. On occasion I'd stroke his head in order to try and relax him but it became apparent this was having the opposite affect!
After completion of the maquette I drove the sculpture back to my studio in Dorset where I scaled the sculpture up to life size in clay. This was a long process which took several weeks to complete. With clay you have to ensure the work is well wrapped at the end of each working day in order to stop the clay drying out. This means you have to apply damp clothes and wrapped plastic to the whole sculpture in order to make sure you can still work the surface the following day.
Once complete in clay the bull was ready for bronze casting. With a work of this size it would have been to much of a risk to drive the sculpture in clay on the back of a pick-up to the foundry. Therefore the foundry had to come to the studio - and a mould was taken over several days. After a couple of months the sculpture was finished in bronze and was ready to travel out. After conversations with the client we agreed that the finished bronze sculpture would be best mounted onto a large stone plinth to match the gravel underneath. I therefore spent a morning down on the Isle of Purbeck selecting a large piece of stone suitable for the suclpture.
Once cut I travelled out to Normandy with both the Bull Head and Stone - being very careful not to drive too quickly around corners. The sculpture now stands outside the house and is positioned so that Ferdinand's knowing look is directed towards the kitchen window.