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Narnia Beaver Den Sculptures

Narnia Beaver Den Sculptures 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Last weekend Simon travelled down to Oxford to install his fairy sculpture and work on a lovely new commission for the Narnia Tree House. These Narnia beaver den sculptures are sure to delight anyone who is a fan of C S Lewis’ classic tales…

 

whimsical fairy on a swing wood sculpture by chainsaw artist simon o'rourke

This whimsical fairy is one of several sculptures commissioned for the Narnia Tree House

 

About the Narnia Treehouse

We couldn’t talk about the sculptures though, without first explaining a little about the clients and their property. Simon’s client, Yaz, and his partner own a property bordering the house once lived in by author C S Lewis. The beautiful woodland surrounding both houses would undoubtedly have been some of Lewis’ inspiration for the woodland in his classic series, The Chronicles of Narnia.

Wanting to create a venue they could use for family gatherings and parties, Yaz and his partner built an incredible treehouse on their property among that woodland. And so the Narnia Treehouse was born! Over time they began to host events and let it out for overnight stays, with the income going towards Congenital Anaemia Network, a charity founded by Yaz’ partner (Dr Roy) who, as a haematologist, found that there was little support available for those who suffer from these rare inherited disorders.

 

narnia treehouse, oxford

The Narnia Treehouse

 

Finding Simon

Prior to finding Simon, the clients had worked with a number of other chainsaw artists including the very talented Matthew Crabb who designed a Mr Tumnus sculpture.
When the clients found a photo of an angel sculpture on the web and wanted a similar one commissioned, Mathew immediately recognised it as one of Simon’s and recommended him.
In time, the couple also wanted to add more sculptures to further the Narnian feel and enhance the experience people have when visiting.
With his background in children’s illustration and a love for fantasy fiction like Lord of the Rings, Simon turned out to be a great fit for their project.

 

narnia beaver den sculptures by simon o'rourke

The Process

Yaz had several ideas for sculptures. These included the fairy on the swing and a throne.
The fairy is a whimsical sculpture appropriate for any fantasy woodland. And the throne Simon created is reminiscent of the throne belonging to Jadis the White Witch in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Upon hearing the Narnia connection, Simon also brought the idea of the Beavers’ den. There can be some back and forth between Simon and a client when it comes to settling on a design (as we talk about in this blog about how to commission a sculpture) but Yaz can testify the process from commissioning to finished product was smooth.

a throne made out of wood by chainsaw artist simon o'rourke. it is surrounded by woodland and is part of the narnia beaver den sculptures series at narnia treehouse, oxford

The throne Simon created for The Narnia Treehouse

 

An On-site Carve

Sometimes it makes more sense for Simon to create a piece in his workshop and install it at a later date. That was the case with the fairy. Sometimes, it’s necessary or more practical for Simon to carve on site. As it was with the throne and Narnia beaver den sculptures. This is obviously the case when carving into a standing piece of timber but also makes sense when the client is providing the timber from their own land as Yaz did.

There are a few things that you may need to do for an on-site carve, which we talk about in our blog “Things to consider when you commission an onsite chainsaw carving sculpture”. One advantage though if this is the case is getting to watch Simon work! Most people who have watched find it fascinating. These particular clients were also shocked at how incredibly quick it was!

 

Narnia beaver den sculptures by simon o'rourke: Mrs Beaver

The Finished Narnia Beaver Den Sculptures

The finished scene shows Mr and Mrs Beaver sitting around their table, with empty seats ready for hosting the Pevensie children. Or modern-day human visitors to the treehouse who would like a photo with them!!! Unless of course, you fancy yourself as more of a Queen, in which case there’s the throne! The beavers are wonderfully sweet and the expressions Simon gave them perfectly reflect the gentle and kind characters C S Lewis created. And, importantly, the family all love them!

 

mrs beaver, an oak sculpture from simon o'rourke's narnia beaver den sculptures scene

Visiting the Narnia Treehouse

One of the blessings of Simon’s work is that as a team we get to meet lots of different people with lots of different stories, passions and interests. Yaz is incredibly creative and it was so fun to see such a beautiful property born out of something as simple as a family treehouse. As someone with a rare disease themself, one of our team was also encouraged by the way this family have been using their home to benefit people with rare haematological conditions. The family are currently taking a break from letting the treehouse, but you can watch out for future openings by following them at www.instagram.com/narniatreehouse/. We warn you though – you will fall in love with the property and start dreaming of your own version!

 

sideways view of the narnia beaver den sculptures by simon o'rourke. two beavers sit on tree trunk chairs around a table.

 

Commissioning Your Own Sculpture

If you would like to bring one of your favourite books to life with a sculpture, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact and one of the team will be in touch!

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!

 

 

Photo shows a half finished wood sculpture of an elf on a swing; one of Simon O'Rourke's 2021 sculpture commissions

2021 Sculpture Commissions

2021 Sculpture Commissions 1368 1824 Simon O'Rourke

Happy New Year! We hope that despite the turbulence, it has still started well for you.
After last week’s reflection on Simon’s sculptures from 2020, we thought this week we would look forward to this year. Simon already has some exciting 2021 sculpture commissions lined up.

2021 Sculpture Commissions: Animals

One of Simon’s upcoming 2021 sculpture commissions is a leopard. After a year of lions it’s nice to have a continuation of the theme, but with a bit of a change. The challenge with this one is that it will be lying down, and fixed into a real tree. Part art, part engineering!

In the category of ‘animals’, Simon also has an upcoming commission for a horse bench which we look forward to seeing.

treecarving sculpture by Simon O'Rourke of a Mountain lionness climbing down a pile of rocks.

