Satirical sculptor Wilfrid Wood learnt his trade on the cult British TV show Spitting Image. He now creates heads and figures of both the famous and unknown entirely by hand. His fascination with faces and character means he spends a lot of time drawing, inventing characters and capturing the essence of a face. Wood’s fascination with faces and bodies has inspired him to create hundreds of caricaturesque sculptures of people, from Wayne Rooney to Mark Zuckerberg. Here, he takes us behind the scenes on his process.
On growing up
I grew up in the green and moist English countryside. My family were all artists but of a conservative sort, and I’ve inherited that scepticism of anything too wicky-whacky. I fit somewhere into the British tradition which both involves a lot of drawing and a suspicion of the conceptual and intellectual aspects of art.
In my family, there were painters, designers and illustrators but no sculptors. Sculpture was similar but different, an area where I could find my own voice.
I worked at Spitting Image, and it was wonderful. Before Spitting Image, I had a dull job in publishing where I designed endless layouts for an encyclopedia. Spitting Image was hilarious, energetic and intense. It got me making things with my hands and introduced the idea that it was possible to have fun and earn a living at the same time.
‘Research’ is rather a grand title for browsing the internet looking for funny looking people.
On creative process
There’s hardly anything to say! I find someone I like the look of, do some drawings and start sculpting. There’s no mystery, just lots of getting on with it.
I was a totally crap graphic designer, so I’m delighted never to go near it again. But I can’t get enough of drawing; in fact, I do more of it than sculpting now.
Humour is massively subjective, so just because I think something is funny is no guarantee of the feeling being mutual. Primarily I amuse myself and hope it has some universal appeal.
If a sculpture or drawing is looking like a complete disaster, then I probably won’t finish it, so just the fact it exists means at some point I had faith in it.
Humans inspire me.
I like to think I can do a portrait of anyone. If someone is kind enough to sit for me for an hour, I’ll have a go at making them. Some are easier than others, but there’s no such thing as a boring face.
I just look at them and think ‘big forehead’, ‘red nose’, ‘only one ear’ or whatever. I hate standard caricature but my work, and even the greatest portraits in history, all have an element of caricature. Sports people are often good to do because they tend to look striking. Politicians are good too because they not only act strangely but are often visually peculiar.
On freelance life
It’s absolutely great! I feel that at last, aged 50, I know what I’m doing and where I’m going. I’m less apologetic than I used to be.
What do you want people to take away from your work?