24th October 2017

I sometimes wonder if there is anything more profoundly difficult, but ultimately more rewarding than the carving of hands in pure white Carrara marble. Working with the most beautiful sculpture material on the face of the earth, made famous by the great renaissance sculptors is a privilege in itself. Carrara marble holds detail like no other material, and is perfect to illustrate the highly complex anatomy of the hand. The creation of hands has always been the holy grail in art, because of the sheer complexity of the subject matter and the ability of the hands to express deep emotion in an anonymous way, unlike the face which is personal to the individual. I think the famous phrase "The agony and the ecstacy" perhaps best describes the process of carving hands.
19th July 2012


According to Van Gogh, "Drawing is the basis of everything", and is unquestionably the very foundation of sculpture.

Having spent years in life drawing groups studying the naked human form, I have always been amazed by the atmosphere and electricity generated by the group. The loud mouths suddenly become calm and reserved, the young, single-minded and purposeful and most fascinating, older people seem to exude an exuberant youthful spirit incongruous to their advanced years.

It seems to me that a relationship exists between art, good health and general well-being. I doubt this can be pinned down by science, its more of a metaphysical principle based on the feeling of being in the zone and tapping into an unfathomable creativity, unavailable through the normal mundane channels of everyday existence.

I believe sculpture is the purest and most expressive of all the visual arts. Being inside a block of stone and allowing the chisel to move intuitively, slowly discovering the form within the block fills the sculptor (or individual attempting sculpture for the first time) with a sense of wonderment and a feeling of being alive through the physical and emotional connection with the material.

Similarly, the viewing of highly original beautiful sculpture also evokes the same sense of awe-inspiring fascination, excitement and appreciation that naturally engenders a positive emotional response. Renaissance sculpture, especially the work of Michelangelo is so emotionally charged that it seems to lay bare the very soul of the artist for all to see. This great humanity and intimacy empowers the viewer with an unfathomable level of positive energy. I think both the active and passive participation in sculpture are both valid ways of taking the individual to an exalted plane of thought, reducing anxiety and depression, whilst increasing the feeling of well-being and satisfaction. However, even greater overall health benefits can be gained from the physical creation of sculpture. The longevity of the old master sculptors bears testament to this, and the facts are positively astonishing -

Andrea Pisano 79

Geovanni Bologna 79

Rustici 80

Donatelo 80

Ammanati 81

Bernini 82

Luca della Robbia 83

Jacopo Sansovino 84

Michelangelo 88

In fact, the divine Michelangelo almost made 89, remarkable ! even more remarkable when you consider the average life expectancy in Florence at the time was around 30 years.

So what's going on ?

This longevity can be partly attributed to an active creative mind constantly pushing the boundaries of emotional expression, along with an intense desire to live in order to create and add to the sum total of human endeavour. However, many painters of the same period (presumably with a similar mindset) died early, most notably, Raphael and caravaggio.

This longevity disparity amongst artists could well be down to the intense physical exertion required for the creation of sculpture, compared to the relatively sedentary process of painting. Sculptors stand all day whilst painters quite often sit for long periods. Recent research in the field of sedentary physiology suggests that sitting down is not only unnatural but also extremely dangerous. Standing requires the use of muscles designed for support, they produce enzymes (substances within the cells of muscle that work as catalysts allowing them to transform the components of food into energy) that specialize in turning bad cholesterol into energy. When sitting the muscles relax and enzyme activity drops drastically, leaving fat to accumulate in the blood. Without enzyme activity the fat stagnates and clings to the arterial walls leading to heart disease.

Strong physical exercise protects against heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, non-insulin diabetes, obesity, back pain, osteoporosis and best of all gives you a euphoric high from the release of endorphins in the brain. During intense sculpture activity it normally takes about 30 minuets before the endorphins start to minimize the discomfort of the physical toil of sculpting with hammer and chisel and provide the euphoria associated with a feeling of well-being.

Cardiovascular disease is the western worlds biggest killer, with stress being one of the main contributing factors. Creativity seems to be the ultimate stress buster, and artists have an ability to move effortlessly from the analytical left brain mode into the sublime right brain creative mindset, dissolving stress in the process. "Being in the zone" refers to that magical state of being completely engaged in something to the point of a near meditative state. This single-minded immersion is like being on autopilot, totally in control without consciously thinking about the process.

Picasso once said, "when I enter the studio, I leave my physical body at the door the way Moslem's leave their shoes when they enter the mosque, and I only allow my spirit to go in there and paint".

The human mind can only hold one thought at a time, and most of the time artists minds are rammed full of creative positive thoughts. Thinking outside the box and creative problem solving leave little or no room for destructive negative thoughts, resulting in a relatively stress free existence. Sculptors in particular tend to be excited about life, possessing a childlike enthusiasm, seeing the world through rose coloured glass with a sense of wonder. Living to create, focuses vital energy on the positive rather than the stressful trivialities of life. Studies show the more you use your mind the sharper and healthier it will be. The complexities involved in sculpture can stretch the mind to breaking point, along with the euphoria associated with the manifestation of the completed work of art, surely must be the ultimate mind food.

The process of sculpting by hand out of the solid block in stone, marble or wood is a sublime fusion of the intellect and raw physicality in the pursuit of the ultimate form of artistic expression. This must not to be confused with the outrageously pretentious and elitist genre of conceptual sculpture. Real sculpture is available to all, not just the chosen few pompous little puppets, controlled by the chief protagonists in the Emperor's new clothes art scam.

Sculpture is perfect therapy in a stressful world. Everyone can get involved, from the young to the old, the artistically inclined and the clueless. The only essential requirement is enthusiasm.


Picking up a mallet and chisel will give you focus, it will make you smile and it MIGHT JUST EXTEND YOUR LIFE.

23rd February 2012

Flowers of ice
Hide the heavens
No more blue sky
A silver dust
Buries all the fields
And sinks the green mountains
Once the sun
Comes out on the one
Even the cold
That pierces the bone
Is a joy

Muso Soseki (1275-1351)