This lioness and her cubs were one of five lion sculptures Simon created in 2020

2021 Sculpture Commissions: Poulton Hall

In 2021 Simon will also be adding to his works already at Poulton Hall, Wirral. During 2020 he created the fabulous Monkey Puzzle Ent and Gollum sculptures. This year he will undertake a commission of Shakespeare sitting on a bench, which fits in with the literary theme that flows throughout the grounds.

Gollum by Simon O'Rourke. One of Simon's 2012 sculpture commissions will be a sculpture of Shakespeare sitting on a bench to add to his sculptures already at Poulton Hall.

This Gollum sculpture at Poulton Hall was one of Simon’s most memorable 2020 sculptures

2021 Sculpture Commissions: Fantasy

With Netflix releasing their Narnia series this year, we can expect to see a lot of references to C S Lewis and the mystical world he created. In a complete coincidence, Simon actually already has a commission for a Narnia sculpture! He’ll be making Lucy with the lampost for Cedar Hollow, Oxford. The owner already has other Narnia sculptures – very fitting as it is next door to where C S Lewis once lived! The guest house is also going to have a Lord of the Rings area. Simon has actually already created an elf on a swing which will be installed there. If you follow us on social media, you might have spotted it already.

You can also expect to see another Ent in the near future too. After seeing the Ent at Poulton Hall and the incredible Oak Treefolk (Father and daughter at a property in Surrey) we can’t wait to see this next Ent!

Photo shows a half finished wood sculpture of an elf on a swing; one of Simon O'Rourke's 2021 sculpture commissions

The Cedar Hollow Elf in progress in Simon’s workshop

Your Own 2021 Sculpture Commission

Simon is super excited about all of these projects, and we can’t wait to share them with you as they are completed.
The good news is, he is still taking commissions for 2021. So, if you are interested in commissioning something whether it be a pet portrait or full sculpture trail, get in touch! The best way is via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.
Until then, we’d love to know, what else would you like to see Simon create this year?
Drop us your answer in the comments!

The Oak Maiden by Simon O'Rourke. Oak is the best wood for a sculpture according to chainsaw carver simon o'rourke

FAQs: What is the Best Wood for a Sculpture?

FAQs: What is the Best Wood for a Sculpture? 720 960 Simon O'Rourke

Welcome back to our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ series! This week we answer one of Simon’s most commonly asked questions. That is, ‘What is the best wood for a sculpture?’.

Simon O'Rourke uses a chainsaw to carve a lifesize portrait of Ken Dodd

What is the Best Wood for a Sculpture: Sustainability

So, the first thing we want to mention is something more personal and subjective. That is the sustainability and sourcing of the wood. Trees are an important part of our ecosystem, and although Simon loves wood as a material, he doesn’t believe in cutting down a healthy tree to source timber. All his sculptures are made from trees that were no longer viable for different reasons. Our team knows those reasons as ‘The Four D’s”: dead, dying, diseased or dangerous. So basically, the best wood for a sculpture always some from a tree that fits one of those D’s.

What is the best wood for a sculpture? Redwood ranks at No 3. Photo shows an example of a redwood sculpture, the european wolf at Fforest Fawr

The redwood used for the Sculpture Trail in Fforest Fawr was from a tree that had to be cut down as it had become a danger to the public.

What is the Best Wood for a Sculpture: Durability

One of the key factors in what makes the best wood for a sculpture is durability. Especially for sculptures that will be outdoors in the wind and rain! But, as we said in the blog ‘Is my Tree Suitable for a Tree Carving Sculpture’, wood is not an exact science. This means although the woods we mention here are generally the longest-lasting, we can’t really give an exact life span! It also means that the list that we give is very much Simon’s opinion based on experience and his own research. There may be others who disagree or recommend other woods – and that’s OK!
So, without further ado, here are the top five (in Simon’s opinion!) woods for an outdoor sculpture*

What is the best wood for a sculpture? Photo shows a sculpture of an angel in oak standing next to a small pond. The oak is aging and turning a deeper shade of grey, but has no signs of decay.

The Angel at the Pool of Bethesda made in oak is not only durable but as she ages fits in beautifully with the historic property

Best Wood for a Sculpture #1: Oak

Oak is Simon’s number one recommendation for an outside sculpture. It is extremely durable, and in abundance in the UK! In fact, it’s the second most common tree in the country (Birch being most common). It has the bonus of having very defined grain too. This means as it ages, the markings stand out more, making it more striking and emphasising features like the eyes, drapery, or textures like scales. For more of Simon’s thoughts on that aging process, you can read our blog How Long Will My Wood Sculpture Last?
The oak maiden below is one of the many, many examples of Simon’s oak sculptures.

The Oak Maiden by Simon O'Rourke. Oak is the best wood for a sculpture according to chainsaw carver simon o'rourke

This aptly named ‘Oak Maiden‘ shows an example of freshly carved oak.

Best Wood for a Sculpture #2: Cedar

Coming in as Simon’s number two best wood for a sculpture is cedar.
Cedar wood is extremely durable and holds up well to outdoor weather conditions. Because of this, it’s often used for fencing. It smells great, ages to a beautiful silver-grey, and looks amazing freshly-carved, as this Radagast sculpture shows.

Cedar is the second best wood for sculpture according to simon o'rourke. Pictrure shows an example of a cedar carving : A wizard holding a staff

Simon made Radagast The Brown from diseased cedar.

Best Wood for a Sculpture #3: Redwood

Redwood ranks at number three of Simon’s preferred timber in terms of durability. They can grow to 300ft, making them one of the tallest trees in the world. Girth is an important factor in suitability of a piece of wood for carving. This is definitely not an issue with redwood! It’s not unheard of for them to breathe fire too like this redwood dragon created for The Dragon Tower.

george clark stands in front of a small stone building. The building has a redwood dragon mounted above the door. The dragon is breathing fire. Created by Simon O'rourke from redwood, his number three recommended best wood for a sculpture.

