Physical to Digital

19 July 2017

From Physical to Digital-My life making sculpture and other arts

Part One


My name is Robin Bell. I am a sculptor living in Pietrasanta, Italy. I first travelled to Italy in 1973 to learn now to carve marble. I have remained pretty well there since then as my artistic career has evolved to Commissioned Artist, with cast bronze being the requested material.

I am an “old school” type of Artist who creates the scale and full size model, retouches their waxes and does the final finishing of the bronze before the patina. I have been using the services of Fonderia Artistica Mariani of Pietrasanta since 1974.

This Blog is being created to provide images, stories and thoughts on my art. I think “Physical to Digital” is a good title as it truly reflects our times. It express the idea of handcrafted Three Dimensional art works becoming binary expressions, but also by having begun my career before the Digital Divide (in the sense of Era Digital, era Pre Digital) I have to find and physically scan these images for this blog. Another thread to this theme is the fact of how I began to use the computer as a tool, a very helpful tool in the creation of my art.  Another physical to digital is this blog is a binary scrapbook and journal.

The blogs will not be chronological, nor precise it its publication date. Some periods will have minimal visual coverage that I hope to slowly eradicate as I continue my intercontinental search for images from the past. Below are images of me at work from 1973 forwards.

  1. first-marbles-carrara-73
  2. Susan-Side

My first marble sculptures, Carrara 1973.  Underneath is “Susan” my first marble sculpture.

  1. R-working-Guardian
  2. Guardian

Working at the foundry Mariani on Guardian 1/3 in the Spring of 1976.  The sculpture is part of my second Solo Exhibition with the Marianne Friedland Gallery in Toronto.

  1. R-Last-wax
  2. Last

Working on Last 3/3 circa 1977, while the image underneath is of Last 1/3 just before it is put into it’s crate to be shipped to Toronto Canada as part of my second Marianne Friedland show.  Below the show’s announcement.

  1. Celtic-Clay-me
  2. Celtic-Magazine

Working on Celtic 1/3.  It will be first shown at my third solo exhibition in Toronto.  This time at the Bau-xi Gallery in 1978.

  1. Robin-Sault-Coll-Trophy
  2. Robin-Sault-Coll-TV

My Bau-XI exhibition received some nice reviews and but limited press.  At the same  time of the exhibition Toronto was involved with a massive conference on Sculpture, A month of various gallery openings and events.  More drastically there were few sales and while looking for work I discovered a competition to become Artist in Residence at the Sault Saint Maria Institute of Science and Technology.  It had a small art department whose artist in residence position had become vacant.  I was selected and spent the next 14 to 16 months in Northern Ontario! In this image, taken in early 1979, I am working on the clay original for Trophy.  the sculpture will be eventually cast and included in my exhibition at the Canadian Cultural Center in Rome in 1983.

  1. Running-In-Clay-Me
  2. Running-In-Full

Here I am working, in early 1981, on the 33% larger than life size clay model for “Running In”.  It was comissioned by the Triple Five Corporation as the center piece for Phase One of The West Edmonton Mall, in Edmonton , Alberta, Canada.

  1. Dryden-Clay-finished
  2. Goalie-HO

This photograph celebrates finishing the life-size clay model for “The Goalie”.  It was taken the spring of 1984.  The sculpture, commissioned by Cambridge Leaseholds Ltd. for Place Vertu’ in Montreal to celebrate a true Canadian ikon, Mr. Ken Dryden.

  1. Robin-Measure-whale-head
  2. Open-Sea-Top-View

Summer 1984 and Open Sea begins.  I have found a complete set of Right Whale bones at the University of Pisa. They had been attached to a ceiling, 12 meters in the air for about 150 years. It was then decided to move them to a new Natural History Museum. This happened two weeks before I came looking for them!

They were invaluable as they helped to establish measurements like the distance between the eyes. I made a scale model of the bones and then fleshed them out with plastacine. The intermediate and final model were made in clay.

Because of size I had to make the maquette and then an intermediate model before developing the full size original.

  1. Robin-CC-Start
  2. CC-Little-Boy

Fall 1987, the beginning of “Chunky Cutting”.  I had never made a horse before so I set up a studio at a local stable and made a life size study model.This was an amazing project. It was also my longest. Due to financial reasons it was created in two parts. First phase was creating the horse and rider, second phase the calf. The horse and rider were portraits of Charles “Chunky” Woodward and his 1967 NCHA Champion Cutting Horse Peppy San.

  1. Me-Teemer
  2. Teeming-again

June 1990 and I am nearly finished one of the three 40% larger than life size figures for “Teeming”, a sculpture ordered by Stadium Corp. for Meadowhall in Sheffield, England. Meadowhall was on the grounds of two abandoned steel foundries. Research brought me to the nexus of Sheffield steel: “teeming”, the pouring of crucible steel. This process had a 250-year history that ended in the 1950’s.
The sculpture was created during a 20 month period between 1989-90. It is the first sculpture portraying the art of “teeming”. In the early 2000’s it was voted “favourite sculpture” by the citizens of Sheffield.

