Frequently Asked Questions

Blogs that answer some of the questions Simon O’Rourke is most frequently asked

Creating a sculpture trail. Photo shows a collection of oak woodland animals on a workshop floor ready to be transported.

Creating a Sculpture Trail Part One: Proposal and Preparation

Creating a Sculpture Trail Part One: Proposal and Preparation 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

In the blog “Why is Art Expensive?”, we explained there is a lot of work that goes into creating a sculpture. That work goes far beyond carving, and may even need to be completed before a commission is confirmed. That is especially the case when Simon bids for a commission, rather than someone approaching him. In this series we walk you through the process of creating a sculpture trail, starting from the point Simon either has an interest in a project or has been invited to submit a bid…

 

Creating a sculpture trail. Photo shows a collection of oak woodland animals on a workshop floor ready to be transported.

The Page’s Wood sculpture trail sculptures ready to be transported.

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task One: Understanding the Brief

The first task for Simon is to understand fully what the project entails. This includes not just the artistic/aesthetic elements, but also technical considerations too. And this isn’t just something for his own understanding. Simon will create a document for potential clients outlining his understanding of the brief, and explaining how his design meets the requirements.

That document will include the sketches of the sculptures themselves. It will also explain how/why they tie in with Simon’s interpretation of the brief, any story that goes with the sculptures, technical aspects (such as measurements), environmental impact, any measures to ensure longevity, and maintenance. At this stage, Simon will have also researched any relevant history/associations of the client/venue/locale. That research informs his design, and he’ll also outline those connections in this proposal.

 

part of a proposal from simon o'rourke for a sculpture trail. the bidding process is the first stage of creating a sculpture trail

Extract from a sculpture trail bid Simon submitted but didn’t win

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Two: Costing

At this stage, Simon will also need to work out the costs of the trail. Like coming up with the concept, design, and explanation, this can be very time consuming and may involve Simon getting multiple quotes before he can calculate costs. The final cost however is an important factor in a client selecting a bid. This means it can’t wait until after he gets the commission.  Simon must complete the work before he knows if he will get the job.

The quote includes the cost of site visits prior to the trail being made, as well as materials and labour to make the sculpture. Simon will calculate transport and installation, including any equipment hire needed at this stage. Finally, it also includes the cost of any extra materials, such as bolts or bobbins for installing the sculptures. Although it is more work for Simon (especially as he may not actually receive the commission), it offers a much better experience for the client, knowing that what they pay covers everything.

 

sample from a bid for a sculpture trail, part of simon o'rourkes process in creating a sculpture trail

Another example of a page from a proposal for a sculpture trail

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Three: Health and Safety and Method

At this stage, Simon waits to hear if the client accepts his proposal. He may already have put a couple of day’s work into the proposal itself as well as time to create some initial designs/sketches. Especially if he produced additional documentation, such as proving the chain of custody on the timber he will use. This is an important part of his commitment to sustainability, which may also be a part of the brief.

If Simon gets the job, at this stage he will finalise the designs, but also has MORE documentation to produce! As you’ll know from our Acton Safety blog, Simon takes health and safety seriously. This isn’t just about checking a few boxes to meet requirements. Rather it is part of his ethos to always create the safest possible working environment for his wellbeing, and that of his employees.

Before he can begin any sculpture trail, he completes a risk assessment and a method statement which details how and where the sculptures will be made.

Page one of a 12 page risk assessment for creating a sculpture trail

The first page of a 12-page risk assessment for the Fforest Fawr sculpture trail.

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Four: The Legal Bit!

Once all of the above is in place, Simon and the client can finally exchange a contract for the sculpture trail. It might sound boring, but it’s essential for running a business well! Although sculpture trails are a great way to create revenue, they are definitely a big financial investment. Having a clear, well written, and comprehensive contract means that all Simon’s clients can feel certain as they move forward, reassured about what they will be receiving, when, and how.

extract from Simon O'Rourke's proposal for fforest fawr, part of the process of creating a sculpture trail

An extract from the proposal for Fforest Fawr sculpture trail, showing the sculpture and accompanying story.

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Five: Making the Trail!

Now the documentation and design are completed, both parties are protected, the project is well set out, and expectations are clear. The client can look forward to owning some amazing, sustainable art, and Simon can get excited about carving! This means….it’s time to carve! But that’s a story for another blog! Follow the blog for notifications to see when Part Two is published where we’ll talk about creating the trail itself.

 

Chainsaw artist Simon o'rourke and his apprentice Paul Ossum in a workshop creating a sculpture trail with chainsaws.

Simon and Paul in the workshop, working on a sculpture trail together

Final Thoughts

It would be lovely as an artist to sit around and create all day. However, that isn’t the reality for most artists. We hope this blog has given you some insight into the process of creating a sculpture trail. Or, more accurately, of the work that goes into a proposal that may actually never come to fruition. And that it also gives you an idea of the process if you yourself are interested in commissioning a sculpture trail!

If you would like to know more, invite Simon to bid on a project, or commission your own sculpture, contact him at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. We look forward to hearing from you!

A small chainsaw is sufficient

Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving

Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

Welcome to the second in our series on starting out in chainsaw carving. In the first blog, Simon shared basic pointers. You can find it at www.treecarving.co.uk/tips-for-getting-started-in-chainsaw-carving/ if you missed it.  This week we move on to share a few tips on putting together a basic kit for starting chainsaw carving…

 

Life size wood sculpture of a WWI soldier in progress. There is scaffolding in front of him, and three chainsaws sit around

Simon uses multiple saws (as pictured above) but it isn’t necessary to splash out in the beginning.

 

Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving: Safety Gear

The first purchase should be safety gear. The minimum that Simon recommends is:

  • chainsaw boots
  • trousers
  • ear defenders
  • eye protection
  • gloves.

Gloves are actually a debated item, as many chainsaw gloves are cumbersome and awful when they’re wet. It would be amiss to skip them though, and it’s good to at least give them a go for maximum safety.

There are many good brands for buying PPE. As a Stihl ambassador though, Simon obviously has a clear preference! You can explore their range by clicking HERE. Simon also highlights a few favourite pieces of chainsaw carving workwear in our blog ‘When Poppy Met Stihl‘.

 

Poppy Stihl with the MS500i

Poppy models some of Simon’s preferred workwear

Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving: Footwear

There are two aspects of footwear that are important: Safety and comfort. Proper chainsaw boots have protective toe caps and sturdy soles, both of which are essential. Finding a pair that works for you is also important. We can all testify that spending all day in an uncomfortable pair of shoes is pretty horrible. And nobody does their best work when in pain!

This is where Simon can’t really make a recommendation because our feet and their needs are pretty individual! As we can’t try things on in shops at the moment, it’s worth reading reviews to see how people talk about the fit, width, toe space etc. Then there is more likelihood of finding a pair that fits well first time.

If finances are an issue, then there is an alternative that doesn’t compromise on safety. Some companies also make chainsaw wellies. You can wear these with thick socks and still get a good level of protection. Stihl make Chainsaw Wellies with both Class one and Class three ‘cut protection’, and both can be purchased for less than their basic boot.