Maggon the Fire Breathing Dragon featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces earlier this year.

Best Wood for a Sculpture #4: Yew

Yew trees rank at number four in Simon’s recommended wood for an outdoor sculpture. Yew trees don’t always get the best press. Not only are they toxic, but they are also said to be a symbol of death and doom. BUT! They  DO make great sculptures! They are durable, and the wood has lovely purple or deep brown undertones, as you can see in this fairytale dragon scene Simon created…

photo shows a garden. One the right is a dragon carved from yew. On the left two fairytale towers also carved from yew. Shown as an example of the fourth best wood for sculpture that will be outdoors.

Simon created this scene from yew trees that had to be cut back.

Best Wood for a Sculpture #5: Sweet Chestnut

Our final wood to be featured today is sweet chestnut. It’s extremely important to note ‘sweet chestnut‘ NOT horse chestnut! Sweet chestnut is the tree that produces the nuts we eat at Christmas (speaking of which, have you indulged yet?!). It stands up well against wind and rain, and has a girth of around 2m. This means it’s great for an outside sculpture. Horse chestnut however rots extremely quickly and is one of the worst woods for an outdoor sculpture!
Sweet chestnut was the choice of both the wood and frame in this memorial for a local school teacher.

chair with a daffodil carved into the back. to the left is a framed mosaic. it is made of sweet chestnut, the fifth best wood for a sculpture according to simon o'rourke

What About Other Trees?

Of course, these top five are not the only woods for a sculpture. If you follow Simon on social media, you will have seen examples of his work in elm, walnut, and monkey puzzle from the last year alone. In some cases these trees would otherwise have been cut down, and this is a way of extending their life in a new way. This walnut fairy is just one example.

fairy carved into a standing tree stump around 2m tall

This fairy was carved into a standing walnut stump

If you have a tree that fits one of those Four D’s (dead, dying, diseased or dangerous) and you would like a wood sculpture by Simon, it’s definitely worth contacting him to chat. He will be able to determine if the timber will work or not.
Contact him on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ to start the conversation.
We look forward to hearing from you!

*We have talked about most durable wood as much of Simon’s work is for commissions that will remain outside. If you are interested in a sculpture for indoors, there are many more options available to you. Contact Simon using the link above to find out more.

Close up of Simon O'Rourke using the manpatools belt sander to refine the mouth of a water dragon. It is one of his favourite manpatools for creating texture on sculptures.

FAQs: Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures

FAQs: Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures 1098 1098 Simon O'Rourke

Welcome back to our FAQs blog series! In part two we look at Simon’s favourite Manpatools for creating texture on sculptures.

Chainsaw artist simon o'rourke is using one of his favourite manpatools for creating texture on sculptures. The round cutter tool is being used to add texture to flames as a phoenix rises from them.

Using the round cutter head to create texture on the phoenix

About Manpatools

Before we go into specific tools, a little bit about Manpatools.
They’ve been around since 1988. This means they have had over 30 years to develop their tools, and to still be in existence, clearly have a strong customer base. This in itself speaks of quality and customer satisfaction. They focus on attachments that work with an angle grinder, and in the UK are available through www.chainsawbars.co.uk. Incidentally, if you want to know more about buying through them, you can read our blog about our collaboration with chainsawbars.co.uk.
In general, Manpatools are a great quality product, with excellent functionality. They are nicely balanced, straightforward to attach, and come with different sizing rings so you can use different angle grinders. As a bonus, they are also neatly packaged, well presented, and come with an easy-to-understand user manual. Basically a winning product all round!

simon o'rourke's Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures: the multicutter. Photo shows the multicutter with various attachments and accessories spread out alongside a manual.

The manpatools multicutter comes with everything you need to get started.

Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures: The Belt Sander.

The first of the tools Simon has enjoyed using is the Manpatools belt sander.
As you can see, it is chunkier than some, and Simon reports “it has some beef”. For those who are uncertain, when it comes to power tools, that’s usually a compliment! That said, Simon reports there is minimal vibration when using the sander.

The size means it isn’t great for precision work when it comes to creating textured sculptures, but it’s great for creating contrast in larger areas. For example, creating a smoother appearance on the bones in the wings of this water dragon collaboration with Keiji during the 2019 Huskycup.

simon o'rourke's Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on sculptures. Photo shows SImon using a belt sander to create smooth texture on the bones of dragon wings

Simon uses the manpatools belt sander

Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures: The Rear Handle

Another of Simon’s favourite Manpatools products is the rear handle attachment. This is really great when working on a large scale, or with chunky pieces of timber. It transforms the angle grinder (Simon likes a Milwaukee angle grinder by the way) to a rear handle tool. It’s easy to put together, and holding the tool from further away means less vibration.
Although this may not seem to be a big thing, it’s actually super important for health. Vibration can cause changes in tendons, muscles, bones, and joints, and it can also affect the nervous system. Collectively, these effects are known as Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), and it isn’t something you want! Minimal vibration helps prevent these problems from developing.

Close up of Simon O'Rourke using the manpatools belt sander to refine the mouth of a water dragon. It is one of his favourite manpatools for creating texture on sculptures.

Simon refines the water dragon mouth with the Manpatools belt sander

Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures: The Multicutter

The multicutter by Manpatools has become one of Simon’s essential pieces of kit. It is absolutely brilliant for creating texture on sculptures, and extremely versatile because this attachment also comes with a range of attachments!
The basic kit comes with a side handle, wrench, pulley wheel, drive belt, sizing rings, a rounded carbide cutter, cutter housing, and  – of course – the cutter itself. It’s extremely smooth with no wobble and has a massive amount of applications depending on the cutter used.

