Simon Gudgeon is best known for his 10ft bronze of Isis set in Hyde Park but his stunning 26-acre, alfresco gallery, Sculpture by the Lakes, near Dorchester, is a lynchpin of the Dorset arts scene. 

“I get up at 7am to feed the dogs and head to my studio by 7.45am. It’s only 100 yards from the house so it’s not too grim a commute. I like to spend the morning getting admin out of the way but my wife Monique comes down at 8.15am and we walk the dogs round the lakes before I head back to finish up my paperwork.

“I try to make the afternoon all about sculpting. I’ve just designed a new, very experimental abstract piece. The finished product will be about 12 to 14ft tall. I’m also doing a series of 45cm skull sculptures – a tiger in bronze, a cougar and a bald eagle. And I’m working on a series of 6ft sculptures based on Arabic calligraphy.

“It’s a process which can take months or even longer. Isis – from the initial concept to placing it in Hyde Park – took me about eight or nine years.

“I first make an 80cm replica out of clay or foam. Then I make a larger one – about three to four metres tall. Finally, I take it all to the foundry. They cast it, before I do the finishing, applying chemicals to the metal under heat to add pattern and colour.

“If I’m home, I’m working, seven days a week. If I want a break, I have to get away. Even then it’s hard. We’re flying to Kenya for three weeks in February but I’ll still be taking my sketch book and camera.

“But it wasn’t always this way. I started out as a lawyer and I hated it. The day I fully qualified, I quit. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I tried a few things – landscape gardening, photography. Then my mother bought me some paints in my mid 30s and I was hooked: I became a professional artist within 18 months.

“And when I turned 40 I bought myself some clay and sculpting took over. I’ve never looked back. 

“I’ll keep at it until about 4pm, then walk the dogs again. Nature is my inspiration - a blade of grass or the curve of a feather - so the walks are crucial. Then I’ll get back to the studio until about 7pm before packing it in to have a glass of wine.

“But even then, there’s always something else to plan. I’m building a new, two-floor gallery by the water. We break ground in June and hope to finish it by next Spring. It’ll be the biggest gallery in the South of England – a major undertaking. And I’m just putting together our new Sculpture by the Lakes coffee table book, which comes out in April.
“Some artists like to work through the night and sleep all day. But not me. By 9pm, it’s all over: lights out at ten.”

DOMVS: 17th Jan 2014 11:38:00