if Michelangelo, the greatest sculptor the world has ever known, could do it, then…

today was an unbelievable new right brain experience for all three of us.

PJ, Tom and yours truly took a class in sculpting.   yes, you read that correctly.  we spent three hours today in a sculptor’s studio in Florence Italy.

None of us have any sculpting experience.  None of us have an art, painting, or other creative arts experience.  We started out the day as total neophytes in the art of sculpting.

the best thing that happened to us today was having the opportunity to learn how to sculpt under the tutelage of Frank Rekrut.  He and his lovely wife Laura Thompson, both ex Toronto-ites, are the proud owners of The Florence Studio.  They both teach.  Frank sculpting.  Laura painting. and they are accomplished artists in their own right. Frank recently was commissioned to produce a live size sculpture of Harriet Tubman, the mother of the Underground Railroad.

Frank was unbelievably understanding, patient and encouraging with us.  we loved it.  we absolutely loved every minute of it.

the first big decision was what to sculpt.  what model to try to imitate.  Frank had picked out a totally nude male bust.  PJ raised his voice and asked if we had any choice in what we would sculpt. Frank said sure.

as PJ asked this question he was looking directly at Magda.  Magda is the name of the live model (i.e., real person) who posed for Frank some time ago.  PJ was looking at the life size rendering of her torso. Torso is an anatomical description from the top of the head to the abdomen (or, for us lay people, just below the belly button.)  here is a picture of Magda.

needless to say we were enthusiastic about trying to sculpt Magda from scratch.  Scratch means starting from slow drying modeling clay.  Frank showed us how to use a very few simple instruments to help in the fashioning of the torso. to set the scene for you, Magda was placed in the center of a circle, surrounded by the three of us, each at our own work station.

Magda initially was pointed in one direction, and then, depending upon each of our views and vantage point, we would attempt to mold the clay to reflect the view that we individually were looking at.

after some period of time, say 20 minutes, Frank would turn Magda 90 degrees, so that we could then start to mold her on our work stand to the view that we now had in front of us — a different view than before.  Magda was rotated for the next almost three hours, as we diligently attempted to mold the clay to copy as closely as possible the torso of Magda that we were focused on.

every so often Frank would come by with a squirt gun and spray water on our model so that the clay would not harden and stay relatively malleable.


we worked on her rib cage, on her shoulders, on her chest, on her buttocks, on her back and on her stomach.  we looked at her from very close range, but more often than not we looked at her from afar.

we learned that it is one thing to frame the torso.  it is quite another to be able to capture the ribs and the muscle structure surrounding the rib cage.  similarly, being able to capture the twists of the spine was much more subtle and nuanced than we ever expected.  the more we looked at Magda, the more subtleties we saw.

in some respects it was much harder than we expected.  first of all you are standing at your work station the entire time.  in this instance, it was for three hours.  second, the hands, and particularly the fingers, are working the entire time, molding the clay.  this can cause hand and finger cramps.  third, it takes a tremendous amount of focus to do this correctly.   and, finally, it takes  a lot of work.

in other respects it was much easier than we thought it would be.  what we came into thinking was this great unknown — sculpting — turns out, with proper coaching to be something anyone can learn to do.  if PJ, Tom and I can do it, anyone who wants to, can do it. the more you sculpt the better you get.  practice is the key ingredient.  you don’t have to be born with certain talents to be a good sculptor.

our finished products are going to be bronzed.  this process is not easy.  It can take several weeks.  molds have to be made. in the end we will receive in the Southern California our bronze torso sculptures of Magda.


when we do, we are planning on having a party to celebrate the unveiling of the three works of art.  stay tuned for details.

One thought on “if Michelangelo, the greatest sculptor the world has ever known, could do it, then…”

  1. This is my favorite post of your blog so far! I love that all three of you were up for doing something that you have no experience in. The unveiling of the bronzes at a party in Southern California is going to be one of the memorable highlights of your trip! Everyone is going to be able to enjoy your work! Denise

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