Sculptor Scott Penegar creates works based on marine life from bronze and stone with stunning realism | Provided

Scott Penegar has lived and traveled all over the world, but living by the water is a necessity. Penegar’s a big fan of marine life. After getting an art degree at Appalachian State University, he worked as a commercial fisherman before going to the College of Charleston to study marine biology. He’s been able to successfully meld his art and marine science backgrounds into a career as a sculpture artist of beautifully detailed animal pieces. Fans of his art will be excited to see him in action Oct. 1, during his upcoming art show at Leprince Fine Art.

Penegar

Penegar typically crafts his impressive sculpture works out of bronze and stone.

“I work very instinctively,” Penegar said. “I have some sculptor friends who work in stone and they spend a lot of time measuring and blocking in and figuring out exactly what they’re going to do. I work very freeform. I just start cutting into a piece and kind of see where it takes me.”

Through that process, what he typically finds are spectacularly realized animals. Otters, crabs, turtles and birds are among the menagerie that Penegar has drawn from the elements. Aquatic life is his passion, and it comes through in the way he crafts them.

“I’m kind of known for octopus,” Penegar said when asked about his favorite. “I’ve done several, and it’s easy in some ways because you can put the arms — the tentacles — anywhere you want. But of course, there’s eight of them, which kind of slows me down. It’s not just doing two legs.”

Penegar’s expertise as a biologist definitely influences his octopus art. “As a biologist, I’m very particular about the details of the suction cups,” he said. “Your typical octopus has over two thousand suction cups,” which he focuses on intently when crafting in either stone or clay.

The end products, many of which are available to see on his website (scottpenegarsculpture.com), are sights to behold. The fluidity of movement implied by the curvature of his tentacles almost mocks the rigidity of the building material.

Audiences who attend the Oct. 1 showcase will be treated to a number of pieces in a collection of marine animals entitled, Maritime Visions. Penegar has based many of the pieces on things that have lived in, on or around the water, most of which are viewable from his backyard.

“The piece I’m most excited about — it’s not necessarily a marine animal — but it’s a bullfrog. I’ve always had this frog thing, and so I finished this bronze bullfrog named Jeremiah,” he said, excitedly. Movement was the focus of this particular piece. He’s tried to capture the bullfrog jumping off a log, in motion.

Jeremiah is actually already on display. He’s a part of the piece called The Gathering Place, which was unveiled in 2020 at Marion Square. The fountain sculptures display an intimate gathering of approachable animals. Birds, ferrets and Jeremiah adorn the much-beloved fountain. It’s a beautiful installation that joins Penegar’s other local public pieces, like his impressively wing-spanned eagle for The Citadel. Penegar likes to work big when he can.

Penegar will also be at Leprince all weekend doing live sculpting, bringing his process from his West Ashley home downtown. Patrons will be able to stop by and watch the process live.

“People like to see it happening,” said Penegar. “I like talking about it.”

Sculpting, especially using bronze, can be complicated, but Penegar said he loves talking about the process. “Kids always love to play with some clay and get a feel for it.”

Penegar also has a booth in the city market downtown. He’s not there every day, but when he is, he sculpts there and talks to passersby about the process and the art. 

The piece he’s working on live will eventually turn into a majestic humpback whale, in motion, of course. It’ll be clay, then cast in bronze. And after this weekend, Penegar has the 2022 Southeastern Wildlife Exposition on the horizon, where he’s a regular fixture.

Penegar has simple and noble goals for the show and his work as a whole.

“I want to educate people about nature and use anatomically correct animals so I can point out details. I kind of want to educate as well as inspire as an artist.”