Karina Furhman Sculptor/ Photographer - San Francisco, USA

How often do you ask a person to pose for you?

I imagine sculpting everyone I see. Everyone has beautiful details either in the bone structure or in the muscles formed by certain facial expressions. In person I probably approach several people per month. I also look for models on modelling and dance sites.

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Bronze Male

In general people’s faces fascinate me. Everyone has something very beautiful, a unique detail. In addition, how people’s faces change when going through different emotions fascinates me even further. A moment when someone’s face ignites in joy or someone tells you about something they are passionate about.

 How long do you need them to pose for you?

Each modelling session is typically 3 hours long. Some models don’t mind taking a lunch break and doing another session in the afternoon.



Can you give a general time frame needed for a pose to take?

For seated portraits I typically need at least 60 hours with a model and preferably during a continuous time frame. The time is either broken down into 3 hour or 6 hour sessions.

Standing poses are typically 3-4 hours sessions once a week. A life size figure may require a several month commitment. The model turns every 5 minutes and maintains the same pose with each quarter turn. There is a short break after each 20 minute session with a long break in the middle. I cherish my models so I always have treats, coffee and tea ready to go.

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Do you have music playing in the background or do you talk together?

Music is always a must. I prefer certain upbeat tempos to work to but I always consider what the model wants to do. I prefer no headphones for the model as this keeps me better connected to them. I’ve had all kinds of music and comedy requests.

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 During this process what do you learn about a person and how does this effect the finished piece?

I find portrait work really fascinating because I get the privilege of really getting to know someone and observing a unique expression that fits their personality. A friendship always forms and I feel responsible to represent the person well and honestly.


Can you discuss the overlap your photography has on your sculpture work?

Photography has been a wonderful counterbalance to sculpture. I love action photography as a contrast to the lengthy sculpture process.

During the final stages of completing sculpture, and always running into the issue of lack of funds for as many modelling session as needed, I use photos to clean forms and prepare for mould making. I take photos in both direct and indirect sunlight from various angles. Working purely from photography on sculpture is dangerous. There is a big problem of lens curvature and that is why I don’t rely on it.

Can you expand on the technical process of one of your bronze sculptures?

I made a 2 minute video on how a sculpture becomes bronze:  https://youtu.be/qgHSb7qfuDg

After all the modelling is completed the sculpture goes through the mould making process. Two layers are applied, designed to open and reveal the negative of the original. The original piece is recycled back into the oil clay bin and the mould is taken to the foundry for the “lost wax” process into bronze.


Female Chief

How have you chosen the Foundry you use?

I love ArtWorks foundry in Berkeley, California. The foundry owner brought over old classical techniques and they focus on quality. I am able to check the work at every step and make sure everything is exactly as I need it to be. It is wonderful to have ArtWorks as my partner.


Discuss the size of your work?

I prefer to work life size and larger. I am focused on public monument work. For public art proposals I create smaller models (maquettes) that are either ½ or 1/3 life size.


You call some of your sculptures ‘Gesture studies’ explain what you mean by this title.

Gesture studies are a critical to keeping my sculpture skills sharp. A gesture study is a sculptural sketch of a figure, not intended to be completed, but rather to be an exercise. In general, the body is broken down in several large masses. Identifying and placing the large forms relative to each other on a particular individual and copying them quickly onto an armature with clay is something that I focus on.

 Are there any historical people you would like to sculpt?  If so who and why?

I admire so many people, it is difficult to pick.

Walker Hancock

Walker Hancock During World War II, he was one of the Monuments Men, who recovered art treasures looted by the Nazis

You have studied sculptures from the past: Renaissance, Greek and Roman sculptures discuss how this has influenced your work?

How artists spoke through sculpture fascinates me. To see the dynamic development of this artform in historical context is incredible. The power of the Greek’s like Praxitalies, and Phidias, Michelangelo’s and Leonardo Da Vinci during the Renaissance, Carpeaux and Houdon during the 19th century, American Saint Gaudens and Chester French, to name just a few. I am always pushing myself to be better and look to my idols for lessons in anatomy, facial expressions and to learn how they communicated through their work.
Saint Gaudens Studio

Saint Gaudens Studio

You are very interested in Studios, current and historical can you expand on this interest.

As Rodin said sculpting large masses correctly is key, I would add that if you can’t see them in good light then there will be trouble. Classical art is done in north facing studios. One can work in north light most of the day, it is constant and consistent. Most of the day direct sunlight does not enter the studio, and forms are illuminated well so that each plane change is easy to identify.


Karina Furhman’s Studio

Take two artists and their studios and why they are of particular interest to you?

What fascinates me in general about studios is natural light. There is nothing better to work with and has been used by artists for thousands of years. A model placed at the right spot in north light makes forms so clear and modelling can be done quickly. For me working with a model in good light is a joy.

Photograhpy Studio in Paris

 Photograph Studio in Paris

Discuss your interest in studio photography and paintings both current and historical?

I love photography. I see something I need to capture and I need to frame it just right. Portrait photography is lots of fun. I get to study a model’s face up close and try to portray them as beautifully as I can. I’ve had fun photographing a very wide range of events from small private events to drone racing, weddings, animals, kids. I like to study the poses from different angles and often have a model photographed before starting the armature process.

In addition to studying sculpture throughout history I’ve research and studied many painters throughout history. Historically figurative fine arts excelled in anatomical mastery and composition and communicated easily with the viewer. It’s wonderful to reference a certain detail of a piece located in the Louvre, and technology makes that type of study much easier.

Comment on your own studio and some of the aspects that you have introduced due to your historical interest in studios.

I am currently planning my own studio / urban art centre. The studio will be based on the classical north facing skylight and window lighting that will consistent all day natural light.


Contact details.



Karina Furhman, San Francisco, USA

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, August, 2016