Stihl

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

Tips for Carving Big Cats

Tips for Carving Big Cats 720 960 Simon O'Rourke

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

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

A lion family diptych Simon created this year

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Research

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

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

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

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Determining a Realistic Pose

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Keep Looking at Your Reference

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

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

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Adding Texture

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

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

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

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

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Practice Makes Perfect

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

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

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

Your Own Big Cat Sculpture

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

a roraring lion carved by simon o'rourke

 

 

FAQs: Favourite Tools for Carving Faces

FAQs: Favourite Tools for Carving Faces 2048 2047 Simon O'Rourke

People often ask what tools Simon uses to create sculptures. Sometimes that’s hobbyists and professionals, keen to learn from fellow artists. Sometimes it’s from people watching Simon carve live. People are often amazed to find out the chainsaws are the same tools used by tree surgeons!
When it comes to chainsaw, Simon has a long-standing relationship with Stihl. In fact, that relationship actually goes back to the very first time he used a chainsaw! Their quality and functionality make them a firm favourite. However, Simon also uses other powertools to refine his work. In this blog we will talk about his favourite tools for carving faces.

3m tree trunk in the process of being carved into a sculpture of a woman. She is surrounded by scaffolding, and two stihl chainsaws used for carving are photographed in front of the work in progress. Sculpture is the Marbury Lady by Simon O'Rourke, and the photograph is to show his favourite tools for carving faces.

Simon’s preferred chainsaws are Stihl, for their quality, innovation, and functionality.

 

Favourite Tools for Carving Faces: Saburrtooth Bits

In recent years, Simon has been using Saburrtooth Burr Bits to refine and detail his faces. They have become some of his favourite tools for carving faces especially, and an essential part of his kit. Each of the different shapes come in various sizes and levels of coarseness and can be bought separately or in complete kits. They really help take faces to a whole other level, whether that be the shape and structure or texture.

a close up of Billy Houliston's face carved in oak by simon o'rourke. The face is coarsely textured and demonstrates the impact of some of Simon's favourite tools for carving faces

The texture on the face of Billy Houliston was created with a large flame bit, extra coarse

1: Large Extra Coarse Flame Bit

The first of Simon’s favourite tools for carving faces is the large flame bit, in extra coarse. It’s often the first of the smaller tools that Simon uses to create faces. It’s not only great for shaping, but also leaves the fantastic textured finish seen in sculptures like The Queen of the South footballers.

extra coarse large flame bit by saburrtooth, which is one of Simon O'Rourke's favourite tools for carving faces

Extra coarse large flame bit by Saburrtooth.

 

This particular bit is extremely versatile, has all kinds of uses when carving faces. Simon uses it to shape the corner of the eyes, form the bridge of the nose, and create the outline of the eye sockets. It’s also his tool of choice for the shaping underneath the chin, down the side of the mouth, and other gentle creases. This photo of it in action on the face of The Marbury Lady Sculpture again demonstrates the great texture it creates.

close up of a sculpture in process. the sculpture is a female face created by simon o'rourke and her face is being detailed using a daburrtooth flame bit, one of Simon's favourite tools for carving faces.

The extra coarse large flame bit in action on The Marbuty Lady

2: Large Coarse Taper Bit

Just like the flame bit, it’s obvious how the taper bit got its name! Like the flame bit, this taper is also essential in Simon’s kit.

coarse taper bit made by saburrtooth. photo demonostrates simon o'rourkes favourite tools for carving faces

One of the saburrtooth large taper bits in coarse grit

It’s another extremely versatile tool, and has two main uses depending on which side is used. Simon uses the point to shape the corners of the eyes, in both animal and human faces. It can also be used for the nostrils or lip line. As the tip is still quite wide, there won’t be very strong definition in these facial features yet, but it’s a useful starting point.
The other benefit comes from the flat side which is amazing for creating outlines and rounded shapes.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive to use a flat edge for rounded features, the flat edge is definitely superior for creating convex curves, such as cheeks. The forehead, cheeks, neck and chin on Our Lady of Pen Llyn are perfect examples of curves you can create with this tool.

life size sculpture of a young female carved from oak by Simon O'Rourke

Simon often uses the flat side of the large taper bit for gentle convex curves like the cheeks, forehead and chin on Our Lady of Penllyn

3: Small Flame Bit

The next of Simon’s favourite tools for carving faces is (in his words) “a brilliant little tool“. It’s the small flame bit, and as with all the bits, comes in a variety of grains from fine to extra coarse.

small flame bit by saburrtooth. photo is included to show one of simon o'rourke's favourite tools for carving faces.

