Amy Johnson – bas-relief bust

After halting the work on the US Navy Yeoman figure, I was a little disheartened. Hitting a stumbling block with your work has the side-effect of making you question your abilities as an artist, it shouldn’t I know, yet its a sad fact of life for many creative people to have to admit defeat with a project. However – I’ve found in the past at times like these its best to not to take a break from your work (you get stale and resentful), its better to pick another project straight away that is pleasurable, a little less intense, something that will get you right back on track.

The inspiration for this work came as ever from a historical photograph, in this instance a captivating image of Amy Johnson the pioneering female aviator in the earlier part of the 20th century.

Amy in colour“Amy Johnson CBE, was a pioneering English aviator. Flying solo or with her husband, Jim Mollison, Johnson set numerous long-distance records during the 1930s. “

The plan (if there was one this time!) was to hit this sculpt hard and fast!

Using a scaled down version of the image I cut out the silhouette of the bust’s outline from a print-out. I then set aside the silhouette and fastened the paper outline to a ceramic tile. Working really fast, I then spread a thin layer of clay (roughly 1mm thick) within that outline onto the tile surface.  With the clay smoothed, the paper silhouette was place within outline and major features of the were perforated through the paper into the clay using a divider point.

Because of the speed that this sculpt needed, I didn’t stop to take photographs, or record its development. I needed the freedom not to feel restricted in any way so chose simply to get on with the job hand. Now the reason I took this approach was that previous sculpts had been a large re-learning experience for me but, in the process of doing that that I had got myself into huge a rut of over-analysing. This I feel made me lose track of the vital element of sculpting (especially in relief) and that is finding the overall form of the image before me. Sure, I’ve kept to the processes that I developed in previous work but I’ve introduced a whole lot more into my repertoire that will increase accuracy and speed future work. Most of all with this sculpt I’ve learnt to relax into the process – which can’t be a bad thing?

So here it is – the sculpt is around 90% finished, with a fair bit of work to refine the overall quality. Another week on it will get me there…

Will there be a casting of this?

In the next couple of months I will be spending time improving my casting skills, when I am happy with the quality – yes. As of this moment I’m getting far too many rejects from imperfections caused by air bubbles. This is something that can reduced but it will mean investing some time introducing the pressure equipment needed.

So – whilst I learning all this, onto the next project.

I’ve enjoyed sculpting this bust, its the most pleasure I have gotten out of my sculpting so far, so much so – I feel it may be another portrait. 🙂

I will keep you posted…


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  1. Rich, that bust looks amazing! No doubt there will be a host of painters who will want to get a hold of this one. Keep up the great work. (It is even encouraging to read about some of your struggles. I don’t feel so alone in my own.)

  2. Kjeld Buchholtz

    This is a beautifull rendition of Amy Johnson, do put me on for one copy, when you decide to go commercial, and I must say, you have a way of catching the female face, my compliments.

    Kindest regards
    Kjeld Buchholtz

  3. Having been lucky to actually buy one of these amazing sculpts and painted it, I ca honestly say that this is one of the best relief sculpts I have seen never mind worked on. It has been a privilege to paint and own this piece of art.

    • Rich Odell

      Many thanks Graham – when you create work you just never know how it will be received? I am simply humbled by the feedback people have given me!

      Kindest regards


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