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ARTIST INTERVIEW : THE SCULPTING GENIUS OF CHRIS BLADEN

By Vagabond Fly

Picture your favourite specie to target on fly, coming in hot and feeding hard, crystal clear water, not a breath of wind and you KNOW you have the right fly tied on and are in the prime spot to make the money-shot. Now take all the excitement, elation and emotion that goes with this and it will give you a taste of what it feels like when you are standing in front of a Chris Bladen original sculpture.

No really, each and every original piece we have viewed in person, be it at a remote fishing lodge, in a fly fishing addict’s man-cave or as the centre piece to a hotel’s entrance, has made us weigh up the pros and cons between emptying the household savings account and doing hard time.

Chris’s process is precise, meticulous and deemed ‘hard labor’ and the end result of this is what can only be described as astonishing.

Some have pronounced his work as lifelike and surreal, but for us he also has the rare talent to capture the subject’s soul through not only the final pose and position but also the coloration, texture and detail added. We have been labeled biased towards all things fly fishing and sure we break out in a cold sweat and our casting hands start itching at the sight of his Permit sculptures, but even his German Shorthaired Pointers and Lilac-Breasted Roller pieces have us reminiscing about the bush and The Kruger National Park.

From his studio in Kalk Bay off the Southern tip of the African continent, with a view of False Bay known for its world class surf break and breaching Great White Sharks (quite a contrast right!?), Chris spends his days in the tranquility that the relaxed lifestyle of the Cape area brings. Well, with the recent arrival of his two beautiful twin daughters “tranquility” might be a tad strong. Whatever it is that gets Chris in the zone, it works (MAN! Does it work!) and each piece that leaves his studio is testament to this. Our Vagabond Fly Interview with Chris Bladen might give you a grasp on what makes this fly fisherman turned artist tick but it is essential for you to head over to his website by clicking here to view the rest of his work.

It might be to commemorate that fish of a lifetime, remember that trip with great company that you will never be able to relive or simply to celebrate your love for fly fishing, a Chris Bladen Original Sculpture unequivocally is the way to do so. 

Vagabond Fly Artist Review Questions

VB – What inspires you to produce art?

CB – Nature – we take so much from it – I see my work as an ‘Ode to nature’

VB – What is your favourite subject?

CB – Fish and birds

VB – What is the most daunting subject that you ever painted/drawn/carved/sculpted?

CB – A Life Size Tarpon – Sculpted

tarpon

VB – Which is more important to you, the subject of your artwork or the way that it is portrayed?

CB – Both I suppose, but ultimately the way the subject is portrayed.

VB – Describe your process in layman’s terms.

CB – Firstly, study of subject, drawings and photographs. I then build an armature out of wood and steel. Then follows the sculpture or modeling process in clay. Once I am happy with the outcome of the sculpture in clay, a silicone mold is made. A wax copy is then made from the mold. Quite often a mold consists of more than one piece, so one will then have to put all the wax parts together again.

The wax pattern is then ‘gated’, meaning wax runners and risers are added for the molten metal to flow into the casting. A ceramic mold is then made over the wax pattern. This ceramic mold is then baked at about 800 degrees C for the wax to burn out and to bake the ceramic shell.  Bronze is then melted in a furnace at about 1200 degrees C and poured into the now hollow ceramic shell. Once the metal has cooled down, the ceramic shell is destroyed to reveal the bronze casting. After this the fettling process starts – this is where all the different parts in bronze are welded together and detail is put back. When I am happy with the metalwork, finally the patination process starts- this is the final coloration process, which is then sealed with a clear wax, to stop further oxidation of the metal.

VB – What is your favorite material to work on/with?

CB – Bronze as a final medium, and clay to sculpt with

VB – What is your favorite artist tool?

CB – Fly-rod

VB – What food, drinks and music keeps you going best whilst producing art?

CB – The Olympia Café’ down the road from my studio provides the grub, coffee and Eddy Vedder.

triggers

VB – Which artist(s) do you draw inspiration from?

CB – Rodin, Dylan Lewis, Kent Ullbergh, John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer

VB – What are your top five tips to becoming a better artist?

CB – I wish I knew, but most importantly don’t ever stop or give up! Better observation of what’s around you, and a lot of trial and error. It also helps to study other artists’ work.

VB – Is there a specific piece that you are most proud of and why?

CB – Lifesize Potato Bass – the sheer size and presence of the fish leaves most people in awe

patinating-potato-bass

VB – How do you know when a piece is finished?

CB – It’s a tricky one – when to stop working on a piece? I guess when a piece feels right to me.

VB – If you were given the chance to sculpt for the Sistine Chapel what would you make?

CB – Jonah and the whale, except I will change the whale to a tarpon instead, as Michelangelo did in his fresco on the ceiling of the chapel.

VB – Are you an artist turned fly fisher or fly fisher turned artist?

CB – Fly fisher turned artist

VB – When you are not busy creating works of art what do you do to keep busy?

CB – Raise babies – Twins

About Vagabond Fly

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