• Edwin Bogucki

    Artist Edwin Bogucki in his studio

The Artist and His Vision

A soft-spoken but passionate man, Edwin Bogucki was gifted with an innate curiosity about the world around him and an unparalleled artistic talent. These qualities became the cornerstone of a career that spanned more than 55 years. His body of work reflects a life-long pursuit of realism seen through the eyes of an artist obsessed with capturing the vibrancy of life.

If someone were to mention the words self-taught to Bogucki, he would quickly respond “I didn’t do it all by myself!” Insisting instead that, while his artistic techniques weren’t nurtured in a classroom, he had more instructors than any university could provide. “Hundreds and hundreds of people have touched my life. Experience creates an artist — he doesn’t just emerge from a cocoon like a butterfly.

“I have been so fortunate in my life. The good lord has provided exactly what I needed when I needed it. It’s funny how those things work out and lead you where you need to go.

A devoted husband to his wife Shirley and proud father of their four children, Bogucki understood the importance of family as a basis for the development of strong character. “My parents both came from Poland. My mother brought Poland with her to America while my father concentrated on becoming Americanized. My mother had a lot of tenacity and she would stick with things to the bitter end. My father always searched for the best way to do things. Together they gave me the ability to choose quality over quantity.

“My parents tried to keep me away from art, but in doing so they drove me deeper and further than I could have gone on my own. Actually, they thought it was wishful thinking. I was a dreamer.

“My father used to buy life magazine when I was a young boy. The art in it and the information about artists intrigued me. It frustrated me when my father would staple the pages together that he thought were not suitable for his children’s viewing. I would have to go to the corner drugstore to look at what was between those pages.

“My early education really began when I started wandering around and exploring at age five. It wasn’t quite as dangerous then as it is now. I used to think my mother was too strict but I realize now that she wasn’t always in control of where I was going or what I was doing.

“I lost track of time during my childhood and never got a hold of it again. I was always so preoccupied with what I was doing, whether I was out walking through fields or in the swamps or little creeks. I loved looking at crayfish and how they functioned.

“Interacting with the way things flow and move, watching animals, getting in the rhythm of nature is one of the greatest experiences a person can have. Everything is life and life is fascinating.

“I didn’t have a watch when I was a kid. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have paid attention to it anyway. When the sun went down, the cold reality would hit me that I hadn’t been home since morning. I wasn’t home for dinner. I didn’t make it for supper. I would come home so late and I would really get it, but it was worth it.

“It sounds like an excuse, but I just can’t keep track of time. My family teases me. They say I don’t need a clock, a calendar maybe, but not a clock. Whenever people see me, I’m dog tired. Everyone probably thinks that’s just how I am. It’s really only because I’ve been working all night.

“Working such long hours can be a curse and a blessing all in one. My work is self-perpetuating and it’s difficult to just stop anytime. When things are going well, I want to keep working to make the most of the creative flow. When things aren’t going smoothly, I have to stick to it until they do. I don’t want to walk away feeling discouraged.

“People often ask how long a particular piece took to create. I like to tell them ‘It’s taken my whole life.’ If I didn’t like what I do so much I think I would be able to tell them exactly how many hours I spend from beginning to end. Since I enjoy what I am doing, it doesn’t matter.

“The most important thing an artist can have, even more important than being able to create, is the ability to keep that fire going inside themselves. That drive, the obsessive and insatiable hunger and desire to create something all the time is essential. If your ideas have gotten stale or if you’re just coasting along because you think you’ve already arrived, you might as well pack your bags and get ready to cash in somehow because there’s nowhere to go from there. God forbid I ever assume that I have no more to learn. That is the kiss of death for the creative process.

“If you’re open to new ideas you will always know there has to be something better in you. It’s what they call divine discontent. If you have divine discontent, you have the greatest gift going. It’s not something that hinders you. It gives you an edge, drives you and makes you hungry for something else. It makes you want to do better. You compete against yourself rather than someone else.

“I find that I am constantly pushing myself. Making myself try things that might not even work. Sometimes I start to feel pressured and cranky. Pushing yourself can be laborious and frustrating. Things don’t always come along as fast as you’d like or need them to. The reward comes when a piece finally starts to flow along smoothly.