Simon O'Rourke and Keiji Kidokoro wear stihl safety gear as they carve a CHinese Waterdragon at Huskycup 2019. safety gear is an important part of your Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving

Simon and Keiji are both wearing a variety of basic safety gear while they work on their dragon from Huskycup 2019

 

Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving: Chainsaws

And now for the obvious piece of basic chainsaw carving kit. A chainsaw!

It can be tempting to think bigger and more expensive is better. However, there is no need to go all out on expensive saws. That said, if noise is an issue then battery saws are a great solution. The Stihl Ms181 is a great starter saw, and there are other similar packages you can get from chainsawbars.co.uk.

 

Stihl chainsaw in front of a carved apple. A small chainsaw like this is good to include in your Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving

A small chainsaw is good enough to start out chainsaw carving

 

Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving: Chainsaw Bar

Our last piece of kit to start out in chainsaw carving is a bar. There are SO many options out there for carving bars! And like other artists’ tools, personnal preference plays a big part. However, first, it’s wise to get used to a standard bar with a sprocket nose. This will teach you about how the saw handles. There’s also a LOT you can do with a standard tip before moving on to a carving bar.

When it comes to brands, this is one area where Stihl haven’t had the reputation among carvers that their saws and PPE have. Simon has discovered though that with good, careful maintenance, they are as good as other brands he has tried. Again, he recommends chatting to the team at Chainsawbars.co.uk and they can set you up with a good package that suits you. And bar maintenance will definitely be a future blog!

For those in doubt about this, the photo below is an early carving of Simon’s from 20 years ago. This was done with a standard bar on a small saw…

 

chainsaw carving of a rabbit jumping over a cat

This was an early piece created with a small saw and a standard bar

 

Building a More Advanced Kit

Once you have worked with a basic kit for a while, you are able to better identify exactly what it is you need to be able to expand. Once you know that, you can explore purchases one at a time. For example, one artist may want to stay small and focus on a wider range of tool for minute detail. Another may want more power and scale and want to buy a larger saw. The best way to expand your kit will become clearer with time and experience. For those who are interested in burrs and angle grinder cutters though, you could check out the Simon’s favourite Manpatools for creating texture blog or this blog about burr bits for carving faces.

 

Tips for carving big cats: SImon O'Rourke uses a saburrtooth flame burr bit to create texture on a lion's face. Burr bits can be part of basic kit for starting chainsaw carving but aren't essential.

Burr bits are one of the tools you can add to your kit at a later date

Questions and Commissions

If you have questions about chainsaw carving kit, Simon will do his best to answer, but please be patient! He will also be making more videos and blogs in future to asnwer some of the most frequently asked questions. Until then, you can contact him with questions (or to ask about a sculpture) using the contact page www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

simon o'rourke carving an old German miner at the Huskycup

Tips for Getting Started in Chainsaw Carving

Tips for Getting Started in Chainsaw Carving 900 600 Simon O'Rourke

Simon is often asked about how to start chainsaw carving. The reality is, everyone’s journey will look a little different. However, there are some principles that are pretty much universally true.  And there are definitely things that Simon and his team have learned over the years, that could benefit others. So, these are his top tips for getting started in chainsaw carving…

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke next to one of his early pievces, a fairy on a swing. c 2009.

Simon with one of his competition pieces at the start of his career

No 1: Safety First!

The first of our tips for getting started in chainsaw carving is very simple. Get your chainsaw certificate.
Although you don’t need one for ‘messing round’ at home, you will if you are going to become a business and sell your work.
Safety matters. Confidence matters. And you will build both through getting certified. Occasional users should recertify every two to three years. More frequent users around every five.
You can find out more at www.hse.gov.uk/treework/site-management/training.htm

No. 2: Invest in Good Basic Equipment

The next blog in this series will have more information about what this should include. There are some basics where you could buy budget products, but others, where it’s much better to invest in something reliable that you know, will last. Simon recommends Stihl chainsaws but also enjoys using Milwaukee tools and Saburrtooth burr bits.

 

stihl chainsaw. stihl are one of the brands simon recommends buying as one of his top tips for getting started in chainsaw carving.

Stihl Chainsaw – can be used for creative or practical purposes, but either way, safety is paramount!

 

No 3: Get a Mentor

If you can, find a chainsaw artist to be a mentor. Even better if you can actually apprentice with them. Even if it’s on a very low key level at the beginning, input from someone more experienced is invaluable. And being alongside a paid artist in this way will ensure some variety in your subjects that we sometimes don’t get if there isn’t a customer challenging and stretching us to try new things.

No 4: Watch Other Artists

The fourth of our tips for getting started in chainsaw carving is to watch other artists. If you can do this live, it’s amazing! If not, plenty of us in the community have social media, youtube channels etc where you can watch, slow down the action and pause. Watching others is an inspiration but you can also see how they approach different things, and different techniques they employ. If you’re looking for live events (when things open up!) in the UK, Woodfest and the English Open are good places to start. In Europe, Huskycup, Holz-Flori and Friends and Zandsculpturenfestijn in Garderen are worth checking out.

simon o'rourke carving an old German miner at the Huskycup

Simon O’Rourke at the Huskycup in 2018

No 5: Get to Know a Good Tree Surgeon!

Getting to know good, reliable tree surgeons/arborists is a key part of sourcing quality wood. Being able to recommend each other to clients doesn’t hurt either! Simon has also found it helpful to know reliable tree surgeons for assistance moving timber and finished sculptures.

No 6: Employ Experts

When you build a business as a chainsaw artist, there are a LOT of things that happen behind the scenes. So our sixth tip is to employ experts. This ensures things are being done well, and it also frees you up to focus on the creative side. Accounting, Health and Safety, business strategy, web and marketing, social media, video editing… these are just some of the areas where it’s worth seeing if you can delegate or employ an expert.

tips for getting started in chainsaw carving No 5 - know a good tree surgeon. photo shows a Treetech truck.

Sourcing and transporting the raw materials is one of the expenses underlying the cost of a sculpture

No 7: Just Do It!

Tip seven? Just do it! Give it a go! Find time to experiment and try different things. It’s worth remembering that sometimes we hold ourselves back as artists when we are more worried about the product than the process. To grow in skill and style, especially in the beginning, you will need to just keep trying. Go for it and HAVE FUN!

No 8: Pace Yourself

At the beginning of the blog, we said that every journey is unique. It’s good to have goals and objectives and plans for how to achieve them. But if the pace isn’t working for you, take a step back. Building a thriving business as a chainsaw carving artist (or any art!) is a marathon, not a sprint. Initially, it may look like going to some country shows or fairs and selling some small sculptures you made once or twice a month. And then you may pick up a couple of commissions through social media. And then you get a commission but not much else so you’re back at fairs. Stick with it, don’t be discouraged, and go at the pace that suits your life priorities, finances and health/energy.

It’s OK if it takes time, and it’s OK if it doesn’t look like the same route someone else took.

a pair of lion sculptures: photo features the face of the oak lion mentioned in the accompanying blog

Final Thoughts

We hope you found these tips helpful. Watch out for the next in the ‘How to’ series where Simon will share his recommended basic tool kit to get started.

