Thursday, December 29, 2011

New work in progress

A classic bad cellphone shot of  a current miniature work in progress, a wind blown figure about 4 inches tall in quince wood, current battlefield in my efforts to understand drapery...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Side Project WIP 3 and 4

Again a now much out of date picture of the work in progress. At this point the body is becoming fairly well formed, though the head is still over-sized and only roughly indicated...

I sort of forgot to take work in progress pictures for a while, here bringing us up to the present is the current state of the piece,  most of the figure is pretty finished. The feet and hands need some work as well as a little clean up and definition everywhere, then we'll see if I can nerve myself for the intended next stage...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Earthstar Magic

So, I was on my way Friday morning to see a woman about a totem pole, (which is a nice way to start a Friday) when I passed these beauties off the trail at Teaneck Creek Conservancy. I'm a fungus lover in general, but I've always found earthstars particularly magical; I'm not sure why.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Side Project in Progress: 2

A somewhat belatedly posted (you can see my uncompleted piece for the soon to come down Rumble Above the Clouds exhibit in the background) picture of a new(ish) work in progress. I've refined the body a good bit and the weight of the pose is clear though the head and feet are only very roughly blocked in. From this side you can see the gray staining in the wood, which I kind of like as a bit of texture. In the end this is not going to be a pristine china finish piece...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Carving Mary: Day 10

She's pretty close to done now. Some more refinement on the face and hands, and a little more definition in the robes, and that's about it.  The level of cracking though out the project has been pretty controlled, so that it adds to the effect rather than being distracting. I'm curious to see how she'll look once she weathers to a uniform finish, part of the project that is nature's job not mine. Soon to be the next step, thinking about some kind of partial shelter for the piece since a softwood carving like this will not last indefinitely exposed to the elements.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Carving Mary: Day 8


Continuing to make progress refining the hands and face, as well as bringing the gap in the front of the robe deeper, to me its starting to look like a piece of sculpture, rather than a piece of sculpture in progress.I'm not sure how detailed I'm going to make the hands, I don't want make individual fingers that are likely to break off too easily, but they still look a bit lumpish, as well as being a bit too big.

A view from below highlights the changes to the hands and robe beneath them. The face is pretty refined, but facial details will evolve as I finish up the piece, hopefully only a couple more days to go, I may have this done before snowfall yet.

Carving Mary Day 7

After a long hiatus I was back this weekend working on my life size Mary outside St Anastasia's church in Teaneck NJ. Day 7 was spent mostly on refining some facial details and beginning to carve the hands. Note how the un-worked sections had weathered to a gray color, which is what I'm thinking about doing with the final piece.  I'm getting far enough along that I'm going to have to confront some decisions about how detailed I want the piece to be, I'm hoping to keep it somewhat stylized, while keeping the features graceful. Saturday I was carving with the church picnic in progress, thanks to all the ladies at the Caribbean food tent that kept me from starving.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rumble Above the Clouds is Up

After four hours of solid work last night the art exhibit Rumble Above the Clouds is now up at St Paul the Apostle Columbus Ave. and W. 60th NY, NY. Thanks to curators Robert Aitchison and Joey Kilrain and to Frank Sabatte for all their hard work. Check out the exhibit, and be sure to make the opening Thursday Sept 29th 7pm.

Below: My piece, Predator Overhead, 2011, Cherry installed:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Is Larceny the Sincerest Form of Flattery?

This grassy spot at Teaneck Creek Conservancy in notable primarily for the absence of two large wood carvings I had done for the Conservancy last year.  Until recently they were installed here. Now they're not. Given that they were each probably ~75lbs and the spot is not directly accessible by car, their sudden disappearance suggests a level of determination I choose to take as a compliment... 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A side project in progress

This is a work in progress picture of the roughing out stage of a side project, obviously a female figure, but it will hopefully be a bit of a surprise where I'm going with the piece. It's my first experiment with lime or basswood. Working in reclaimed wood, I've strangely enough never worked in one of the most popular of carving woods. A large tree came down next door in a storm last year and this is one small piece that seemed dry enough to test out.  It is an extraordinarily smooth clean cutting wood. Hard to believe that something so soft cuts so cleanly across the grain. This piece has some gray staining, but I'm wishing I'd rolled away more of the tree...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mary Day 6

I got a couple hours in this afternoon on the carving. This time the changes are somewhat subtle, refinements to the face and shoulders, as well as roughing on the back. You can follow where I've been working by the white where the weathered wood has been cut away.  The piece is starting to come together, though I still need to bring the basic indication of a robe down the front and do a fair amount of refinement on the face arms and hands you can definitely see the outline of what it will look like when completed.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Carving Mary, Day Five

After spending a week on an artist's retreat at St Mary's on the Lake (more about that later) I was excited to get back to carving this piece. Day five was a short one, only 3 or so hours in the 90 degree heat reshaping the head and shoulders. Next time think I will finally start to articulate the hands, as well as continuing to refine the head and arms...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Carving Mary Day Four

After another two week hiatus while in LA for work over last weekend, I got back to the carving for a half day the 4th of July. In a typical brilliant move I forgot my big chisels and so refined the face and neck rather than finishing the re-shaping of the head which I wanted to do with a 2 inch flat. Next time I hope to get to clean up the head shape, and start to take the refinement a bit further down the body, putting a little more detail into the hands and drapery over the arms.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Belated Rabbit

A couple of months ago I finished a carving of a rabbit in a large section of storm toppled locust trunk at the Teaneck Creek Conservancy in Teaneck NJ. It was a fun, but physically tough process. Locust is a very hard wood and I’d mistakenly loaned my brother the sharp gas chainsaw. I wound up doing a bit more work by hand than I originally intended, splitting the head of my large mallet while unwisely using it as a driving hammer…  Relief cuts were made with the chainsaw, sections spit off, and the remainder of the work done with hand chisels as part of Teaneck Creek’s Earth Day craft festival. The piece is currently installed by a pond at the creek. Below is a work in progress shot at the end of day one, and a slightly unflattering shot of the final rabbit after around 3 days of work.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Caving, day III

After a three-week hiatus I was back at St Anastasia’s and got a day in on my summer carving project.  I was mostly refining the face and head shape. The shoulders have been thinned down and the face is close to its final proportion with the body. The head and face will likely get a little thinner to match the body.  Next session I’m going to refine the arms and hands a little more, but mostly focus on the face. Ultimately the body is going to be fairly stylized, while the face is going to be a more refined focal point… 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Large Scale Carving: Day 2

Here’s the end of day 2, with another ~4 hours in it. The hands and arms are starting to take more shape, and the angle of the head is a bit clearer. I’m unfortunately going to have to take a two week break as other things intervene, so I coated all the exposed surfaces with oil to try and minimize the cracking. 

Large Scale Carving: Day 1

Here is the product of a solid half day of roughing work with a combination of hand tools and my trusty $80 Craftsman electric chainsaw. You can see the head and arms starting to take form pretty clearly. I’m working from a combination of a scale drawing and a full size cartoon/silhouette pattern of the head and hands. As usual I drew the pattern out from sloppy measurements and once starting have found them slightly too big…

Large scale carving, the raw material

I recently started work on a large scale carving at St Anastasia’s church, 1095 Teaneck Road, Teaneck NJ.  I’m carving a life size Virgin Mary into the standing trunk of a large softwood that died recently.  It’s been exciting to get to work this large.

Here’s a picture of what I started off with. The bottom 8 feet of the tree were left standing by the tree removal people. I needed to start by trimming it down a foot and a half, and picking what angle the figure fit into the trunk, which has a pronounced lean.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


“But a moment's thought will show that if disease is beautiful, it is generally some one else's disease.”  G.K Chesterton, Orthodoxy

So, instead of the above, I had remembered Chesterton (who was speaking about the poetic appeal of insanity) having use the metaphor of ruins:  If a ruin is picturesque it is generally the ruin of someone else's house. I’m not sure if I misremembered the quote, or if he said it somewhere else. In either case, the misquote was on my mind a couple weeks ago while I was doing a walk through of the former convent of St. Cecilia in Brooklyn NY. In two weeks a group of artists, including myself, are installing their work throughout the building. It’s an amazing space that’s a privilege to exhibit in, but for me it was a sad place as well. Like the artist friendly Soho and East Village of late lamented memory it’s a space available because it’s left empty by the death of something else. In Manhattan’s case that was the death of New York’s light manufacturing industry. In this case the void is left by the service tradition of Catholic female religious, something that’s not quite dead, but has certainly shrunk.
On one hand the world changes, and the role of religious in that world changes too.  Maybe it’s not a bad thing if that role is a smaller one, more focused on religious and social activism, rather than being a large, underpaid, education and health care workforce. Those are roles so tied up with the negative stereotypes my parent's generation manufactured. On the other hand, I think something important is lost when those communities pass away. What’s lost is the chance for a daily encounter with the importance of looking out for other people. I think something special is provided by a sub-community devoted entirely to the service of others, living in your community, visibly walking the same streets but for a totally different reason. Religion aside, that gives a witness to service as a purpose to life that I think the world needs now. Instead we have crumbling ghosts with Gothic windows, standing empty witness on street corners for a few moments before the inevitable condos take their place…