Joel Prevost says working with clay is a kind of therapy. A serene respite from daily life.
“One of the things that does transpire even through our system is the mineral in the clay. It’s nourishing. It does feel organic,” the Nanaimo-raised sculptor said.
“I’ve tried different medium to sculpt and I resign myself to just go back to clay because … the other medium become very mechanic, very structural. The clay always stays organic. You’re playing in dirt.”
Prevost was first introduced to sculpting as a child, but it wasn’t until adulthood that he returned to the art form. At the time he was dancing with Crimson Coast Dance Society, and as somebody who “worked with my body all my life,” Prevost said the body was the natural subject of his art.
“That’s what we were doing almost all day long. Observing, studying the anatomy through a mirror,” he said.
“If you look through the history of sculpting – Michelangelo, Rodin – they were sculpting the body because, historically, sculpting was the print to keep an image of kings, of popes. Better than a painting was a sculpture beaus a sculpture is going to be totally true in 360 degrees.”
For the past 10 years Prevost was living in Montreal sculpting with live models. He said, “The body is not just a shape; it’s somebody breathing. The idea is how to portray that individual.” Last year he returned to Nanaimo and is now offering classes at his Vancouver Island Sculpting Studio. He said he finds it refreshing to guide his students toward reaching their goals.
“I have fun because as an artist we always work in isolation and this is one place where you can share what you do, share your passion and also have interaction with people,” he said.
“Because if not I work alone so much you get to the point where you could turn crazy.”
Prevost added that the novelty of working with a nude model wears off after a few minutes due to the attention required of the clay. With the sculptors positioned around the model, he said they are paradoxically not sculpting the same thing, even though they are working with the same subject.
After a few weeks Prevost said his students report feeling “totally regenerated, excited and full of energy. Which is interesting because they come here and work hard. They work physically hard and intellectually also because they are focused.”
More information about Prevost’s classes is available here.