For those who have time, Simon introduces the tools in much more detail in this 20-minute video, as well as showing how to put them together…

Favourite Manpatools for creating Texture on Sculptures: Shaped Cutters

As we said, one of the things that makes the multicutter so versatile is the various attachments available. It comes with the round cutter, and Simon has also tried the square, triangle, v, hole, crack, and miniature cutters.

The round cutter is a staple and was used to create the scales on Maggon the Fire-Breathing Dragon, featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. You can actually stay in this building, and see the incredible texture up close for yourself! Visit www.thedragontower.co.uk to find out more.

A close-up of a redwood dragon mounted onto a wall, breathing fire! The close up shows the texture of the scales that artist simon o'rourke created using a manpatools round cutter attached to a milwaukee grinder; one of his favourite tools for creating texture on sculptures.

A close up of Maggon the Dragon shows the texture created with a round cutter.

Focus on: Miniature Cutter & Crack Cutter

It didn’t take long for the miniature cutter to become one of Simon’s favourite attachments. He finds it especially useful for adding subtle texture and movement to a sculpture. For example, folds in clothing and other drapery, such as the clothing on this angel.

Simon tends to use the miniature cutter with very gentle, light movements. In this way, he takes very little off the wood and doesn’t dig very deep. He’s mindful of the direction of the fabric and uses it next to larger folds to create more subtle movement. If he does need to remove larger amounts to show a deep fold, he sometimes turns it on its side and scrapes, leaving a deeper cut and greater shadow. You can see both techniques demonstrated in this video.

angel sculpture by simon o'rourke stands surrounded by greenery. The angel has 'praying hands' and a serene expression.

The Manpatools miniature cutter was used to enhance the drapery in this angel sculpture.

Focus on: Triangle Cutter

The triangle cutter is absolutely amazing for creating fur and hair. It’s a unique tool, and is one of Simon’s top tools. The shape of the cutter allows Simon to create thin, sharp lines, such as the mane of this Sri Lankan lion.

 

A tip for using the triangle cutter in this way is that less is often more – especially in large scale sculptures. Simon will often add texture to very specific parts of the sculpture rather than the whole thing. For example, on the lion below, he added small sections of texture to show the way the fur lies on the chest, which helps add to the shape of the sculpture.

For those with time and an interest in how to use the tools, you can click HERE to watch Simon demonstrate.

close up of a lion cub carved by simon o'rourke. the photo shows the texture of the chest fur, created with on of his favourite manpatools for creating texture on sculptures, the triangle cutter

The fur on the chest of the lion cub was created with the triangle cutter

Other Cutters

Simon has also used the hole cutter for deep holes and some shaping, and the square cutter in a similar way to the triangle. Although they haven’t had their own ‘section’, both are a useful part of his collection and are definitely still some of his favourite Manpatools for creating texture in sculptures.

Close up on a monkey puzzle ent by Simon O'Rourke showing heavily textured trunk created with a manpatools triangle cutter

The texture on this Ent was created with the multicutter tool

Your Own Experience with Manpatools

If you try any of these for your own sculptures, we’d love to see what you create! If you got this link on social media, drop us a photo in the comments.
And if you would like to commission your own sculpture by Simon and watch him in action using some of these tools, use the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and Simon will be in touch to discuss details.

Thank you for reading this week’s blog, and we leave you with this video of Simon in action with the Manpatools Multicutter…

tips for carving big cats: a large sculpture of a roaring lion shows the importance of accurate proportions when sculpting.

Tips for Carving Big Cats

Tips for Carving Big Cats 720 960 Simon O'Rourke

As a sculptor, there are certain subjects that Simon is known for, and often asked to create. Fictional characters and dragons are definitely in the top two. Another popular subject for sculptures is the lion. In fact, any big cat!
Over the years Simon has created many sculptures of big cats, including lions, tigers and cheetahs. A couple of those sculptures that people have especially enjoyed include The Guardian and the Sri Lankan Lion. Carving the same subject allows for a lot of learning and refining. Since Simon recently created the lion family photographed below, we thought we would share some of his tips for carving big cats…

Tips for carving big cats by simon o'rourke. Photo shows a lion family Simon created from two separate tree trunks. One shows a male lion twisted to look in the direction of the second trunk which shows a lioness climbing down the trunk to reach a cub.

A lion family diptych Simon created this year

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Research

The starting point for a realistic sculpture of a big cat, is research. The goal of that research is to understand the underlying structure of the animal. That includes the skeleton, how the muscles lie (and where), and how each individual body part is formed. For example, understanding the paws is an area of study in itself. This is important because the proportions of the animal are dictated by its skeleton and muscles. They also dictate what positions the big cat may be in, and the shape we see on the outside.
Other research includes things like texture and direction of the fur and how it contrasts between different parts of the body.
If you are looking for a good basic tutor, Deviant Art has a big cat blog series that is worth checking out.
Once you have a good understanding of anatomy, you can move forward with your sculpture.

tips for carving big cats: a large sculpture of a roaring lion shows the importance of accurate proportions when sculpting.

The skeleton abnd muscle structure determin the proportions and shape of the sculpture.

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Determining a Realistic Pose

Understanding the underlying structure of a big cat allows you to move forward into creating your sculpture. It’s important to consider what your big cat is doing; what’s the story behind the sculpture? Once you have a sense of the story, you can create the basic shape of the animal.
At this point there is sometimes a plot twist or two as Simon discovers cracks or cavities in the wood.
That was the case with the male lion. However, that cavity meant Simon moved the position of the legs slightly, which ultimately created more drama and a sense of story. So don’t worry if you have a surprise or two! With some creative thinking (whilst still considering the basic skeleton and muscle structure) a re-think can actually be a blessing in disguise!

