Friday, August 16, 2013


I have been whittling this summer.  I don't really know how, which makes it easier- otherwise I might get discouraged by all the 'mistakes' I have made.  As it is, it's just one learning experience after another with some odd funny little creations happening along the way.
I haven't been in the studio- painting or drawing- for a very long time.  Years.  Not quite sure why I stopped, I just did.  I made art for over 30 years then just stopped, and spent more time writing, teaching, and doing Therapeutic Touch for Hospice.  But I don't want to talk about that.  I want to talk about whittling.
When I am away from wood right now I long for the satisfying action of slicing into a piece, then cutting in from a different angle and having a chip fly off onto the floor.  It's such a clean, simple action.  My mother always told us to cut down into a slice of melon, then sideways into it.  Control.    I do the best I can with the wood.  First step is draw the figure on paper from front and side view.  I don't usually draw people or animals...I was an abstract artist- so it means I have to go look.  All the things I take for granted I have to go study.  When someone leans against a wall and crosses their legs- which leg bears the weight?  Which leg is in front?   How do crossed arms get so complicated? I do a lot of jumping up and assuming various stances as I carve because I don't know anything.  Then I sit back down, get totally confused and jump back up again to reassume the position and pay closer attention.  
I began some abstract drawings earlier this summer and found myself thinking "soooo serious.....I want humor" and I grabbed the wood.  A friend had suggested I start drawing again as a way to document my changing hand movements....since I have  Parkinson's.   At first I thought it was an interesting idea, but as soon as I started I knew the last thing I want to use my creative energies for is that.  I'd rather explore wood and figure out how to carve a bird, which means looking at birds, pictures of birds, wings of birds, beaks of birds, and bird feet.  Much more fun.   How do I turn a block of wood into a bartender?  I don't know!  Let me find out.  When I was little we used to get these carving kits that were a block of clay and some tools- and inside the clay was a plastic statue of a horse, or a dog etc.   We would just 'artistically' scape away clay with these cool tools to reveal the finished object.  Magic!  
I am feeling the magic in the wood.  Right  now I am working on a mobile of St. Francis being hoisted aloft by birds of all sizes.    Big smile on his face .   A cluster of hummingbirds lead the way.  An egret holds the saint's rope belt in his claws,  other birds hold his hem, sleeves and cowl,  and yet another bird flies behind holding one of St. Francis' sandals that's fallen off.   Are the figures "good"? Probably not.  Do I care?  Not particularly.  I am having fun. I feel like I am at camp. Since I have no idea what I am doing, there is no self criticism.   I smile all day. And I haven't cut myself.  Yet.