behind the scenes

close up of the angel's head and shoulders from Simon O'Rourke's Love Leading the Pilgrim Sculpture

Love Leading the Pilgrim Sculpture

Love Leading the Pilgrim Sculpture 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

This week Simon installed his Love Leading the Pilgrim sculpture at Biddulph Old Hall. It’s been popular on social media, so we wanted to share more about the sculpture and the story behind it. It’s fascinating! A big thank you to client Brian Vowles for his input on the blog this week.

 

Simon O'Rourke's chainsaw carving sculptures based on 'Love Leading the Pilgrim' by Burne-Jones. An angel is holding our a hand to help a hooded figure who is stretching their arm to meet them. The figures are surrounded by ruined buildings and wild garden.

 

Meet the Client

Regular readers of this blog will realise they’ve met this client before. Several years ago Simon made a sculpture based on a Bateman painting, The Pool of Bethesda. The sculpture was commissioned by the current owners of Biddulph Old Hall near Stok-on-Trent, and it was featured as a case study in Simon’s blog about the value of a chainsaw carving sculpture for historic property and is one of his most popular pieces.

Towards the end of the blog, Nigel shared that they were delighted with the angel and were saving up to commission a sculpture based on Love Leading the Pilgrim. So needless to say, this sculpture has been a long time in the making!

 

love leading the pilgrim, a painting by edward burne jones depicting and angel leading a hooded pilgrim through wilderness

Love Leading the Pilgrim by Edward Burne-Jones, the inspiration for Simon’s Love Leading the Pilgrim Sculpture.

 

About Biddulph Old Hall

Biddulph Old Hall is an ideal setting for these very classical sculptures. Originally a mansion constructed 1530-1580, it came under siege by Parliamentarians in 1644. Later owners added other structures in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, but nobody rebuilt the original mansion. Its upstanding ruins remain to this day.

The Biddulph family sold the property to James Bateman in 1861, and his son Robert lived in the habitable part until his death in 1922.

For those wondering about the subjects of both sculptures, this is where the link comes in!

Robert Bateman was the leader of a group of second-generation Pre-Raphaelite artists.  As the owner and resident,  he painted most of his best-known paintings in the studio at Biddulph Old Hall. This included The Pool of Bethesda; the inspiration for Simon’s first sculpture.

 

the picture is divided in two, one side showing the robert bateman painting 'the pool of bethesda'. The other side shows Simon O'Rourke's chainsaw carved sculpture based on the painting.

Simon’s Angel at the Pool of Bethesda and the Bateman painting it’s based on.

 

The Link with Burne-Jones

So how did the clients get from Bateman to Burne-Jones? Bear with us!

We know the artist Edward Burne-Jones was an inspiration to and influence on Bateman throughout his career. It appears that inspiration also extended beyond the canvas! One of Bateman’s projects was creating a romantic garden among the ruins of the mansion. That garden was essentially a ‘Briar-Rose’ garden, reminiscent of The Legend of the Briar Rose by Burne-Jones.

 

love leading the pilgrim sculpture by simon o'rourke. it sits among ruins of a mansion and greenery

 

Fast forward to the 21st century… Brian and Nigel found images of Bateman’s garden and wanted to recreate the same ambience in their garden design. The garden they’ve created replicates the style and wildness of that garden, but without slavishly following Bateman’s planting. Largely because the plans no longer exist!

There’s a small courtyard among the mansion ruins, and Nigel and Brian wanted to commemorate the completion of the restoration with a sculpture in the centre.
With all the connections between Bateman, Burne-Jones, and the garden, Burne-Jones’s magnificent paintings ‘Love Leading the Pilgrim’ was a fitting choice for the sculpture.

 

close up of the angel's head and shoulders from Simon O'Rourke's Love Leading the Pilgrim Sculpture

The angel in Simon’s Love Leading the Pilgrim sculpture

 

Further Connections Between Burne-Jones and Biddulph Old Hall.

This next paragraph is for those who love ‘it’s a small world’ coincidences and connections!

As Brian and Nigel were researching the painting, they came across a tapestry in the William Morris Museum. It was designed by Burne-Jones and features the same subject of Love leading the Pilgrim. That tapestry was then turned into an embroidery kit by Morris & Co.

In a massive coincidence, Nigel’s great, great, great Aunt (Lady Margaret Bell) bought the kit and embroidered it for her home! Another family connection they hadn’t known about!

 

Burne Jones Love Leading the Pilgrim Tapestry  photographed at the william morris museum

The Burne-Jones tapestry Nigel and Brian discovered during their research.

 

Commissioning Love Leading the Pilgrim

After years of saving and waiting, Nigel and Brian were finally able to commission the sculpture in September 2021. Sadly Nigel passed away not long after they had commissioned the piece. So now the finished sculpture is dedicated “not only to Robert and Caroline, but also to Nigel’s legendary vision, and to celebrate his life and the magnificent restoration of Biddulph Old Hall that he inspired.”

 

the pilgrim sculpture from love leading the pilgrim by simon o'rourke

 

Creating Love Leading the Pilgrim

Every commission comes with its joys and its challenges. For Simon, as well as being able to create something that honoured the history of the place, he found it fun to create something based on the painting. It gave him plenty of opportunities to create in a style he loves, and use his drapey skills to the max!