A tree carving by chainsaw artist simon o'rourke. The photo shows a large male lion with his front paws on a pile of rocks. He is twisted to glance over his shoulder. This realistic pose is one of simon's tips for carving big cats.

How realistic that pose will appear is determined not just by the basic shape, but also by emphasis. Simon will often use the tip of a bar to emphasise an indent, curve or a flap of skin. These are the things that help to show which muscles are flexed or relaxed, and where the pose is causing the animal to stretch. They also show the size and shape of the muscles which help to give Simon’s big cat sculptures their sense of strength and power.

a chainsaw carving or a lion in process in a workshop.

This photo of the lion in process shows where Simon is choosing to emphasise specific dips, flaps and twists, such as the flank.

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Keep Looking at Your Reference

Especially with big sculptures, being right on top of the sculpture while you carve can mean you lose a sense of perspective. This means it’s important to keep stepping back and looking at your sculpture. Check the proportions. And always check it against your reference for the animal, whether that’s your rough sketches or a series of animal photos. This principle isn’t unique to big cats. Simon often also talks about the importance of this in carving faces which you can read more about in this blog about the golden ratio.

close up of a lion cub carved into a tree trunk by simon o'rourke

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Adding Texture

Once you are happy with the shape of your sculpture, you can begin to add details and texture. Those details are key in conveying the story of a sculpture. For example, in what direction are the eyes looking? If the mouth is open, is the nose smooth showing a more relaxed animal, or is it wrinkled in a snarl?

At this point, Simon will often use something like the Manpatools multicutter. In this video Simon uses the triangle cutter head effectively to create this striking Sri Lankan lion mane.

At this stage, Simon often also uses his favourite range of Saburrtooth burr bits to create texture. They are especially useful for smaller details like claws, eyes, nose, mouth and ears. However, they can also add subtle rounded shapes like cheeks, or the shape of a paw. They really make a big difference and help take his sculptures to a whole new level!

Tips for carving big cats: SImon O'Rourke uses a saburrtooth flame burr bit to create texture on a lion's face

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Practice Makes Perfect

Simon’s final tip is true of everything. If your first big cats aren’t what you want, don’t give up. Practice is are really the biggest factor in improving your big cat sculptures. It really is true that practice makes perfect!

Friday ramblings about my thought process while carving big cats!!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Friday, 21 August 2020

Your Own Big Cat Sculpture

Do you have a favourite of the big cat sculptures Simon has made? Drop us a comment and let us know!
And if you would like to commission your own big cat sculpture, contact us via the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

a roraring lion carved by simon o'rourke

 

 

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: A side-by-side photo shows the same wooden sculpture of a stylised woman's face years apart. Photo one is warm and smooth. Photo two has taken on rich, grey hues, and the weatherted wood now has the character of a real face

Which is Better: Wood or Bronze Sculpture?

Which is Better: Wood or Bronze Sculpture? 1875 1875 Simon O'Rourke

Wood or bronze sculpture? Is the longer lasting sculpture a better sculpture? Which one should I choose? Simon is often asked “Why make a sculpture from something that will eventually degrade and return to nature?” In this blog we explore why Simon loves working with wood, and why it might be the choice for you…

Wood or ronze sculpture? Angel at the pool of bethesda by simon o'rourke at biddulph old hall. Photo shows the beautiful effect of an aging wood sculpture against the hostoric building and gardens.

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: Benefits of Bronze.

A bronze sculpture is first created in clay, wax, or other materials. That sculpture is used to create a mould, and finally, molten bronze is poured into that mould.

A bronze statue will last for thousands of years of course. We have seen this from ancient bronze sculptures still in existence today. For example, ‘Dancing Girl’ from Mohenjo-Daro is the oldest known bronze sculpture in the world, dating back 2500 years.

Wood on the other hand is a material that will eventually rot away and break down over the years…

Wood or Broze sculpture? Photo shows the bronze sculpture of dancing girl of mohenjo-daro

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: Why make something that will rot?

Environmental artists the world over operate at the opposite end of the scale. Artists like Andy Goldsworthy create artworks from nature that are gone in a short space of time. “It’s not about art,” he has explained. “It’s just about life and the need to understand that a lot of things in life do not last.

This momentary art is a powerful medium for drawing the attention to the natural world and its inherent beauty. Wood has also been used as a material for sculpture for thousands of years and also lasts well, depending on the species and how it is looked after. We shared more about which species are most enduring in our blog “Is my tree suitable for a tree carving sculpture“.

However, unlike bronze, it will always weather and begin to wear away over time.

Wood or Bronze sculpture? A close up of 'The Guardian' by Simon O'Rourke. It shows cracks in the nose of the oak lion, and the changing colours of oak sculpture.

Close up of The Guardian which shows the effects of aging on wood sculpture

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: The Beauty of Aging Wood

Weathering wood reveals much more of the character and growth patterns that form during the time the tree is growing. As an artist, Simon loves to see the process of weathering: that transformation of the freshly shaped timber to ancient-looking textures and cracks. He loves the revealing of the shapes of growth, and the natural progression of decay. For him, there is something warm about wood that captures a moment in history, the timeline of the tree, from seed to sculpture.

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: Picture shows large praying hands carved in oak by Simon O'Rourke. The wood has taken on grey hues due to weathering to give the hands character.

These praying hands have taken on more character and grey hues as the wood has aged and weatherted.

