comic book characters

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/.

Into the 20’s – A Review of the Decade

Into the 20’s – A Review of the Decade 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

As we start a new decade, we’ve been reflecting on the many changes that have happened personally and professionally over the last ten years. Professionally, it’s been a great decade with some fantastic opportunities and commissions. We’ve also met some amazing people and seen some wonderful places along the way. Before we move forward into the 20’s, we thought we would bring you our ‘review of the decade’. And, as we do, let us wish you a Happy New Year from all at Tree Carving.

Simon O'Rourke Game of Thrones Egg Carrier carving

Simon and Liz O’Rourke wish you a happy new year (and decade) on behalf of the Tree Carving team.

Review of the Decade: 2010

As we looked back, we could definitely see we didn’t use social media as much! And the technology we used definitely didn’t produce the kind of photos and videos we do today! But here is a look back at two competition pieces from that year, both taking second place. Neptune from the English Open Chainsaw competition, and a traditional miner from the Huskycup.
A quick glimpse at Simon’s awards shows that this was a good decade for competition, placing in most things he entered and winning seven awards. However, when it comes to competitions Simon says:
“Competitive sculpture has taught me a lot about completing work to a deadline. I have competed all over the world and although I have placed highly in many events, the most important thing to me is being happy with my own work.”

Neptune by Simon O'Rourke as featured in his review of the decade

Simon O'Rourke second place huskycup 2010

Review of the Decade: 2011

Two of the projects we chose as highlights from 2011 are The Giant Hand of Vrynwy, and the Somerset Tree.

At 50′ tall, it was no wonder the hand caught the attention of the local press, as you can see in the article by The Leader newspaper. Simon’s inspiration for the hand came from the name for the woodland area, which made reference to giants. Creating something on this scale reminded Simon how small we are compared to some of the living organisms on this planet. He described the experience as being very humbling!

Giant hand by Simon O'Rourke

The next project although tall still, was a little smaller in scale! Simon was commissioned by the Museum of Somerset to create this stunning tree for their new museum. Sourced from local wood, it stands proudly in the museum where it tells some of the area’s 400 million year history.

Tree of Somerset by Simon O'Rourke

Review of the decade: Tree of Somerset by Simon O'Rourke

Review of the Decade: 2012

Another Huskycup entry! This time, the sculpture of “Christian and Mary”. Simon worked on this piece as part of ‘Team Europe’ with Tommy Craggs and Michael Tamoszus. They placed fourth overall, with some tough competition from a great bunch of talented artists. As we had a quick glimpse back at the Facebook album of the event it was lovely to be reminded of the support, encouragement and lovely comments.

Christian & Martha Huskycup 2012 by O'Rourke, Cloggs and Tamoszus

Review of the decade: Christian & Martha Huskycup 2012 by O'Rourke, Cloggs and Tamoszus

fourth place Huskycup 2012 by O'Rourke, Cloggs and Tamoszus

Review of the Decade: 2013

For our 2013 highlight, we chose something a little different. During that year Simon created this incredible Alice in Wonderland booth for Steak of the Art in Bristol. Their vision is for the restaurant to be an ever-changing art gallery that compliments their delicious menu. As you can see from the photos in the case study Simon wrote, his booth more than fits their vision. Every single character is its own work of art, and with so much to see, although the piece doesn’t change, there is something new to notice each time you sit within it. Here we get a reflection of the changing technology too, with this timelapse video of its making!

Alice in Wonderland booth at Steak of the Art by Simon O'Rourke (a review of the decade)

Alice in Wonderland booth by Simon O'Rourke, Steak of the Art

Alice in Wonderland booth by Simon O'Rourke, Steak of the Art

Review of the Decade: 2014

2014 saw us receive a lot of publicity for two ‘guardians’.

The first was created for the ‘Pawtraits‘ series by Maria Slough, and was actually named ‘The Guardian‘. The series featured people photographed alongside animals that had impacted their lives, and Simon was brought in to create a piece to be used for the portrait of Virginia McKenna. Understandably, the actress wasn’t too keen on reclining on a real lion – hence Simon stepping in with The Guardian! As McKenna was so impressed with his work, Simon was later commissioned to sculpt a lion cub for the Born Free Foundation charity auction, a charity McKenna established. As well as the photos below, you can click HERE to see a timelapse of The Guardian being made.

 

The Guardian by Simon O'Rourke

Maria Slough Pawtrait Virginia McKenna featuring lion by Simon O'Rourke

Photograph copyright of Maria Slough from the Pawtraits Series

The other ‘guardian’ created by Simon that year is just as iconic. Phil and Leah from Wahoo Group wanted to harness the power of social media and do something novel to help sell their home. Thinking completely outside of the box (no baked cookies here!) they commissioned a sculpture of…..Batman!

The caped crusader sat on top of their home where it gained attention from both local and global news outlets, and helped the couple find tenants for their property.

Wooden Batman carving by Simon O'Rourke

Wooden Batman carving by Simon O'Rourke

Batman by Simon O'Rourke and St Giles Church Wrexham

As one of Simon’s strengths is Human Form, we also couldn’t resist throwing in this sculpture of Scottish explorer, Mungo Park. He was commissioned for a pub in the explorer’s hometown of Peebles, and sits on this bench for passers by to enjoy.

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

 

 

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

Review of the Decade: 2015

2015 was the year when Simon won the English Open Chainsaw Competition with Hemlock the Dragon.

Since then Hemlock has made countless appearances around the country, including at a wedding! Hemlock has recently had some repair work on the wings, and is ready to meet the public again. If you are interested in hiring Hemlock for your event, just email us on [email protected]

Hemlock the Dragon English Open Chainsaw Competition 2015 by Simon O'Rourke

Review of the Decade: 2016

2016’s highlight is another Huskycup Flashback: Viking Raid.

As well as the Viking Raid Case Study Simon wrote, we also have a blog about Viking Raid for those who want to know more. As we mentioned in our Huskycup 2019 blog, 2016 was actually the last year Huskycup was a competition. It meant Simon was the last ever Huskycup champion, as Viking Raid took first place. What a way to end the competition for him! Although it is no longer a competition, Simon continues to participate, and it is something of a highlight each year.

In 2016 Simon also became an affiliate of Olfi. We love their action cameras, and how they’ve transformed what we’re able to share with you through timelapse videos. Find out more in our Olfi blog!

Viking Raid at Huskycup 2016 by Simon o'Rourke

 

 

Viking Raid at Huskycup 2016 by Simon o'Rourke

 

Review of the Decade: 2017

2017’s highlight is from Liverpool. Simon created a tribute to The Beatles by carving life size figures of the Fab Four live along the dockside over a weekend. You can read more about the event in our Global Beatles Day Blog, and keep scrolling to enjoy our flashback photos and video.

2017 was also the year Simon began being sponsored by Stihl. Not only do they manufacture quality equipment, but it was something of a ‘full circle’ for Si, as his very first chainsaw experience was using Stihl equipment.

 

Beatles at the Liverpool dockside by Simon O'Rourke

 

Nearly done!!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Monday, 28 August 2017

 Review of the Decade: 2018

As Simon says in his case study about the Spirit of Ecstasy, this was one of his most challenging sculptures to date.
You may remember from our Spirit of Ecstasy blog, that Simon recreated the Rolls Royce icon for an enthusiast to give new life and purpose to a beautiful oak tree which had died. Despite the challenges, the finished piece was faithful to the Rolls Royce concept, graceful and simply stunning. We hope you enjoy the finished result as much as we (and most importantly, the client!) did.

Spirit of Ecstasy by Simon O'Rourke

 

 

Review of the Decade: 2019

In our new year blog at the start of last year, we told you 2019 would be our ‘year of the dragon’. We weren’t wrong! Over the year Simon created seven new dragon-related carvings, including an ice dragon in our local town.
It all started off with The Dragon of Bethesda. It sits in an arboretum in North Wales after the landowner commissioned Simon to create something spectacular from a fallen tree. Y Ddraig Derw was featured in national media, and we are still overwhelmed by the encouraging response from so many people to the piece.

Dragon of Bethesda by Simon O'Rourke

 

Our other dragon highlight from the year, is this stunning casket created for HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones egg props Simon O'Rourke

Simon was commissioned by HBO as part of a wider project where artists re-imagined original props from the show. He received these beautiful dragon eggs, and created the casket for them to sit in. You can remind yourself of the whole project and process in our Game of Thrones blog.

Again, we were amazed, thankful and VERY encouraged by all the positive comments we received.

This is also the year Simon became an affiliate for ManpaTools. Their angle grinders especially have taken some of his texture and detail to a whole new level.

Simon O'Rourke casket Game of Thrones Season Eight

Moving into 2020, Simon has also become an affiliate for Saburrtooth. With quality tools and equipment from Stihl, Manpa and Saburr, Simon’s talent and creativity, and the continued support of all our amazing clients and co-workers, we look forward to what the next decade – the roaring 20’s – will hold.

We hope you enjoyed our Review of the Decade. We definitely loved seeing some of these pieces afresh as we looked back.
As always, if you have a project in mind, email us on [email protected]

Tale of Two Carvings

Tale of Two Carvings 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

If you follow us on social media, you’ll know it’s been a busy week for Simon. And the locations and difference in style definitely mean that this week’s blog is definitely ‘A tale of two carvings’!

A Tale of Two Carvings Part One: Svantevit

The first of our tale of two carvings was created in Germany. Si and Liz travelled to Putgarten, where Simon was commissioned to create a sculpture of Svantevit, the four headed Slavic god of war, fertility and abundance. This particular representation of the deity is 3 metres tall and made of oak. Although yellow-y now, it will weather into a beautiful silvery grey over the coming weeks, months and years. It has the typical four heads that, according to mythology, represent him being able to see to the four corners of the earth. Simon’s sculpture is also carrying two of the symbols that are an important part of Svantevit stories: his horn and sword.

Putgarten

Putgarten is a wonderful centre of creativity. A recent count estimated there are 70 sculptures on display and/or available to buy! What a great place to find something for your home, or even just to browse for inspiration.

If you would like to know more, visit their website by clicking here – and before you have to dig out that German dictionary from your schooldays, don’t forget google can do the translating for you!

 

 

A Tale of Two carvings Part Two: APF 2018

The second half of the week saw us return to APF 2018; the UKs largest forestry, woodland, arboricultural, fencing and biofuel exhibtion. This year there were over 320 exhibitors and 22000 visitors over the three days. it’s fair to say that number created a buzz far beyond the noise of the chainsaws!

As regulars at this event, it was great to reconnect with old friends, as well as having the privilege of being a demonstrator and competitor.

 

During the speed carving demonstrations, Simon created a wolf. Cheering him on was another of his creations. Meet Squishy!

Later, 25 of the top wood carvers in Europe competed against each other in the A W Jenkinson & Tilhill Forestry European Chainsaw Carving Championship, where each had to produce a sculpture from a 1 tonne piece of timber.

Simon used this as an opportunity to complete a project he’d been visualising for a while. He chose to create this beautiful representation of a female face. He made use of long smooth lines for her smooth skin tone, and contrasting areas of more intense texture and detail to create lips, eyes and hair. She didn’t place in this year’s competition, but we’ve had lots of lovely compliments about her. It was also wonderful to realise something after thinking about it for so long.

For anybody interested, two of the pieces mentioned in this post are available for sale. The lady is available after Futurescapes exhibition. Squishy is also available for purchase. If you are interested in either these pieces contact us on [email protected] or via our contact page.