One of the small flame bits by Saburrtooth

When sculpting human form, Simon can’t rely on some on colour to create expression and shape. This means he has to create a realistic appearance, life, and expression through the shape and crucially,  differing depths of ‘cuts’.
This bit has a fine tip which can create a finer, deeper cut to refine the face. Some of the applications would be cleaner, clearer nostrils and lips than the taper bit. Simon also used this bit for fine curves and creases, laughter lines, eyebrows, and other creases in the skin caused by movement of the subject. This kind of detail is especially useful for sculptures which will be seen up close, such as the Ayrton Senna bust. Creating something this realistic out of wood replies heavily on the kind of fine, deep lines that the small flame bit creates.

a wood carved bust of F1 driver Ayrton senna in the workshop of creator Simon O'Rourke

close up of simon o'rourke using a fine taper bit to shape the face of a female sculpture. the bit is one of his favourite tools for carving faces.

Fine taper in action on Simon’s Oak Maiden

4: Extra Fine Taper Bit

The fourth of Simon’s favourite tools for carving faces is the extra fine taper. This is used with a small rotary tool, such as a dremel.

Extra fine taper bit by saburrtooth, one of simon o'rourkes favourite tools for carving faces

Extra fine taper bit

If you watch the video on Simon’s Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/p/CEVNCZ6jGFW/, you will see this is an extremely thin bit. And thin, fine bits, create thin, fine details! Simon uses this bit for features like creating lines inside of eyelids for a sharper line and more emphasis. He also uses it for the top of eyelids and between the lips. But basically, it is ideal for anywhere you want to create a sharp, fine line.
As you can see, working with these smaller powertools means getting up close and personal with the sculpture! Being right on top of the sculpture can make it hard to get a real sense of what you are creating though. With that in mind, if you are using these tools, be sure to step back often to check. It’s also important when you do that, to assess your piece from multiple angles.

Sculptor Simon O'Rourke carving a wooden fairy at the Englihs Open CHainsaw competition

Some details require getting up close and personal!

5: Eye Bit

There’s a reason the eye bit has its name! With two flat edges moving to round, it’s shaped like a human eye. And – unsurprisingly – is another useful tool for sculpting eyes!

Eye bit by Saburrtooth

Example of an eye bit from the Saburrtooth range

The video below shows it best, but Simon uses this bit for shaping the eye when it is on its side. He also uses the point to emphasise the corners. Either way, it’s another of his favourite tools for carving faces as it provides great results.

Not Just For Humans!

Our examples so far of sculptures made with these favourite saburrtooth bits have all been human form. Although Simon’s favourite subject to sculpt is human form, he is also known for his amazing fantasy and wildlife sculptures. If you haven’t seen any by the way, why not check out the range of his portfolio at https://www.treecarving.co.uk/portfolio/ or follow on Instagram or Facebook?
But back to favourite tools!
In the same way that the bits we talked about today can be used for human faces, Simon also uses them when sculpting features on animal carvings. This Sri Lankan Lion sculpture shows how effective these bits are for creating those same textures and lines in fur!

a large coarse flame bit is being used by simon o'rourke to create texture in the mane of a lion sculpture

Large coarse flame bit in action on a lion sculpture

How Do You Use Yours?

We’re sure that tools this versatile have many more applications too. Why not drop us a comment with your favourite bits and how you use them? We’d love to hear from you, and it’s important to learn from other artists. Maybe you picked up some tips? Leave us a comment and photo of what you made – we’d love to see your work!

That just about finishes today’s blog, which we hope you found helpful in helping you select tools for your own projects. Before we go through, we couldn’t resist sharing one last sculpture featuring details created with some of Simon’s favourite tools for carving faces. This one is Radagast the Brown from Lord of the Rings, and we just love the texture and lines in the beard and wisened face that help depict Tolkien’s character so perfectly.

radagast the brown from Lord of the Rings carved in wood by simon o'rourke

As always, if you feel inspired by some of the sculptures in this blog and would like to commission your own, contact us through the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

 

Face of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke in Poulton Hall gardens

Monkey Puzzle Ent Tree Sculpture

Monkey Puzzle Ent Tree Sculpture 1920 2560 Simon O'Rourke

Simon spent the week working in the grounds of Poulton Hall, Bebington. Thankfully the weather cooperated for this outdoor project! Over four days of carving Simon transformed a monkey puzzle tree into this fantastic Ent tree sculpture…

ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke. carved into a standing monkey puzzle tree outside poulton hall

Um, what’s an Ent Tree Sculpture?!

For those who are wondering, Ent are one of Tolkien’s literary creations. So this week’s sculpture would have fit perfectly in the literary fan art blog we posted a few weeks ago! The Ent feature in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and are one of the oldest races of Middle Earth. They are described as shepherds and protectors of the trees. They are tree-like in appearance and take on the appearance of the trees they guard. Although we don’t often think of a ‘tree person’ as being a fearsome warrior, “Their punches can crumple iron like tin, and they can tear apart solid rock-like bread crusts.”!

front view of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke at poulton hall

So, why an Ent tree sculpture?!