Wood or Bronze: Simon’s Philosophy as an Artist

Simon feels this compliments his artwork, and philospophy as an artist. He loves to capture a moment in time, a scene from a story, and leave the viewer feeling like they have momentarily been part of a bigger picture. The process of decay also captures an essence of the fragility of life.
Simon is very aware that his work isn’t permanent. This isn’t discouraging for thim though. Rather, he shares that:
Although some of my sculptures will eventually outlive me, their inevitable return to the earth to become part of the perpetual circle of life, is for me, a humbling experience“.

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: A side-by-side photo shows the same wooden sculpture of a stylised woman's face years apart. Photo one is warm and smooth. Photo two has taken on rich, grey hues, and the weatherted wood now has the character of a real face

Side by side photos like this show that the aging process enhances the depth and beauty of a sculpture

Bronze or Wood: An Evolving Piece of Art

As well as reflecting Simon’s philosophy as an artist, this aging process creates an ever-evolving piece of art. The photo above of a stylised woman’s face, shows that aging process actually enhances the beauty and intensity of a piece. In particular the pupil and iris are much more striking as the wood has darkened and taken on grey hues. The more varied hues and tones in the wood create something much more life-like and organic looking.

Close up of a face of a wooden sculpture showing the cracks created by weathering

Character created over time by aging and weathering of the wood.

Bronze or Wood Sculpture: Environmental Benefits

We have talked about the humbling aspect and cyclical journey of a sculpture returning to the earth. However, this is also an environmental consideration too. Simon sources his wood responsibly, and loves to transform storm-damaged and diseased trees into sculptures, giving life back to the timber. The wood will eventually return to the earth, and make no permanent footprint.

Angel at the Pool of Bethesda by Simon O'Rourke. View is from behind showing the Angel standing by a pool against the background of Old Biddulph Hall

This view from behind of Angel at the Pool of Bethesda at Biddulpho Old Hall shows how a wood sculpture perfectly compliments historic property and mature gardens

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: A Summary

Commissioning a piece of art is a big decision and an investment, and it needs to reflect your preferences and values as the buyer. All mediums have their beauty and benefits, so we would never claim one is definitively ‘better’ than another. However, if anything of the philosophical, environmental or aesthetic benefits of wood mentioned here resonate with you, it is likely a wooden sculpture is the best choice for you.

If you would like to commission a wooden sculpture, you can contact us using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ .

We’d love to hear from you!

 

Online Art Courses with Simon

Online Art Courses with Simon 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

We hope you’re all holding up OK, whatever this lockdown looks like for you. Whether you’re a keyworker (thank you!), homeschooling you, or working from home, we hope you are finding bright spots in every day, and are staying healthy. We know that some of you are more busy at the moment, but others have gained some free time. It’s interesting to see how creative people have been filling that time. Some friends of ours are volunteering at the hospital. Others at the food bank. Some are learning instruments or languages. One friend of ours is even learning British Sign Language!
With that in mind, we have some exciting news for you. During this time, we’re offering online art courses with Simon!

Pyrography fairy wall hanging illustration by Simon O'Rourke

Simon the Illustrator

If you have read his biography, you’ll know Simon trained in illustration. Over the years he’s produced beautiful concept art for clients to show them what their sculpture will look like. Being a sculptor has also enabled him to think in THREE DIMENSIONS, and create artwork that really flows. It’s this knowledge that he hopes to pass on to anyone who wants to take one of these online art courses with Simon.

Those who know him, also know Simon is not just a great artist, but also a patient coach. He is easily able to break down concepts, explain and demonstrate. It’s a natural transition for him for this season to use those skills and his experiences to encourage and equip others in their own journey as artists.

Initial sketch of Water Dragon by Simon O Rourke and Keiji. Learn these skills in our online art courses with Simon.

The initial concept sketch of an east-meets-west Water Dragon by Simon

Is This For Me?

Think you’re not an artist, so this isn’t for you? Guess again!
Drawing is a learnable skill. There are always some that show a natural leaning to visual communication, however this course is all about empowering you to see your subject in a different way. I’d love to be your coach, I’d love to give you the tools and the knowledge to be able to take your drawing skills to the next level. From deciding on a subject, to producing great drawings, I’ll be there to encourage you, guide you, and help you to realise you REALLY CAN produce awesome artwork.

Are you frustrated with your drawings not looking like you imagine them?
Do you love to draw, but find yourself staring at the paper wondering where to start?
Have you looked at art produced by others and wished you knew how to do that?

Whatever your level of experience or current skill, we hope these online art courses with Simon will be beneficial to you.

Beatles illustration in wood wall hanging by Simon o'Rourke

This Beatles wall hanging demonstrates Simon’s versatility as an artist

The Technical Bit!

Our online art courses with Simon ares going to be taught through www.teachable.com. This means they are accessible for you to use when it’s convenient for you, and you aren’t tied to a specific time or day. Simon will start with two courses to begin with, and each session will be added in subsequent weeks. If you are new to Teachable, they actually have an offer at the moment too of 20% off your first course.

If you still aren’t sure, why not check out this video Simon produced as a taster?

Live drawing using iPad

This streaming thing is difficult to manage through OBS, I'll try again, feedback please!

Posted by Simon James O'Rourke on Thursday, 9 April 2020

Share Your Experience

If you decide to take one of our online art courses with Simon, we would love your feedback! Feel free to comment on this blog, through www.Facebook.com/treecarving/ or via email at [email protected]

We’d also love to see the art you create too, so why not upload a picture with the hashtag #artwithsimon

Stay well, and looking forward to hearing from you!

NB: To find out when the courses are live, please check our Twitter or Facebook pages.

