Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hats off to Charlotte...

Carving by Peter Ortel - Best of Show, Charlotte Woodcarvers 2017
 ...for another outstanding show.  Woodcarving competitions can be fickle things that when tweaked they can either improve dramatically or head in the other direction.  The Charlotte Woodcarvers got this right.  It's truly amazing what they did with the weather too,  for the most of it it was sunny and warm (~ 70 degrees).
   All kidding aside, I left last years show bewildered as to the judging that took place.  As someone who serves as a competition judge for my clubs show I take judging very seriously as I like to have the playing field as level as possible prior to the actual judging taking place.  The item that I noted last year was in a category I competed in (I was not in the running for a ribbon),  however one competitor flaunted the rules in his submission in the he was allowed to enter a carving that clearly was not defined by the category in which it was entered.  The carving was very well done but clearly had an advantage over the other carvings in the category.  Even knowing I did not have a chance at a ribbon I was disturbed that the entry was allowed to compete in the particular category.  Given this,  I took a moment and spoke with the director of the competition and expressed my concerns regarding the rules and like has happened in other competitions I assumed that this might not be addressed other than a cursory fashion.  Boy was I wrong...the club had the intestinal fortitude to listen to my comments (and most likely comments from others) regarding this issue and corrected the issue through rule changes.  Dang skippy, it appears their competition committee really took it to heart and made the necessary clarification in the competition categories, as well as adding a new Caricature category for strictly roughouts...and their is not a complaint to be had.  This year's competition was stiff as the quality of the entries really ramped up.  On the caricature side of things I had my butt handed to me by Pete Ortel in the Roughout category but I am really trying to figure out how bad placing 2nd to Peter is (he-he).
  I am proud to say the boys from Western NY did a fine job in the competition this year, as we all had winners.  I appreciate Jim and Rob keeping me in line for a weekend filled with 12 hours drives.
  Kudos also go out to Bill and Judy Dominick for inviting us to their place for a special gathering.  It was truly a special evening and for their welcoming spirit we are eternally grateful.  Part of the evening circled around Peter Ortel putting on display his 2000 Best of Show winner (Congress) - "Love".  This piece is one that I am sure has inspired many a carver and I was fortunate to see it in person.  Rumor has it that he was taking the carving to a professional photo shoot and the result of the shoot will be an upcoming article - stay tuned for that as their is a lot to learn from that piece.
D. Stetson carvings
  Another note from the competition weekend was the ever increasing attendance by members of the CCA,  I counted 9 (Wolfe, Stetson, Ortel, Cartledge, Hajny, Boone, Brown, Dowdy, Hiser).  I appreciate the time I got to spend with Dave Stetson as I absorbed quite a bit in the few moments we spoke and really enjoyed seeing the quality in his work.  What was amazing was to see how wide of a net he cast in his subject matter,  it seems he like Mitch has no fear of carving whatever comes to mind.  Dave like myself leans to the artist side of things so we have in common with our approach to carving.
  Thanks also go out to Tom Wolfe and Mitchell for hosting the whittling competition again this year,  and Page for keeping it all straight.  I am not a speedy carver but I somewhat survived and did not totally embarrass myself and for that I am grateful.
A shout also needs to go to my competitors and vendors who travelled from far and wide...Prince Arnold and his entourage from my future home state of Georgia (try the cake),  Big Dave and his wonderful family, Blake(my brother from another mother) and others from the great state of Tennessee,  crazy old Maurice and the knot-hole gang from Virginia (great group of guys), Jim and crew (Conewago carvers) from the keystone state of PA, Dylan and his new bride from the UP in Michigan.
  When visiting such events, as quick as the time goes by, I make every effort to learn what I can.  On this trip I had a few moments to talk with Michelle Parsons (a vendor at this event and an extremely talented pyrographer).  Michelle had a wide array of burning equipment for sale, and through conversation I was able to learn more about the differences between the differing brands and models.  It is not as clear cut as it seems and there is a lot one can learn from these folks that might be useful in our world.  Thanks Michelle for taking a few moments to speak with me.
  I am sure I am forgetting something, but it will come back to me I am sure long after I publish this article...

  In recap, Charlotte Woodcarvers you are setting the competition/show standard for the region...we who are about to carve salute you!!

  Winter is struggling to hang on here in Western NY which in a way is fine with me as it gives me time to relax and whittle.  I hope this writing finds you with a sharp knife in one hand and a fine piece of Northern Wisconsin basswood in da other...carve well and often!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A mighty fine example...

J. Butlin the model
Yup still here...thanks for asking.

...a long time ago in a carving world far, far away I took classes from my friends (and yours) Phil & Vicki Bishop.  As part of the roughout classes I took were all the many lessons reaffirmed by the likes of Gary Falin and others.  A particular lesson that I learned that is vital is that before we can truly create a great caricature carving we need to understand some measure of anatomy and what is "normal".  This teaching came up on a recent visit to our family in NC (Mitch and Page) when Jim was beginning to work on one of his first full figure carvings.  He had experience with roughouts which allowed him to work on the general anatomical layout which also allowed him to start carving hands.  Through minimal guidance he was able to generate some fine hands in many positions.  The challenge came as he advanced through to generating his original ideas in carvings of his own design.  One in particular was a barefoot banjo player, "T. Wang" as I understand he was named but his far better half.  The design of a instrument playing figure did pose challenges for general hand and finger placements but also represented his first time carving a bare foot.  While the picture may seem funny and while we did have some safety concerns (we wanted that knife on a leash) the fact is he was able to generate a mighty fine resemblance of a foot by using himself as a model.
  I remember Vicki often stating that we are our best model and I have to say many years later that this is a lesson I have retained and continue to utilize today.  If you have ever spent much time around caricature carvers we spend a lot of time in front of a camera trying to capture a pose,   in front of a mirror creating a visual memory, or just like Jim trying to remember how to count to 5...this simple method should be used often as it pays dividends and results in much finer carvings.

  Well, I don't much pay attention to that critter in PA,as it is beginning to look a lot like spring is just around the now is the time to carve before the spring chores arrive and our cutting time is whittled away.
  I am spending the day with my carving about you?