Posts Tagged ‘whale’

A Fight to the Death – The Giant Squid and a Sperm Whale

24″t x 25″l x 19″w

White Pine, Cherry, Composite, Brass, Copper, Steel, Glass, Leather

Available here.

Read the story here.

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I grew up with my nose in books. I grew up dreaming of ships and the sea and knots and boatbuilding. I grew up summering in Maine. This all came together in a book published by Yankee Magazine‘s, Yankees Under Sail. I pored over this book day and night. My grandfather had a copy, too and I pored over his when visiting.

There were a few illustrations that made such a strong impression on me. Those impressions are so strong that they still rise to the surface from time-to-time.

Recently I carved a sea-serpent — a serpent with ties to my Indiana town — but in my head I was carving those serpents from the pages of Yankees Under Sail.

About a year ago I drew this in one of my ever-present Moleskin notebooks.


This drawing festered in my brain until I created this.


A friend, Kitty Fenstermaker, asked where this idea began. It took me about 30 seconds to pinpoint the beginnings of this artwork. It was this illustration from Yankees Under Sail.


One never knows where these things will lead. I’ve opened the door. I suspect that there will be more giant squids and sperm whales in the future.


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Great Blue Whale

_mg_0092This big boy was carved for Blue Indy, the upcoming first Friday show at the Harrison Center for the Arts.

_mg_0089I wanted to produce a piece in a larger scale than usual. Creating a large blue whale seemed

to be the perfect project. Not only was I challenged by the size, the whale provided a great canvas for exploring layers of color and texture.

Blue Whale

White Pine, Tinplate, Glass, Steel and Paper

32″l x 13″w x 17″t

Available Here.

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_MG_0014I’ve been stocking The Artisan’s Bench in Brighton, Michigan with a very complete representation of my work. I’ve been sending off groups of pieces as they are finished. The gallery is as enthusiastic as I am about including 50 Little Birds.

The pieces in the photo on the left have arrived at the gallery and are available for purchase.


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The Schooner Bowdoin tied up on Boothbay Harbor very near where I boarded her in the late 1960s

I make a big deal about carving only those objects — birds, whale and boats– with which I’ve experienced directly. I won’t carve a bird until I’ve had a direct experience with that bird….or boat…or whale. Usually these connections are direct and obvious. Narwhals? Not so much.


My fascination with narwhals is based on an experience that may — on the surface — appear trivial. To a whale-polar expedition-wooden boat obsessed six-year-old it was significant.

In my little corner of Maine, the Schooner Bowdoin and her skipper, Admiral Donald MacMillan, were our home team of polar expeditions. She was built in East Boothbay in 1921 and mounted many of her 29 polar expeditions from Boothbay Harbor.


Recently carve narwhal – Available in my Etsy shop.

After retirement many folks had ideas for her future. She served in various roles and a dude schooner, charter and training vessel.

Sometime, in the late 1960s, she spent a summer, or two, tied alongside a wharf on the west side of Boothbay Harbor.

One of those summers little Geoff and his father were invited aboard for a tour. I was about six at the time and remember almost nothing.

The one detail that remains crystal clear was the handrail that I gripped as I descended the companionway ladder into the main saloon — a twisted narwhal tusk.

There are things that grip a little boys mind. That narwhal tusk was just the thing. Since then — close to 50 years later — I can still feel the twist, the gnarl and the wonder of that tusk.

The Bowdoin has undergone several restorations since that day in the late 1960s. I wonder if the narwhal tusk remains. I’d love to duck below, holding on to that rail again.

Why do I carve narwhals? I carve narwhals so that I can feel the wonder and awe of the six-year-old boy again.

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These are available to purchase. Simply click the Etsy banner to the right. You can get a 25% discount with the coupon code SHOPHANDMADE.










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Sperm Whale Photos

Photos of 12″ Sperm Whale. I’ve another on the bench as well as a similar but much larger (24″) one.


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Sperm Whale

I was banished to the studio today while Julie cleaned house. First I cleaned and put things away and then I carved this. I spent much of my childhood in New England where sperm whales are iconic. I remember doodling them in grade school. (I wonder what my Indiana teachers thought of my schooner, friendship sloop and whale doodles?)


Formal portrait and Etsy listing to follow.

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On Monday a friend and neighbor contacted me about a birthday present for her husband.  She wanted to know what murders or families of narwhals were in stock.  I had just sold a great murder and had a slightly damaged family of narwhals in the shop.  I told her I would make the repairs and it could be hers.

She discussed this idea with her children (there are three) and they were a bit worried that my piece only had one young’n.  There was some discussion regarding gender and tusks.

We decided that I would design and build a pod that was specific to this family.  I made a note of relative age and gender and went to work.

I began with a croquet ball.  I had slice a portion off to make a base for a single bird.  I like the looks of a 2/3 sphere.  I mounted it on a chamfered rim.  I layered up 2-3 colors on the base and rim and ended up with a sea blue 2/3 sphere and red base.

I find myself using old patterns less and less for projects as my forms become more ingrained in my head and hand.  I tend to draw patterns for the project and never re-visit them.

I began with the dad whale.   He was pretty straight forward.  I did give his head and tail a bit of twist. I temporarily mounted this whale on the base.

I wanted the final form to be a tight twist of whales.  I drew and carved momma whale swimming vertically above the father with her tale wrapping around his side.

I used the three remaining, smaller whales, to fill the space between these two.  With the carving and addition of each component it was apparent where the next one was to go.

At some point I decided that the base looked like an old globe.  I scaled and printed out several world maps and loosely transferred the continents to the base and painted them green.  A red line marked the equator.

To achieve the mottled backs of the creatures I painted base coats of different shades of brown.  Over the brown I ragged a medium grey.  Over this I spatters, using a toothbrush, various shades of cream, black and grey.  This is a messy process —  I’ve several spattered painted journal pages and tools — but I love it!

The entire piece is mounted on a series of steel rods.  I’ve had problems with loose joints in former pieces and wanted to avoid them here as placement of the individual whales was so important.  I used cyanoacrylate —  super glue — as I usually do.   Cyanoacrylates can be finicky about setting and I’ve had my share of frustrations.  I recently discovered an activator that makes this adhesive very reliable.

I told my client that this piece would be delivered in about ten days.  I’m working on building up inventory so it was no problem putting this piece at the top of the list.  We’ve been “iced-in” all week and with nowhere to go I finished in just over 3 days and was able to put a lot of extra time and thought into it.

The pod is going home today or tomorrow.  It’s been a ball to render a dear family in whales!

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I am chasing may tail again ending a school grading period, working on new (and positive) Folk School projects and preparing for fall and winter art shows.  This is a good thing.  I thrive from beign busy.

Tomorrow evening I have my first art show of the holiday season followed by three weeks of time away from the day job.  I thrive during these breaks can adjust becoming a full time creator-of-things.

Below are photos of some of my newest work.  I’ve recently become enchanted by masses of small birds – birds on wires, birds on branches and birds on lamposts.  These situations present interesting rhythms, physical interactions and color.

In massing series of my carvings I am exploring those themes.  I also find interest in the implications these themes may have upon human interaction.

See these works at the INDIEana Handicraft Exchange Mini, Friday, October 1 from 5:00 – 10:00 at the Harrison Center for the Arts at 16th and Delaware Streets in Indianapolis.

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