As always, if you have questions for Simon about a commission, contact him using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

Photo shows a man carving a sculpture from a tree trunk. He is standing in a tall cherry picker. Equipment like this is one of the Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

A chainsaw carving sculpture can be a great addition to your home or business. It’s a lovely way to give life back to a tree that is dead, diseased or dangerous. As well as being a beautiful piece of art in its own right, it can also add value to your attraction or home. However, there are lots of practical considerations to think about if you want to commission an on-site chainsaw carving sculpture. When you contact Simon, he will ask for details and photos to help him plan. This blog is to help you think about those considerations, to help make the process as smooth as possible.

Simon can travel to your home or business to create a sculpture from a standing tree.

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Simon’s Workspace

Ideally, Simon needs 2-3m space around the tree stump to be able to move easily and approach the sculpture from the best angle. If it’s possible to clear this space, it’s really helpful for him. However, don’t worry if this isn’t possible. If the tree stump is against a fence or something similar and he doesn’t have this space, it doesn’t mean he can’t do it – it’s just good for him to know in advance.

When thinking about the workspace it’s also worth remembering that sometimes some large pieces of timber can come down off the tree. For this reason, we suggest moving anything valuable from the area before Simon comes to set up. Nobody wants a smashed table or squashed prize-winning begonias!

oak maiden sculpture in process

This photo of the Oak Maiden in process shows the size of branches Simon sometimes has to remove

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Spectator Space

It’s FASCINATING to watch Simon carve! It can be tempting to want to get as close to the action as possible, and if your sculpture is for a community, inviting people to watch may even be part of generating support for the commission. However, it can also be dangerous to get too close! If you do want to watch (or invite others), you will need to make sure there is a 6m space between Simon and the next closest human being!

Crowds watching ice carving for Wrexham Museum

Crowds watch Simon from a safe distance outside Wrexham Museum*

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Access for Equipment

All Simon’s equipment can be carried, so in some ways distance from parking to the site doesn’t matter. BUT! Some of it is quite heavy. If you are able to make a way for him to park as close as possible to the place he will be carving, it is incredibly helpful.

Simon will also ask you for photos of his access to the site from the parking spot – especially if he needs to use scaffolding or a cherry picker. This is because slopes or other obstacles may change the equipment he needs to hire. He may also need to find a creative way of getting it to the site. This happened this week in fact, getting this cherry picker to the carving site…

Photo shows a man carving a sculpture from a tree trunk. He is standing in a tall cherry picker. Equipment like this is one of the Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

Simon’s colleague Paul working in a cherry picker for an on site carving

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Additional Equipment

And while we’ve mentioned cherry pickers, let’s talk additional equipment!

Simon has his own platforms which enable him to carve a sculpture up to 2.5m without hiring extra equipment. For anything taller than that though, he will need to use scaffolding or a cherry picker. He will arrange it all, so don’t worry about suddenly having to become an expert in this area! As the client though, it’s worth knowing that this will impact the cost of the commission. It may also impact the time needed too. For example, the scaffolding for the Spirit of Ecstasy sculpture took a day to assemble!

Again, Simon will ask you for photos not just of the tree, but of the surrounding ground to help him arrange the best and safest equipment for the job.

Work in Progress: Spirit of Ecstasy by Simon O'Rourke

This photo of work in progress on The Spirit of Ecstasy allow you to see suitable timber size and access for an onsite carving, as well as the scaffolding needed.

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Clean Up!

Chainsaw carving is messy! As you can imagine, there is a LOT of sawdust as well as chunks of tree. Simon is happy to do that tidy-up. However, this means paying for his time, so it’s generally better for the client to handle this part themselves. If you’re commissioning a sculpture, make sure you include time and energy for this clean up before you invite people over for an unveiling!

ThA sculpture of an ent in a monkey puzzle tree trunk. It is surrounded by sawdust. Clean up of this mess is a factor to consider whren you Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

The Ent at Poulton Hall surrounded by sawdust! It’s important to be prepared for this, and budget time and energy for cleaning up

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Power supply

Simon will generally come armed with fully charged batteries, petrol etc for his chainsaws and olfi video equipment. It can be helpful though, if possible, to give him access to a plug socket or two by running an extension cable through a window.

Simon O'Rourke's giant hand of vyrnwy surrounded by scaffolding. Scaffolding hire is one of the things to consider when you commission a chainsaw sculpture

Simon’s Giant Hand of Vyrnwy before the scaffolding was taken down.

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Final Thoughts

We hope this helps you understand the kind of information Simon will ask for (and why) when you commission and on-site chainsaw carving sculpture. Of course, we missed out that providing copious amounts of tea, coffee and the odd jammy dodger never go amiss either!

If you’re thinking of commissioning a sculpture, we recommend reading this blog about the suitability of your tree first. It may also be helpful to read this blog about commissioning a sculpture too.

To contact Simon about a commission, use the contact form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. We look forward to hearing from you!

Care for a tree carving sculpture. Photo shows a close up of a yew dragon mouth sculpture treated with decking oil

How Do I Care For A Tree Carving Sculpture?

How Do I Care For A Tree Carving Sculpture? 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

I’m often asked is how to care for a sculpture after it’s installed. It’s a really good question! I’m also often asked how to treat the wood to help preserve its life. If you want to retain the colour on a sculpture then there are several things you can do to help. And so, today’s blog explores care for a tree carving sculpture…

 

Hiker in oak by SImon O'Rourke

Preservation of a commissioned sculpture is a natural concern

 

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Choosing an Oil

I’ve always said decking oil is the best thing for sculptures outdoors due to its containing fungicide and UV protection. This is your best option if you want to treat the wood in any way.
There are several different levels of decking oil to choose from, so it can seem a bit overwhelming.
The brands I’ve used in the past are Rustins, Cuprinol, Ronseal, and Osmo. I’ve also tried own brands from B&Q and Wickes.
Quite often, the cheaper the oil, the less viscous it is. This has advantages such as being easier to spray on, but it isn’t often as hardy against the weather.
A lot of oils today are water-based emulsions. This makes them safer for the environment, which is great. However, I’m less sold on how well they do over time, and the finish can be a little gloopy.

 

Care for a tree carving sculpture. Photo shows a close up of a yew dragon mouth sculpture treated with decking oil

Decking oil can help protect sculptures.

 

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Application

One of the most difficult things about oils is the application. My sculptures tend to have lots of rough surfaces which means it’s not always easy to cover with a brush. It can be even more difficult to get an even coat across the sculpture. It’s worth taking the time to do this though.
It’s possible to thin down most oils with good quality thinners or white spirit and use them in a sprayer. However, bear in mind you will need more coats and therefore more time. The sprayers can be very difficult to clean too.

 

care for a tree carving sculpture: many of simon's sculptures are rough and textured and this makes it difficult to apply even coats of oil. photo shows an example of the texture of a lion's face.

It can be difficult to achieve an even finish when oiling heavily textured sculptures like this lion.

 

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Pre-Treatment

It can be a good idea to treat a sculpture with a clear wood preserver prior to oiling, as this helps prevent things from growing on the surface.
I’ve also been told that raw linseed oil can be good to treat exterior green oak. I’ve had no personal experience using it yet though, so I can’t really comment. But I will be trying it on a scrap piece to see what happens! Watch this space to see if it works!
picture shows a dragon carved in oak by simon o'rourke

Hemlock endures a lot while hired out for events, so oil is essential for protecting the sculpture.

