Posts Tagged ‘woodcarving’

I’ve been absent from keeping up this blog over the last week and apologize.  I’ve been preparing for the Indiana Artisan Marketplace beginning in just a few hours at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  I can’t take a lot of time for build-up, but this is the finest art/fine craft show that I’ve ever been involved with — as an artist or as a buyer.  This is not a show to be missed.

(Aside – This group really treats their artists right.  We pulled up the van yesterday and a volunteer loaded my stuff in for me!)

I’ll try to post images throughout the show from my iPhone.  If I am able to move around (I expect to be busy) I will try to share the work of other artists.

50 Little Birds has two booths this year — I hope that I am the plate spinner that I think I am — one will be my sales booth and a second bootht o teach and demonstrate bird carving and painting.  Please stop and chat a bit.

I would like to thank friend and woodcarver, Dennis Maddox, of Noblesville for his help yesterday.  There were a few construction glitches and he was the man to solve the problems fast.  Dennis has been carving at local golf coaurses.  It seems that golf course like to turn their dead trees into large carvings.  Recently Dennis carved a huge golf club for Crooked Stick Golf Course and a trio of Great Blue Heron for the golf course at Eagle Creek Park.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Read Full Post »

Oranges are one of the favorite foods of the Baltimore Oriole.  I find the bird and orange visually appealing because they are the same color!  (The orange and black contrast of this oriole is striking, even without the fruit.)

The base is constructed of found wood — from an old painted sign that I dragged from the wreckage of a burned-out Victorian grocery —  and a croquet ball sporting its original orange paint.

This piece will be available at the Indiana Artisan Marketplace.

Read Full Post »

I was interviewed yesterday for an article in Travel Indiana Magazine.  I like interviews.  I like talking about my work, inspirations and my creative process. (That’s why I have this blog.)

There are two questions, that I’m asked a lot, that cause me problems-

  • How long does it take to make a bird ?
  • What’s your favorite _______?

The first question is no longered answered.  Ever.

My projects begin with field work and book research and end with a painted and mounted bird.  Sometimes there are many steps and sketches and patterns and trials.  Sometimes I sit down and knock it out in a few hours.   In some cases, like the skin-on-frame cardinal, this process took years.  How long is difficult to quantify in a way that is meaningful.

When folks get an idea of the time involved in producing a piece they begin to calculate the figure in terms of profit and wages.  Without understanding the lifetime of acquiring a specialized skill set, maintaining a studio, building show displays, research, travel, lodging, meals, printing, bank fees and taxes it is impossible to understand and interpret the time/wages/profit relationship.  Folks still try so I don’t supply the numbers.

Quick aside – My wife recently had many serious eye surgeries (She’s better, thanks.) and spent five or six hours under the knife.  It would be crazy for me to think I could figure out how much the doctor made each hour.

Learn more about this here.
I’ve no logical or ethical reason for disliking the second question.  It’s just hard for me to answer.

I don’t pick absolute favorites.

I don’t have a favorite movie.  I don’t have a favorite book.  I don’t have a favorite song.  I don’t even have a favorite ukulele.

My interests change with my projects.  My interests change with my research.  My interests change with need.

My favorites are lists.

Yesterday I was asked what my favorite bird was.  I gave an answer, but not just one, because it was expected — the common crow and the belted kingfisher.

I present here a list of favorite birds.  It’s in no particular ranking and birds may move on and off the list as my projects and experiences evolve.

