Al Sprague became interested in bronze casting during the mid 1970’s. His wife Marsha contacted Western artist and sculptor Harry Jackson about having Al possibly study with him. In 1978 Al was invited to visit Jackson in his studio in Camiore, Italy. Al spent several weeks there and learned the Italian process of lost wax casting. He returned to Panama and set up what would be the first and only art foundry in the country. He created waxes of images that he had painted for the past ten years… the native dancers, fishermen, and vendors. His bronze of “The Lottery Vendor” was sold to the National Lottery of Panama and is displayed in its headquarters building.
In 1980 Al traveled to Manitou Springs, Colorado, to study with Bill Ammen, a foundry man who had written several books about bronze casting and who had a sculpture school and studio. Al returned to Panama and incorporated a number of improvements into his Panama foundry. He created many sculptures reflecting the country and people of Panama. Al continued to consult with Bill via telephone for over 20 years.
In 1983 Al hired Frank Colson, a sculptor who had a studio in Sarasota, Florida, to come to Panama as a consultant. Al wished to incorporate new space-age materials into his studio. He had been using the plaster /sand investment system, which was cumbersome. Colson helped Al convert to the lighter, more malleable ceramic shell method. This allowed him to cast bigger pieces, such as the Panama Canal “mule,’ which is one of the small cars used to steer large ships into the chambers of the Panama Canal.
In 1989 Al left Panama, and the foundry there was closed. Five years later, Al built a small foundry in Yorktown, Virginia, working with a graduate of the Johnson Atelier, David Bacon. Together they cast a number of pieces including “The Diver” and “The Marlin,” a tribute to Al’s love of free diving and sport fishing. Al has several pieces on display at the renowned Tropic Star Resort in Pinas Bay, Panama.