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Retouching

The next question is then how often it’s necessary to repeat this process. As with many questions about the lifespan of a wood sculpture, there are no definite answers. The frequency of oiling will vary based on the environment, and it’s important to note that as soon as the oil wears off the surface then the sun will bleach the wood very quickly. You can’t get the natural colour back again at this stage, unless the wood is sanded or cut back.

 

care for a tree carving sculpture: a man is sanding a piece of wood.

People photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Choosing the Right Timber

I’ve shared before that not every timber is suitable for a tree carving sculpture. All wood has different longevity. So I try to make sure that the sculptures I make are created from long lasting timber like oak, cedar, sweet chestnut, certain cypress varieties or redwood. However, I will occasionally carve a tree stump on a property that is from timber with less lastability, like beech or willow. I will always make sure the client understands that the sculpture won’t be as enduring. I also always recommend a good coat of clear wood preserver prior to oiling for these timbers to give them the best start.

 

Simon O'rourke using a chainsaw to cut into wood

Choosing durable wood is a key part of creating a long-lasting sculpture.

Caring for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Installation

The other thing to note is with free-standing sculptures, it’s wise to place them on a surface with good drainage, or have some airflow underneath them. The Queen of the South Soccer Players are a great example of this. They have been elevated so no water will collect. They are also on a wooden plinth which is where moisture will begin to gather first and travel upwards, preserving the players for longer.

sporting sculptures made by simon o'rourke. Photo shows sculpture of three soccer players standing back to back with onlookers admiring the piece

Caring for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Going Natural

The reality is, no wood sculpture will last forever. Really, the only way to ensure the longest life possible would be to keep it indoors! As I have shared before in this blog about wood versus bronze sculptures, I like the ageing process though. I think it adds character and beauty, and is more in keeping with using a material that once had a life of its own. It’s important to know what sort of finish you’re aiming for when you commission a sculpture. Discussing the finish and creating something you will love is all part of the process when you commission a sculpture.

Side by side photo of a woman's face carved in redwood by simon o'rourke to show the aging process of wood. The left is far more yellow and warm. The right has deeper shadows and cracks and grey hues.

Cracks and changing colour give a chainsaw carved sculpture more character

Get in Touch!

If you would like to commission a sculpture, you can contact me at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ And whatever finish you choose for your own piece, I will be able to help with recommendations and tips for upkeep!

photo of a tree carving sculpture in progress. the sculpture is a wwi soldier in oak. there is a field and scaffolding behind him. the base of the sculpture shows the shape of the original tree trunk. the sculpture in in the front two thirds, and serves as an example of how to best position a sculpture within a log to avoid cracks that appear as it dries

How to Best Position a Sculpture Within a Log

How to Best Position a Sculpture Within a Log 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

People often ask how to prevent cracking in the wood used for sculptures. The simple answer is you can’t! However, Simon has learned a lot over the years about working with and around the natural behaviours of wood. There are ways to minimise the impact of cracking on your sculpture to ensure it lasts as long as possible. The biggest of those is positioning, and so in this blog, we share how to best position a sculpture within a log.

How best to position a sculpture within a log: ensure cracking enhances the sculpture. This photo shows a close up of an oak face sculpture. It has vertical cracks along the cheek.

Cracks are an unavoidable part of wood sculptures

 

Understand We Can’t Eliminate Cracks

Simon’s first tip as to how to best position a sculpture within a log is actually nothing to do with positioning or carving! The first tip is to understand that it’s impossible to eliminate cracking when working with wood. Cracks and changes in the colour are all part of the ageing and drying process, as Simon shares in this blog about how long a sculpture will last. It’s a natural material and therefore can be unpredictable. Understanding that and being OK with ‘imperfections’ are important as it means that rather than worrying about cracking, you can focus your energy on the best ways of working with it.

 

Side by side photo of a woman's face carved in redwood by simon o'rourke to show the aging process of wood. The left is far more yellow and warm. The right has deeper shadows and cracks and grey hues.

Cracks and changing colour give a chainsaw carved sculpture more character

 

Find the Centre of the Timber

Once we understand we can’t control cracking, we can focus on working with and around it. The first step towards that is finding the centre of the timber. This is important because it impacts the direction and amount of cracking, Wood shrinks faster circumferentially than radially. This means cracks start at the centre and move out, so the further from the centre, the more stable the wood. You will sometimes see cracks coming from the centre like wheel spokes. Usually, the centre is the middle of the log, but not always, so spend some time looking at the log and pay attention to where the cracks begin. This is your centre.

 

Photo shows a tractor with a fork lift attachment carrying a large tree trunk. Finding the centre of the trunk is essential in learning how to best position a sculpture within a log.

Finding the centre of a log like this means you can make the most of the solidity and stability of the timber.

 

Identify the Most Important Features of Your Design.

The next key in how to best position a sculpture within the log is to identify the most important features of your design. These are the parts that you most want to preserve. When sculpting human form, Simon finds it is most often the face. An example of this is the fairy sculpture below. Although there is a lot to see, the face is the part Simon wants people drawn to, so he will position the sculpture so her face is the least impacted by the cracks already appearing.
However, if your sculpture is more abstract, this may not be the case.
Where do you want the focus to be?
What details do you want to preserve?
Once you know this, you can work out the positioning.

 

Photo shows a chainsaw carving workshop with a sculpture in progress in the middle. The shape of a female sitting on a swing is blocked out in a large piece of oak, but no features are visible

The face of this fairy sculpture is the part Simon most wants to preserve from cracking

 

chainsaw carving sculpture of a 5' elf sitting on a swing

Simon carved this so the cracks are part of the shoulder. In this way the details of the face will be preserved.

Tactically Position the Sculpture

Now you know which parts are most important, you can work out whereabouts you position the sculpture in the log. If the face or front is most important, start carving so the centre of the log is at the back of the sculpture. That way as the sculpture ages and dries, the cracks will start at the back.

For this WWI soldier, Simon was able to cut the log and create the sculpture using the front part. If he had carved it in the centre of the timber (which is often instinctual), the cracks would be in the middle of the soldier, and potentially split him in half!!!
By moving the sculpture to the front half, it means the centre of the log becomes the soldier’s back. In this way, the cracks will appear in his back. This will not only preserve the facial details but also means the sculpture is much more stable.

 

photo of a tree carving sculpture in progress. the sculpture is a wwi soldier in oak. there is a field and scaffolding behind him. the base of the sculpture shows the shape of the original tree trunk. the sculpture in in the front two thirds, and serves as an example of how to best position a sculpture within a log to avoid cracks that appear as it dries

The base of the sculpture shows hows Simon positioned the sculpture in front of the centre of the log.

 

Have a Positioning Plan B!

Obviously positioning cracks so they are hidden at the back isn’t always going to be possible. Sometimes we just don’t have a log big enough. If that happens, use plan b in how to best position a log within a sculpture… Position it so there are lots of small cracks across a feature.

It’s better to have lots of small cracks that one big central crack. This way as they swell and shrink with the different weather changes, the impact on the sculpture is less.

