Stratford metal sculptor Dave McNeil studied at the The Sculpture Barn under the guidance of master sculptor David Boyajian.
In 2010, he began showing his work in various galleries and exhibitions in New York and Connecticut. His materials of choice are stainless steel, recycled steel, and stone.
He started out studying painting and illustration at Paier College of Art and received a BA from Southern Connecticut State University in 1989, working his way through various media, including acrylics, oils and pencil. His primary focus was portraiture. He worked for 10 years as police sketch artist.
In addition to commission metal art, he also works in law enforcement.
CAGCT: Dave, you lead a kind of ‘Batman’ life: police officer by day, sculptor by night. How do the two sides of Dave coexist?
DMc: The two sides never seem to meet. Opportunities to blend the two are very rare. The only time I was able to combine the two world was when I worked as a sketch artist. Artistically, I was doing portrait work at the time so I could combine the two.
Working as a sketch artist taught me how to draw the human face accurately. That was in the mid 90’s and the last time I was able to combine my artistic world with my day job. With sculpture there are no opportunities to combine the two, which is fine with me. I prefer my artistic side and my work side to be divorced from each other. I don’t have a problem separating the two. The subject of art never seems to come up when I am working in law enforcement.
CAGCT: Your work is often LARGE pieces of heavy metal. Why not work with something more portable, like, say, feathers?
DMc: I work with metal and stone because I like the permanence of it. The idea that something will be around long after I am. Who knows where one of my sculptures will end up 100 years from now? It could end up in the scrap yard or it could take its place in a park or a garden. Somebody may wonder who created it and look up my name. They might find only this article but I hope there is more to come.
I took up sculpture a little late in life, about six years ago, and I am still learning.
CAGCT: Your ‘business’ is custom metal art, created on commission. What do you work on, for fun, between commissions?
DMc: Between commissions I like to challenge myself by attempting a complicated form and duplicate it.
An example of this would be the fish sculpture I did. I never made a fish before so I wanted to see if I could make it look like it was swimming.
I tried to capture the fluid motion of the fish as it turned in the water. That expanded to the idea of a school of fish swimming together and how the form of the school swimming would look suspended in the air instead of water. I really learn a lot by challenging myself this way. I learn the possibilities hidden in the metal.
CAGCT: What part of the metal art sculpting process do you find most tedious, and the most fun?
DMc: The most tedious part is cleaning up after myself. I make a bit of a mess during the creative process. It doesn’t matter if I am painting or sculpting. Making a mess is also the fun part. I like the whole creative process. Coming up with the initial idea and then having that idea grow into something greater never gets old.
CAGCT: What do your neighbors think of your work?
DMc: My neighbors don’t see much of my work because I work out of my brother’s barn. It is made of cement block so I can’t burn it down when the sparks fly. I did some work in my driveway when I started. It was noisy and I found that with enough heat an asphalt driveway will catch on fire.