Every great work of art is the product of a unique process. The famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is made up of at least 30 separate layers of paint, 86 changes were made to Thomas Jefferson’s initial draft of the Declaration of Independence before finalizing it, and Lubbock’s finest bronze sculpture artist, Garland Weeks, uses an eight-step process for each of his masterpieces. Weeks’ masterpieces consist of more than just his sculptures, but also his lifelong legacy.
Step One: The Armature
The process of creating a sculpture all starts with an idea. Just as one simple idea can be the start of a bronze masterpiece, Weeks’ idea of attending Texas Tech University in the fall of 1961 was the start of a lifelong masterpiece.
As Weeks starts building the armature for a new bronze sculpture project, he is essentially creating the structural framework formed out of steel pipe, PVC pipe and wood. Weeks said he considers his experience at Texas Tech the structural framework of his future.
“I crowded four years into six, because I changed majors four times,” Weeks said. “I think I had 230 hours by the time I graduated. I had no master plan. Agricultural economics is just what caught my attention. I liked the numbers and that kind of stuff.”
Throughout his time at Texas Tech, Weeks built a relationship with Wayland Bennett, the dean of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. Weeks said he now considers Bennett one of the most influential people in his life.
“He was a great human being,” Weeks said. “I had a lot of instructors at Texas Tech who were really good instructors, and we became lifelong friends. I probably made more friends at Texas Tech with staff and fellow students than I ever made in high school. Wayland Bennett was a first-class human being. He truly took an interest in the students, and you could go by and talk to him anytime.”
After the structure is built in the first step of sculpting, foam is used to fill in areas of large mass. Just as this is done, throughout Weeks’ time at Texas Tech, he filled in extra space by becoming heavily involved on campus. He was a student body officer, a student council member representing the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, a member of the Greek social fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and was a two-year letterman in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. Weeks earned the honorable Dub Parks Memorial Award from the Texas Tech Rodeo Association in 1966 and later was inducted into the Texas Tech Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1992.
Step Two: Building the Clay Form
The next step in the bronze sculpting process is building the clay form. This is what adds details to the overall surface of the project. Weeks’ personal clay form was built through his time serving in the United States Army, a part of the 73rd Signal Battalion in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, during 1968-1969, post-graduation from Texas Tech. This is a critical step in the creation process when Weeks judiciously applies oil-based clay onto the form.
Just as the clay form process goes, Weeks’ life was also shaped throughout his time working as an agricultural economist. He worked for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association as a market analyst, sold agricultural chemicals for Chemagro, now known as Bayer, and worked for T. Boone Pickens in Amarillo trading commodities on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He later worked at Rim Rock Cattle Company buying feeder cattle, raising sales and all of the commodity hedging.
Step Three: Building the Mother Mold
The mold-making phase is the start of the realization of the final sculpture. This step of Weeks’ life is when he picked up sculpting as a hobby.
“I was rodeoing with a couple of guys who were doing some sculpture, and I said, ‘I think I can do that.’ They said, ‘Oh no you can’t,’ so they gave me supplies, and I started doing it, and I’m still doing it,” Weeks said.
He said he began his journey with just small cowboy sculptures and eventually expanded to sculpting much bigger projects.
“I was a rank amateur, and all you can do is get better,” Weeks said.
Step Four: Making the Wax Mold
In the fourth step, Weeks begins the lost wax method. This is when the final product is becoming a reality. Yellow ceramic slurry is applied, or invested, over the entire wax form to bind all of the pieces together and then allowed to cure. In Week’s life, this is the step when he realized his true passion and calling.
“I worked in the industry for a long time,” Weeks said. “I had been doing sculptures at night and on the weekends, and I realized this is what I really wanted to be doing. The best decision I ever made was to pursue this full-time and make that commitment. When I made that commitment I never looked back. I have been absolutely committed to this ever since day one, and that has made the difference.”
Step Five: Pouring Bronze
Step five of the process is when the bronze finally comes to the table. The bronze is poured into the mold, and then the metal is solidified enough to break off the ceramic-glass shell with a hammer and expose the hardened casting. The bronze is then allowed to completely cool and creates the substance of the sculpture.
The bronze is to the sculpture as Weeks’ education is to his career. His agricultural economist education and background has been a solid platform and addition, to a successful sculpting career.
“It gave me a good idea of how to keep a good set of financial records so I know at the end of the project whether I really made any money or not.”
Step Six: Reassembling
After all of the individual parts of the sculpture are cast and cooled, the next step is to reassemble the bronze pieces back together, creating a single sculpture. With any profession, it takes more than one part to complete a final project. Weeks works with many clients, making their ideas come to life.
Dr. Robert Tidwell is the curator of historic collections at the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock, Texas. Tidwell and Weeks have a built a relationship over the years, working together on multiple projects.
“Garland has become friends with many of us at the NRHC,” Tidwell said. “He is a very congenial and gregarious person. He is the kind of person who is difficult to dislike.”
Step Seven: Finishing the Bronze
The next to last step in the bronze sculpting process is when the color of the bronze is added. This step finishes the process of creating a masterpiece. With time, this color will darken and mature. With time, Weeks’ life has molded into a masterpiece, just like the end product of all his bronze sculpting projects. He now has pieces exhibited all over the world – from Mexico City to Buckingham Palace.
“It’s a personal mission. You’ve got to strive to get better every day.”
Step Eight: Completing the Sculpture
The final step of completing a sculpture is when the bronze piece is mounted on its base. Weeks calls Lubbock, Texas, his base, where he works happily from a studio right off of his house.
“What I am doing today is 40 years better than what I did day one,” Weeks said.
“It’s a personal mission. You’ve got to strive to get better every day.”
There is obviously much planning, hard work and talent that goes into being a bronze sculpture artist. The process of Weeks’ life so far has been just as detailed as the process of bronze sculpting; a true work of art.