An example of this from Simon’s work is his recent horse bench. He positioned the sculpture so the centre was to the far side of the horse. The cracks are all across the mane. In this way, they become part of the texture and there’s no risk of the mane looking like it’s been divided in half! More importantly, it also means the sculpture is the most stable and solid that it can be.

 

Tree carving workshop with a sculpture in progress. The sculpture is a bench, and one end is a horse with flame like mane

Simon used one half of the log for the horse head, and position it so the centre is on the far side of the horse.

 

Horse bench by chainsaw carving artist simon o'rourke

The centre of the log is now this side of the horse to ensure minimal cracking and most stability.

 

Know When to Say No!

Simon’s last tip as to how to best position a sculpture within a log is to recognise when a piece of timber simply isn’t suitable. Sometimes there is just too much rot. We actually have a blog about types of rot to help you with that. Sometimes when you cut into the log you find a crack that is already large and would impact the design. If this is the case, there is often little you can do. At this point, you need to either accept that this sculpture will have a short life, or start again.

This happened with the lion Simon made before Christmas. You’ll be able to see in the photo how the crack is already moving up into the lion’s body. In addition, the rot meant the wood was too soft to carve and would have begun rotting away much quicker. As this was for a commission, Simon wasn’t prepared to compromise on quality, and had to start over on a fresh log. This timber can still be used, but for a much smaller sculpture that wouldn’t incorporate the wood or crack.

At the end of the day, wood is a natural material and is unpredictable. It’s part of its beauty, and working with that and allowing it to enhance the sculpture is part of the challenge Simon enjoys. If you are choosing wood sculpture over something like bronze or marble, hopefully it’s something you like too! But occasionally it really does mean starting over!

 

How best to position a sculpture within a log... photo shows the start of a tree carving sculpture. The shape is blocked out but there is a large crack and split at the centre making it an usuitable log for sculpture.

Sometimes you just have to abandon a piece of timber!

 

Over to You!

Learning to work with cracking is something that will come with experience. If you are very concerned about a crack, it is possible to fill them, and Simon will do this very occasionally. However, he does recommend the tips he has shared here.

To the other chainsaw artists out there, what are some of your tips and tricks for working with cracks?

If you enjoyed this article, there is a  10 minute video below where Simon expands on these points. Please excuse the wind in one of the sections – the Welsh weather doesn’t always co-operate with plans for outdoor filming!

And, as always, if you are interested in commissioning a tree carving sculpture from Simon, contact us via the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo shows an oak bench with a sculpture of shakespear sitting on the far end

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

There’s no doubt about it, commissioning a sculpture by Simon can be expensive. As we explained in our blog “Why is Art so Expensive?“, there are lots of costs that go into creating a chainsaw carved sculpture. It’s not just the timber and time! This cost can be off-putting, and ultimately cause people to write off the idea. However, there are lots of ways you can raise the funds, and the cost doesn’t need to be a problem. Read on for some of our ideas about how to raise funds for a tree carving sculpture…

Photo shows an oak bench with a sculpture of shakespear sitting on the far end

A multi-day project like this can be costly, but there are creative ideas for funding your commission

 

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Obtain a Grant

Many people don’t realise grants are available for funding certain sculptures. Where you look for that grant depends on the purpose and subject of your sculpture.
For example, if you are creating a Woodland Sculpture Trail, these are often part of the environmental education goals of an organisation. In this case you could look for grants for learning outside of the classroom, or environmental awareness.

If your sculpture is for creating an outdoor attraction, there are currently grants for business to adapt to covid regulations. Grants from the Arts Council and ArtFund provide funding to help museums, galleries and other visual arts organisations realise adventurous projects.

There are also more general grants you could consider. What about the National Lottery? Or a sculpture-specific grant? For example, The Henry Moore Foundation will sometimes offer funds as part of its mission to support sculpture across historical, modern and contemporary registers.

Although they can be elusive, there are grants to be found, so it’s worth investing time to look.

woodland sculpture trails by simon o'rourke. Photo shows a howling wolf in redwood, surrounded by trees. Located in Fforest Fawr.

This wolf forms part of the Fforest Fawr trail. There are often grants available to fund outdoor attractions like this, especially if it is part of adapting for covid regulations.

 

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Sponsorship by a Local Company

If your sculpture benefits the community in some way, it may be possible to raise funds by asking a local company to sponsor some – or all! – of the cost. Some companies offer fund-matching which can relieve some pressure. Others will cover the cost completely, especially if they are looking to build their reputation in the area.  An example of this is Simon’s sculpture in Capenhurst. Urenco funded the entire sculpture!
There is one key principle to apply here too… You never know if you don’t ask! Be bold! Write to local companies. Reach out! The worst that can happen is they say no!
And if local companies aren’t an option, what about a national company with a local presence. Tesco Bags of Help scheme allows the community to vote for three projects at a time, so you can get up to £2000 towards the cost of a sculpture that benefits the community in some way.

how to raise funds for your tree carving sculpture: this wildlife scene in capenhurst was funded by urenco. it features various local animals in a 'totem' style and is standing on a green space with houses in the background

This wildlife scene on a village green was funded entirely by a company with a local presence

 

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a bit of a buzz word, but basically describes asking lots of people for a small amount of money – usually via the internet. It’s important to choose a website that is easy to use and trusted. GoFundMe would be our top recommendation, as it’s well run, easy to use and has a solid reputation. IndieGoGo is lesser-known but also a site that allows for community projects such as a sculpture trail. It also allows you to offer incentives to donors for larger amounts. If you are wondering what those rewards could be, we have an idea! Simon offers a package that gives clients a copy of the original sketches and a DVD of the sculpture being made. Perhaps you could offer a copy of the DVD or sketch to people making large donations?

Crowdfunding in the community has the added benefit that it also gives people more of a sense of ownership or involvement in the project which always beneficial.

how to raise funds for a tree carving sculpture: projects like this which are in public places could be funded through crowd sourcing. Photo shows a giant hand carved into a dead tree trunk. it is surrounded by trees.

Public sculptures like this Giant Hand of Vyrnwy could potentially be funded through crowdfunding.

 

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Fundraising Events

Another idea for raising funds for a community sculpture is holding a fundraising event. We’re all familiar with bake sales, and there’s a reason for that. They’re popular!

Now being honest, you will need to sell a LOT of cakes to raise the money needed for a large scale sculpture or sculpture series! BUT community fundraisers can still be a help. Sponsored events, dances, quiz nights, raffles, competitions, book drives…they are all tried and tested methods.

In this category, we would also count using a website like Bonfire or Teespring to create merchandise that can easily be sold to generate funds. Using sites like these mean you don’t need to be concerned about inventory. You set up your shop, upload your products and they take care of manufacture and shipping. You have no customer service issues and you don’t have to invest money in products you may not sell. One of our team raised £3000 for medical costs incurred in the US using Bonfire, so we know it can work!

how to raise funds for a tree carving sculpture: consider fundraising events or selling merchandise  for a sculpture for a local park. Photo shows a dead yew tree trunk carved into a dragon hatching from its base

Although this was a private commission, transforming a dead tree in a local park into a sculpture like this could be done through fundraising.

