June 2012 Featured Artist
A Plein Air Sculptor by Steve Doherty
D. L. Engle working on a plein air sculpture of a Shire stallion
The benefits of working directly from live subjects extend to every artist, including sculptors like Californian D.L. Engle. "I cannot do authentic work without first exploring the live presence and character of whatever animal being studied," she explains.
“I work directly from live models because that is the essence of what the sculpture will be about”, D. L. Engle said said when we asked her about her plein air sculptures. “ Observing animals in an environment where they are at ease and exhibiting natural expressions, gestures and behaviors means that I visit any place they can be found and studied. It often takes a long period of acclimatization before some very shy animals will allow themselves to be observed.”
Engle, on the left, with, her maquette for A Colorful Character and the cowboy who modeled for her.*
Engle goes on, “As with most Plein Air painters, my field studies are often later enlarged in the studio. My largest field study to date that has become a finished bronze is the 11.5" tall Shire Stallion Pride and Power; shown in the photograph of me with the clay model. Because my work is gestural, I prefer to create three-dimensional plasticine clay studies rather than two-dimensional pencil sketches. I can create a useful clay study in about one to three hours. A scheduled paint/sculpt-out event not a common occurrence so I most often work on my own but I really do enjoy the camaraderie of other artist.”
Engle’s plein air sculpture A Colorful Character
“My many years of researching animals has lead to some remarkable acquaintances and opportunities. Last year I was in Poland and Germany to see some very rare 'primitive' types of dogs. -notably the Taigan, an ancient hunting dog originally from Kyrgyzstan. Strangely, this later put me in contact with someone in the US who was planning to import a Taigan from Russia. I now have the great joy and honor of paying host to a 7 month old Taigan pup that I just picked up at LAX and will keep until further arraignments can be made to send her on to her new owner. You can bet I'm doing studies of her.”
* photo by Tony Chong
Chaffy Community Art Association - Sharing the gift of visual art since 1941
D. L. Engle Featured Artist July 2011
“The creation of an art work capable of conveying emotions or feelings is mainly an act of intimate and loving exploration. My efforts have succeeded when they elicit from the viewer the same sense of wonder and discovery that initially drew me to a particular subject.
My muses are expressive animal and human forms, in particular dancers who have the ability to carry themselves with the same natural grace and self awareness instinctive to most animals. Within such physical presence lies the potential to convey all that human existence can experience. It can take many years of studying a subject to gain access to the level of understanding where the subtle nuances of its form and how it moves and carries itself will begin to speak its story.
An intensive amount of study from live subjects is needed including direct experience with their life force. These studies, which can include both two and three dimensional sketches done from life, will often take on the character of an animated sequence as the relationship of movement to gesture to mood is wrought into being.
The result is an organization of internal forces from powerful to subtle, into a sculptural form suggestive of movement. The effect of that arrangement is furthered by sensitive surface plains that flicker and lead over the work, achieving a life like presence and expressive emotion.”
D. L. Engle
* photo by Gene Sasse
Our Sighthounds 2010 (translated from the original German)
Sighthound sculptures of a breathtaking beauty
by Gabriele Schröter
When I came to California last year to judge Salukis I met an extraordinary artist – thanks to a German friend: D. L. Engle of Valinda, in the area to the southeast of Los Angeles. As her sculptures are not only animals in general but also include a variety of sighthounds I thought she might be of interest to the readers of Our Sighthounds.
Her connections with sighthounds began early. D.L. Engle, Debbie for short, was fascinated as a school girl by an Afghan Hound that she passed daily on her way to school. She admired his character, detected his strong personality in his attitude and physical reactions. The first Afghan she owned herself was a rescue – tied to a fence because the owners had to move house. In fact she moved house in order to be able to keep the dog herself! With him she got to know the many possibilities to work and enjoy sighthounds: from shows to open field and lure coursing, obedience and agility. She has continued to keep rescue hounds. And she has continued to see in an animal’s physical appearance what it radiates, what it makes us feel and has since formed it into a multitude of sculptures.
D.L. Engle has worked as a professional artist in the south of California for over 30 years. Two meters high or 10 centimeters long, her bronzes of man, wild animals, horses or dogs, mostly sighthounds are a commitment to the admiration of the beauty of nature. She herself says, “being an artist is not something you do, it is something you are. “
Her knowledge of the individual anatomy and way of moving is taken from observation on-site – in a stable, a zoo or otherwise in direct view of the live object, the character of which is taken in at the same time. The results are accordingly authentic and lively. For her a sculpture should have a room-filling vibrancy that lets you see positive reactions on people who view her works. They react to the power that the nature of the animals emanates. She sees herself in the tradition that dates back to cave art when animals as a part of nature were still a mystery to man.
The power combined with seeming effortlessness of lions has impressed her, but the most magnificent animal for her is a huge Friesian stallion who in his stall at first was as intimidated by her as she was by him but who then came to a playful 'co-operation'. To quote Engle: "… could be material enough for a lifetime of study and sculptural expression."
Their direct association, their partnership with man that enables both partners to see and understand the other’s emotions is what makes the special relationship with dogs. He is man’s most direct association with nature. And this intensity of emotional exchange and is what makes dogs the favorite subject of her art. Especially sighthounds that share her daily life have that special combination of captivating physical flexibility, power and elegance, nature and closeness to man.
Thus Engle approaches her subjects first in delicate pencil drawings, then forms a clay model that allows to deal with it three- dimensionally in a small and soft material. Then follows a maquette that gets even closer to the final aim, and finally when the piece of art finds the artist‘s approval it goes to the foundry that produces an edition of 15 to 50 – depending on the size of the piece. The prices for the individual pieces vary accordingly from $200 for miniatures to $15,000 for the largest ones. Engle also makes jewelry in silver and gold and has started to make drawings and limited edition prints available.