  • Common Crow –  This is a sound memory.  My happiest moments of childhood — foggy Maine mornings — include a soundtrack of crow calls.  Once I was touring a college campus with my family.  My wife turned and found I was gone and asked the group if they had seen me.  One observant woman reported that I had wondered off talking to the crows.
  • Belted Kingfisher – A wonderful, resourceful, chattering clown.  this bird did play a minor role in my Maine summers, but moved onto the favorites list when I observed one outwit an attacking Cooper’s hawk.  The bird nests in long underground tunnels.  Pretty cool!
  • Blue Jays –  I’ve a love hate relationship with blue jays.  Every time I hear one I am returned to my grandparents’ wooded Philadelphia yard — another favorite childhood place.  One a couple of occassions I’ve witnessed blue jays killing other birds for no apparent reason — once dropping from a tree onto a boat I was building.  A few years ago I could not spot a blue jay.  This went on for months.  I heard them, but never saw one.  I’ve added peanuts to my feeders and now have loud daily visits.
  • Baltimore Orioles – This is about aesthetics.  I’ve few early memories of orioles.  They are pretty.  I’ve always like black and orange and it all comes together on the oriole in grand style.  I’ve not seen an oriole nest, but if I do it’ll be another reason to love them.
  • Red Winged Blackbird – These guys let me know that spring is here.  Like the oriole, I love the red winged blackbirds’ colors — black, red and yellow.
  • Penguins – I don’t know much about penguins.  I’m not driven to learn more.  But, boy are they cute!  I loved watching the penguins at the old Indianapolis Zoo in Washington park.
  • Bufflehead Ducks – Many years ago my step-daughter gave me a gift certificate at a local woodworking retailer.  On a complete whim I purchased Antique-Style Duck Decoys: Contemporary Techniques to Carve and Paint in the Folk Art Tradition by Tom Matus.  This book may be the reason I eventually began to carve birds and is without a dount my inspiration for distressing my birds.  I was hooked on waterfowl and began to haunt areas I thought should be full of migrating waterfowl.  I never found anything but cold and wet grass.  Last year I was driving by a modern suburban neighborhood and spotted some tiny ducks.  I stopped the car and identified a pair of bufflehead and a pair of redheads.  These were my first really good ducks!  I’ve since learned where to look and see great ducks every week. This week I’ve seen goldeneyes, buffleheads, redheads and hooded mergansers.
  • Chickadees – I remember a tiny window feeder in my boyhood bedroom.  From my bed I could see chickadees visiting, taking one seed, flying away to eat and returning for the next.  It’s probably the first time I learned a specific bird feeding behavior.  I love their friendly call, ” chick-a-dee-dee-dee!”  It wasn’t until a few years a go I learned that my Indiana chickadees weren’t the same as my Maine chickadees.  In central Indiana we’ve Carolina chickadees.  Maine has black-capped.
  • Double Crested Cormorant – From our Maine front porch we’d watch these sleek black birds fish.  They stayed under for, what seemed, an eternity and swam several dozen feet.  On take off they beat their wingtips on the water leaving a traing of concentric circles on the surface.  I was taken completely by surprise the first time I saw one in Indiana.  I was canoeing tiny Cicero Creek below Morse Reservoir in Noblesville when one surface adjacent to the canoe.  I’m not sure which of us was most surprised!
  • Osprey – Another Maine regular.  When I was young most osprey were gone from the Maine waterfront.  When DDT was banned and it worked its way out of the foodchain osprey made a speedy recovery.  From our front porch you could watch three nests.  Their calls were heard all day.  It was hard to believe that they had ever been rare.  I see them regularly when canoeing White River in Hamilton County.

This really just scratched the surface.  I could name another ten with no problem.  heck I could name ten waterfowl or passerines!



Read Full Post »

I’ve shared before that I am thrilled to be involved with what Io consider the most significant traditional arts and food event in Indianapolis, if not the Midwest, the Indiana Artisan Marketplace.

This is a classy show and demands classy display.  Last year I designed a portable gallery space with floor covering, bright lights, sales counter and storage.  It is a beautiful booth and I love to use it to show my work.

With that finished I thought I was off the hook for heavy duty building and planning for this year’s event.  That changed when I learned earlier today that I am slated to demonstrate my work at this year’s event.  This is a good thing — a wonderful thing!  I’m a life-long educator and there is no better way for me to talk about my work than to teach folks how it’s done.

For demonstration space I’ve awarded a 10′ x 10′ space adjacent to my booth.  This demonstration areas are well placed and ensure that my booth is well placed.  The challaenge now is to design this space to maximize visibility, teaching potential and to drive sales.

This means I need work space, signage to interpret what I am doing and another person (or two or three) all weekend so that I can serve my customers in both locations.

I’m really looking forward to doing this.

I need some input.  What would you like to see me do?  Build a skin-on-frame bird?  Carve and paint many typical forms?  Begin projects from reference photos and drawings and complete carvings?  Put wood and knives in hands and teach carving?

I have the ability to move the majority of my woodshop to shows.  I developed tools storage and folding benches when I used to build ukuleles on site.

Please share your thoughts!

Read Full Post »

I took a few weeks off after the holidays to focus on adapting skin-on-frame boat building techniques to make large bird sculptures.  A few weeks ago I started building up my stock for spring shows.  I didn’t want to list work for sale until I had built up some stock. today I shot some photos and listed a handful of new works on my Etsy shop.

A handful of new listings. Click on photos to see listings.



Read Full Post »

I’m working hard and steady in preparation for some upcoming shows. Here are a few recently completed pieces.  These are for sale, but listed in the Etsy shop.  Let me know if you would like better photos or more information about any particular pieces.

We’ve been busy answering queries from the 50 Little Bird appearance in the March issue of Country Living with our friends at Homespun.  A few birds have been shipped and we expect to ship a few more before the weekend.

Remember that I will take commissions.  Most commissions cost no more than my regular pieces.  I’m carving almost every day and would love to drop your special bird into the schedule.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday I posted a few updates from my phone.  I was settled in for the day without being able to get my laptap to talk to the free wifi.  I wrote about a new Red-Winged Blackbird in flight, but the photo never posted.