 

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Monetise your Tree Carving Sculpture

Our final suggestion for raising funds for a sculpture by Simon O’Rourke, is to monetise the sculpture. That is, use it in some way to generate funds.

We don’t mean to do that all year round necessarily. In the case of something like a woodland sculpture trail, that would take away from its purpose. However, there are ways you could do this occasionally.

  • Perhaps by hosting a special moonlight walk around the trail once or twice a year with an admission fee?
  • What about selling tickets for a ‘sneak peak’ event before the official unveiling?
  • Or if you are having a sculpture created from a standing trunk on site,  IF health and safety allows for it, could you let people watch Simon carve for an hour for a donation?
  • If your sculpture is a character with a name such as Ruby the Owl, Verity the Vole, or Horatio the Hedgehog, could you run a competition to name it, or guess the name?
  • Or if the unveiling involves a celebrity, sell raffle tickets for the opportunity to be part of the ceremony and be photographed with the sculpture and celebrity?

Monetising your sculpture may not initially seem easy, but we’re sure there are ways you could do it occasionally to offset the costs.

Sculpture of a scarecrow made from oak by Simon O'Rourke. He is pointing to the sky and surrounded by bare trees.

Meet Tattybogle the scarecrow! Naming a sculpture is one of the ways to generate smalle rtirckles of money that can help offset costs of your sculpture by Simon.

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Final Thoughts

We hope this has been helpful for you in generating some ideas for funding your tree carving sculpture by Simon. While some of them will by no means cover the cost, we hope they will be a springboard for you for other ideas as well as possibly bringing in small amounts. After all, every little helps!

Simon never wants the cost of a sculpture to be prohibitive either. So when you chat about the costs of a commission, why not ask him for some alternative ideas if the initial suggestion is too costly? Someone from the team can also talk to you about structuring payments.

Contact us using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

ayrton senna bust by simon o'rourke in foreground. It is in progress. In the background Simon looks at a wall of senna photos, checking the details for his sculpture

FAQs: Why is Art Expensive? (What You Pay for When you Commission a Sculpture)

FAQs: Why is Art Expensive? (What You Pay for When you Commission a Sculpture) 1920 1278 Simon O'Rourke

But why does it cost so much? This is a question artists are asked across every field. Whether the artist is a sculpture, musician, painter, photographer (or any other field!) they are frequently asked to justify their prices. Many artists struggle to make a living as they often end up not charging enough to cover their time. It is definitely a valid question and one that we want to cover in this blog!

Simon O'Rourke photographed with the wooden bust he created of Ayrton Senna.

Simon photographed with his Ayrton Senna bust

Why is Art Expensive?
An Economist’s Perspective.

According to Wonderopolis, economists believe the cost of art to be based on supply and demand. They would say when it comes to demand, nobody really needs art! However, there are plenty of people who want beautiful artworks. Therefore, with plenty of demand for artwork, it’s the amount of work available that leads to high prices. Scarcity or the artist’s ability to only produce a limited number of pieces is what makes it expensive.
This is true to an extent. There are however LOTS of other reasons for the cost, and LOADS of things you are getting when you pay for a piece of art…

why is art expensive? photo shows a small wooden sculpture of a bulldog by simon o'rourke.

People are sometimes surprised by the cost of smaller pieces like this adorable bulldog portrait

Why is Art Expensive?
Materials & Sourcing

The first cost behind one of Simon’s sculptures is an obvious one. The raw materials, and the cost of sourcing that material. Even though his timber is only ever from a tree that is damaged, diseased or dangerous, there is still a cost involved. Unless of course, the commission is for a standing stump.
Simon works closely with a few tree surgeons he trusts to ensure that he is getting good, useable timber at a good price. Incidentally, if you are looking for someone to evaluate, cut back or remove a tree, we recommend TreeTech NW!

Sourcing and transporting the raw materials is one of the expenses underlying the cost of a sculpture

Why is Art Expensive?
Cost of Equipment

Every artist needs tools to work with. Simon is no different. And purchasing and maintaining chainsaws, drills, burr bits and more can be expensive. They cost a little more than say a good quality rolling pin or paintbrush! Tree Carving also demands good quality outdoor clothing, and protective workwear such as boots, helmet, ear protection and sometimes glasses or mask to shield Simon’s face. It’s important not to compromise on these as they have an impact on both long and short term health. Stihl make some great quality PPE by the way if you are on the lookout for some yourself!

why is art expensive? photo shows treecarver simon o'rourke on scaffolding working on a sculpture of a ghostly woman. He wears PPE. this is one of the underlying expenses in the cost of art.

It is important for artists to have the right tools and equipment like the PPE Simon is wearing in this photo of him working on The Marbury Lady

Why is Art Expensive?
Project-Specific Costs

Every project also has its own unique costs, not just the cost of the materials. If Simon has to travel, or stay in local accommodation, these are costs he has to take into account. Artists have different ways of doing this. Some create an itemised account and bill the customer for it specifically. Others will take it into account as something their annual income needs to cover when they set themselves an hourly rate. Either way, it is a legitimate thing!
There may also be other costs too, like hiring scaffolding or a cherry picker (trees can be quite tall you know!). Perhaps Simon needs to pay someone like Treetech to deliver the piece. There may also be permits needed in some public places for some of his sculptures.
Whatever the need, they are some of the costs that have to be factored into a commission, and they are part of what you get when you pay for artwork.

Why is art expensive? photo shows simon o'rourke with his oak maiden sculpture. It is around 3m tall, and he is standing in a cherry picker, one of the underlying costs behind his art

Sometimes Simon has additional equipment to hire, like this cherry picker used for The Oak Maiden

Why is Art Expensive?
Underlying Business Costs

We’ve all seen the romantic pictures of Bohemian artists working from their cluttered studio apartments. Or the classic photographer-in-movies who turns his bedroom into a darkroom. It’s a lovely picture, and one that we often cling to. Sadly though, it isn’t accurate! While there are many artists who are able to work alone, others (like Simon) employ a team of people. And rather than working from that perfect attic apartment, they rent or buy buildings. In Simon’s case this is a necessity not a preference. Can you imagine trying to carve a sculpture with a chainsaw on your dining room table?!  This means there are lots of costs that the artist’s business has to cover…

Salaries.
Rent/mortgage and utilities.
Insurance.
Health and safety training (especially proper training for using chainsaws and keeping licenses updated)

Insurance and health and safety compliance aren’t things we often think about when we think ‘art’, but as many artists are running business that go beyond themselves, it is one of the costs behind the ‘product’. Simon and Liz are fortunate to have a great consultant they work with to help with this side of things. If you run a business and need some advice, we recommend talking to Acton Health and Safety.

Why is art expensive? Simon O'Rourke is working on a sculpture in the middle of a busy workshop. Running the workshop, insurance, licensing for the chainsaw users etc are some of the costs behind his artwork

Simon at work in the workshop. Covering the costs of running a workshop are some of the underlying costs behind the cost of a commission.

Why is Art Expensive?
Artist’s Time

One of the costs behind a piece of art is paying the artist for the time it takes them to create the piece. That time may not just be the actual creation time either. They will have put time into getting quotes for equipment, finding the costs of materials, going back and forth with the client in conversation to find out what they really want. They will also put time into research and sometimes practice.