Her work is collected and treasured all over the world and has been exhibited and awarded prizes in many museums in America (The National Sculpture Society, The Wildling Art Museum, The AKC Museum of the Dog). In 2011 ‘Desert Winds‘ took the Best of Show Award at the Associated Artists of the Inland Empire fine art juried exhibit!
Go and have a look at the artist’s website and see foryourself: www.dlengle.com
or contact her personally for more information or commissions: email.
Autumn 2011 National Open Field Coursing Association
A Special Unveiling at the 2011 Grand Course by D. L. Engle
This season the NOFCA Grand Course will see the unveiling of new artwork for the Alpaugh Trophy, a specially commissioned bronze sculpture titled “Hard Turn”. The sculpture will sit atop a tall pedestal that will hold the inscribed names of the winners since the inception of the award in 1990.
The Alpaugh is a perpetual trophy donated by Herb Wells, Dan Imre, Daniela Imre, Dan Belkin, Laura Belkin and Julia Holder to honor the Saluki with the highest total score over the three-day NOFCA Grand Course. Daniela Imre designed and executed the original artwork, which featured a hand painted saluki close behind a sculpted hare, mounted on a natural wood base. In 2009, the base had room for only one more winner’s name, and the years had also taken their toll on the fragile parts of the trophy. The donors decided that the artwork should be retired with the owner of the 2009 winner. Fortunately, that owner (Charlotte Wrather) did not want to see the long tradition of the Alpaugh Trophy come to an end, and she offered to replace the artwork.
When Charlotte approached me with the idea of adapting one of my existing saluki bronzes for the purpose I was of course thrilled and honored. But we soon realized the Alpaugh Trophy would require a new art work, one especially designed to represent open field coursing. Charlotte took a leap of faith and commissioned something that didn’t yet physically exist and couldn’t even be seen! What a depth of gratitude I owe her that she trusted me, for it allowed me to design a piece based on some of my most memorable experiences and deepest interests, those that are the foundation of my artistic work.
Though it was long ago, the time I spent walking canyons and fields with my hounds was a profound one in my life. I remember the horizon an unbroken 360º where the lonely wind is the only sound but for the occasional drumming feet of the coursers upon the Earth. Such were the long hours of quiet observation where I learned about animals. I noticed that what ever activity or feeling engages an animal does so fully. They exist unselfconsciously in unity with the moment’s purpose. The natural physical expression of their moods combined with athletic prowess is matched in humans only by highly skilled dancers. I became obsessed with studying how animals use their bodies, not just as exceptional athletes but also to display their emotions. Dogs are a perfect source for such observations because we can live and work in such intimacy with them. It is a rare privilege to have walked with fine coursing hounds, knowing theirs are forms that have stood the test of time for thousands of years.
These experiences I drew on when I began working the clay. I know I have only the shapes of shadows and the various degrees between light and dark with which to impart tangible emotions to the work; for that is the basis by which the human eye interprets objects. An artist is very conscience of this and composes these elements to purposeful effect. Preceding any touch on the clay, I have studied the nature and essence of each subject, their relationship to each other and the mood or feeling that the sculpture will express. In the case of “Hard Turn” that was heart stopping dynamic drama; the climax of a chase so close that either hare or hound might still prevail.
To create the effect of speed and excitement the dominant masses of clay are arranged in a spiral cascade that imparts swirling motion throughout. Hard edges, angular planes denote quickness of action and tension. The finish surface treatment creates flickers of light that chase over the piece as the viewer moves around it, thus teasing and drawing the eye onward to discover subtler patterns and rhythms with in the forms. Counter point balances point through out the composition adding dynamic rhythm. Expressive gestures give the work ‘presence’.
When I took the nearly completed clay to the Lompoc specialty I was very gratified that it received an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from so many who are deeply involved in the sport. Time after time I saw the response to the emotional message of the work. People’s eyes flowed over the form, circling around it, open smiles and wonder growing on their faces. I felt a very satisfying connection with others through our shared love of the experience of coursing and of having delivered the message on point.
I like to think these works will continue to share their stories long after I’m gone, that people not yet born will look at them and gain insight about something that was of value or profound in our lives because of the way it made us feel. Works like “Hard Turn” will continue to give testimony of our ties to the beauty and mystery of the eternal life processes of which we are a part; the cycle of life. Our joy and fascination with this is deep and universal. We live more fulfilled for renewing and celebrating that connection thorough the shared experience of art.
about the author
D. L. Engle is a professional bronze sculptor who lives in Southern CA. Debbie, as she is known to friends, has exhibited at the National Sculptor Society juried exhibits in N.Y. and is also an exhibiting member of the prestigious California Art Club. Her bronzes have won many awards and are found in collections around the world including the Wildlings Museum of Fine Art in Los Olivos (Santa Barbara Co CA). Wildlings recently purchased her bronze “Puma Ways” for its’ permanent collection after it was awarded a major cash prize of $5000 in a juried art competition.
Though her work represents many species including humans, she frequently returns to dogs for their expressiveness, variety and beauty. “Hard Turn” is only the latest of several Saluki editions which include the coveted “Got It!” and “Gotcha!” (a playful rendering of a puppy pair, now sold out) and the sublime “Desert Winds” which amazingly sold out half the edition before it was even publicly announced.
Her latest saluki work; “Hard Turn” is being produced as a limited edition bronze, and is currently available for order.
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