I believe God has given us birds for our enjoyment. Unfortunately for us, birds are very active creatures making it difficult for us to see and appreciate beauty of the fine markings and subtle color variations that make up a particular bird. Even photos don’t reveal many parts of the bird, for instance have you ever seen the back of an owls head in a photo? Probably not, because photographers want to capture the fascinating faces of the owl. What I am trying to capture in my art the total bird so that others may enjoy all of the bird’s subtleties and beauty.
I reside in Pfafftown, North Carolina a community outside of Winston-Salem, on the edge of the foothills of North Carolina. Sometime in the nineteen eighties, my wife gave her mother a carving of a chickadee as a Christmas present. The chickadee had been carved by Don McDonald a carver from east Tennessee. For a number of years I had admired the carving, then one day I said to myself “I think I can do that”. So I got some wood and began my carving journey. That journey has taken me far beyond anywhere I could have imagined when I first took the wood and knife in hand.
Shortly after beginning to carve I found that a bird carving class was offered at the Sawtooth School of Visual Art, in Winston-Salem, so I signed up and eventually ended up taking a took two classes taught by Chuck and Sue Heath. They introduced me to tools and techniques I didn’t know existed and I quickly improved my carving skills. A few years and many bird carvings later I took a class with Bob Guge, a many times World Champion, and this improved my carving skills even further. Several years and even more carvings later, I met and became friends with Keith Mueller, another many times World Champion, who has been an inspiration and mentor in my carving endeavor. I credit Keith, through his unselfish nature, with taking me from being a woodcarver to being an artist. I thank him and the many others who have helped me along the way.
I carve the birds and much of the habitat from tupelo gum, which is a wood that grows in swampy areas from Virginia to Texas. The habitat, which enhances the carving, is made from many different materials to duplicate various things found in nature such as flowers, moss, lichen, and such. The painting is done with fine brushes and artist oils or acrylics. From start to finish, various tools are used to create the pieces. I might start with a chainsaw or heavy grinders on a large piece, then knives, gouges, and sandpaper. However, most of the carving is done with micro grinders similar to what you might find in a dentist office. Various grinding bits of different sizes and shapes are used to create the intricate details of the carvings. A burning tool is used to create detail in the feathers. Finally, the birds are painted with fine brushes and either acrylic or artist oil paints.
I teach at the Sawtooth Center of Visual Arts in Winston-Salem, and the John Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, both in North Carolina.
I hope you enjoy my work and will check in often to see new birds. Please email me with questions, comments, or requests for custom pieces:
Check out this video. https://vimeo.com/61159358