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The Neil Drysdale Interview: Blood, sweat and tears of The Kelpies sculptor

The Neil Drysdale Interview: Blood, sweat and tears of The Kelpies sculptor

He is renowned throughout the world for such stunning works as The Kelpies and Lifeline.

But Andy Scott can remember a time when he was having to grapple with debt and struggling to make the breakthrough after graduating from Glasgow School of Art in 1986.

In recent years, his life has gone full circle and especially since he created his dramatic work The Kelpies, which has gained global fame after being unveiled in 2013.

The two sculptures, named after mythical water horses, are the height of a 10-storey building, stand a third taller than the Angel of the North, and utterly dominate the park of forests, walks and cycleways, the Helix project, which has transformed the environment in and around Falkirk.

Quite simply, they are stunning, and Scott has been lavished with similar praise in New York during the last few days, after putting smaller versions on display in Bryant Park.

Yet, when STV inquired as to what advice he would give those wishing to follow in his footsteps, he was refreshingly candid.

  (Andy Scott)
via STV via STV

"If people asked me how to become a sculptor, I would tell them not to, as it is an extremely difficult way to make a living," said Scott.

"But if they insisted, I would tell them to learn to draw first and then find a patient bank manager.

"They should also wear ear protection when using power tools, but play their music loud the rest of the time.

"And I would also say to them: 'Don't worry too much about the so-called art world'.

"The last thing would be to get a dog, because you will need someone who will listen to you and tell you that your ideas are good."

These vast labours of love aren't constructed in weeks or even months. They require intricate drafting, meticulous planning and the ability to craft finely-tuned magic from tons of heavy metal.

Indeed, if genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains, Scott is up there in the stratosphere with Stephen Hawking.

The initial idea for The Kelpies originally came to him in 2005 or 2006 on his then girlfriend and now wife's kitchen table in Amsterdam.

"I have always been fascinated with horses and the heavy horse was at one time the driving force in industry until after the Industrial Revolution," declared Scott.

"But to see them finally being unveiled was both humbling and amazing.

"I've been delighted by the response, because it was a very long and complex project and they have also gone down very well with New Yorkers during their stay in the city."

  (Nisbet Wylie)
via STV via STV

Scott produces his art with regular teams of structural engineers, fabricators, haulage and crane operators, lighting designers and a host of other specialist professionals.

But, as somebody who has travelled the world, he has been inspired by other contemporary figures without losing sight of those who moulded classical sculptures and other works.

"What other pieces impress me? Oh, there are plenty of them," said Scott, who is as far removed from a stereotypical "art luvvie" as it would be possible to imagine.

"There's Cloud Gate in Chicago by Anish Kapoor and Glory of Commerce at Grand Central Station by Jules Coutain.

"There is the ANZAC War Memorial in Sydney by Rayner Hoff and almost every piece of public statuary in Rome and Paris.

"And then, there's the bulldog hood ornament on the front of a Mack truck, which I saw outside the hotel [in New York] yesterday...."

  (PA)
via STV via STV

Scott's recent success means he is in demand whenever city planners are considering transformational schemes.

And he confirmed he would be interested in joining the efforts to regenerate Aberdeen's Marischal Square.

A new vision for the latter went on show to the public last week and, for once in the Granite City, there seems to be something close to unanimity over the need for bold ideas.

In that light, few in his homeland are more innovative and radical than the Glaswegian.

"Any valid project is of interest and I'm flattered to be considered," said Scott.

"I've been to Aberdeen many times in the past, but not for many years.

"But if the leaders of the city council have the ambition and determination to drive culture forward, then more power to them.

"It is an honour to think my name is being linked to prestigious commissions.

"And I am delighted that The Kelpies and the rest of my folio is achieving recognition in this way.

"It has only happened after many years of blood, sweat and tears."

Scott deserves the wide audience he is now commanding. He is both redoubtable and modest, which is a rare combination in his sphere.

And, ultimately, these Kelpies are two of the most spectacular sights which have ever been built in this country.

What are your favourite art works in Scotland? Let us know, on Facebook or Twitter.

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