Social media comments have been SO encouraging with one follower commenting…

The subtleties of gesture and expression couldn’t be topped in any medium – and you’ve done it in wood!

However, what matters most is what the client thinks…

 

love leading the pilgrim by simon o'rourke.

Simon’s skill in transcribing the 2-D image from the painted canvas into a vibrant, sinuous and arresting sculpture is quite awe-inspiring. Nigel and I always had confidence that Simon would do the commission justice, but it is a triumph beyond my wildest dreams. It is such a fitting memorial, not only to Robert & Caroline but also to Nigel, whose passion for this place could not be better envisaged than in these two statues. They epitomise the struggles we faced together as we sought to restore Biddulph Old Hall and its gardens and grounds, and could not be more perfect.

As we mentioned earlier, massive thanks go to Brian for his assistance with this blog. He’s a wealth of information and although we couldn’t include all the story or details, it was a fascinating read.

If you would like to know more about Biddulph Old Hall, there are many articles around. We especially enjoyed THIS ONE in House and Garden though.

As always, if you would like to commission a sculpture for your home, business or community, contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

two people stand on scaffolding that surrounds a 20ft tree trunk carved into a susanna wesley sculpture

Susanna Wesley Sculpture

Susanna Wesley Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

inIf you follow Simon on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you’ll know he’s had a big project this week. He’s been down in East Finchley working on a sculpture for East Finchley Methodist Church. We’ll have more to share soon, but for this week, let us introduce you to his Susanna Wesley sculpture…

 

Simon O'Rourke at work on his susanna wesley sculpture. a 20ft tree is surrounded by scaffolding with a church in the background. the trunk is partially carved into a portrait of susanna wesley

On-site at East Finchley Methodist Church

Background to the Susanna Wesley Sculpture

The Susanna Wesley sculpture was commissioned by East Finchley Methodist Church. The London church celebrates its bicentennial year this year, and they were keen to mark the occasion. They had a 20ft red cedar that had stood bare for over four years and decided to turn it from an eyesore into art…

 

a 20ft bare tree trunk stands to the left of a red brick church. shops and a road are in the background. the tree is the 'before' of simon o'rourke's susanna wesley sculpture

The bare cedar in the ground of East Finchley Methodist Church

Susanna Wesley: An Unusual Subject?

When we asked people to guess who the sculpture might be, we had several guesses at various saints and even Jesus! Nobody guessed Susanna Wesley though, so why a sculpture of someone who didn’t seem an obvious choice? Who was Susanna Wesley and what’s the connection with the church?

 

susanna wesley sculpture carved in 20ft cedar trunk by simon o'rourke

Why a Susanna Wesley Sculpture?

Susanna Wesley is known as called ‘The Mother of Methodism’. This is primarily because the Methodist movement was founded by two of her sons (John and Charles Wesley). However, more than this, she was part of the movement herself…

It is said that she attracted crowds of local people to her family services on Sunday afternoons. Senior church steward Jane Ray said “The bare branches looked to us like Susanna’s welcoming outstretched arms and we are excited to see Simon bringing this vision to life”. And so, the church chose to commission a sculpture of Susanna Wesley.

This is a perfect example of how a sculpture can point towards and share something of the story of a community.

 

two people stand on scaffolding that surrounds a 20ft tree trunk carved into a susanna wesley sculpture

Simon with church steward, Jane. Photo Credit: Graham Chestney

More Than Just a Sculpture

The sculpture isn’t the only thing the church is doing. It’s actually part of a larger garden renovation. The church is transforming the garden into an area for children and adults to come, as well as a new soft play area. They hope that, in the spirit of Susanna Wesley, the community will feel welcomed to their church through this area.

 

Creating the Susanna Wesley Sculpture

Simon had a busy few days working on the sculpture. As well as the portrait of Susanna Wesley, there are some lovely details. Simon created organic shapes, adding texture to the bark below the portrait. Animals also hide among the leaves.

It’s been lovely to see the excitement and anticipation for the sculpture. The church filmed and photographed the entire project, and a local primary school also visited the site and met Simon.

Fascinated, the students even took away a momento! It was a strange sight, but they worked together to take a 20ft strip of bark back to the school with them!

 

eight people walk on an urban street carring a 20f strip of tree bark

 

Watch this Space

We’re excited to share more in the next few weeks. For now though, we hope you enjoyed this quick introduction to Simon’s Susanna Wesley sculpture.

Are you considering a sculpture for your community, home or business?
Contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

 

susanna wesley sculpture

marbury lady sculpture by simon o'rourke and the what3words location cook.breath.gangs. the sculpture will be part of Simon O'Rourke's what3words chainsaw carving trail

What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail

What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

This week a representative from What3Words approached Simon to ask about using images of the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy, sharing its location with their followers. Of course, the answer was yes! Simon already uses What3Words as part of his work, and has found it extremely helpful. And as soon as they contacted him, something clicked and another idea was born…

 

image showing people sitting in a park. the what3words location is displayed.

Image from what3words

What is What3Words?

Before we talk about the what3words Chainsaw Carving Trail though, let us introduce what3words! For those who haven’t heard of it, what3words is a geocode system. It’s different to anything else out there because it assigns a three-word code to every 3m square of land. That means you can easily share and save precise locations using the website or app – No long GPS codes, and no vague addresses! It’s currently being used for e-commerce and delivery, navigation, emergencies and so much more, and has some massive benefits…

 

Benefits of Using What3Words

As we said, many industries are using what3words. As it directs you to a location within a 3m square of where you need to be, it is much more efficient than a vague address when dealing with roadside telegraph poles, sections of railway track, water pipes, and more. It is set up for voice input and even works when you have no data. All of this combined means it also has massive health and safety benefits, which is how Simon currently uses the app.

