A portrait sculpture represents an individual in the immediate present, but it soon becomes fixed and permanent, and takes its place in the company of existing likenesses of people. Throughout history people have sculpted portraits for practical reasons: Egyptian tombs hold crude limestone replacement heads, in case something should happen to the real one. Renaissance palaces display busts of princesses made to advertise an interest in marrying kingdoms together. Shop windows present mannequin likenesses of familiar fashion models to help sell the clothes they’re wearing. People have portraits sculpted to commune with a tangible reminder of another person, to honor someone, or just because they think it would be an interesting thing to do. We appreciate these portraits as markers in time, as we look back through the past. We value them, whether they hold a position on a higher or lower cultural shelf, and enjoy them whether or not they are regarded as art.
Every portrait sculpture is a new thing, and every person sitting for one brings to it a unique personality and appearance. Sparked by this individuality, I begin by working directly from life, in clay. If artist and client have agreed on, say, a 3/4-sized bust from the waist up, that is what we will end up with, but the process toward that end is never the same. After the first sitting, I may continue working from memory and photos, may start a second version, or draw, to gain a fuller appreciation of the subject. One or two sittings are sufficient, though some sitters choose to be involved in a longer and more interactive process.
Whatever form the finished product takes, the person is what is important. Context and material are evocative and potent, but secondary; the life of the portrait sitter is reflected as a kind of life in the portrait sculpture.