Fathers everywhere are gearing up for their BIG day, hoping to get pampered by their wives + kiddos this coming Sunday. Every year I search long + hard for that perfect Father’s Day card for my Dad. And every year I find it a difficult task – I get lost in a sea of fishing, golfing + sports enthusiast sentiments. Well, that’s not my dad. I’ve never seen him do any of those things. But I have seen him create. He’s an artist. I thought I would take the time to honor him and share his amazing natural talent on my blog. He has been retired from Hallmark Cards, Inc. in Kansas City since I started college, but has been carving since I can remember. He has created amazing mantles + ornamental pieces for doors, refrigerators and cabinets.
I know I’m a lot like my Dad. He can’t start a project until he’s organized and he has to be “into it” to feel creative. He also doesn’t like to be rushed and wants to finish a project on his own time – a time when he is most creative. I’m exactly like that. My Dad used to photograph a lot too. He is the one who taught me to take a photo that is more candid and not something so posed. It was in high school that he taught me this, and these are still my very favorite types of images today.
To start the creative process, he begins with a realistic drawing. Sometimes my Mom helps him with this, or my Dad will draw it himself. I decided to ask him a few questions about this extraordinary skill of his, wood carving.
When did you discover your artistic skills? I remember picking up a pencil at a very young age. 2 or 3 maybe? In the first grade the teacher would ask us to draw something. Everyone had doodles + stick figures, but mine actually looked like something.
How did you discover wood carving? I started working as an engraver at Hallmark when I was 18. I didn’t go to college, but I naturally had a talent for the arts. I had a buddy who left Hallmark to go work in a cabinet shop. He asked if I would be interested in doing what he did. I’ve been doing it ever since.
Did he teach you how to carve? No, I’m self-taught. I take notice of the shape of things + try really hard to make it really look like something.
What kind of tools do you use? I’m a power carver. I use an electric dremel or power grinder, where hard steel cutters at variable speeds cut the wood. The shape of the wood-cut is from the shape of the tool. I don’t really use traditional chisels.
What types of woods do you use? Really whatever the customer wants. But I prefer to work with softer woods that are easier to carve like alder. Stained, it’s a beautiful color. Oak is the hardest wood and the most difficult, but I’ve also carved walnut, ash, oak + cedar.
Tell me the craziest thing you have ever carved? I’ve carved so many things I don’t remember! Everything I create is three-dimensional. I’ve made a 3ft pheasant in the round that was pretty neat. I’ve also carved a lot of woodland things like fish + deer.
What is your best advice for someone wanting to get into art? Start at an early age. Take things simple and take notice of what things look like. If you are a creative, you will see it and have an understanding of perspective. You have to really want it, put your heart into it + keep practicing.
Enjoy the latest project I saw my Dad do! I captured him working in his space – the garage.
Happy Father’s Day!