Would I like to make a life-size bronze lion sculpture? This is surely something any animal sculptor would like to be asked. Well, that’s exactly what happened to me last year. My client was having an English country garden makeover. She wanted a bronze lion sculpture to feature in her garden fountain. She was creating a fantasy walled garden with characters from children’s books to engage and entertain her grandchildren. I was to sculpt the head of Aslan, no less, from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Or at least, that’s what I thought. It turns out my client had another very specific lion in mind. This particular lion is one of a batchelor group she had observed many times on her travels in Africa. She wanted me to draw my inspiration from this animal (shown left in the photo) who, I think you will agree, has the gentle nobility of the King of Narnia.
Experience has taught me that sculpting at this scale is surprisingly difficult. When modelling such a large piece, the slightest error is magnified. Even the smallest detail must be meticulously rendered, as it will be readily visible in the finished sculpture. Fortunately, I had just returned from my Zambia art safari (spaces still available for this year) where I had the opportunity to observe numerous male lions in the wild.
Drawing on my observations in the field, photographic references and, of course, my client’s photos of Aslan himself, I set to work. I take great care, however, not to anthropomorphise my subjects. I depict the natural stance, expression and behaviour of the wild animal – even when they are drawn from literary fantasy!
Having obtained the client’s approval of the clay sculpture, Aslan had to be carefully transported to Castle Fine Art Foundry in Stroud to be moulded and cast in bronze. After a nervous wait, I was delighted to hear that the bronze lion sculpture had been successfully installed into his permanent home in the client’s garden. He does look rather magnificent in the photos. I just hope the grandchildren are equally convinced.
The lion head fountain is 60cm x 55cm and is available to order in a limited edition of 12 with a lead in time of 6 weeks. Please contact me for further information.