Gage Academy instructor says he's a sculptor in the old-fashioned sense, making figurative sculpture in single and limited editions for private and public commissions.
What do you do? I am a sculptor in the old-fashioned sense. I make figurative sculpture in single and limited editions for private and public commissions. Also, for the past 15 years, I’ve been teaching people how to draw and sculpt other people. So now I’m founder and artistic director of the Magrath Sculpture Atelier at Gage Academy of Art in Seattle.
How did you get started in that field? I always drew as a kid, and was introduced to life-drawing in high school. There was not a lot of instruction in those days, so I was mostly left to make it up on my own. I’m pretty aware of most of the mistakes you can make. In my early 30s I stumbled upon a group that was sculpting directly from models. It was a revelation! Eventually, I was able to study in Florence and Rome, and earned my MFA at the University of Washington. I was a late bloomer.
What’s a typical day like? I’m sort of project-oriented, so a lot depends on the task at hand. I just finished building a 2,000-square-foot shop on Vashon, and right now I’m working on a small figure commission. Monday evening is open studio drawing, and Sunday mornings, the “Church of Sculpture.” Teaching days at Gage are fairly intense: 12 hour days, three figure modeling classes and/or lectures. It can be both exhilarating and exhausting at once.
What’s the best part of the work? I get to meet and work with so many inspiring, brilliant and creative people, many of whom are naked. I also get to help people see and create things in ways to which they aspire but perhaps have never been capable. I love demystifying the art-making process.
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What surprises people about what you do? The sheer time dedication and patience it takes to do figure sculpture well. There are an incredible variety of technical skills and artistic concerns involved. I love that part of it. But also that it need not be as mysterious as it may seem. Most of the problems people have are mental blocks. Once you get past those, making art can be actually quite simple.