Paul's cast in role of sculptor; MIKE KELLY meets artist Paul Robinson, who creates lifelike sculptures of the famous and not-so-famous, and is hoping to garner support for a solo exhibition.
They, literally in some cases, have had a hand in his distinctive sculptures which are beginning to make their mark in the North East.
However, he is now looking for a helping hand to produce his eyecatching works, which can cost him hundreds of pounds to create.
Paul, 52, from Chester-le-Street, County Durham, and now married with two kids, has come to art late in life.
At school, he says, he wasn't given the chance to do the subject.
But after holding down a series of jobs including civil servant, postman, stock controller, logistics manager and ground worker, he decided to follow his dream.
"I was always interested in drawing from a young age and decided to do something once my kids had grown up and gone to college and university, deciding that life was too short and it was time to do something that I actually enjoyed," he says.
He took an Art and Design foundation course at Gateshead College in 2013, then the following year moved on to study Fine Art at Newcastle University and was awarded an honours degree.
Paul said: "I really enjoyed the college and university experience. There was me and another mature student - Jim Robson - in the year, which helped as we became great friends over the four-year period spurring each other on, and still Turn to Page 40 From Page 39 keep in regular contact."
During his time there, he began to specialise in sculpture and lifecasting.
"It came after much experimentation at college and university. I found I was interested in different processes and uses of materials, and what could be done with the materials. With a lot of help and patience from Mark Burns, the casting tech at Newcastle University, I started out creating small moulds of different objects and in the final year decided it was time to push myself with life casting, and in particular the use of specialist silicones to create a lifelike effect." Among his models was dad Brian Robinson. "He's 80 years old and a very brave man putting up with me covering him in silicone and plaster for the lifecast. Apart from myself and my dad, I've used my daughter, son and various friends for hand casts.
"My next project will be a life cast of singer John Turrell of Smoove and Turrell, which I hope to start very soon." Paul said the process starts with making a mould for the head and hands with body-safe silicone, which picks up all the fine details and can be used over hair. Next, a plaster cast is made from the head mould. "Obviously, the plaster cast is of the head with eyes closed," he said. "If the final silicone piece is going to be made with eyes open, the eyes have to shaped and sculpted into the plaster version. Another mould is then made from this. The resulting mould will then be filled with special effects-quality silicone and the final cast will be tidied up. It will then be given around 15 layers of different coloured silicone pigment to get to a skin tone resembling flesh."
Human hair is then punched into it, the most time-consuming part. Eyes are made from polyurethane resin and set into the head. Paul said: "The body is cast using Modroc (a Plaster of Paris bandage) and then cast with fibreglass in the required position, and the whole thing is assembled and dressed in the appropriate clothes and accessories."
It's a long process - it can take weeks, sometimes, months to produce a sculpture - and they do not come cheap. He says, material wise, it can cost around PS1,000 to produce a figure.
"At the moment, I have three of my sculptures displayed in the reception area of Breeze Creatives at Bamburgh House in Newcastle," he said.
"They have been a great success in their current position and I have been encouraged to do more work.
"I am currently working part-time at Breeze Creatives while continuing with my art practice, but the mediums I work with are fairly costly."
Paul said he is looking to do a series of busts with the aim of putting a solo exhibition together. Although not full figures, materials to produce them still cost around PS600 each.
However, while he would very much appreciate backing, he said he would keep producing work if he can't find sponsorship, financing them himself as and when he can, such is his love for his work. He took inspiration from his tutor in college, artist David Goard who made him look at various artists from George Segal, Sir Antony Gormley, Ron Mueck and Duane Hanson.
"Realistically my ambitions are just to keep enjoying what I'm doing," Paul adds, "and if I can, give other people a bit of enjoyment in what I do."
| If you'd like to sponsor Paul contact him on: paulrobinsonsculpture.com
My next project will be a life cast of singer John Turrell of Smoove and TurrellPaul Robinson
Art works by Paul Robinson
Artist Paul Robinson (left) and the model he made of himself