Angel at the Pool of Bethesda sculpture by Simon O'Rourke at Biddulph Old Hall

Sculpture for Historic Property

Sculpture for Historic Property 420 630 Simon O'Rourke

alsoOne of the things Simon has enjoyed over the years, is creating sculpture for historic property. These projects usually combine Simon’s love of human form with his passion for storytelling. They also add value for the owner in sometimes unexpected ways. Over the years Simon has created many pieces for historic properties, ranging from National Trust homes or places of worship to private home owners. He has also had a season as ‘artist in residence’ at Erddig, a local National Trust property.
This week we share examples from that extensive portfolio, and explore the value of commissioning sculpture for historic property.

Highclere Castle Airman by Simon O'Rourke

The airman at Highclere Castle

Reasons to Commission a Sculpture for Historic Property: Commemoration & Storytelling

There are many reasons to commission a sculpture for your historic property. One of those reasons is to have a commemorative piece, to mark an event or occasion.  The Airman at Highclere Castle (pictured above) is an example of this. He is also an example of another reason for commissioning a sculpture. That is, story telling.  If you ever read our blog about the Highclere Airman, you will know that he tells a part of the story of that property. Although people may be aware of the history of a building, a visual aid telling that story is always powerful. Even traditional school text books become much more interesting with a picture! How much more so when the visual story telling is in 3D?! If your building is open to the public, this enhances their experience, which is always a good thing!

Mungo Park sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

A Tourist Attraction!

Another reason that a sculpture can add value to a historic sculpture, is it can become an attraction in itself. Take Mungo Park for example, photographed above.
This likeness of the Scottish explorer was created in 2014 for a Wetherspoons in Peebles, Park’s home town. It reflects the history of the area, so enhances the experience of the visitor, and helps provide information about the town. It also helps to set that restaurant apart from the others in the area. It’s a focus point for visitors – something unique the other eateries in town don’t have. It’s also fun –  customers also sit alongside Mungo on the bench outside the pub, for a photograph. And we all know the power of a shared photograph on social media!

 

Angel at the Pool of Bethesda sculpture by Simon O'Rourke at Biddulph Old Hall, Sculpture for historic property

Case Study: Angel at the Pool of Bethesda

One of Simon’s favourite sculptures that he has created for a historic property is the Angel at the Pool of Bethesda. She was carved from oak in 2016 as a commission for Biddulph Old Hall.  Although the property has an extensive history dating back to 1480, this commission relates to a 19th Century resident…..

The Story Behind the Sculpture

In 1871, attracted by the romance of the ruins in their moorland setting, artist Robert Bateman took up residence in the hall. He actually painted most of his best works in the Hall between 1871 and 1890. In 1874  he and the love of his life, Caroline Howard, were separated. Then, in 1876, Caroline married the Rev Charles Wilbraham. Bateman was heart broken, and painted The Pool of Bethesda as “an autobiographical cry of anguish”. The commission of the sculpture was to commemorate Robert and Caroline’s memory as part of the house’s story.

To read more about the history of the painting, click here.

Angel at the pool of bethesda by simon o'rourke at biddulph old hall is an example of sculpture for historic property

Creating the Sculpture

The setting with the angel stepping down a few steps towards a pool of water replicates the Bateman painting. The difficulty for Simon centered around the fact that all he had to work from was a flat 2D image. This meant that to begin with, he had to visualize what the painting would look like in 3D. From there, he then had to create what he was imagining. Which, according to owner Nigel Daly,  “he has done magnificently…. The piece fully represents the sense of Caroline stepping down into the water that Bateman created in the original painting.”

 

Testimonies of the Value Added

Obviously art always enhances or ‘adds’ something to a room, or wherever it’s located. However, in a historic property it does more than this. It captures the attention of the viewer. They are drawn in, as it narrates the story of that place. It also helps them envision, imagine and remember.

Nigel Daly is “thrilled” at the impact of the sculpture:
“Visitors never fail to gasp as they are led through a small octagonal tower from the ruins themselves into the small courtyard with the pool in its centre and Caroline at its head. As time has passed she has weathered beautifully to settle into the time-worn surroundings of the Hall.

The work has been much admired, and such is the skill of the work we are saving up for a second sculpture for the centre of the ruins based on Burne-Jones’s ‘Love Leading the Pilgrim’, which we feel is just up Simon’s street!”

Angel at the pool of bethesda by simon o'rourke at biddulph old hall

Your Own Commission

If you would like to enhance story-telling and scene-setting with a unique sculpture for your historic property, contact Simon on [email protected].

Simon O'Rourke creating the Lady of Marbury sculpture

The Marbury Lady Sculpture

The Marbury Lady Sculpture 960 960 Simon O'Rourke

Those of you follow Simon on social media will have already seen his stunning Marbury Lady sculpture.
The sculpture is inspired by a ghost story associated with the former Marbury Estate. People in the area frequently claim to have seen this ghost, as she haunts the park. The most recent sighting is reported as being last year! Simon has carved many figures from books, moviesmyths and legends, but we think this is the first time he has carved a ghost!
We had another reason too for wanting to share her story. The Marbury Lady sculpture is carved from a  tree that died due to salt poisoning. We wanted to share a little more about it to highlight the issue, and hopefully help prevent unnecessary damage and death to other trees.

Simon O'Rourke's Marbury Lady sculpture viewed from the road

The Marbury Lady viewed from the road

The Location:

Marbury Hall was a country house in Marbury, near Northwich. Several houses existed on the site from the 13th century, which formed the seat of the Marbury, Barry and Smith-Barry families, until 1932, and the story behind the mysterious Marbury Lady is connected with James Smith Barry, who inherited the hall in 1787.
The buildings have all fallen into disrepair though and no longer exist on the site. It is now woodland known as Marbury Country Park. 