The choice of an Ent has a special story…
The sculpture is in the grounds of Poulton Hall, which is the ancestral home of the Lancelyn Green family. The present incumbent, or squire, is the 32nd lord of the manor of Poulton Lancelyn and Lower Bebington.  His father was Roger Lancelyn Green, the author of many well-known books about Robin Hood, King Arthur, Greek Heroes, Ancient Egypt, Norse Myths, Dragons, and all things imaginative and creative.  As one of the Oxford Inklings, Roger was friends with J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, who was an occasional visitor to Poulton. The Inklings praised the value of narrative in fiction and encouraged the writing of fantasy. Many aspects of the grounds have been inspired by imaginative literature.

blue plaque stating roger lancelyn green lived in poulton hall, bebington

The Poulton Hall Gardens

There are several different gardens at Poulton Hall, all of them stunning in their own way. They are open a few times a year, usually in aid of a charity. The walled gardens are also available for private functions such as weddings, tea parties, musical performances, and exhibitions. Details for opening are on their website www.poultonhall.co.uk/GardenOpenings/ if you would like to visit.

Each garden has a slightly different flavour as you can discover at www.poultonhall.co.uk/TheGardens.  The entrance to the walled gardens is intended to make you think you are entering a world of make-believe. Simon’s sculpture is not the only reference to fantasy and literature in the grounds. Other sculptures include a Jabberwock  (from Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky, in his book Through the Looking Glass) a Viking head, a Robin Hood, an Excalibur, and a Storyteller’s Chair.

This historic link with Tolkien and the property already having the sense of a fantasy garden meant a literary fantasy character was a natural choice for this latest addition.  The Ent not only fit the literary-fantasy theme but is also much more unusual than more commonly seen sculptures of fairies, wizards, and mythological animals. It has the benefit too of blending more naturally with the surrounding gardens than other human or animal subjects. And so, whilst an unusual choice, the Ent is perfect for Poulton Hall.

Face of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke in Poulton Hall gardens

The Character of the Ent Tree Sculpture

As the Ent are moving, talking fictional beings with personalities, it was important that Simon first decide who this particular Ent is before he started carving. These all inform the pose, texture, expression – and more – of a sculpture. In this case, Simon was carving a Monkey Puzzle tree, and so Aracaurius the Ent was born! The name comes from the Latin name for the tree: aracauria Araucana. Aracaurius the Ent tree sculpture is 5m tall and has an affinity for the local wildlife. There’s a fox, a rabbit in his hand, an owl perched on his left hand, an angry stoat, a squirrel, a woodpecker, and a hidden mouse!

the fox at the foot of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke at poulton hall

The fox at the foot of the Ent

 

Squirrel in the trunk of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke

The squirrel peeping out from the leg of the ent tree sculpture

Depicting a Monkey Puzzle Ent

One of the features we mentioned of the Ent, is that they take on the features of the tree they protect. In this case, a monkey puzzle tree. The monkey puzzle tree is an evergreen with long, spiky branches. Simon captures this in the long vertical cuts down the length of the Ent.

close up of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke, focusing on the rabbit in its left hand

Close up of the rabbit and the long vertical texture that suggests the long spiky coniferous branches of the monkey puzzle tree.

Monkey Puzzle trees also have a distinctive, leathery, pointy leaf. Simon has created variation in the texture of the ent tree sculpture by creating patches where the leaves are growing. This also hints at the evolutionary transformation of the Ent where it gradually takes on more and more of the characteristics of the tree it is guarding.

 

rear view of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke, showing the leaf and trunk detail

Rearview of the Ent showing the monkey puzzle leaves

A Face That Tells a Story

An important part of anthropomorphising objects is the face. There have to be believable details that blend the object/animal with human features. A glimpse at the face shows that this gentleman is an older Ent, with wise eyes, and a hint of compassion.

ent sculpture by simon o'rourke at poulton hall

More Details

It’s amazing to think about the number of details that go into creating something like the Ent tree sculpture. For example, look at the shoulder. That ‘point’ makes all the difference in convincing the viewer the Ent is a ‘tree person’ and not human. Drop that shoulder, and it immediately becomes ‘too human’, and less organic. The arms need to have enough irregularities to appear as a branch and not a human arm.  Attention to details like this as well as the phenomenal texture are what makes this Ent so striking and convincing.

And speaking of details, we have to share the rest of those animals hiding about the Ent’s person!

woodpecker and owl in simon o'rourke's ent sculpture

View of the Ent showing the woodpecker and owl

The Process of Making the Ent Tree Sculpture

As always, it is fascinating to watch Simon at work. On this project the Stihl MS500i did a LOT of work! It’s a meaty saw with the best power-to-weight ratio on the market, and the simplest operation. It’s perfectly suited to arboriculture or sculpting large pieces of timber. Although a 5m Ent may not be what what Stihl had in mind when they developed the product!

When it came to texture and larger details, the battery powered saws by Stihl were invaluable. They allow for much more movement round the tree, are more lightweight, so easier to get into some of those angles.

As we have said before too, the saburrtooth burrs are a gamechanger for facial details! For eyes like this, there has to be quite a deep cut to create the shadow needed for the eyes to hold their expression, and to be seen from further away. This last part is especially important on something large scale. The burrs are perfect for creating these smaller, deep, details.

We’ll have a timelapse of the whole process ready soon, but until then, you can see Simon in action on day one of the project.

 

Over to You!

If you were going to commission a literary fantasy sculpture what would you choose? Would it be Middle Earth, Narnia, Discworld, Camelot, Neverland, Ga’hoole? Or something else? The possibilities are endless and can lead to a truly unique and beautiful piece of sustainable art.

Before we sign off, we need to give a shout out to JB Platform Hire. Great to work with, and it’s their cherry picker that enabled me to carve and get video like this one…

If you have an idea, contact us using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and Simon will get back to you to chat about ideas, details, and costs.

 

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke stands between life size wood sculptures of Bill Shankly and Kenny Dalglish, two of many sporting sculptures made by simon

Sporting Sculptures made by Simon

Sporting Sculptures made by Simon 1536 2048 Simon O'Rourke

by  This week on Twitter we shared a portrait of sporting legend Bill Shankly that Simon made. He was one of four famous Liverpudlians that Simon created live at the Pierhead in 2018. Afterwards, the sculptures were all auctioned off for children’s charity, Variety. It got us thinking about other sports figures Simon has carved in the past and inspired this blog! And so, we hope you enjoy revisiting these sporting sculptures made by Simon over the years…

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke stands between life size wood sculptures of Bill Shankly and Kenny Dalglish, two of many sporting sculptures made by simon

Simon with his portraits of Kenny Dalglish and Bill Shankly

Sporting Sculptures Made by Simon: Queen of the South Footballers

Staying with the football (soccer for our international readers!) theme, our first flashback is to the Queen of the South players from 2019. This sculpture was installed outside the Queen of the South ground in Dumfries and represents three generations of football. Each of the players represents a different era, achievement, and contribution to the club. We think you’ll agree that each one is a fantastic likeness to the person…

photograph of billy houliston in his soccer kit shown alongside a wooden lifesized sculpture of the player made by artist simon o'rourke

Sculpture of Billy Houliston next to one of the photos Simon worked from to create the sculpture

Making the sculpture definitely had its challenges though! Originally, the hope was to create the sculpture out of a single piece of oak. However, as Simon began to work, he discovered a large crack in the timber. He initially thought he could overcome that by turning the piece upside down. BUT! Once he also factored in the Scottish weather, he realised that crack was going to cause problems. Thankfully he found another suitable piece of wood to use and attached that sculpture to the other two. Despite this hiccup, the club, fans, and players were all delighted with the finished sculpture. If you would like to know more about the story behind this sculpture, why not read our blog: Queen of the South Legends Unveiled?

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

Stephen Dobbie pictured at the unveiling with his likeness

 

Sporting Sculptures Made by Simon: Vintage Cricketer

Moving on to another classic British sport now, we bring you Simon’s vintage cricketer!
The cricketer has had lots of attention in the past. Whenever we share the photos it’s definitely a popular sculpture! Contrary to what people expect though, it isn’t actually based on anybody in particular.
It was a commission from Hopkins Homes in 2019, and they just wanted ‘a vintage cricketer’. The company was building a housing estate on the former site of Norfolk County Cricket Club and felt the sculpture would be a meaningful addition to one of the green spaces. The site certainly had a lot of history. Five first-class and 13 a-list matches were played there during its time as a cricket ground!
Simon researched what the sport looked like during the 19390s, and created a sculpture of a player recognisable as being from that era.

Cricketer in Situ:

For those who would like to see the cricketer in situ, we recently found a website with photos of varying sporting sculptures – and the cricketer is there!  Visit http://www.offbeat.group.shef.ac.uk/statues/STUK_Anonymous_50.htm to have a peak!

sporting sculptures by simon o'rourke. diptych of his vintage cricketer made in cedar

man wearing protective ear wear carves a face out of cedar using a stihl chainsaw

Sporting Sculptures Made by Simon: Jockey

The next of our sporting sculptures flashbacks is a very different sport. Horse racing!

Simon created this sculpture in 2015. Like the cricketer, it isn’t based on anybody in particular, but one of Simon’s employees thought it looked like Norman Wisdom! What do you think?!

triptych showing different angles a jockey carved in oak, one of many sporting sculptures made by simon o'rourke

 

Sporting Sculptures Made by Simon: ‘Skater Chick’

Did you know skateboarding was going to make its debut in the Olympic Games in Tokyo this year? Even though The Games didn’t happen, we think it means we can definitely include this sculpture of a ‘Skater Chick’ that Simon made in 2010. You can find her in Eirias Skate Park in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. As always, Simon invites us into a moment in a bigger story with this sculpture. We love that she is ‘mid trick’ and that the movement Simon has created throughout the clothes and with his attention to anatomy, really shows the energy, passion, and skill of this fictional skateboarding girl.

wooden life size sculpture of a female skateboarder standing on one hand to perform a trick

sporting sculptures made by simon o'rourke: a wooden sculpture of a female skateboarder performing a trick on one hand

Sporting Sculptures Made by Simon: Timbersports

Did you know Timbersports is a thing? There’s actually a world championship where people from around the globe compete against each other. The athletes compete in the use of axes and saws in manners typical for ‘lumberjacks’. Stihl founded the world championship in 1985 and it grew over the years. It now includes six different disciplines, and collegiate and rookie leagues. As you may expect, this year’s championship was cancelled. However, we look forward to a return in 2021!
Anyway, back to the sculptures!

life-sized wooden sculptures of four timbersports athletes stand in front of a large building

In 2018 the Timberpsports championship was held in Simon’s hometown of Liverpool. Stihl commissioned him to create life-sized sculptures of some of the participating athletes. The sculptures stood in the entrance and greeted spectators as they arrived. So fun!
Once again these sculptures show Simon’s ability to create an accurate likeness and tell a story in his portraits. Jason Wynard definitely seems to approve of his!

sporting sculptures made by simon o'rourke: jason wynard stands next to a life-sized wooden portrait of himself. They are outside a dock building.

 

Commissioning a Sporting Sculpture by Simon

As you can see, sporting sculptures can make a perfect addition to a sports ground or an event. They help tell stories of a place and honour the people who take part. They can connect generations too in the love of a hero, team or sport. And they always make a fine attraction!

Bizarrely for someone who lives in Wales, Simon is yet to create a rugby sculpture. Could you be the first?! Or maybe you’re more of a tennis, swimming or even cheese rolling fanatic?!

Whatever the sport, if you would like to commission a sporting sculpture, we would love to hear from you. As always, although you can reach us on social media, we recommend filling out the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

moving wood sculpture of a dragon by simon o'rourke

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries Through the Years

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries Through the Years 1160 770 Simon O'Rourke

Can you believe it’s already the August bank holiday weekend?! Time is definitely doing funny things! This weekend is a landmark in the Chainsaw Carving calendar, as it’s normally the English Open Chainsaw Competition. The competition is part of the Cheshire Game and Country Fair, and Simon has taken part many times over the last decade or so. Things are obviously a bit different this year, but we thought we’d mark the occasion by revisiting some of his English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries…

scene from english open chainsaw competition 2019

Where it all Began…

Simon first took part in the competition in 2004, and it was a key event in his career. It was his first competition, and he won third place. This helped prompt him to make a career from creating chainsaw-carved wood sculptures. After making that decision, he and his wife Liz set up Tree Carving in 2005… and the rest is history!

The 2004 Sculpture:

Despite being his first competition piece, the first of Simon’s English open chainsaw competition entries not only took third place but also gained national attention. At the end of the competition, artists can choose to auction off their pieces.  During that auction, Simon’s “Sleeping Girl” caught the attention of one of the Sandringham estate managers. Their bid won, and his sculpture was installed at the Queen’s Norfolk estate later that year. Not bad for a first-timer! National news networks picked up the story, which also helped as Simon began his carving career.

Unfortunately there aren’t many photos of this sculpture which proved to be such a landmark in Simon’s career. So, please forgive us the poor resolution of this photo! We promise the photos get better in the rest of the blog! If anyone is visiting the estate and gets a better photo, we would love it if you shared it and tagged us!

english open chainsaw entries by simon o'rourke: 2004 sleeping girl. A sleeping girl is carved onto a horzontal log

 

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2007

Simon has had a great deal of success at the English Open. In 2007 he created this whimsical fairy sitting on a mushroom. Although Simon’s style has evolved since then, and his sculptures become much more detailed, we can already see his ability to tell a story and create life-like human form sculptures. Judges also admired this piece and he placed first!

wooden sculpture of a fairy sitting on top of a mushroom, with woods in the background. the fairy is one of simon o'rourkes english open chainsaw competition entries from 2007

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2009

In 2008 and 2009 Simon also won first place with his Neptune sculpture. And once again, he demonstrated his skill at creating stunning human form sculptures.  We can already see much more of the texture that has become part of Simon’s signature style. His facial expression and details perfectly depict this wisened god of the sea, and that physique definitely reflects the power he is said to have.

 

english open chainsaw competition entries by simon o'rourke. Photo shows simon standing with a 10' sculpture of neptune carved onto a treek trunk

 

english open chainsaw competition entries by simon o'rourke. Photo shows simon standing with a 10' sculpture of neptune carved onto a treek trunk

 

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2010-2013

As Simon’s awards page shows, 2010-2013 were also good years for him at the English Open. He placed in the top two each year that he entered. By now he and Liz were a definite part of the tree carving community – one of the fun aspects of taking part in events and competitions.

The nature of chainsaw carving means many pieces are often on a very large scale. Some of Simon’s largest pieces have been the Marbury Lady and the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy. His 2013 entry wasn’t as large as these, but this giant bust definitely showed he could work on a large scale!

giant wood bust of a female. one of simon o'rourke's english open chainsaw competition entries

English Open Chainsaw Entries: 2014

During some competitions, Simon is able to take the opportunity to work on a commission. He may need to refine it later but is able to complete what he can during the time allocated for the competition. 2014 was one of those times. During the competition, Simon created this sculpture of Brother Francis. How special for a client to be able to say their sculpture is award-winning! The piece ‘only’ placed third, but the client was delighted, and this monk looks amazing installed among the trees, enjoying a moment of quiet contemplation.

life size sculpture of a monk sitting against a tree. Carved by simon o'rourke as one of his english open chainsaw competition entries

 

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2015

2015 was a winning year for Simon. He took first place with his incredible moving dragon sculpture. The detail is incredible with the scaly texture and attention to detail like the teeth and eyes. The movement was also a real novelty, and took Simon’s skill and creativity to the next level.

moving wood dragon sculpture

Hemlock today!

The sculpture didn’t sell at auction, but that turned out to be a good thing. Simon made some refinements to the sculpture and Hemlock was born! Hemlock has since travelled around the UK and is always a hit wherever she goes. She has helped to raise money for Clatterbridge Hospital and other causes, has taken part at ComicCon, and has even been part of a wedding! It’s true! She makes a great photo opportunity and is regularly treated to a dragon spa at the workshop (ie maintenance and repair!) to make sure she always looks her best at your events.

There is no doubt either that Hemlock played a big part in earning Simon his reputation for carving fantastic dragons. Since then he has gone on to create other incredible award-winning, viral dragon sculptures such as The Dragon of Bethesda, the egg casket from Game of Thrones, the yew dragon tower, and most recently, the fire-breathing dragon for The Dragon Tower that appeared on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.

To book Hemlock for your event (anyone thinking about a dragon-pulled Santa sleigh this year?!) email us using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/, and we’ll be in touch!

moving wood sculpture of a dragon by simon o'rourke

 

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2019

Moving on to 2019, and the English Open was another great year for Simon. He took part in the ‘combo’ competition. This meant creating two sculptures over the three days, one made with only a chainsaw, and the other using any power tools.

His chainsaw-only sculpture was this beautiful, intricate fairy that took second place. You can see the range of Stihl chainsaws he used in the background!

Fairy carved by Simon O'Rourke at the English open Chainsaw Competition

The ‘full power’ event meant Simon could also use his favourite Manpa angle grinder and Saburrtooth bits. He created this angel who is looking truly serene. She doesn’t look at all like she’s been surrounded by chainsaw noise and sawdust for two days!!! She shows all of Simon’s trademark movement in her clothing, and attention to detail in the face. And, as always, Simon tells a story with this sculpture and invites the viewer into this moment of serenity with her. The judges loved her too, and she took first place.

Angel carved by Simon O'Rourke at the English Open Chainsaw Carving Competition

The angel which took first place in the ‘full power’ event

 

Future Events?

Right now we don’t know when the next event or competition will take place. As you all know, the world and regulations about public events change constantly. Competitions and events are usually a big part of Simon’s summer though. They go beyond an opportunity to carve and are usually a brilliant time to connect with other artists and gain more inspiration, knowledge, and skills. We find some of them actually make for a fantastic day out too for observers, such as Huskycup or the WoodFest.  We’ve definitely missed them this year, although a change is nice too.

However! Simon does still have some space in his calendar later this year for outdoor events, such as ice carving demonstrations at Christmas, or even something ‘autumn-themed’ for your October half term event. Although the large scale events can’t happen, there are still ways to include and enjoy a live demonstration. Email us at [email protected] or use the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ to ask about ideas and availability.

 

tv themed sculptures: egg case for game of thrones by simon o'rourke

TV Themed Sculptures

TV Themed Sculptures 800 800 Simon O'Rourke

Last week we began a series of blogs sharing some of Simon’s ‘fan art‘. That is, sculptures he has made over the years based on books, tv, music, sports, etc. Strictly speaking, it isn’t ‘fan art’ as Simon himself may not be the fan, but rather the client. The description kind of fits though! Last week we kicked the series off with sculptures based on literature. This week we bring you TV themed sculptures…

TV themed sculptures by simon o'rourke. Picture shows wooden chainsaw carved sculptures of wallace, gromit and shaun the sheep from the Nick Park series

TV Themed Sculptures: Wallace and Gromit

The first of our TV themed sculptures are these pieces based on Wallace and Gromit. The lovable duo was an immediate hit when they debuted in 1989. Yes, you read that right, 1989. They really are 31 years old! What started as an animated ‘short’ turned into seven TV movies and various TV series. Nick Park created the original characters from clay, but we think the wooden version is just as lovable! Simon created his Wallace, Gromit, and Shaun the sheep from Douglas fir over several days in the workshop. You can watch the process in the timelapse below…

