Illustration

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/.

bill badger sculpture and bench in simon o'rourke's workshop

Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench

Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

Did you see our hint on Wednesday about the sculpture for today’s blog? We showed the legs and asked people on social media to guess who/what it was. There were some great answers! Your guesses included Charlie Chaplin, Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Bilbo Baggins and even Postman Pat! Somebody came close with Rupert Bear, but the correct answer is a Bill Badger sculpture and bench.

 

original sketch by simon o'rourke of rupert bear sitting on a bench

An initial sketch for the Bill Badger sculpture and bench commission

 

Commissioning the Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench

The clients who commissioned this bench are fans of Rupert Bear, a comic book star and franchise that began in the Daily Express in 1920. For those of us who grew up with him, it’s hard to believe he’s over 100! Simon’s clients have a collection of garden figures featuring Rupert and friends, and the only one they didn’t have was Bill Badger.

Last year they found Simon on his website, and subsequently commissioned him to create Mary and Joseph to stand outside their church at Christmas. They were so impressed with his work that they asked him about Bill! Previously, they’d seen another bench on the website with a seated character and liked the idea of combing the bench and sculpture. They talked it through with Simon and he sent a drawing which they said was just what they wanted.

 

bill badger sculpture and bench made of oak by simon o'rourke. Bill sits on one end. The bench is in a workshop and surrounded by sawdust

Creating the Bill Badger Sculpture

Simon created the oak sculpture and bench in his workshop. The bench was a lovely commission for him; fun, and a little bit different to other subjects he’s created. It touches on his background in children’s illustration but was also a favourite growing up. In fact, he has memories of reading the Rupert stories as a child. And even then the illustrations fascinated him. Anything that took him out of the real world and sparked his imagination with adventures was good in his eyes, and The Rupert stories did just that!

oak sculpture of bill badger sits on an oak bench in a workshop

 

More Thoughts on Making Bill Badger

The commission represented a slightly different challenge to his usual sculptures. Unlike many that are all animal or all human, the Nutwood characters have human bodies and proportions with animal heads!

That idea of normal human bodies with animal heads and the style of the characters created by Mary Tourtel always interested Simon. Especially as there were normal humans in the stories too!

Looking back, Simon recognises there are some questionable depictions of people from different countries (which would have been considered normal at the time), and this is something he is sensitive to when he thinks about classic children’s literature, and how he recreates characters or scenes. However, in general, Rupert Bear is a lovely classic, and it was fun to recreate Rupert’s fun-loving, optimistic best friend, Bill.

 

bill badger sculpture and bench in simon o'rourke's workshop

The Client’s Verdict and Final Thoughts

It’s always nice when Simon enjoys a commission or when it presents something new or interesting for him. What matters most though is the client’s opinion!
In this case, they are delighted with the Bill Badger sculpture and bench. When asked to comment, they shared with us that
“The finished bench is just fabulous and has pride of place in our garden and is much admired by our visitors.”

If you would like to commission a sculpture, contact Simon using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact and he will be in touch to talk details!

 

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

Creating a Sculpture Trail Part One: Proposal and Preparation

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

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

 

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

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

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task One: Understanding the Brief

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

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

 

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

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

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Two: Costing

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Four: The Legal Bit!

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

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

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

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Five: Making the Trail!

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

 

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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!