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Carving out his talent

Sculptor unveils his work
in new gallery on Vernon’s square

By Konnie McCollum
Contributing Writer

VERNON, Ind. (December 2006) – One summer a few years back while living in Connecticut, Bill Holmes decided to take a sculpting class at a nearby school for sculpture. Those few lessons and the discovery that he had a real talent for the art have turned into a whole new career for the retired engineer. He just recently opened the Holmes Art Center, 14 Pike St., in North Vernon, Ind.

Bill Holmes

Photo by Ashlie Petrakos

Bill Holmes poses
beside one of his
sculptures at his new
gallery in Vernon, Ind.

Holmes had spent more than 30 years as an engineer, a military officer, college professor and innovator in the field of energy engineering. He had always enjoyed working with his hands and creating things, but during his first attempt at sculpting with clay, he realized he had found something special.
“I have a talent I didn’t realize I had,” said Holmes, 60. He added that he found out many sculptors actually have a background in engineering. “That makes sense because of the three-dimensional aspect of both engineering and sculpting.”
Holmes does the traditional portraits or busts of clay, resins or bronze. His sculptures take anywhere from six months to a year to complete, and at this point he is only doing commission work, which keeps him busy.
He works from live models; he will have them do five or six sittings when he does a life-size head. At first, he simply talks with his clients to get to know them. He wants them to relax and be natural so he can capture that image in his work. Then he will have them pose for several sittings while he recreates their features in clay.
He also takes lots of pictures of their head from all different angles so he can accurately portray them. After the clay modeling is complete, he will make a mold and then a wax replica for the bronze process.

Bill Holmes Sculpture
Bill Holmes Sculpture

He is also starting to create more of his own images instead of using models. One of his sculptures, called “Searching,” is a portrait of a man he created in his mind. The man’s haunting expression leaves its emotional impact on viewers. Holmes has planned to enter “Searching” into the Indianapolis Art Works juried art show in November.
He has also begun working with photographs to create sculptures of people from the past. Many people have commissioned him to do sculptures of family members from the past, or deceased loved ones, such as a parent. He can render amazingly life like busts of elderly people when they were young using their old photographs.
For years he worked out of his garage and never showed his work to anyone. He used family and friends for his models. Finally, last year, however, he felt confident enough to show more people his work. So in April, he entered a show in Columbus, Ind.
Many people visiting the exhibit were just amazed at his work. “I felt encouraged by the response at that show,” he said.
In the meantime, Holmes decided he wanted to find a quiet place in a small town to settle down and devote to his new passion. He found a nice, two-story place right on courthouse square in North Vernon and decided he would live upstairs and work on his sculpture.
Fortunately for him, the bottom floor became available, so he decided to go ahead and convert it into an art center.
At this point, the gallery features Holmes’ sculpture work, along with paintings, other sculptures and photography, including some unique photographs printed on canvas. There are music and books also for sale in the gallery, including “Fly Like the Wind,” by Bridgette Savage.
“We are still in the process of remodeling the gallery and planning,” said Holmes. At least a dozen Jennings County artists plan to exhibit their works in the new center.
“Many artists in the local area are excited about having a place to display their work,” he said. He said there are plans for workshops and classes for a variety of mediums, including sculpting.

• For more information, visit the Holmes Art Center online at: www.billholmessculpture.com or email: bill@billholmessculpture.com.

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