 

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke in a cherry picker next to a tall tree carving of a mythical tree woman.

Simon often works alone on large estates and parks and can easily share his exact location using What3Words

 

How Simon Uses What3Words

As you know from our health and safety and chainsaw basics blogs, safety is hugely important to Simon. He’s found that giving what3words locations for his worksite is a way of enhancing his safety practice:

“The accuracy makes any communication much clearer, giving clients, public, and emergency services exact locations”

Imagine you are working on a National Trust property or stately home, such as when he created the Ent, Gollum, and Shakespeare Seat sculptures at Poulton Hall, or the Airman at Highclere. The grounds are huge, and should there be an emergency (or even someone coming with some refreshments!) it can be difficult to explain exactly where to find him. This can cause frustration or even dangerous delays.

By giving a what3words location, people can see EXACTLY where he is working.

 

marbury lady sculpture by simon o'rourke and the what3words location cook.breath.gangs. the sculpture will be part of Simon O'Rourke's what3words chainsaw carving trail

The Marbury Lady sculpture and her exact location using the what3words app

 

Creating a What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail

Now you know about the app and all its benefits, you’ve probably guessed where we’re going with the what3words chainsaw carving trail!

People often ask where they can see Simon’s sculptures. Sometimes this is easy to explain, as in most residential addresses. Sometimes it’s much harder as they are in a large area, such as the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy at the Vyrnwy Estate. Or perhaps they are visible from a long road like the Dragon of Bethesda on the A5.

Having been prompted by the contact from what3words, we’ve realised it would be really good to extend Simon’s use of what3words, and to share locations of public sculptures.

 

picture of the giant hand of vyrnwy sculpture labelled with its what3words chainsaw carving trail location: incline.lingering.pose

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy will be much easier to find using this geocode!

 

How Can I do the What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail?

At the moment the what3words chainsaw carving trail is in progress. But in the next week or so we will have a link set up which gives the locations of some of Simon’s most-requested sculptures. In time we will add to it, so it’s more comprehensive. In future, people will be able to easily see multiple sculptures within a reasonable distance of each other to visit. Or even plan a national road trip! It’s entirely up to you! The map will be visible in the browser or the app.

Until then, look out on social media for both Simon and what3words and we’ll be releasing some of the locations.

It’s exciting to see technology being used collaboratively to make it easier for people to experience Simon’s pieces!

 

photo of O'Rourke's dragon of bethesda sculpture labelled with its what3words chainsaw carving trail code: rumble.wink.meanders

Now drivers can see exactly where the dragon is coming up on the A5 and hopefully there’ll be fewer sudden stoppages!

Final Thoughts on the What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail

It’s great not just to be using this app for health and safety, but also to allow easier access to art. And to be raising awareness of the app! It has huge potential, and has already saved lives, which is awesome! Thank you to Alice at what3words for the email this week that prompted the trail!

 

photo of simon o'rourke's wwii soldier in workington park. it is labelled with its what3words chainsawcarving trail location: nail.pine.dime

Simon’s WWII soldier is easy to locate in Workington using what3words.

 

If you would like to contact Simon, please use the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

 

Using the Stihl MSA 200

Using the Stihl MSA 200 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

Happy New Year!
We’re kicking off 2022 with some tool talk! People often ask about the tools Simon uses, so this week we’re going to share a little more about one of his recommended chainsaws. Keep reading to find out more about using the Stihl MSA 200.

Stihl MSA 200 chainsaw with a plain white background. Part of a blog by Simon O'Rourke about using the Stihl MSA 200 chainsaw.

Stihl MSA 200 (photo from their website)

 

About the Stihl MSA 200

Simon has become a big fan of the Stihl battery chainsaws, and the MSA 200 is one of his most frequently used saws. It’s a cordless/battery-powered saw,  quite small and lightweight (relative to chainsaws!). Its size allows Simon to get close to his pieces which is a bonus for detailing. It’s also a quiet saw – quiet enough that you don’t NEED ear defenders. That said, Simon often still chooses to wear them as it’s more comfortable. Stihl also makes battery backpacks that enable you to carve for longer without changing the battery – very handy!

 

Simon O'rourke using a Stihl MSA 200 chainsaw to create detail in a wood sculpture of Ken Dodd.

Detailing Ken Dodd’s face with the MSA 200

Using the Stihl MSA 200

So, how does Simon use the MSA 200? He mostly uses it as a detail saw. He finds it’s a lovely saw for roughing out precise details in faces or the movement in clothing, fur or anatomy in particular.  One example of this is the drapery on the sculpture below that he’s working on at the moment. He used the MSA 200 to create lines that gave the basic movement – almost like a sketch. That gave movement to the fabric and enhanced the sense of the fabric being pulled in in response to the person stretching.

 

A sculpture in progress in Simon O'Rourke's workshop. Surrounded by chainsaw carving paraphernalia.