“The feeling that the subject transfers to me is the most valuable thing at the beginning of a new project. When I receive a commission, I need to go and see the animal. I spend time with the subject, taking videos, photos, and measurements. Pictures are good tools for memory, but when you only see things through a camera’s single lens it’s never as educational as seeing with your eyes and your heart.

“Every horse has different characteristics and a unique personality. If you can lay that back out to people so that they can see it just as you saw it, then you’ve succeeded.

“For me, horses were always easy to get excited about. I saw my first horse when I was two and have loved them ever since.” Bogucki owned horses for the majority of his life. With their barn only a few steps from the studio door of the home he designed, the artist was able to visit his living reference models whenever necessary.   One horse in particular, an Egyptian Arabian stallion named Cairo Mareekh became the artist’s greatest muse.  “. . . a dappled black bay with eyes that radiate pure fire. Electrical energy seems to come right out of that glossy hide. He was born here at our place and I’ve taken care of him ever since. Even after all this time, it gives me such a thrill when he comes charging into the barn, arching his neck and ‘talking’ to me. I thank God that I am blessed with the company of such a magnificent animal.

“This spiritual connection with an animal is crucial to my work. I feel that I am what I create and I apply the Stanislowski method of acting to my sculpting. I imagine that I am the horse, the rider, the hounds, etc.”

“Each piece of work is a part of me. I am making a record of my life. These are the only things of me that I can leave behind, other than my children. While grandchildren or great grand-children may forget or never even know my thoughts and ideas, a piece in bronze or a painting can affect people long after I’m gone. They will speak for me.

“If you lose the capacity to dream and wish it’s a tragedy, but if you lose the capacity to act on your dreams and wishes that is much worse. One has to be able to follow what they think and feel, or there isn’t much point. That goes for anything you do in life.

“I believe I’m here to create something that I think is beautiful. If it survives the ages because someone else thought it was beautiful too, my efforts will have been worthwhile.”

Quotations from a recorded conversation between Ed Bogucki and his Daughter, Kathi, in 1993.

  • Kathi Bogucki and Sheri Bogucki-Wirtz

The Future of Bogucki Studios

From the beginning, the artwork was all consuming. As the sole source of income, it took priority, not just for Bogucki, but for the entire family. His studios were always located at home, and life revolved around maintaining an environment favorable for creativity. His wife, Shirley, and their 4 kids accompanied him on every business trip. The group functioned like a well-oiled machine and everyone had a role to play. Whether it was picking and freezing home grown vegetables as a part of living economically on an artist’s wages, or waiting quietly and patiently on a tack trunk in a dimly lit barn aisle while Ed talked with clients late into the night, the artwork was deeply woven into all of their lives.

As an unparalleled artist and skilled craftsman, Bogucki insisted on doing the majority of the work from concept to finish by himself. Aside from the actual investment and casting of the sculptures, all other work; sculpting, mold making, wax casting, welding, grinding, and patinating was done in-house. As the demand for his labor-intensive bronze sculptures occupied more and more of his time, Bogucki began delegating responsibilities to his children based on their varied abilities. Already immersed in his work and familiar with the process involved in its creation, they were the obvious choice. For Bogucki’s youngest daughters, those simple tasks eventually grew into larger roles.

Sheri and Ed Bogucki

Sheri working with her father

At the age of 15, Sheri began doing patinas. Her earliest childhood had been filled with detail-oriented hobbies like sewing, knitting, crochet, and embroidery. The patience, problem solving skills, and eye-hand coordination she had acquired helped her quickly learn whatever her father asked of her. As a self-taught artist, Ed was not always the easiest to learn from. He would show how to do something once or twice and consider the lesson finished. Improvisation and self-sufficiency was encouraged. Before long, Sheri was involved in metal working; grinding and shaping the freshly welded castings, removing tiny imperfections from the surfaces, and hand-shaping bronze welding rod for bridles and reins. When she was 27, she took over all of the mold making and wax pouring for the studio. As Sheri shifted some of the load of work from Ed, he was able to focus more on sculpting.

Kathi and Ed Bogucki

Kathi working with her father

In his youngest, Kathi, Ed discovered an enthusiastic protégé that shared his love of horses and art. He enjoyed teaching the inquisitive child about diverse subjects like color mixing and comparative anatomy. It was a rare treat to be allowed into the studio and the privilege was not taken lightly as she quietly observed him at work and listened to her parents discuss the artwork in progress. Eventually, “constructive criticism” became an ongoing lesson for the budding artist. As Ed helped to develop her artistic eye, he grew to rely on her critiques for his own work. She produced her first equine sculpture in bronze at 17 and began helping her sister, Sheri, with production as needed. In 1988 Kathi assisted Ed in enlarging his first life-size work, harmoniously matching his style as they sculpted side-by-side on the Against All Odds sculpture for Arlington International Racecourse. She continued to work closely with her father for the rest of his career.

Today, Sheri and Kathi are dedicated to producing Ed Bogucki’s sculptures with the precise attention to detail that he always demanded. His expectations and influence were strong enough that their work discussions often evoke familiar snippets of advice that appear simultaneously in their minds as if whispered by the artist himself. Working in the same space, and using the exact tools and techniques their father perfected during his career, the sisters guide the sculptures into existence. Even their use of the iron-rich well water that has helped to give Bogucki pieces their distinctive glowing patinas since 1972, ensures there is a seamless continuity of quality. Their combined skills, learned directly from the master, make these posthumous castings indistinguishable from those done during the artist’s lifetime.

  • Kathi and Sheri at Work

The Edwin Bogucki Trust

In 2017, The Edwin A. and Shirley A. Bogucki Revocable Trust was established “to create a vehicle for preserving and celebrating the family’s heritage of Edwin’s art.” Overseen by the artist’s four children, the Trust is committed to . . .

  • hold all of Edwin Bogucki’s art and artistic rights, including licensing rights.
  • the curation of the original molds for unfinished editions of existing bronze works, as well as using the molds to create and sell the remaining sculptures in those editions.
  • production of a book about Edwin A Bogucki and his work
  • the promotion and sales of select works from the artist’s private collection
  • conservation of the contents of the artist’s studio
  • protect and support the value of the art held in public and private collections around the world whenever possible.

The Artist’s Collection

As is customary among sculpting artists, Bogucki retained copies of most of his bronze works. These artist proofs were retained as visual references for the finish work on their respective editions. A number of large, one of a kind, bronzes, done purely for his own enjoyment are also part of the extensive collection. Oil paintings, pastels, etchings, drawings, sketches, and personal items complete the impressive retrospective body of work.

The Molds

Because of the high demand for private commissions, Bogucki would often have to begin a new piece at a moment’s notice. Out of necessity, his speculative work, based upon his personal research and interests always took a back seat to paid commissions. Molds for those non-commissioned pieces were often put aside with the intention of going back to them to continue production and marketing of the edition, but that rarely happened. The oldest of those molds, made from notoriously unstable latex, and dating from 1973 to 1984, were carefully preserved in the early 90’s. It requires special handling to ensure that it doesn’t decompose, unlike the silicone he used later on. When the mold storage areas sustained water damage in 2020 all of the molds were reassessed for condition and viability. Going forward, these molds will be used by the Trust to complete as many of those editions as possible. If at any time, the molds no longer produce the same quality of detail, due to degradation of material from age or use, they will be destroyed even if an edition has not been completed. They will never be sold or licensed to be reproduced by any other entity.

The Studio

When Bogucki’s health began to decline, his studio was left, untouched, for years. Shelves of tiny clay thumbnail studies for larger sculptures, stacks of sketches, unfinished canvasses, and multiple clays that were nearing completion remain as they were on the day that he unknowingly exited the room for the last time. Every effort will be taken to stabilize and preserve the fragile, un-molded, oil-based clay sculptures. Where appropriate, scans and/or molds will be made. In the future, the Trust may choose to produce small studio editions of some of these never-before-seen works.