Capturing movement is a challenge for all artists. We speak to renowned wildlife sculptor, Hamish Mackie, alumnus of Radley College, about the origins of his extraordinary talent and his ability to mould clay into life
Hamish Mackie has had the privilege of studying wildlife in many corners of the world at first hand. “Observing animals in their own environment, in their natural habitat, is essential to understanding the subject’s physical and instinctive traits.” This close observation, often involving intense research trips and sculpting from life in the field, informs Hamish’s approach to his work.
From his studio in Oxfordshire, Hamish creates his wildlife sculptures which are cast in bronze or silver as limited editions, each signed, dated and numbered.
Hamish has works in public and private collections around the world. In 2014, he won a major public art commission – Goodman’s Fields Horses for the Berkeley Homes Goodman’s Fields development in London. The sculptures were unveiled to critical acclaim and won the Public Monuments and Sculptures Association’s Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Fountains.
When did you realise that you wanted to sculpt?
Having grown up on a Cornish livestock farm I have always had a passion to sculpt from an early age. My ‘professional’ career started at Lewa Wildlife conservancy shortly after leaving school.
Did your time at Radley impact on your career?
Massively, for which I have always been incredibly grateful. Radley found a strength and developed it.
Was there one individual who inspired you above all others?
Paul Kilsby (Radley) my sculpture teacher.
What do you need to become a sculptor?
Sculpting is one thing, selling is another – so to make a living you need to cover a wide spectrum of abilities. Perseverance is one as it won’t happen overnight, but it’s a fun game when it works.
How much technical training do you need and where did you do this?
Very little except the basics of sculpting, which I learnt in the Sewell centre at Radley.
Do you need to be able to draw?
I am trying to get back into drawing but sadly didn’t draw for too long. I make armatures that can be manipulated into position which saves on rubbers! My advice to anybody starting would be to always have a sketch book to hand.
What advice would you give to aspiring young sculptors and artists?
Give it a go, if it doesn’t work at least you tried. Being self employed as a sculptor has been hard work but a fantastic way of making a living from what I love doing. I have slowly built my career up to include several of my passions – wildlife, travel, conservation, field sports, photography and sculpting. There is no right or wrong way or set career path as a sculptor.
How would you recommend career progression?
I did a Foundation course (Falmouth School of Art) and then a Degree in Furniture and Product design (Kingston University). This was advised as it would open up more job opportunities if sculpting hadn’t worked. If I was to do it again I would do two six month apprenticeships, one with a sculptor or gallery, the other at a bronze foundry.
Any historical artists who have inspired you?
Neolithic artists, Mene, Baryre, Barrias, Rodin, Modigliani, Bugatti, to name a few.
Your favourite sculpture other than your own?
The Winged Victory of Samothrace.
What is your preferred animal to sculpt?
Animals with muscle definition. If you forced me to narrow it down – deer!
How do you go about capturing movement?
By spending time with animals watching them move in their natural habitat, making small scale maquettes while observing. Observation is the key to building up an understanding of animal anatomy.
Do you prefer to work outside in the wild or from photos or both?
A bit of both – it’s like piecing together a jigsaw. I’ve been lucky to have travelled the globe with my studio box and cameras. There then becomes a scale where it’s definitely easier in a controlled studio environment. Modern technology makes it easy to bring photos and video back but nothing beats feeling the rumble of an elephant close by!
What is your favourite commission/piece?
The Goodman’s Fields Horses which Berkeley Group commissioned.
Have you ever sculpted people?
A few nudes and Sir Winston Churchill.
What do you like to do when you are not working?
Not sitting still. Anything outside.
What it your motto for life?
You only live once.
Any dreams still to be realised?
Many, we should all have dreams to be realised.
When and where is your next exhibition and what is the theme?
My next solo show ‘Life in Bronze’ is October 2020. It will be a series of new sculptures made over the last four years. A big section will be inspired from The Northern Rangeland Trust, a wildlife conservation initiative I want to help in Kenya. My Oxfordshire studio is also open by appointment.
For more info visit www.hamishmackie.com