TV Themed Sculptures: Sherlock Holmes

The next of our sculptures based on TV shows are Sherlock Holmes. Although he was originally a literary character, there have been so many representations of him on our screens over the years, it would seem wrong not to include him! In fact, the detective stories are so popular, he has been portrayed by over 75 different actors!
This sculpture was commissioned as a gift for a fan around the end of 2019. Simon didn’t just carve a portrait of the famous detective though. He also included references to ten different stories that you can look for in the pictures. If you can’t find them though, you don’t need to feel frustrated. We have the answers in our blog: The Case of the Sherlock Holmes Bust.

Sherlock Holmes Sculpture by Simon O'Rourke, one of his tv themed sculptures created in 2019

 

TV Themed Sculptures: Saturday Night Stars

Our next sculptures are based on two very large TV personalities. In fact, if you watched Saturday night television, for three decades this Scouse duo would have featured on your screens: Cilla Black and Ken Dodd.

Both originating from Liverpool, the two were carved live at the Pierhead in Liverpool in 2018. Simon chose to portray Cilla in her 60s pop star era – although she was better known later for presenting ‘Suprise, Surprise’ and Blind Date. Comedian Ken Dodd is unmistakable too, holding his famous ‘tickle stick’! As well as the fantastic sculptures, we love the sneaky appearance here too of Poppy, Simon, and Liz’s dog. Poppy sometimes attends events with them, and can often be found in the workshop with her trusty blanket. Oh, and occasionally modeling some of Simon’s favourite Stihl products too! Check out www.treecarving.co.uk/when-poppy-met-stihl/ to see her in action, as well as finding out some of his recommendations.

tv themed sculptures by simon o'rourke. To-scale wooden sculptures of Cilla Black and Ken Dodd outside the Liver Building

Live Carving

It isn’t just incredible to see what Simon creates. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch the process too. Simon often competes and does demonstrations at events over the summer. If you get the chance, it’s well worth watching. For now, we’ll just have to leave you with this great shot of Simon wielding one of his favourite Stihl chainsaws to create the Ken Dodd’s face…

Simon O'Rourke using a chainsaw to carve a wooden sculpture of Ken Dodd

TV Themed Sculptures: Countryfile

Our next TV themed sculpture was created as a secret project for the BBC TV Show Countryfile. They were unveiled during the Countryfile Live event at Blenheim Palace in 2018. Simon created two separate pieces that depict each of the presenters in a portrait ‘montage’ or ‘collage’. The pieces were displayed during the event, and although Simon didn’t meet them, we heard that the presenters loved their likenesses! The photos definitely show some happy customers!

tv themed sculptures: countryfile presenters stand with their likeness created in wood by simon o'rourke

TV themed sculptures by simon o'rourke. Countryfile presenters sitting with their likelnesses carved into two pieces of wood by simon o'rourke

Photo from The Oxford Mail

TV Themed Sculptures: Game of Thrones

We thought we ould save this one for last… The egg casket from Game of Thrones.
At the end of 2018, Simon was chosen as one of 18 artists whose work would be used to promote the final season of HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones. HBO gave each artist an original prop from the show. Their task was to reimagine it somehow or to create something additional using that prop.  It was no small thing when the dragon eggs arrived here in Wales…

Simon chose to create a case for the eggs. The idea was that they could be carried in the case when they were presented as a wedding gift.

Simon made the casket from yew, which had some beautiful markings and colouring.  He created
seemingly random Dragon teeth throughout the interior, that hold the eggs securely in place. He shrouded the mouth with abstract dragon wings and added ash poles for carrying.
The final sculpture is stunning. It shows not only Simon’s technical ability, but his creativity, and understanding of symbolism. Each and every detail was carefully thought about to create this impact, which we share in our blog ‘For the Throne’.

tv themed sculptures: egg case for game of thrones by simon o'rourke

 

close up of game of thrones egg casket by simon o'rourke

Poppy, Simon, Liz O'Rourke with the Game of Thrones eggs and casket

What Would You Commission?

If you were to commission a TV themed sculpture, what would it be? We can think of all kinds of applications… fan art for a wall or office, a garden ornament, commemorative sculpture in a hometown…
The great thing too is that they can be obvious (like a portrait) or subtle. An object from a TV show can become a great talking point and focus in a garden for example.