 

More About Using the Stihl MSA 2oo

Of course, a chainsaw is nothing without a chainsaw bar! At the moment Simon has his MSA 200 paired with a Canon 8″ .043 gauge carving bar (find out more about Simon’s tips for carving bar maintenance HERE if you’re interested). With the two paired together he finds he can trust his tools and doesn’t have to think about them. Rather, he can focus entirely on the sculpture, which is what every artist wants.
And for those who are interested, Stihl releases a new battery saw later this year; the MSA 300. Unsurprisingly, Simon can’t wait to try it!

 

chainsaw carver simon o'rourke using the stihl MSA 200 chainsaw and battery backpack to carve a series of owls into a tree trunk

Using the MSA 200 with the battery backpack

 

Where to Buy His Recommended Tools?

If you’re looking to buy any of the tools Simon recommends, his Stihl products are from www.stihl.co.uk. He buys his chainsaw bars from www.chainsawbars.co.uk, a company we have talked more about in a previous blog (click HERE to read it). They have a great product range, excellent customer service, quick delivery, and keep their website up to date so if something is out of stock, it will show.

And for those who would like to see Simon using the MSA 2oo, check out the video below. You can see Simon in action, and he adds more detail to the things we’ve shared in this blog.

 

 

If you would like to have Simon use his trusty Stihl MSA 200 to create a sculpture for you (!) please fill out the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

 

 

ink and bleach illustration of a border collie face by simon o'rourke

Illustrators that Influence his Work

Illustrators that Influence his Work 418 600 Simon O'Rourke
Have you read Simon’s biography? If you have, you’ll know that before Simon tried chainsaw carving, he did a degree in illustration. He had planned on becoming a freelance illustrator of children’s books and went to work with a local tree surgeon and carpenter while he built his portfolio. While working there, he tried chainsaw carving, and in 2010 became a full-time chainsaw artist. Illustration is still something he is passionate about though, and his training as an illustrator influences and impacts his work as a sculptor. In the past, we have talked about sculptors that influenced him. Today we’re going to look at six of the illustrators that influence his work.
an ink and bleach picture of a cat by simon o'rourke. it mimics the blotchy style of ralph steadman, one of the six main illustrators that influence his work

An ink and bleach painting by Simon, reflecting the ‘blotchy’ style of Ralph Steadman

Influential Illustrators: Victor Ambrus

Victor Ambrus was a Hungarian-born artist known for illustrating history, folk tales, and animal storybooks. In Simon’s words: “I love the inky tones and the textures he was able to achieve. In particular, the book Blackbeard had me studying every picture for ages – there was so much detail!”

a selection of illustrations from the blackbeard books showing seven pirates and a rope ladder.

Ambrus’ Blackbeard illustrations fascinated Simon!

Influential Illustrators: Albert Uderzo

We’ve mentioned before that Albert Uderzo was an illustrator Simon loved. And not just the illustrations! As a child, Simon enjoyed reading Asterix books and escaping to the world of Uderzo’s famous viking. Later, as an artist, he explains that “[Uderzo’s] ability to create so much character from a few strokes was amazing, and I’ll always love the Astérix books.”

 

Asterix and Obelisk, characters by illustrator Albert Uderzo. It appears in Simon O'Rourke's blog as Uderzo is one of the illustrators that have influenced his work

Asterix and Obelisk from the Uderzo books that have influenced Simon.

Influential Illustrators: Arthur Rackham

Our third illustrator that has influenced Simon is Arthur Rackham. Simon says that “[he] will always be a firm favourite, timeless fantasy characters and beautiful silhouette work.”

Arthur Rackham is probably one of the lesser-known names in Simon’s list of illustrators that influence his work. He was an English book illustrator and is recognised as one of the leading figures during the Golden Age of British book illustration. He’s known for his robust pen and ink drawings, which he combined with the use of watercolour.

Rackham’s 51 colour pieces for the early American tale Rip Van Winkle were actually a turning point in the production of books since as it featured the accurate reproduction of colour artwork. His best-known works also include the illustrations for Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.

 

An illustration from Peter pan of leaves blowing and a fairy being caught in the wind

An example of Arthur Rackham’s work in Peter Pan

Influential Illustrators: Hergé

Another illustration we have mentioned before as being an influence on Simon, is Herge, the creator of Tin Tin. Simon always admired his clean lines,  although he could never emulate them! As Simon says, “I’ve always been more at home with a sketchy style.”!
This ‘sketchy style’ is carried over into his sculpting which he describes as being more impressionist in style and uses rustic rather than refined textures.
a picture of the character tin tin with his dog. It appears in Simon's blog as Herge is one of the illustrators that have influenced his work

Tin Tin was another childhood favourite of Simon’s that he later came to appreciate as an artist too.

Influential Illustrators: Joseph Wright

And speaking of having a ‘sketchy style’…

What-A-Mess (the dog created by Joseph Wright) has a place in the hearts of many who grew up reading about the loveable, accident-prone Afghan hound. And, as well as liking the character, his creator, Joseph Wright is an illustrator who has influenced Simon:
“The what-a-mess books always fascinated me with the extra characters in the drawings that had their own narrative going on independent of the story.”

Have you ever noticed the background characters in a graphic story?

Cover of a kids book showing a cartoon dog trotting through a garden

The background characters in What-A-Mess with their own narrative fascinate Simon.

Influential Illustrators: Ralph Steadman

The last of the illustrators in Simon’s list of illustrators that influence his work is a bit of a departure from the others: Ralph Steadman.
Steadman isn’t known for his work on children’s books. Rather, he is known for his political and social caricatures, cartoons and picture books, and his partnership with American writer, Hunter S Thompson.
In Simon’s words: “The blotchy splashes of Ralph Steadman are brilliant too. I do try to emulate that with my ink and bleach drawings.”
Breaking Bad's Walter White as illustrated by Ralph Steadman.

Breaking Bad’s Walter White, as drawn by Ralph Steadman.

 

ink and bleach illustration of a border collie face by simon o'rourke

One of Simon’s ink and bleach paintings reminiscent of the blotchy style of Steadman

An Exciting Illustration Project

The timing of this blog about illustrators that have influenced Simon fits nicely with an upcoming project. In our blog about the Picton sculpture trail, we shared that the clients, Simon and his wife Liz shared a dream to publish a book about Fudge, the trail’s canine protagonist. And it’s happening!

Liz authored the sculpture trail story, and has written the book about the adventures of Matt and Rachel’s  Dachshund,  Fudge. Simon is the illustrator, using some of his original sketches for the Lower Farm sculpture trail as the basis for the book.

The book will be released later this year (fingers crossed!) and will help raise funds for Alder Hey Children’s Charity and Dementia UK.  Watch this space for details!

 

wooden sculpture of Fudge the daschund, protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Fudge the Dachshund, the protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Who are your Influences?

Who are the people who have influenced you in your field? Drop a comment and let us know!

And, (although it’s a very different topic to the blog!) if you would like to commission a sculpture, contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

Simon O'Rourke sculpting with a chainsaw and a strong light to his side.

The Importance of Lighting for Chainsaw Carving Sculpture.

The Importance of Lighting for Chainsaw Carving Sculpture. 1067 600 Simon O'Rourke

This week’s blog has something for both carver and client. Whether creating or viewing work can be transformed completely by light. With that in mind, Simon shares some thoughts on the importance of lighting for chainsaw carving sculpture.

 

Photo at night of an uplit batman sculpture on a rooftop showing the importance of lighting for chainsaw carving sculpture

The uplighting on this batman completely transforms his appearance

 

Light and Dark Art

Before we talk about the importance of lighting for chainsaw carving sculpture, let’s look at lighting and art in general.

Light is something that is important in different ways for all mediums. One art history legend says Rodin invited one reporter to meet him at midnight to view his sculpture, as the correct way to view it was by candlelight! It’s even become its own art form: luminism.

However, in general, light can

  • add depth
  • create a 3d feel
  • create shadow  – this is crucial for chainsaw carving as details like eyes are created through use of shadow rather than colour
  • highlight texture

So what does this mean for chainsaw carving?

 

Simon O'Rourke sculpting with a chainsaw and a strong light to his side.

Simon at work in the workshop with a strong light to the side of his workspace

 

The Importance of Lighting for Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: For Carvers

In the video below (also available on his YouTube Channel), Simon demonstrates how light completely transforms a sculpture. It also gives you a sneak peek of his current work in progress! He uses the LED light from his Milwaukee die grinder and moves it across the face. In doing so, her features and even the shape of her face appear completely different.

Importantly, you’ll notice that direct light completely wipes out her features!

This means that if you carve with light directly on the sculpture, you may not get the result you want. Simon often uses a work light that he moves around, especially when working on faces. This ensures features have the correct depth, proportions and symmetry. Moving the light will help highlight any errors in details that you may not spot until they’re in different lighting too.

It’s also worth thinking about moving a directional light for your product photography too. Simon advises against using a direct flash as it will wipe out the details. Instead, why not play with lighting from an angle and see which shows your sculpture at its best?

 


 Simon O’Rourke talks about the importance of lighting for chainsaw carving sculpture.

The Importance of Lighting for Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: For Clients

The impact of lighting on a chainsaw carving sculpture has implications for clients too. It’s worth thinking about how you want to light the sculpture and playing around with a portable light before committing to buying anything. How does your sculpture look at different times of the day? If you want to see it at night, does uplighting from the side work best, or something next to the sculpture? What features do you want to highlight?

This doesn’t just apply to an outside sculpture either. Play around with a desk lamp or even the torch on your mobile phone and watch the features change!

 

an small wooden fairy carved from wood. the fairy is uplit which makes her features more obvious showing the importance of lighting for chainsaw carving sculpture

The client uplit this oak fairy so she seems radiant and her features can still be seen at night

Share Your Photos!

If you’re a chainsaw carver (or any artist) why not try moving a light around and see how it affects your work? And clients, why not show us some of your photos showing your sculptures lit from different angles?

And, as always, if you’re interested in your own sculpture or have questions about chainsaw carving that you would like answered in his ‘tips and tricks’ blogs, contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

wooden sculpture of Fudge the daschund, protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Lower Farm Sculpture Trail 551 600 Simon O'Rourke

In this week’s blog, we’re doing something a little different! Usually, the blog is about finished sculptures. This week though, we invite you to a sneaky peek of a work in progress. Keep reading to find out about one of Simon’s current projects; the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail…

 

Lower Farm holiday cottages courtyard view. The site of the lower farm sculpture trail

Lower Farm holiday cottages, site of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

About Lower Farm Holiday Cottages and the Idea for a Trail

Lower Farm Holiday Cottages are located in Picton, Cheshire. They were originally farm buildings, converted and now run as holiday cottages by Matt and Rachel. When their daughter Olivia turned one, doctors confirmed she was born with a hole in her heart. Alder Hey Children’s Hospital gave her exceptional care and repaired the hole, offering her a bright healthy future. Matt and Rachel were overwhelmed with what the hospital did for them so they offered a family holiday in one of their holiday cottages as a fundraiser raffle for Alder Hey.

To their amazement, the raffle raised £7336! They then had the idea of doing something that would hopefully generate a steady donation stream for the hospital. They’ve always admired and appreciated Simon’s work and always wanted to have something of his, but didn’t have any trees suitable for carving. Then the idea hit them though to do a trail or hunt around the orchard from timber Simon would source. The sculptures would have a common theme, and form a trail or ‘hunt’ that guests could enjoy during their stay. All guests have free access to the trail during their stay, and they simply ask for voluntary donations for Alder Hey Children’s Charity from guests who would like to support the cause.

 

Double bed with brick wall beind and wooden beams. Bedroom at Lower Farm Holiday Cottages

One of the beautiful bedrooms at Lower Farm

Commissioning the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

 Matt and Rachel contacted Simon and instantly got the feeling he was very passionate about his work. He talked them through his and Liz’s background which included writing children’s storybooks. In that 30-minute phone call, the idea was born!

Simon and Liz visited the holiday cottages to get a feel for the place, and everyone agreed it would be a fantastic base for a sculpture trail and children’s book incorporating their daughter Olivia, pet dog Fudge and the wild farm animals that visit regularly.

Liz and Simon got to work with input from Rachel, Matt, Olivia and some close family friends. After a few edits, the team settled on their children’s story for the trail, all about Fudge’s evening adventure.

 

A young girl holding her pet dachshund Fudge. He is the cntral character of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Matt and Rachel’s daughter Olivia with Fudge, the main character in their sculpture trail

 

Current Progress on the Trail

The story is now complete, and Simon is creating scenes and characters in the workshop. Once they are all finished, he will install them around the property to form the trail. Keep scrolling for a sneak preview of Fudge, Sid the Squirrel, and the Shetland Pony!

Matt and Rachel have visited the workshop and have “seen first-hand the passion and effort he [Simon] puts into every piece”.

They’re delighted with what they’ve seen so far, and thankfully, they are both satisfied they came to the right place and found the right team to make their vision a reality!

wooden sculpture of Fudge the daschund, protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Fudge the Dachshund: protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Viewing the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

The trail is in a private garden and therefore only available for guests and invited visitors. But!  If you want to stay at one of their cottages you book via www.facebook.com/lowerfarmholidaycottages or www.lowerfarmpicton.co.uk. Alternatively, bookings can be made via Sykes holiday cottages.

Can’t wait for the finished trail? No problem!

Simon has created a mini carved bug hunt while the Fudge trail is in process! Based on an activity sheet created by Matt and Rachel’s talented friend Emma Glaysher, participants can hunt for six (larger-than-life!) bugs hidden around the orchard. Each bug has an assigned letter, and at the end the letters can be unjumbled to spell one of the Lower Farm Holiday Cottages animals.

 

a bug and inscription from Simon O'Rourke's mini bug trail at Lower Farm Holiday Cottages

One of the bugs in the ‘mini trail’ at Lower Farm Holiday Cottages

 

Beyond the Trail

And while Simon is busy carving, Liz continues to plan and dream with Matt and Rachel.

The couple loved the story about Fudge. They felt “Liz [did] an exceptional job of listening to [their] ideas and creatively writing a children’s bedtime story that is beyond what [they] ever hoped for”. This has led to a second project for the four…

Matt Rachel, Simon and Liz all share a dream of turning Fudge Gets Locked Out into a book which they will sell to raise funds for both Alder Hey Children’s hospital and Dementia UK – another cause close to Simon and Liz’s hearts.

Watch this space for the book release and sale details!

 

Fudge and Sid oak sculptures in a workshop. both are characters from lower farm sculpture trail

Fudge meets Sid the Squirrel in Simon’s workshop!

 

Final Thoughts About Sculpture Trails

Both couples are VERY excited about this trail, and the possibility of a book. We hope you’ll love it too once we share the finished sculptures.

Matt and Rachel are using the trail for fundraising, but a sculpture trail can be just as valuable for business revenue. If you’re thinking about a trail for your business or community, why not read our blog Why Commission a Sculpture Trail? Or make a ‘virtual visit’ to one of his other trails? Just click on the link below to view each one.

Fforest Fawr Trail

Meadow Park Trail

Page’s Wood Trails

shetland pony from the lower farm sculpture trail on the back of a truck

This shetland pony is one of the characters Fudge meets in the Lower Farm Sculpture trail

Settled on having your very own trail? Contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ .

giant pinecone sculpture by simon o'rourke

Giant Pinecone Sculpture

Giant Pinecone Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

Last week Simon created something very different to his usual style: a giant pinecone sculpture! Did you see it on Facebook or Instagram? It definitely caught his followers’ attention, with comments including:
“Amazing”, “unbelievably awesome”, “wonderful” and “in awe”.  Read on to find out the story behind the sculpture…

 

giant pinecone sculpture by simon o'rourke

This giant pinecone sculpture has been popular since Simon revealed it on social media last week

A Giant Pinecone Sculpture: The Client’s Story

Simon’s client had a Monterey Cypress tree with a tree protection order on it. However, it was shedding branches close to the road. It was a danger to traffic in the area and needed to be cut back. Simon’s client took the necessary steps and received permission to cut the tree back for safety reasons. Please note, if you have a tree with a protection order that has become dangerous, it’s important you take the right steps to get that order amended or revoked.

The client used tree surgeon Harry, from Dedham Vale Tree Surgery, a tree surgeon who sometimes works with Simon. When Harry heard that the client would like to turn the remaining stump into a feature, he recommended Simon. The client made contact and commissioned the giant pinecone sculpture.

 

simon o'rourke standing on scaffolding working on his giant pinecone sculpture with a chainsaw

Simon at work on the giant pinecone sculpture

Choosing a Subject for Sculpture

Sometimes the choice for a sculpture subject is deeply personal. Sometimes it’s symbolic. Other times it’s historic. Or represents a passion, hobby or quirk. This time, however, the choice of a pinecone was really very simple. The client wanted the sculpture to stand out as a feature, and continue the legacy of the rather impressive Monterey Cypress when it had been at its peak. The stump is surrounded by other pines and firs, so the client had the idea of a giant pinecone sculpture!

 

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke stands next to a 6' tree stump being carved into a giant pinecone sculpture

Simon with the sculpture in progress

Creating the Giant Pinecone Sculpture

Although the concept of the pinecone may seem more simple than some of Simon’s sculptures, it was definitely a challenge! Partly because it was SO HUGE! And partly because it was hard to maintain symmetry.

Simon found it helped with the shaping to draw a circle on the top and mark the sides with horizontal lines at specific measurements.

Once the cone shape was done, he then divided up each row around the shape into sections and drew the diagonal lines in. It was only then that he could start cutting the pattern!
He used the cordless MSA200 saws to create the general pattern, then used Manpa cutters to create most of the 3D spines on the cone.
Finally, it was onto Saburrtooth burr discs on the angle grinder to round off all the edges and get it looking tidy.
giant pinecone sculpture by simon o'rourke

The Finished Sculpture

The final piece is bold and striking and definitely meets the requirement of being a key feature piece. The client wanted something that would be a fitting replacement for the beautiful tree that had stood there before, and the pinecone sculpture is certainly that.  It stands around 6′ tall and (if you’re a cypress lover!) will also smell amazing for a while yet! Simon’s client is extremely happy with the finished piece, describing it as ” a piece of art”.
Do you have a diseased or dangerous tree that you would like to turn into a sculpture?
Contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Prints

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Prints 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

This week on social media, we were excited to launch Simon’s latest collaboration: Chainsaw and Brush. In this week’s blog, we share what it’s all about, and how it began. We’ll also share (importantly!), how you can purchase Chainsaw and Brush art for your home.

What is Chainsaw and Brush?!

At its most basic, Chainsaw and Brush is a collaboration between artist Amanda Waldron and Simon. Amanda is an incredible artist, who will be painting a select number of Simon’s sculptures. Prints of those paintings will be available for sale through Chainsaw and Brush.

 

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy prints lying on a table

Amanda Waldron’s stunning depiction of the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy sculpture by Simon O’Rourke

 

How Did Chainsaw and Brush Begin?

The lovely Jon Babb contacted Simon, and asked permission for Amanda to paint the famous ‘Giant Hand of Vyrnwy‘. Fast forward a few weeks and…. Mind. Blown!!!
The painting was PERFECT!
In Liz’s words: “This painting was EVERYTHING I’d ever imagined it would be to represent with brush, my husband’s phenomenal sculptures!
Just like that, Chainsaw and Brush began!

 

chainsaw and brush Giant hand of vyrnwy prints shown next to the giant hand sculpture

Amanda’s painting next to a photo of Simon O’Rourke’s Giant Hand of Vyrnwy

Future  Chainsaw and Brush Collaborations

They’re starting off with limited edition prints of Amanda’s fantastic painting of the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy. This edition of A3 bamboo prints will have only 200 prints, so you know you are buying something exclusive!
More paintings will follow, including the ‘Dragon of Bethesda’ which made national news in 2019.

 

dragon of bethesda sculpture by simon o'rourke

Simon’s Dragon of Bethesda is the next sculpture Amanda will be painting as part of the Chainsaw and Brush collaboration

How Can I Buy One of the Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Prints?

In time Chainsaw and Brush will have several social and web channels. At the moment, they can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/chainsawbrush. To buy a print (framed or unframed) you can message them through that page or email Liz at [email protected]. Simon and Amanda both sign the prints and they also come with a certificate of authenticity.

Don’t forget to give the page a ‘like’ to see more phenomenal work as it is released!

chainsaw and brush logo

Look out for the Chainsaw and Brush logo and give them a follow!

 

But What is the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy?

This is probably a good time to talk about the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy for anyone who is new to this blog!

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy is one of Simon’s best known and most profound sculptures. It is also ten years old this year, so the release of limited edition prints is a lovely anniversary celebration.

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy was commissioned in 2011 to transform a storm-damaged tree at the Lake Vyrnwy estate. Once 209′ tall, it had to be felled to only 50′. The Forestry Commission wanted it turned into a memorial to the tree it had once been…

 

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy stands in the Lake Vyrnwy estate

Simon and the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy…

Simon’s sculpture conveys a powerful message. The tree stands in an area of the estate called The Giants of Vyrnwy. He took inspiration from this and came up with the idea of a hand reaching for the sky. That reaching hand is the tree’s final attempt to reach the sky. He wanted to show the hand stretching and straining; fighting to reach its full height. This is why Simon highlighted veins and creases, and why there is visible tension and power in the hand. It reflects a battle against not only the elements but also the damage humans have done.

 

chainsaw and brush giant hand of vyrnwy prints are based on this image of the sculpture

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Final Thoughts

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy is a beautiful and profound sculpture, and Amanda’s painting has certainly done justice to that, and to the beautiful surroundings.
We’re looking forward to seeing her future paintings, and to you being able to take home a piece of Simon’s work in this way!

Please send any Chainsaw and Brush enquiries to [email protected]
All chainsaw carving commissions/enquiries are welcome via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

stihl chainsaw with standard bar in front of a fallen tree carved into a dragon by simon o'rourke

Carving Bar Maintenance for Chainsaw Carvers

Carving Bar Maintenance for Chainsaw Carvers 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

Simon is going to be making a series of videos and blogs to share maintenance tips with other chainsaw carvers. We kick that series off this week with this blog about carving bar maintenance for chainsaw carvers…

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke holds a large chainsaw and licks the blade

Thankfully this isn’t a recommended way of cleaning your chainsaw!

What Is a Chainsaw Bar?

For readers who aren’t regular chainsaw users, the bar has the vital job of guiding the chain – the part that does the cutting! Bars come in different lengths, and there are a few different types serving different purposes. For example, a standard bar with a fixed nose sprocket is good for light gardening. Carving bars are special Stellite bars with a smaller nose radius that minimises the possibility of kickback. Maintaining the bar well preserves the life span of not just the bar, but also the chain. It is also a good health and safety practice, as well maintained equipment equals less opportunity for accidents.

 

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke using a small stihl chainsaw to carve a sculpture of a woman

Simon uses one of his signature bars from Tsumura at a live carving event

Carving Bar Maintenance for Chainsaw Carvers Tip One: Filing

The first tip involves the bar rails. The bar rails enclose the groove along the edge of the guide bar, and that groove is the channel the chain runs along. With time and use, those bar rails can crack, chip, or become sloped. This can particularly happen if the chain is too slack and ‘clacks’ against it.
If the bar is no longer flat, it causes the tie strap on the chain to wear out. This in turn compresses the metal and causes what fellow chainsaw carver Mick Burns calls ‘stiff-slack’ syndrome. The result of this is a snapped chain!
So not only does good carving bar maintenance preserve the life of the bar, it preserves the life of the chain too.

The solution to this is maintaining its shape.

Check the bar each time you use it, and if you notice signs of wear and tear or a shape change, file it flat again. A vice may help you hold it in place while you file, and ensure you keep them parallel. Simon uses a diamond file from ChainsawBars.co.uk who sell a range of bar maintenance tools. They also have a fantastic selection of chainsaw bars and a loyalty scheme. They’re definitely one of Simon’s recommended resources!

 

A diamond file on a wooden table. Tool recommended by simon o'rourke as part of his carving bar maintenance for chainsaw carvers tips

Simon recommends using something similar to this Diamond Dressing knife from ChainsawBars.Co.UK to file carving bars flat

 

Carving Bar Maintenance for Chainsaw Carvers Tip Two: Cleaning

The second tip for effective carving bar maintenance is to make sure you clean it well.
This means regularly cleaning all dirt and debris from the bar and the bar groove. If you have bar groove cleaner and compressed air, this will give you the best results. There are also tools available, although you can still do a good job with a simple rag.
This is important because if a bar isn’t clean, it won’t oil well, and oil is key to cooling it down. In turn, a cool bar is key in the bar keeping its shape.
As with filing, ChainsawBars have a range of products for cleaning, and also have a series of videos with maintenance tutorials. You can find the video about cleaning bars HERE.

close up of a dirty chainsaw bar. cleaning the bar every use is one of simon o'rourke's tips for carving bar maintenance for chainsaw carvers.

 

Carving Bar Maintenance for Chainsaw Carvers Tip Three: Appropriate Use

Simon’s final tip for carving bar maintenance is a preventative one. Use it for its correct purpose!
As was mentioned in the description of chainsaw bars, carving bars are designed for the purpose of creating detail or improving performance in high-precision jobs. If they are used for big cuts and massive pieces of timber, they will soon pick up cracks and lose their shape. If you are making big cuts, Simon suggests it’s best to stick to a standard bar.
And if you are starting out and don’t want to invest in lots of equipment, don’t worry. In our blog about “Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving“, Simon recommends starting with a standard bar anyway!

stihl chainsaw with standard bar in front of a fallen tree carved into a dragon by simon o'rourke

Using a standard bar like this Stihl Rollomatic ES for bigger cuts will help preserve the life of your carving bar for precision work

More About Carving Bar Maintenance

If you are interested in knowing more, Simon also made a video with more detail about basic carving bar maintenance for chainsaw carvers. It’s about eight minutes long, and well worth the watch if you would like to better understand your equipment and how to preserve it. You can watch it below, or find it on his YouTube Channel, Simon O’Rourke.

If you have questions or suggestions for the maintenance series or would like to commission a sculpture, contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.