When Simon is asked to create something, he needs to take time researching the subject. That may look like hours on the internet looking at lion paws, as he did for these big cats. It may mean googling the clothing of a particular period as he did for these miners and the cricketer. His most recent portrait even included trying to establish if Shakespeare was left or right-handed! Portraits of real people, in particular, need him to spend time really trying to learn something about the person’s character and life, as he did for the Ayrton Senna bust.

This time and these details can be what makes the difference between a very good sculpture and an excellent one. And so, when you pay for a piece of art, you are getting the physical piece, but also the artist’s time!

ayrton senna bust by simon o'rourke in foreground. It is in progress. In the background Simon looks at a wall of senna photos, checking the details for his sculpture

Thorough research and preparation ensure excellence in Simon’s pieces

Why is Art Expensive?
Training, Expertise, Experience & Reputation

This last category of costs is a little harder to quantify than all the others. In every industry, we set salaries according to how much responsibility the person has, how much training and how much experience. Teacher salaries increase each year to a certain point. Gaining a Masters can lead to an increase in salary as a nurse. Many salaries are set taking into account how much the person paid for their training as well as the incredible amount of knowledge, skill and expertise they have. A consultant is able to charge more when they have gained experience and proven their capability.

We recognise these unquantifiable things make a difference to the ‘product’ we are receiving.

And so it is in the art world.
When we pay for a piece of art, we are gaining something we can’t count. What we see represents years of training, reading, watching, practice. Making mistakes. Learning better methods. Trying different tools. Tears. Sweat. Coaching. Starting over.

When you pay for a commission, you are getting all of that as well as the physical piece you take home… something that really can’t be valued.

simon o'rourker with his sculpture 'the dragon of bethesda'

When Simon carves a dragon like this, it is informed by years of sketching and carving other dragons.

Commissioning a Piece

We hope this has helped you think about what you are getting when you commission and pay for one of Simon’s sculptures – or any piece of art!

Simon often takes on a lot of public sculptures and loves for art to be accessible to as many as possible. For this reason, he is very reasonable in his costing. We do recognise though that for many people, owning art is a luxury, and cost can be off-putting.
However, Simon will also do what he can to ensure that cost isn’t the reason a potential client doesn’t go ahead with a commission. As we mentioned in our blog about ‘the sculptures that didn’t make the cut‘, if a potential client says ‘no’ based on cost, Simon will often have other ideas that could help bring the price down.

Maybe it’s size.
Maybe it’s less detail.
Perhaps it’s using different wood…

sketch by simon o'rourke of a potential sculpture of an unknown female

After Simon has made initial suggestions, he will chat with you about any changes, whether that be cost, material or design

So, if you are thinking about commissioning a piece, don’t assume that the initial quote is a final one. Although there are very real costs that often can’t be altered, Simon will also do what he can to make suggestions that match the budget you have, where he can. Don’t be afraid to ask!

You can start that commissioning process at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

We look forward to hearing from you!

commissioning the best sculpture: a sketch of a lion by simon o'rourke. It is the head and front legs on a lion standing on a plinth. the lion is suggested to be Aslan from C S Lews' Narnia series.

Commissioning the Right Sculpture – Why Some Designs Make the Cut, (!!!!), and Others Don’t!

Commissioning the Right Sculpture – Why Some Designs Make the Cut, (!!!!), and Others Don’t! 1430 2048 Simon O'Rourke

It’s probably no surprise that Simon has an archive of sketches that never became sculptures. There are all kinds of reasons for this. It is SO important for a piece of commissioned art to be EXACTLY what the client wants. This means that no matter how great an idea, sometimes it just doesn’t work out for a sculpture to be realised. Perhaps the design just isn’t quite what the client wants. Sometimes the budget, location, timing, or feel just don’t come together. In this blog, we share some of Simon’s sketches that didn’t ‘make the cut’!!! (see what we did there?!) and explore some of his thoughts on those sculptures. We also have some tips on commissioning the right sculpture for yourself…

Commissioning the right sculpture means exploring a variety of designs. Picture shows a faded photo of a garden with a tree stump. Simon O'Rourke has sketched his proposed sculpture over the photo so the client can imagine what that piece would look like. Proposed sculpture is a Japanese dragon wrapped round the trunk.

Simon will often overlay his design over a photo of the tree to help the client visualise the finished piece.

Commissioning the Right Sculpture: The Process

Essentially, the first step in exploring a commission is for Simon to produce a sketch and costs for the sculpture. If the tree is a standing stump, he will often sketch his ideas over a photo of the tree which makes it easier for the client to visualise the finished piece. Sometimes there will be some conversation about modifications (design and budget). Sometimes though, the conversation ends at this point. The design may be revisited for another client in the future. Occasionally Simon may have the opportunity to use it for a competition. Often though, that idea is archived, and those are some of the sketches we’re sharing here today.

Picture shows sketches of two different potential horse sculptures by Simon O'Rourke. Above each is text explaining the size, material and costs. Proposals like this are a key part in commissioning the right sculpture by an artist.

Proposals include details of size, material, and costs, and often include more than one suggestion

Simon’s Perspective:

As well as sharing some of Simon’s unused sketches, we wanted to ask his perspective on these pieces that never became sculptures…

commissioning the right sculpture: a sketch of a lion by simon o'rourke. It is the head and front legs on a lion standing on a plinth. the lion is suggested to be Aslan from C S Lews' Narnia series.

An archived sketch for an Aslan sculpture

Q: Simon, how does it feel when a customer says no to a sculpture?

A: “It depends on why they say no if it’s because of budget, I will always offer an alternative option. I never the price to put off a customer.”

Client tips:
  • Rather than being disappointed by a proposal for an unaffordable sculpture, mention your budget when you first begin exploring ideas.
  • If you are commissioning a piece for a public space it is also worth researching grants or considering crowdfunding.
sketch of a crocodile emerging from long grass. the sketch is a proposal by sculpture simon o'rourke. sketches like this are a vital part in commissioning the best sculpture.

An idea Simon had for a reptilian sculpture

Is it helpful when a customer has a firm idea of what they would like?

“Yes, it’s really helpful as it gives me a starting point for the design.”

Client tips:
  • Share as much as you can about what you are looking for in a sculpture. This can include pictures of other sculptures you like, artists you admire, or a specific style or story you want. Although Simon will never copy the work of another artist, it helps him come up with a design that is more likely to be perfect for you.
  • Don’t be afraid to come back to Simon with specific changes or tweaks. Your satisfaction with the finished piece is the most important thing, and dialogue (as we mentioned in our St George and the Dragon blog) is a big part of that.
Sketch of a proposed sculpture by Simon O'Rourke. It features a giant Prometheus leaning down and giving fire to a small human.

A proposal for a sculpture of Prometheus

Q: Are there any designs you have done or sketches that you have produced that you wish the client would have said yes to and why?

A: Yes, I designed a Marionnette for a client, similar to the one I’d done at the HuskyCup 2007!! Sadly the customer didn’t have the budget for it after the other sculptures he’d already commissioned from me!!!