For any interested in visiting, it’s a great spot for a walk. You can wander along the mere with splendid views over the water to the church at Great Budworth, or explore the arboretum (the avenues of limes are quite well known) and community orchard. There is also a play area and swimming pool.

The park is cared for by The Friends of Anderton and Marbury (FOAM). They not only look after the park, but have a busy programme of walks, talks, conservation tasks and events. If you are thinking of visiting, it’s definitely worth checking out their website to see what they have happening. It was FOAM who commissioned the Lady of Marbury sculpture, after the death of several of their trees due to salt poisoning.

The Lady of Marbury sculpture by Simon O'Rourke in process

At work on the sculpture

Salt Poisoning

So what is salt poisoning?
Basically if a tree is exposed to too much sodium, it stops the flow of potassium and magnesium. In turn, this stops the tree making chlorophyll. For those who can’t remember their high school science, that’s the ‘green stuff’ needed by plants to turn light from the sun into energy (photosynthesis)! Salt is so effective n this, you can actually use it to intentionally kill a tree –  or any plant!

Salt damage is extremely common, especially in urban areas in the winter when we use salt to de-ice the roads. Spray from the roads hits the tree, as well as being absorbed/spread through running water, and melting ice and snow.

Early sign to watch out for are the edges of the leaves turning brown. At this point it is still possible to reverse damage and prevent death through leaching – basically just adding water to the soil. Good drainage is a key factor too in preventing and curing salt poisoning. If you need to know more, we found this helpful article on reducing the salinity of soil that you might find interesting.

In the case of Marbury Park, the trees were damaged by salt leaking from a split brine pipe.
However, rather than remove them, FOAM decided to give them new life, and commissioned Simon to create something….

Simon O'Rourke creating the Lady of Marbury sculpture

The Story of the Marbury Lady

FOAM wanted one of the damaged trees to represent something of the Marbury Park history. There are several ghost stories connected to the area, but the most well known locally are the variations of The Marbury Lady.

The version Simon chose to tell is of the Egyptian lady. Smith-Barry traveled extensively, and spent much of his time in Italy, Greece and the Levant. It is said that on one of his travels he met with a lovely Egyptian girl. He fell madly in love with her, and when he had to return to England, he told her he would send for her to follow him and make her his wife. As in all good romances though, there was a third person involved, and this is where stories begin to vary. Some say there was an arranged marriage, others a scandal with a housekeeper. Either way, Smith-Barry failed to send for his Egyptian lady…..

Marbury Lady Sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

The Story Continues…..

Some time later it is said that the Egyptian lady came to England. Again, stories vary at this point. Some say she worked as his housekeeper, others that he kept her as a mistress. They all agree though that she asked that when she died, her body be embalmed and kept in the hallway at Marbury Hall. When Smith-Barry died some years later, the family didn’t really want what they considered to be a mummy in a coffin! They arranged a burial, and moved the body to a nearby church. What they did not expect however, was the hauntings that would follow!

In the years (decades now!) that have followed, there have been reportings of sightings of a lady in a white veil, and well as tales of strange sounds and happenings. Whether you believe in ghost stories or not, she makes an interesting subject for a sculpture….

Simon’s Marbury Lady Sculpture

Simon decided to depict the Egyptian lady in his sculpture. However, always creative, he carved her as both a living person AND the ghost! He sculpted the face that faces the road to show the girl alive. Her face is smooth, her expression regal, and proud. The orchard view shows her eyes closed, hands clutching her chest, giving the story of her sad demise. Her face is also covered with fragments of veil which reflect the accounts of sightings of The Marbury Lady.
As well as depicting her in both life and death, Simon did this because he wanted to encourage people not just to view passively, but to physically engage with the sculpture. In carving her this way, people have to physically move round to the other side of the sculpture to see the full story.

The Living depiction of The Marbury Lady by Simon O'Rourke

 

The Marbury Lady, ghost side, Simon O'Rourke

The side depicting the ghostly Marbury Lady

A Test of Skill

Simon had been looking forward to this project ever since it was approved last year. She wasn’t without her challenges though. To begin with, their is the challenge of carving a standing stump, rather than a piece of timber in the workshop. With a piece of timber, it may be tricky to source another ‘perfect’ piece….but it can be done. With a standing stump that is being transformed, there is only one chance! No room for mistakes!

Behind the Veil

The other distinct challenge (and a first for Simon on a commission) was the veiling over the ghostly side. When painting or drawing, it is possible to draw the whole face, then ad the veil over the top. Even in sculpting with clay or similar, the veil is added. In the case of tree carving, Simon could only take away. That meant not only using technical skill and tool like the golden ratio to envision the correct proportions and expression, but being able to do so whilst also imagining where and how the veiling would fall, and taking into account having to leave that behind.

Tools of the Trade

As always, he cut as far down as he could with his larger Stihl chainsaws, before using manpatools angle grinder followed by the saburrtooth bits (especially the large flame bit) to finish the detail and texture. We’re sure you can imagine too, working at the top of all that scaffolding, the cordless saws with backpack for holding the battery pack (Stihl) were essential!

Looking at the finished sculpture though, you can see Simon rose to the challenges, and created something absolutely unique, relevant to the area, and enthralling for the viewer. Thank you to Filmage.co.uk for the video!

Here's the time lapse video of the Marbury Lady! Thanks to filmage.co.uk for the excellent editing!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Wednesday, 5 February 2020

We think this is one of Simon’s best examples of sculpting female form, and certainly stands alongside his Spirit of Ecstasy, Angel at the Pool of Bethesda and Viking Raid. Which are your favourite of Simon’s female sculptures? Why not comment below and let us know?!

And, as always, if you have a damaged tree that you would like to breathe new life into, email [email protected] to talk about some possibilities.