Loch Arkaig Animal Sculptures part 1: The Commission

I am delighted to have been selected as one of ten artists to contribute to the Public Art project at Loch Arkaig Pine Forest in the Highlands. The ancient Caledonian pine forest was acquired by a partnership between Arkaig Community Forest and The Woodland Trust Scotland in 2016. The aim is to restore native woodland habitats and re-connect people with the site for the benefit of local communities.

As part of this exciting project, a public art trail is being created along the forest track towards Glen Mallie Woodland. The trail will serve to educate visitors and school children on the history of the forest and its people, mythology, ecology and missing wildlife. My brief is to create four animal sculptures in a mixture of driftwood and salvaged wood, including materials gathered from the forest site; A lynx stalking a roe deer, a wild boar and a capercaillie in full display.

With the aim of having four pieces of work completed for early May it was agreed that I should use locally sourced driftwood to create the original framework. This could then be built up using the Loch Arkaig material so that the finished artwork has a tangible connection with the site itself.

The material was kindly foraged, donated and delivered for the last week in March by which time I had already been hard at work on all four sculptures. My subjects are a roe deer being stalked by a lynx, a wild boar and a capercaillie in full display.

Having researched each animal, I set about the task of forming a secure framework. I am fortunate to live less than a mile from the beach at Elrig near Port William in South West Scotland and make frequent visits to gather driftwood. I stocked up for this project, seeking out sturdy pieces to form the frames.

At this stage, it is mostly about scale and I don’t make permanent fixes until later. Often I come across more suitable pieces that can be substituted or a tweak is needed here and there. I’ve selected a pose for the roe deer so that is alert and perhaps aware of danger, head held high.

The lynx will be a new challenge as I have not previously sculpted a member of the cat family. The lynx is sleek, yet strong and a powerful predator. I think that this sculpture won’t truly “come alive” until I have done some detailed work on the head.

The wild boar is another strong beast. I think the challenge here will be to reflect its rugged nature, particularly the coat and its very distinctive head. Finally the capercaillie is likely to prove the most challenging. It is a surprisingly large bird and capturing such a dramatic display of feathers using an assortment of wood will take some careful planning. I have an idea in my mind but am always prepared to adapt as the project develops.

With the framework now in place for all four sculptures and the Loch Arkaig materials safely delivered, the sculptures should start to evolve quite rapidly. Because it is quite a tight schedule I am trying to keep all four developing simultaneously. In my next blog I will feature a progress report and photographs of the next phase of work and take you through the process as each sculpture develops.

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