Frederic Chevarin - Movements in Stone


Sculpture and Philosophy of Life Sculpture and Feelings Techniques for Inspiration

Sculpture and philosophy of life

Is Art useful?

Frederic ChevarinIt is a challenging question an artist can ask to oneself. The answer is not an easy one because people usually think that a profession is useful because there is a need to satisfy, like a butcher who prepares and sells meat because customers need to feed themselves on animals.

In fact, Art is useful initially to the artist. Salvador Dali has fought his inner demons using his painting as a therapy. All the issues he had to deal with, are reflected in his art. With art, he cured himself of a psychological disease.

Art is also a source of inspiration, a way to find an inner balance, happiness. When I look at Brancusi’s sculptures like “bird in space”, it has a profound effect on me. It cleanses me inside, it helps me to get rid of all the unnecessary conflicts which I have in me. What is left is the most essential part of life. It shows me what life is about without all these needs which drive us to more consumerism.

Prior to carving, I have to concentrate before striking the material, as if I was in trance, in meditation. Once I have attained a level of inner calmness, I can confidently confront the material. In return, the material brings me to simplicity and to modesty. I forget about how I want to achieve the result, I become one with the goal. In “Zen in the art of archery” by Eugen Herrigel, it is explained how the target becomes one with the man who is aiming at it. The arrow is a means, the target is not real, it is a metaphysical target, impossible to reach. How to aim at the centre, what is the centre? Art is all of that. Aiming at an imaginary target, becoming one with the goal of achieving perfection in the result, in the method, in the right use of the material, in the correct understanding of the material’s characteristics.


“How can I transmit my feelings through my art?”, can be another question to answer. As the feeling is often confused among other emotions, expressing one feeling needs a great deal of energy. Although it is easy to express a feeling with spoken words, it becomes more difficult with written words. With sculpture, it is at a higher level of difficulty still as it is materialized in an object which is first of all, a translation of the sculptor’s state of mind, then an object shaped by hands and tools. This result comes from a combination of design, material appearance and properties and then, the person who looks at the piece of art should experience the emotions invoked by the piece of art. This chain of events is the same for every sculptor but, with all the possible choices of materials, techniques, design, abilities of the hand and personal style, the results are hugely diverse.

The quest

Some artists quickly find their style and constantly copy themselves in such a way that they are running a business more than anything else. Other artists are constantly searching to express themselves, they are not afraid of breaking the material, making mistakes, taking risks in a way that the research is also a personal quest. I personally belong to the second category. I have found a style but I am always searching to express myself in a better way than before. The quest can be long lasting because what an artist wants to achieve is completeness. He wants to fill a gap of unhappiness, of unbalance. This unhappiness needs to be expressed, it needs to be fed properly with research for answers about life: “what is the meaning of life? who am I? where do we come from? how to find true happiness? does God really exist?” Not every artist feels the same, but I think that the quest for answers in life can be done with practicing art because words are a poor way to express feelings, without words, the understanding of how life works becomes clearer. If I want answers about God, isn’t it a good idea to go and visit a medieval cathedral, without using words to express our feelings but using our hearts and eyes to sense the feeling of God while admiring the statues, the architecture, the stained glass windows, the gargoyles and the incredible sense of respect the cathedral can inspire. Maybe the extraordinary result accomplished by hundreds of people with very little technical means is a beginning of a response to answer the question. Every time I visit a gothic cathedral, I can imagine the labourers, sculptors, masons, architects working together. Then I feel an incredible sense of respect for the place, I feel at home, safe and happy. It is not a cathedral anymore, it is my safe place, as if I was a part of it, as if one of my ancestors had worked on the construction and sat next to me. I feel like a stone among other stones.

If I want to find where we come from, a sculpture of a bird can help to find true responses, we all come from nature, and nature is all around us. We just have to embrace the feeling without travelling far. In an excellent book written by Krishnamurti, “On nature and the environment”, the author explains how to learn from nature, how to find happiness simply by avoiding the use of words, images of the past and concepts but by embracing the feelings from the source, from nature. I knew this idea before reading the book. Deep down, I know that words are very poor to express feelings. If I see birds gliding in the air, I feel like being one of them, they are my friends and family. Therefore, they need my respect as such.


In an excellent book, “Auguste Rodin, the Art” by Paul Gsell, Rodin is asked the following question: “are sculptors religious people?” The answer is as interesting as the question. In fact, Rodin thought that the meaning of a religious mind was about finding the truth about life, loving and cherishing all manifestations of life, not following a dogmatic religious practice. He thought that his religious practice was about searching for an ideal, heading towards infinity. He continued:” the real artist must express all the truth of Nature, not only the truth from outside, but, above all, the truth within.” To him, spiritual life is everything, a real artist will see the images of the universal soul in Nature. It is true to think that, so many mysteries are in Nature, in human life that a true artist who is in quest will be heading towards these goals, it is probably an excellent way of meeting the unknown, the limit of our technical knowledge and meeting our creator. In every artist, there are doubts and fears. In every quest, there is a key to all these mysteries. And a long walk is about to start every time a sculpture or a painting emerges from the marble or the canvas. Even the artist doesn’t know exactly what will be the outcome after so many hours of hard labour. This is the price to pay for the solitary quest to find infinity, equilibrium, peace and serenity.

In the end, Rodin told Paul Gsell: “real artists are the most religious people”.

Sculpture and Feelings

Frederic ChevarinAn object doesn’t become a sculpture simply because of its title, material, colour, finishing, curves or design: it transforms into a sculpture because it has been created with love, respect and passion. With this depth of feeling an idea can emerge which elevates the material to the level of a living being. Stone becomes a very personal artwork. From a random block of stone a bird, a plant or an abstract form can become alive.

Thus sculpture is magic. The stone has the ability to entrance the observer. My master Vasco Montecchi told me one day “what you need to do is to transmit emotions. You have to give your feeling to the stone and the person who is looking at it should get it as well”. This is the difference between a piece of art and an object, the first one has the emotions within itself to be shared, the other has none. This is the real challenge for sculptors, being able to replicate what they have in their mind, soul and heart. Quality material will always convey good colour and texture, but will it contain a full load of energy? Not necessarily! That is why I try my best to open my heart to nature, to embrace all the feelings I can gather about the subject I want to carve, before drawing and carving. Then, this powerful feeling will be contained within the sculpture after hours of hard work. When I am looking at a tree in the wind, I don’t see only a tree, I see the struggle of the tree, I see the leaves which move continuously, I see the birds playing with the strength of the wind, I see the grass being flattened. I see the whole picture as if there could be a person in each element of nature.

Trees, leaves, grass, birds are all humanlike, they have feelings, they struggle, they have to face the power of nature. In this way I feel close to nature, I feel compassion, joy or anger. I engage my mind to become part of nature. I believe that every material has a certain level of natural energy, but the sculptor will impart his own energy into the stone. Later, others will feel it as well. The hardest thing is to convey that level of energy within the design. In fact, the purpose of the design is to attract people, to draw them close, then they will experience the emotions, the force and the energy contained within the sculpture.

Techniques for inspiration

Frederic ChevarinInspiration comes either from the marble or from my research. I dream, draw, observe and feel nature, then test the idea with modelling clay. If I really want to carve without having an idea, I do a freefall and carve with an axe. It’s great fun and allows me to divide large volumes of limestone very quickly, then later in the carving process the ideas emerge. It’s like a bird learning to fly before it can walk. Conversely when I have been inspired I carve slowly, taking time to amend the design to ensure that the proportions are correct and precise.

Basically all my ideas are sourced through nature. Birds, trees, the wind, herbs or flowers are all models for me to use. However, I don’t copy the bird I am carving, I sculpt its ability to fly, I find an intimate way to observe its flight, soaring and gliding above cliff tops. Copying is of no interest to me because the replica will always be poor when compared to the original. On the other hand if I sculpt the flight itself, I can achieve the comprehension of the power of flight, a true source of pleasure or struggle. Once I feel I have understood what the bird experienced during the flight I can try my best to interpret it and infuse that passion into my carving. My biggest frustration is that I have no wings. I can never truly experience how a bird in flight feels.

In fact sculpting is like a cure for a disease, a medication for frustration. It will last until I have achieved that level of satisfaction, that feeling like a bird. I sincerely hope that I will never achieve that level of happiness; otherwise no more sculptures would ever be produced.

I have chosen to write about a bird, but I could also have written about a tree being strong in the wind, herbs being shaken and battered by a storm. It is difficult to believe that I am not mad: Never mind, it’s for Art, isn’t it?

There is a new technique I am now applying to get new ideas. I try to get connected with ideas floating around me. Catching something you can’t describe easily is very hard, but it works for me. And I will try to describe it as well as possible.

To be able to connect with these ideas, I need to be in a quiet state of mind, in my workshop or outdoors, thinking about nothing in particular, just focussing on the moment, like daydreaming. As time goes by, I can get a glimpse of an idea, the mind surfing on ideas and concepts vaguely. While doing that exercise, I relax the mind, like meditating. When there is no rush, no pressure from the external world, I can get connected with higher spheres of consciousness, to find ideas which summarize what I feel at that moment, what is surrounding me, what I need to achieve. And then, the flow of ideas will come eventually.

I use this technique before starting a project or a clay model, even when I am stuck in my carving, I just stop doing and start feeling, start connecting. It is a very gentle way of finding inspiration and it allows me to prevent any forced carving. While connecting, I am wondering simple questions: ‘why I am carving, what is really essential‘. And then I become more rooted into the real life without being tormented by it. If an artist forces inspiration ‘to create because I have a deadline to meet’, then there is something wrong about it. Inspiration is a gentle flow of ideas, not a pipeline under intense pressure. This is the reason why so many artists recreate their own pieces again and again, without re-inventing themselves. Without searching for new ideas and connecting to new floating ideas.

These new ideas are the most powerful sources of inspiration I have ever experienced. And they don’t stop there, but it is a matter of a very private search and it requires openness, time and effort. I can’t teach that. Sorry!

All Sculptures Copyright © 2002 - 2011 Frederic Chevarin. All rights reserved