Client tip:

Of course, we understand sometimes a sculpture just can’t happen. That said if you would like a collection of commissioned art pieces but budget is an issue, consider ways of using them to generate income. Could you open your garden on certain days as part of a town art trail? Or hire out the sculpture for events?

proposal sketch for a sculpture by simon o'rourke. the sketch shows a giant 'treefolk' while he talks to a young boy. marionette sitting

The original sketch for a marionette sculpture.

Q: If there was one thing that you could sculpt, that no other Sculptor had made, what would it be and why?

A: It would be a huge dragon, like, huge, that moved and breathed fire, and just looked awesome, and completely embodied all of the ideals of the mythological descriptions and imaginations of what we, today, think of as, a dragon!!!!!

Client tip:

Part of commissioning the best sculpture can be finding the right artist. If you have a sculpture in mind, research artists and see if any have a particular passion or focus that ties in with what you want. For example, somebody wanting a dancer in Impressionist style would do well to find a sculpture who admires and emulates Degas. For people wanting human form, dragons or fantasy sculpture, Simon has an incredible portfolio.

Sketch of a brick tower which has broken in half. Half lies on the floor. A dragon climbs the side of the standing tower. The sketch is a sculpture proposal by Simon O'Rourke, and sketches like this form an important part of commissioning the best sculpture for the client.

An archived ‘dragon and tower’ sketch.

Q: Have you got any regrets when it comes to some of the sketches you’ve done and jobs you’ve not got and if so, why?

A: I feel I could have been more adventurous with some of the public art commissions I’ve been asked to quote for. I’ve erred on the side of caution with some of my proposals and reckon if I’d have gone with my first instinct I would have got the job.

Client tip:

There is a better chance of commissioning the right sculpture if the artists bidding know what you are looking for. Mention particular styles, inspiration, mood etc when you announce a commission opportunity, and all your competing artists are more likely to propose something you love!

sketch of an ent by simon o'rourke.

Simon originally sketched this Ent as an idea for the HuskyCup

Commissioning the Right Sculpture for Yourself

If you are interested in commissioning your own sculpture, we suggest reading our blog “How to Commission a Sculpture“. It will help you understand the process. As you can tell from these unused sketches, we understand that an enquiry doesn’t commit you to a sculpture!
Simon would love to start the conversation with you though!

Or perhaps one of these sketches has caught your attention and you would like to know more about commissioning the piece?

Whatever your hopes for a tree carving sculpture, contact us via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and Simon will be in touch!

 

 

who are your influences? photo shows a close up of a wizard carved in oak by simon o'rourke. it has a rough, unrefined and highly textured finish. This is close to the work of influences on him like Rodin and Degas.

FAQs: Who are your influences?

FAQs: Who are your influences? 1080 1080 Simon O'Rourke

One of the questions artists often get asked is ‘Who are your influences?’. Simon is no different as people are curious about his training and inspiration. And so, we thought we would blog about it! Read on to discover some of Simon’s influences as a sculptor.

Who are you influences? Close up of Simon working on the face of a sculpture of a miner. It has a rough imperfect texture similar to influences like Degas or Rosso

Who are your Influences: Storytelling

The first of Simon’s influences is a little bit vague. He was trained in illustration, and at one time had plans to become a freelance illustrator of children’s books. He has had a love for a long time of storytelling, and this spills into all his sculptures. Simon always seeks to tell a story in his work, as if the viewer has been invited into a moment within a story.

Oak sculpture of Gollum from Lord of the Rings. He is holding two fish and has turned his head to look to his side, as if he has been startled by something.

This sculpture of Gollum is a great example of Simon creating a story through sculpture.

Who are your Influences: Anatomical Detail

Simon admires the work of Michaelangelo and Bernini for their attention to anatomy. In this blog about carving big cats, he talks of the importance of understanding anatomy. For example, the skeleton, how the muscles lie, and how the animal moves. This understanding is absolutely crucial to creating sculptures that are realistic and believable. Obviously this determines things like proportions and size. It also dictates angles of limbs, how far a head turns, where shadows fall, and more.

Who are your influnces? Photo shows David by Michaelangelo, one of simon o'rourkes influences in terms of his attention to anatomy

“David” by Michaelangelo is a classic example of the artist’s attention to anatomical detail

Who are your Influences: Impressionist Sculptors

Whilst Simon pays attention to anatomy in the same way as artist like Michaelangelo, it’s clear he has a very different style. If he had to categorise his style, Simon himself would consider himself more of an impressionist sculptor.

Who are your influences? Photo shows head of john the baptist; a sculpture by Rodin. It has a rough, imperfect finish that has influenced Simon O'Rourke

Head of John the Baptist by Rodin, one of Simon’s influences.

Impressionism in sculpture is a little harder to define than in painting. In fact, there are several different definitions, as this blog about Impressionist sculpture explains. A couple of key points though are ‘concentration on fleeting motion’, and an imperfect, loose, finish. This is seen in the work of artists such as Degas, Rodin and Rosso.

That unrefined finish or high level of texture is something of a trademark of Simon’s work. He frequently lets the natural texture of the wood show, or chooses to carve in a way that enhances the natural twists, turns and grain of the wood. This less refined finish is much more fitting to wood than trying to create something perfect. It really matches the aesthetic of the wood much better too than something more refined, as well as being more true to Simon’s love of the outdoors and nature.

For those interested in creating a similar effect in their work, this blog about Simon’s favourite tools has some tips and tools for achieving this finish.

who are your influences? photo shows a close up of a wizard carved in oak by simon o'rourke. it has a rough, unrefined and highly textured finish. This is close to the work of influences on him like Rodin and Degas.

The unrefined, textured finish to this wizard is inspired by artists like Rodin

Who are your Influences: Other Chainsaw Carvers

An obvious source of influence and inspiration is other chainsaw artists. Some of Simon’s favourite chainsaw artists include Hikaru Kodama from Japan, Scott Dow from Pennsylvania, US, and Chris Foltz from Oregon, US. He’s fortunate too to be able to call them friends! When it comes to chainsaw artists, there are numerous others too as you might expect – but far too many to name here!

what are your influences? Photo shows an intricate wood sculpture of a dinosaur by Scoot Dow. Scott is one of the chainsaw artists admired by fellow sculptor Simon O'Rourke

A recent piece by Scott Dow, one of Simon’s chainsaw artist influences

Who are your Influences: Final thoughts

As with any artist, it’s impossible to reduce influences to just one or two. Really, our influences end up being a lifetime of experiences and exposure to both the natural and created world. Light. Lines. Colour. Shapes. Books. Cinematography. Landscapes. These are just some of the things that we see around us every day, and process, and determine what is ‘beautiful’ to us.
So although we have narrowed down Simon’s influences to these three paragraphs, there is also a much bigger, fuller world that has influenced his art.

With that said, what are some of the things that influence you in your art? Drop us and let us know how you express yourself (music? drawing? dance? sculpture?) and who influences you. We’d love to know!

who are your influences? photo shows a close up of drapery/twisted cloth on a simon o'rourke sculpture. the unrefined, textured finish is reminiscent of impressionist influnces on him such as Rodin and Degas

The cloth on The Marbury Lady is another example of Simon’s loose, unrefined, textured aesthetic

If you love Simon’s aesthetic and would like your own sculpture, contact him via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ to commission a piece or ask for more information.