In my recent skin-on-frame experiments I utilized sheet steel to fabricate birds’ wings.  I had some extra time Sunday evening and fabricated wings and tail feathers for a red-winged blackbird.

I picked up a plaid wooden croquet ball and used it to mount this bird.

I’m fairly pleased with the results, though these wings are oversized.  There will be few more over the next few weeks.


Read Full Post »

Earlier today I posted a brief piece about Herman R. Trinosky’s pintail decoys. In a rather extensive web search I’ve only found photos of two, perhaps three, pieces.

(Note: I just found two more labelled Kankakee, IL here without attribution to Trinosky.)

I am smitten with their form.

Carving artists, especially decoy carvers, have to strike a balance between two, often competing ideals. The decoy must be realistic enough to draw ducks down into firing range and they must express the aesthetic of the artist.

When I carve a bird there are specific stylistic tools that I use to portray my birds. This is true of all artists (in all disciplines) and what makes an artist’s work recognizable. While these stylistic elements are important they must not interfere with the essence of the bird — that which makes a robin a robin or a tundra swan a tundra swan.

To discuss the aesthetics of Herman R. Trinosky’s pintail decoys we first must look at the real bird. In the end the decoy must look like a pintail to a pintail.

I found this photo of a pintail hen on flyways.us, a waterfowl management website. I chose it because the pose was similar to the pose of Trinosky’s decoy. Another great photo (of perhaps the same bird) is available here. Though I cannot copy this photo here it’s worth a visit. The website allows you to enlarge the image and really get a sense of the paint texture.

I”ve no experience shooting over decoys. I don’t know, from first hand experience, what makes a good decoy. I have read a few books and I speak, just a bit, from that limited knowledge. (If you have shot over decoys and/or have an understanding of decoys and their traditions I would love to exchange a few emails.)

My first impression is that Trinosky’s pintail has an amazingly elegant grace. Three lines define the entire profile of the bird and every line is nearly perfect. The curve from the water to the tail — the curve from the tail across the back, up the neck, and down the head and bill — another curve from the bill tip, under the chin (with just a hint of a break) around the breast and to the water — all connect and work in perfect harmony.

I am also struck by the simplicity of the piece. I see no eye. If there is one it is a simple painted tack. There is no fancy featherwork or bright colors. The breast speckles and side dots are represented by the simplest of brushstrokes. The wet-on-wet transition from back to side to breast is again simple. The reddish browns and tans are understated and there is just a touch of color on the scapulars. The piece is just beautiful!


It doesn’t look like a pintail hen. To be fair — It doesn’t match my sense of what a pintail hen should look like. I don’t mean to take anything away from the piece. It’s form, alone, makes it a masterpiece.


A pintail hen has a very round head. A pintail hen hasn’t a reddish brown back and tan breast with spot. A pintai lhen does not have a brightly colored scapular.

It doesn’t matter, If this is how Trinosky saw these birds, I’m glad because they are beautiful!

Now onto the little know territory of hunting with these decoys. There are a few elements of decoys that bring ducks in close — color, movement and shadow.

We’ve discussed color. The high heads on these decoys would raise their center of gravity quite a bit. This would increase movement — think standing up in a canoe. Trinosky utilized a deep keel system to keep these birds upright (I’ve not seen these systems or diagrams of these systems, so I cannot draw m uch of a conclusion.) In reading about setting and anchoring decoys I know that great pains are often taken so that the birds don’t simply bob in the water, but make life-like movements.

Shadow seems to be a very important element in attracting ducks. Remember ducks are coming in high and above. That means that their perspective is much different than ours. While we focus and fuss over profile (Like I did, above) the duck is looking down. In low angle autumn light the shadows of these birds on the water will be larger than the birds. this is why flatties, profile decoys, work so well. They may not look like the bird from above, but they will cast a large duck shaped shadow just like the real live one. Again this is speculation based on a little book learning.

As noted above I found these here labelled Kankakee, IL, Pintail Drake and Hen.

Read Full Post »

Steps in order of carving and painting an American Goldfinch.

This bird available for $98.  Please contact me if interested.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Read Full Post »

I took a break from my typical work cycle to experiment and adapt skin-on-frame boatbuilding techniques to construct large birds. It’s been almost six weeks since I’ve put a knife to wood and carved a bird.

I’ve some important art shows on the horizon and work going to galleries all of the time. It was time to get back at it.

Below are five new pieces. Most are based on existing designs, but they come out different (and better) every time.

The swan is new. I’m pleased with it.

These pieces are available for sale. I’m not listing them on Etsy, but saving them for shows. Let me know if you are interested.

The woodpecker pair has sold.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,312 other followers

%d bloggers like this: