By Beth O’Brien, reporting for Bluebonnet News
Over his 30-year career, Conroe sculptor Craig Campobella has sculpted masterworks such as “The Texian,” a 14-foot bronze piece depicting the common fighting man of the Texas Revolution, and the likeness of iconic music legends such as Grammy Award winners Marty Stuart, Delbert McClinton and Guy Clark.
Campobella’s latest works are two life-size pieces that are six feet tall of William Barrett Travis and Patrick Jack. Both pieces will make their home in Fort Anahuac Park in Chambers County.
“William Barrett Travis is famous for the Alamo, but one of his first stops was in Anahuac before he headed to the Alamo, and a lawyer Patrick Jack who was his sidekick,” said Campobella. “The two of them were part of the fomentation after being jailed in the brick kilns there in the beginnings of the Texas Revolution.”
Campobella said one of the Sons of the Republic of Texas had heard about the request to sculpt the life-size figures of Travis and Jack.
“When I found out, I just threw my hat in the ring with some of my previous work, and there were three artists who made it to the final cut. I believe one was from Utah and two from Texas, and I was fortunate enough to wind up with the opportunity to present these two guys,” he said.
Campobella started sculpting the two pieces at the beginning of 2019. Campobella said one of the first things he did was to take a look at the clothing.
“We did a lot of research for that, and I used the Sons of the Republic (of Texas) for that. They have a lot of reenactments and they’re sticklers for detail. The pants we wear today are a lot thinner than the pants and the jackets (back then), because it was all woven, heavy wool and heavy cotton, so the wrinkles are different. The ammunition, the guns and the rifles, are all different as well,” he said.
Campobella said they need to make sure all of that is as accurate as possible, all the way down to the boots and the color of the boots. Campobella said it’s also very important to give the sculptures a likeness that isn’t foreign to someone looking at them.
“You want Travis to look like Travis. Patrick Jack was a little bit harder to get information on, but we got enough, to present them in a way that’s accurate and believable.”
Campobella said before the actual sculpting begins, he takes a lot of photographs and makes little maquettes, to determine things like where to place the arms, etc.
“Then I take it up to six feet. We have to build an armature that will hold all of that clay, so we do that out of steel and aluminum piping, and rebar and foam, whatever it takes. We’ll build an interior armature and start putting the clay on the outside of that. Once the sculpture is finished, then all of that goes to the foundry, and they begin the molding process,” he said.
Campobella said the first mold is over the top of the clay, and once that outer shell is hardened, it’s basically cut down the middle and opened up and all of the clay is pulled up. Then about seven layers of wax is painted on the inside of the mold you have.
“It’s put back together and opened up again once that wax has hardened. Then they’ll take all the little seams out. What they’re trying to do is get a wax representation of what I did in clay,” he said. “They’ll take that and cut it up in pieces, and they’ll dip it in this ceramic type slurry, like a cast on your arm. It builds up and builds up over a course of a couple of weeks, and you have the wax on the inside, and on the outside you have this very hard, dense coat of plaster.”
Campobella said then they stick that in a furnace, burn all the wax out, and you’ve got a reverse of what he sculpted inside of that ceramic mold.
“They pour the bronze in, and once that hardens, they break all that casing that had gone around the wax off of the bronze; then they take all those pieces and weld it back together. Then there’s these geniuses, called metal chasers, that are glorified welders; there’s a great reason why they’re glorified, because they can actually weld and you can’t tell where it’s been welded at. Wherever my thumb moves across a piece of clay or whatever, they can exactly match that, where you can look and not find the welds.” Once that’s done and it’s sandblasted and we put the poutine on it, then it’s ready.”
Campobella said the sculptures of Barrett Travis and Patrick Jack are finished.
“We’re just waiting on Anahuac; we’re waiting on Chambers County to get the base built. Once it’s ready and it’s cured long enough, then we’ll take them down to Chambers County,” he said. ““This is old school bronze, this is not fake bronze. This stuff lasts for 3,000 years. This will be around longer than anything else.”
Campobella said he has several more projects in the works right now.
To see more about Campobella’s work, log onto his website, at: