At the age of about twelve, I talked my parents into letting me have a dog, an Irish setter. We were inseparable, always at Powell’s slough roaming the bull rushes looking for pheasants or ducks or anything else that moved within our sight. Those experiences and memories instilled in me a passion for knowledge of the outside world around us. At the age of sixteen, two shotgun blasts too close to my ears took the majority of my hearing. I thought it a catastrophe then, but looking back I perceive it was one of those disguised blessings. I believe it forced me to become more attentive to my surroundings, my other senses kicking in where my hearing left off.
Where do I receive inspiration for my work? I’m out there before the sun comes up watching the day unfold before me. The best time to photograph wildlife in the first two hours of light in the morning and the last two hours of the day, before the sun sets. At these times, the sun being low intensifies the colors when most the wildlife is our and about. Rarely a day goes by, even now, that if a bird flies past me, I take not. I know what it is. Or if I don’t, I will by the end of the day. The early years included, not just photos, but mental notes and images recorded for further use. I would borrow my dad’s camera with a 50mm lens and try in vane to sneak up on the birds of the swamp. The lending of dad’s camera ended abruptly after dropping a roll of his exposed film in the lake, my cousins wedding pictures, taken a few days before. In time, I had my own camera and a 400mm lens. What a difference.
I am realist. Every detail needs to be in place and accounted for. If it was put there by the Creator it has a reason for being there. I started my artistic endeavors with pen and ink drawings in high school and college, but didn’t get very far with Brigham Young University’s art teachers. The age of abstract metal sculptures had arrived at the university. BYU professors didn’t like me. All artists have an idol, a person to study, to copy technique, to admire. Mine was, and is still, Clark Bronson. What a gifted artist. I have patterned my approach to art after him. About twenty years ago, I finally met him. We became very good friends. I hope he didn’t mind me picking his brain and having to critique my work.
I have owned and operated a custom cabinet shop for the past 26 years. I’m one of those lucky people who love what they do for a living. Most sculptors start with a block of clay and by adding pieces here or there, changing this or that, slowly build the mound to look like something. Unless I’m doing a very large piece, I don’t use clay. I use the opposite process. Starting with a block of tupelo wood, I cut, saw and grind away everything that doesn’t look like a bird. The carvings may take hundreds of hours to complete but I attain so much more detail in wood than I can in clay. I use a variety of tools to accomplish my pieces. Band saws, grinders, files, wood burners and a small air driven hand piece called a Paragrave that spins at 400,000 rpm are just a few of the tools I use to create the carvings. I don’t sell my original wood carvings. There are too many hours involved in creating a new piece. I use these originals as masters, making molds from them, and then casting them in bronze. Limited editions are made of each piece, allowing many more people to experience these birds and animals as I have seen them in the wild. All my time spent out and about gives me the reference and photos that I need to create these pieces.