The wire artists featured below are all well known for their work with this unusual and creative medium. Creating fluid, sculptural works of faces, figures, animals and objects, they are certain to inspire your students. Working with wire can be an exciting new way of working and can be used to draw with, like a contour drawing, or to sculpt with. There is some excellent advice for your students from the artists themselves.
Diane Komoter is a British wire artist who works with darkened steel, both drawing and sculpting with it. Komoter states that she was influenced by the black line within stained glass windows viewed as a child thanks to her Catholic upbringing. Working on vastly different scales, the human form is definitely her primary theme. When I asked what advice she would give to students who are experimenting with working with wire for the first time she suggested: “Always start with a long piece of wire that is more than you think you need. You can always cut it.”
“I will always find the human form the most interesting and the most satisfying to mimic.”
If you have ever tried working with chicken wire or mesh wire, you will have immense respect for the skilful work of British wildlife sculptor Kendra Haste. She breathes life into the wire, seemingly capturing the essence of an animal, as if frozen in a moment of time. Haste uses 1⁄2 inch galvanised hexagonal wire mesh, and recommends that you experiment with different size mesh to achieve different effects. She uses tin snips for cutting the mesh and needle-nose plyers for weaving the wire that binds her sculptures together. As she uses many layers of wire she uses wooden and metal hammers to hammer the sculptures into shape.
Haste has great advice for your students if they want to create work inspired by hers.
“Wire is a wonderfully versatile material and can be used in a variety of ways to create different densities from solid forms to delicate, translucent structures. The linear quality of the wire is what makes it such an expressive material. Drawing out concept ideas before starting the sculpture can be very helpful to suggest how best to manipulate the wire and express the form three-dimensionally. I sculpt in wire layers and build them up over a rough wire skeletal frame (I also use steel frames on larger pieces for strength, stability and for fixing purposes). I weave the mesh layers together with the binding wire, which helps keep its shape and strengthens the form. I look closely at animal anatomy and build up from the skeletal frame the underlying muscles to the final skins, hair and texture. The process I use is very Bme consuming and a large piece can take a few months to complete, the hope is that all the layers of underlying form can be sensed through the finished surface, adding to the sculpture’s sense of life and movement. However, if there is a Bme restraint wire can be used far more quickly if less layers are used and can successfully capture the expression and energy of a sketch.”
Haste has been inspired by a range of different artists who have created artworks on the theme of animals. From the Egyptians and Assyrians in the British Museum, to Pisanello, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Albrecht Durer who were fascinated by nature, right up to George Stubbs, Elizabeth Frink and Nicola Hicks.
Portuguese wire sculptor David Oliveira states that he uses the visual language of drawing in his sculptures. This makes sense to me as his sculptures look like a sketch that can be viewed from all sides. Two dimensions become three dimensions in his work.
“Usually, I don’t draw in 2D, I go straight to the wire. I combine all the information that helps me to understand what I want to represent, and then I start. The mental process is much the same as drawing.”
Artist Celia Smith states that she uses wire in the same way that other artists use a pencil. Her work focuses on birds and she regularly goes out on drawing trips to nature reserves and islands. Her wirework has a life and spontaneity to it, and she would be a good artist to look at if any of your students were studying ‘movement’.
“Picking up a rusty piece of metal on a farm track, or finding a squashed electrical cable in a road, are for me, like finding little bits of treasure.”
If you’ve enjoyed this post on wire artists, you’ll love my post on collage artists!
The video below shows how to create a wire drawing of a shell. It’s an ideal first project to introduce students to working with wire. It includes what wire I have used and the video is under 4 minutes long, so it makes an excellent start to a lesson.
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