  1. Me-working-Wallscape
  2. Wallscape-HK

Summer 1979 working on the bottom section, plaster (with some carving) and wax.  The top section was built with wood and wax.  “Wallscape” is my first sculptural project that is a relief rather than free standing. It is also the first project where I combine cast bronze with Venetian mosaic.  This four meter by seven meter relief was placed in the business entrance to the building complex at 9 Queen’s Road, Central, Hong Kong. This was the third time that Hongkong Land was building on the same site, also the last as they later sold the site.

  1. Ninja-Wall-Me-Start
  2. Ninja-Wall-Rool-Ov

“Ninja Wall” 1993-94 Commissioned by Playmates Properties Limited for 100 Canton Street, Kowloon, Hong Kong.  In the picture I am working the first of the full size Ninja’s, circa December 93-early February 1994.

Another relief with bronze and mosaic. This time the bronze relief was much higher and marble and stone were included with the Venetian glass. These new materials heightened the underground tonality of NYC sewers. The wall space was curved. The “Boys” are depicted discovering their genesis- The Canister of Ooze.

  1. Cutters-C-Clay-hands
  2. Cutters-choice-bio

“Cutter’s Choice”  was a life size calf was created to complete my “Chunky Cutting” sculpture. For this project I created a one third life-size study model with a live model. Then I created a one third life-size maquette, before building the original life-size model in clay. This image was taken circa March 1998.

  1. R-work-Circle-Caring
  2. Searching

“The Circle of Caring” was commissioned for the Maycourt Hospice in Ottawa.  It’s March 2000 and I am working on one of the portraits.

  1. C-Pine-me-Wax
  2. Casons-Pine-Bio

Spring 2000, I am with the nearly finished  full size wax for “Casson’s Pine”.  The work was too complicated to make moulds so it will be a direct casting of the wax model.  This means that there can be no armature and all materials used must be burnable.  Hence the external strings that act as an armature.

  1. Robin-Crumb-Bronze-A
  2. Crumb-Bio-A

“R. Crumb” was my first sculpture for Felix Dennis’s  “Garden of Heroes & Villains”  in Dorsington, England.  It’s early summer 2003 and I have nearly completed my finishing of the bronze.  Spurred on by the success of “Casson’s Pine” I take mould only of the figures head and hands and the portrait on the desk.  The rest, made of wood wax and paper, is directly cast into bronze.

  1. R-working-Arcus-wax
  2. Arcus-bio

“Arcus” was commissioned by Mr. S. Jolliffe for his private residence in Toronto, Ontario.  The commission is the elaboration of an earlier sculpture entitled “Spalla” which was created for my third solo exhibition in Toronto at the Bau-Xi Gallery in 1978.  The shoulders have been enlarged to include the back.  The sculpture is mounted upon a black granite base.  It can rotate and then lock into position.  Inside the shoulders one finds a series of mountain ranges and the inscription:  Mountains are the shoulders of the world.  In the photograph I am working directly in the wax to create the mountain ranges.  Image circa February 2005.

  1. Churchill-Me-clay
  2. Churchill-Bio

“Churchill” was commissioned by Felix Dennis for his “Garden of Heroes & Villains” in Dorsington, England.  This 10% larger than life-size sculpture was to depict Winston Churchill the day after the first bombings by the Germans of London.  The figure is made of clay.  The bricks are made of wax and wood.  They will be more defined in the foundries wax room and then cast directly. Photo taken circa May 2006.

  1. Robin-Eagles-Nest-Model
  2. Eagles-Nest-Bio

March 2007 and I am getting closer to finishing part of the full size model for “Eagles’ Nest”.  The sculpture was commissioned by Mr. E.D. Healy for his private residence in Quinta do Lago, Portugal.  My first avian sculpture was greatly helped by the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.  The construction of the twice life-size model was again a combination process.  This time the  eagle’s body and most of the feathers were made in clay, while the primary, secondary and tail feathers are made in wood and wax.  This wood and wax technique provided thin feathers with a natural overlap when place in their final position.

  1. Robin-Ulysses-Bronze
  2. Ulysses-Bio

May 2014 and I have almost completed my final finishing of the bronze.  “Ulysses” was third commissioned sculpture for Felix Dennis’s “Garden of Heroes & Villains” in Dorsington, England. Felix wanted me to portray the moment Ulysses is tied to the mast to hear the songs of the Sirens. I read and listened to several versions of Homer’s classic, and thanks to the curator of Queen Elizabeth’s model ship collection I discovered how a Greek vessel in 900 BC attached its mast and the type of rope used. There was also research into clothing’s, and patterns. Symbols for the Goddess Athena ( Ulysses’ protector) were used for the toga’s broach and the finger ring.