I had the challenge recently of making a nativity piece. This was wanted as an heirloom piece so I knew it was to be enjoyed for a long, long time! I had a specific idea in my head quite quickly and sketched out a rough plan in my A3 sketchbook. I wanted to make one that was rectangular rather than square or portrait, and I knew the size (A3) wouldn’t allow for all the figures of the nativity to be clearly detailed. I wanted the richness of the king’s clothes to really shine out, and to get across the closeness of Mary and Joseph and the bond of the baby that made them this little family. I did this by the positioning of their hands and the fact that they both envelop the baby Jesus. I wanted to get some of the animals in too... I really wanted to get a bunny in as well but decided that Nazareth probably didn’t feature those!
|rough sketch - page 1|
|rough sketch - page 2|
It’s a hard challenge... what should Mary and Joseph look like? What colour skin? What clothes should the kings were? Should I stick with echoes of the nativity scenes I grew up with? I have very much come away from the Catholic upbringing I had, but still have a strong sense of God. So this commission piece made me think and ponder, and that is a lovely thing to happen in a commission as it makes it a deeper experience.
So here is the piece and the client was very pleased. There is always a nervous wait in between sending a piece off and hearing back. In the photo below you can get a sense of the layers I cut with this one. In some places it was very thick, about six layers deep. It very hard to cut that away so I had to concentrate very hard to not cut myself with the scalpel.
|The surface of the piece showing the cut away layers....|
|Close up detail of the Holy Family.....|
|The finished commission|