Diary of a Sculptor: Volume One

Weta Workshop is excited to announce a very special collaboration with New York sculptor, Sabin Howard. We are working with Sabin on the World War I memorial relief sculpture "A Soldier's Journey," to be displayed in Pershing Park, Washington D.C. As Sabin progresses in his work, he'll share his thoughts on the sculpting process from deep inside the walls of the Workshop, starting with his first installment below. Enjoy.

Playing Forward the Re-humanization of Art

Journal Entry #1

Written by Sabin Howard 

17.08.25 Walkway to Wall

I came to art late in life at age 19 with the thought that there were three artists to pay attention to and emulate: Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael. And in my ignorance, I had no understanding that anything else existed in the art world. So when I answered my call to be an artist on that fall day in October 1982, my sights were on the sacred quality of art that I was all too familiar with from childhood; not on what was going on around me.

"An obsessive quality drove me forward."

From that moment on I worked with life models, drawing and sculpting traditionally five to six days a week, from nine to five, for over 25 years. An obsessive quality drove me forward. When visitors came into my studio, they remarked that you didn’t know what time of day it was, nor what the weather was like outside. There were no seasons, nor a sense of time in that room. I wanted to work in an environment where time stood still and there would be no distractions. I just had this driving force to create figures that represented us and spoke of the sacred.

I was after the Re-humanization of Art, and I was learning.

Sabin 2011

In 2011, rising up out of the ashes of irony, there was a moment recorded by a cell phone shot that has tremendous meaning for me. It was taken at a foundry in upstate New York. It is a picture of the sculpture Apollo, cast in bronze. It is unfinished and still in a state of raw metal, the seam lines have just been welded, and it’s the end of the day when all the body parts have just been assembled. And in this moment of assembling all the cast sections of the figure, I remember we have just nailed the centre of gravity of that figure. It stands in perfect balance.

My intention had been to make a figure that soared upward and moved forward. I had never spent this much time or this much all-consuming energy on one piece. I used life models for two and a half years of work. We had worked five days a week for 3400 hours. It was the end of a long process of studies – 10 years, to be exact – that culminated in this moment. In my studio it had been clay, but here it was in bronze.

I am glad that moment was caught with the cell phone shot, because I will always remember it. It marks the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one.

"This would be the next step in my art-making journey."

I had no idea where life was taking me, and in 2015 I entered the WWI National Memorial competition. That summer I paired up with the architect Michael Imber and produced my first idea for the competition. I saw a picture of two US soldiers in Iraq and that initial image was the spark that initiated the idea. With that germ of an idea, I created my initial concept drawing for the WWI Memorial. The drawing and idea formed the concept for a sculpture in the round with two soldiers crouched together. The hero soldier holds his less fortunate brother-in-arms in a moment of compassion. It is a piece about connectedness and compassion that comes out in humans in the horrors of war. It was called The Brotherhood of Arms. Our team did not make the final selection. But in September I received a call from Joe Weishaar and joined his team, eventually winning this esteemed competition. I was elated. This would be the next step in my art-making journey.

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As an artist you never know what’s coming, even in the next 10 minutes. And now, 9000 miles away in New Zealand at Weta Workshop, I stood in front of the test model produced from my concept drawings. I stood there in the Imaging Studio with photo lamps dramatically illuminating the nine-foot-long Soldier’s Journey maquette. Maddy, the photographer, clicked a candid shot from behind me at that moment of introspection. An all too familiar feeling was happening. I knew that this was another moment in my life. It was another chapter. But this time, it is the beginning of the chapter – not the end. This time it is about creating the sacred art of re-humanization. And this time I am in the service of something incredibly large and powerful.

"As an artist you never know what’s coming, even in the next 10 minutes."

Our next step is creating the clay version of this nine-foot-long model of the relief wall. I look forward to being able to share my process and show that the art world has other options. It’s an amazing moment in my life to be able to share my passion with so many, and to be able to create something that speaks of the sacred, and us, in an uplifting way.

For me, this is a catalyst and a spark in the art world. We can only wait and see what other fires this creative spark will light.

-Sabin Howard

This article first appeared on Sabin Howard's blog. You can read the full version of it here. Photo credits: 1) Rendering of Pershing Park with A Soldier's Journey by Joseph Weishaar; 2) Sabin Howard at the Beacon Fine Art Foundry with cast of Apollo; 3) Test maquette developed and manufactured at Weta Workshop.

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