Steve Winterburn's legendary sculptures feature in public installations, galleries, and collectors' homes across the nation. From heart-warming and authentic memorials to sports legends in key stadiums, to ferocious animal sculptures inspired by his first-hand experiences with wildlife conservation around the world for over 10 years. Steve's art fuses the work of artist and artisan as he runs his own bronze-casting studio that calls upon thousand-year old techniques from foundrymen to create incredibly detailed bronze artworks.
Having travelled across the world as a conservationist for over 10 years, Steve is a keen environmentalist with a passion for wildlife. Being a trustee of conservation organisations such as Care for the Wild International has allowed him to explore the globe and gain first-hand familiarity with the animals that he sculpts. Through observation and experimentation with the process and materials, he immortalises his chosen species in bronze. “When I first got into wildlife I was drawing and painting. Sculpture took it to a whole new level. I needed to understand the anatomy and the movement of the animal in its entirety; how it feels, how it moves, the magic of that animal, and not many people understand that.”- Steve Winterburn.
Capturing the power, beauty, strength and resilience of these animals – including horses, cheetahs, tigers and gorillas – the self-taught artist's detailed busts are brought to life through an age-old process of bronze casting, in a medium that he says is as ‘eternal as diamonds’™. His belief that the eyes are the gateway to the animals’ souls adds emotion and intrigue to his work.
Over the last two decades, Steve has developed his own techniques, with every sculpture created in the family-run foundry. He applies a patina to each sculpture by hand, giving it a unique feel. The looseness of the finish allows him to concentrate on expressing the soul of the animal. He adds: “All these animals captivate me in their own way. They are beautiful majestic beings yet at the same time incredibly dangerous and demand respect.”
After selling his work at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Harrods and Selfridges, Steve’s profile continues to grow. Most recently, in July 2021, his statue of the legendary rugby player John Holmes was unveiled at the Emerald Headingly Stadium in Leeds. He has also exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and painted the late Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace.
Steve says: “Eyes are so important to me because ‘eyes are the doorway to the soul’. When you see animals in the wild, you judge everything from their eyes. There is a real clarity in them. You can see if they are happy, angry, agitated and many other emotions.”
Steve's innate understanding of engineering and design enables him to explore his passion for challenge and experimentation. In 2002, he set up his own studio in Yorkshire, where he personally shapes each piece from conception to completion. This is unusual in itself, as the different stages - including mould-making, mixing the patina and refining the final shape with hammers - are traditionally completed by a succession of highly-skilled artists, each of whom is a specialist in their particular area.
His sculptures are cast in bronze using the lost-wax process. Also known as cire perdue, this is a method of metal casting whereby a molten metal is poured into a mould that has been created with a wax model. Once the mould is created, the wax model is melted and drained away. The patina (a thin coloured layer that forms on the surface of the bronze due to oxidisation and other chemical processes) is an important part of the finished look, helping to bring the animal to life.
Experimentation is key to his work, as he explains: "After a trip to Greece and seeing sculptures by the masters, I was inspired to sculpt so that I could create 'reality'. Over the years, my style has evolved: it has progressed from 'modelled' work with a great amount of detail, to my current style, which is a lot looser. This is because I now understand the anatomy and have gained confidence, which has allowed me to be more expressive with my art."
Steve's research and conservation projects have seen him learn from a tiger guru in India and handle cheetah cubs in Africa. Recalling one particular experience tracking gorillas in the mountains of Rwanda, he says: "It was truly overwhelming to be in the presence of such a magnificent creature. It was amazing to see how the family groups reacted to us in their space. We had days of fun watching the babies play and having them jump all over us. However, things did turn a bit scary when a big male took a disliking to us being there; he started beating his chest and screaming at us, which echoed through the Virunga Mountains. We had to become submissive very quickly!"
If you like reading about Steve's artistic process, you can learn more about him and his amazing artistic family here.
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