Worse critic or Driving force?

As an artist or at least for me, I can be my own worse critic.  I spend more time staring at the piece at all stages of the project and speculating and wondering what others will think.  Will they see all the imperfections I see.  Should I have done this or that  or not done  this or that.  As an artist the feeling can either be crippling or motivational. What you have to remember is that,  sometimes the worry over what others will think or say or worse not say can cause you to never push forward and display  your work.  Forcing you to keep your abilities hidden from the rest in fear of not being good enough.  I use to have those feeling and I’m sure they will never go away but how I react to those feelings is what motivates me to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone and excell as an artist.    As an artist you must not become complacent and challenge yourself on an ongoing basis to improve.   Studying from the work of others can help you grow as an artist.  Countless searches on the internet for ideas and inspiration trying to find that spark.  I often look at the inspiration and question my own abilities to replicate something similar. The challenge to push my abilities and try things I have never done or add a new twist to create movement or an expression is a point that can cause doubt or anxiety.  But if you don’t push yourself you will never grow, or worse yet never know!


Beating the Heat

I’ve quickly discovered why most carving events are held in the fall, winter and spring months verse in the heat of summer as well as held in cooler climate locations.  Tennessee is a wonderful place to work and live but during the summer months the heat and humidity can take it’s toll.  It challenges you both physically and mentally and one must keep their whits about them and always be aware of the present dangers of pushing yourself too far with a powerful chainsaw in your hands.  Taking lots of breaks to allow your body to cool down from under all the safety gear that is required.  It also helps to have some shade and one of the best investments I made is putting a covered awning on the side of my carving shed to keep the sun at bay.  I’ve hooked up a box fan to keep the air flow moving.  Drinking plenty of fluids and not over dueing it is how to survive the summer heat.  I long for days with less humidity and cooler temps but until them a carving is waiting.

Why I Carve….

When I stop to think about why I truely carve, several reasons come to mind.   Spending countless hours wheeling a chainsaw and assorted other tools for hours, staring at a log and being covered in sawdust for what?  For me its the creative side of turning a vision, a thought or idea and dupicating it in the wood.  Carving and reflecting, thinking whether I need to remove more from this area or that, reshaping an area that just doesn’t look quite right until the piece finally takes shape.  I’m sure more time spent would mean perfection, or would it?  Sometimes you just have to walk away and come back to it to be sure.  You can spend countless hours detailing a project but it comes to a point that the time spent surpasses the return you can expect.  So spend your time wisely.  Another reason I carve is the mental release it provides to put on some headphones with my favorite music which changes based on my mood that day and forget about everything else going on and get lost in the log.  It’s very theroputic and relaxing to spend the entire day disconnected from the outside world the daily stress and pressures and just be one with the  chainsaw.   But the true reason I believe I carve is for the joy and excitement you can give others with your abilities, to see their eyes light up when they see the final completion.

I recently did a carving for a customer that was so moved by what I created for her and her husband that she posted this on her Facebook page….

So…This is what happens when a man cuts down a very large tree. An ugly stump? An eyesore? If that is what you see, then that is what you see. I didn’t see that at all. I saw potential. This tree is at least 150 years old… imagine its history! I visualized what could be done if the right person got ahold of that stump. So…This is what happens when a man with that potential turned that ugly stump into a masterpiece. He had to cut, carve, chip, detail, repeat…. until it was perfect in his eyes. Then he clear coated the finished product so it could withstand the storms and weather that will surely come its way. I didn’t get to see Jeff work on this today, but his craftsmanship reminded me of how God works on us. Little at a time, until we are His masterpiece. Thank you, Jeff, for taking your day off and putting your handiwork in our backyard. For turning a piece of history into a masterpiece. We love it!!! …Our happy place just got happier!! And thank you Sandy for loaning him out for the day… he’ll get to your project next week! ☺️

I know I have touched someone emotionally and spiritually.  I loved reading the reaction from the customer.  But the truth of the facebook posts is that It motivates  and drive me to continue to learn new techniques, start that next project or get off the couch and go carve when I’m tired.  When you can move someone with your ability to invision and create a piece that draws this type of reaction it can do nothing but humble you and  drive you.

Where to find your Wood

One of questions often asked is “Where do you find the wood you use?”  Being a small operation and not having access to large equipment like Bobcats, fork lifts or front end loaders, I am often limited in the size of wood I can work get and move.  A hand truck, the back of my pick up and often the help of one of my sons I am able to get decent size logs up to approx 18″ round without too much trouble.  I prefer to get the logs 4-5′ in length which allows me the opportunity to create a large carving and still be able to move the log around by man power.  As far as where to get the wood, well that can be from anyone of several avenues.  I usually either get the logs from one of several tree services in the area.  Usually they have wood that they either can’t sell or just want to get rid of it.  If you develop a relationship with the company they might even drop off a load right at your location.  Other places to aquire the wood I use is either on Craigs list or local excavators.  Craigs list has listings that won’t cost you any thing.  Look under free Logs or Fire wood and there is usually someone looking for someone to come by and get the wood out of their way.  Local excavators are another great source.  They usually clear land and will either burn off the logs that they clear out so if you let them know you are just a phone call away they will call you first.  You can also drive around after a sever storm and there is someone who has had a tree fall and you can save them some money by clearing out the larger parts for them.  Be resourceful and you can usually find all the logs you need for free with a little patience.

When do you know the time is right?

Many of us dream of the entrepenuear life. Being the boss and not working for others, but far too often the fear and anxiety of the uncertainess of it all can leave most of us sitting on the bench watching others live out their dreams.  In fact most of us just dream about starting a business and working for ourselves and that’s as far as it goes.  Time passes on and one excuss or another stop us in out tracks and we never take the leap of faith.  But for those that have the guts to try to succeed or fail, sink or swim so to speak the rewards can be, well just that rewarding.  There are no guarentees and the process won’t be without stuggles and times of doubt, but if it’s truely what you want the time is now.  How many times have you heard or possible said yourself, “Well the timing isn’t right”, or “I’m not quite ready”, “I don’t know if….” well if that is you, you are not alone.  We have all said something like this whether it was planning for a child, moving or making a major purchase.  We want to make educated decisions, but the uncertainty keeps us from making those decisions leaving us with possible regrets.  Never will there be a perfect time, but if you have the passion and self persistence, then what are you waiting for?  So if you are wanting to begin or start something new…. NOW is the TIME!