If you would like to commission a TV themed sculpture, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and he can chat with you about ideas, details, costs. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

The finished head

Huskycup Through the Years

Huskycup Through the Years 3648 2736 Simon O'Rourke

An annual highlight in the chainsaw carving calendar is The Huskycup. Every summer chainsaw carvers from around the world descend on Blockhausen in Dorfschemnitz and the sawdust starts flying! We absolutely recommend a visit at least once in a lifetime! As you might expect, this summer’s event has sadly been cancelled. But never fear! Just like our series where we brought Simon’s woodland trails to your home (click here for Part One, Part Two and Part Three), we thought we would bring the Huskycup to you! Join us as we look back as Simon’s entries in the Huskycup through the years…

Huskycup through the years: participants in the 2019 huskycup showcase

Simon and the other participants from the 2019 Huskycup

About Blockhausen

Before we revisit Simon’s entries at the Huskycup through the years, we have to share a bit more about the place. It’s incredible!

Blockhausen had its beginnings in something very practical: a hut to store forest management material and hay. SO different to its current function! You can read the full story at https://www.blockhausen.de/geschichte-gebaeude/wie-alles-begann/ , but nowadays it’s a venue for chainsaw carving courses, forestry training, open air museum, events venue, holiday destination, and hiking trail. In fact, it’s home to the largest collection of chainsaw art in the world! Oh, and if that isn’t enough, it also has a pretty great snack bar/cafe! Public can visit all year round, and hire various buildings. Many of them incorporate some fantastic pieces of chainsaw carving, so it’s like staying in an art gallery!

At certain times of year though, it is transformed into an arena for some of the world’s best chainsaw carvers. The largest of these events being Huskycup…

The Huskycup Experience

Initially Huskycup was an annual competition. As we mentioned in our Huskycup flashback blog though, it is now an exhibition event/showcase, although there is still a speed carving competition. Artists team up to create incredible chainsaw carving exhibits that tie in with a given theme. Simon participated for the first time in 2007 and has returned several times since then. It’s definitely a favourite event! Although he was very successful in competition, Simon prefers the more relaxed atmosphere of the exhibition. Primarily, it enables artists to feel more relaxed as they carve. It also allows them to take more time to enjoy each other’s creations, and try things they may not if there was the ‘risk’ of it not working out when they were being judged. It means teams can be more varied too as they aren’t restricted to a geographical region. Whether a participant, chainsaw artist, or fan, Huskycup is a great event to attend for community, and inspiration.

Huskycup through the years: crowds entirely fill a path in the woodland with chainsaw artists set up in booths alongside the path, carving various dragons

Crowds in 2019. Photo taken from the Huskycup website.

Simon and the Huskycup through the Years: The Beginning…

Simon’s first Huskycup experience was in 2007. He had to apply to organiser Andreas by sending a design. There was no theme for this year. This is a bit of a double-edged sword! It’s great because it allows for SO much variation. However, it can also be tricky to know what’s going to appeal. Simon was up for the challenge though! He created a giant marionette that really moves! The sculpture placed fourth on the competition – pretty good for a first time competitor! It’s still installed at Blockhausen and remains a crowd-pleaser today.

Huskycup through the years - 2007. A giant marionette created in oak by chainsaw carver simon o'rourke

2007 entry: Giant marionette

Huskycup Through the Years: 2008

2008 Simon’s brief was to create a naked man and woman cuddling! It was another success and he placed fourth again. For those wanting to see the sculpture, you’ll need to visit Blockhausen! After the competition, it was installed in one of the haylofts where people can stay.

A life size oak sculpture by simon o'rourke of a naked man and woman reclining rogether

Simon’s 2008 Huskycup entry

Huskycup Through the Years: 2009

In 2009 Simon paired up with Sebastian Seiffert to make TEAM EUROPE! This year teams created columns that depicted stories and legends from their home continent. Simon and Sebastian opted for a Celtic theme. Rather than tell specific stories though, they decided to show the seasons of the year as people. This unique approach impressed the judges, and they placed second! Their columns joined the other competitors, and they became the pillars supporting one of the log cabins.

Column holding up a large wood cabin. Created by Simon O'Rourke with celtic knots and featuring a nude woman

celtic knot column featuring nude woman by simon o'rourke

 

nude man incorporated into illar featuring celtic knotwork by simon o'rourke

nude man incorporated into illar featuring celtic knotwork by simon o'rourke

Huskycup Through the Years: 2010

2010 brought Simon a live model, Knut! The theme was ‘Miners from the Ore region’, and each competitor had a model dressed in their various uniforms. Simon’s placed second again with his miner, meaning he had now placed four times out of five competitions.

Simon and Liz O'Rourke pictured with Knut, an miner from the ore region and his likeness that simon carved in oak at huskycup 2010

Simon and Liz pictured with Knut

The Long Table

Blockhausen’s founder Andreas is always up to something big though, and the 2010 Huskycup was no exception! Each of the miners created was to help support a canopy over the table at Blockhausen. Not just any table either. The table is actually in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest table in the world! For those wondering how big a table has to be to make a world record, it’s a whopping 39.8m! That’s the equivalent of 23 men of average height in Germany! It seats 200 people, weighs two tons, and it safely holds around 10,000 bottles of beer! That’s a lot of people, and a lot of beer. It’s also a LOT of fun as people gather and sit together to enjoy food and drink from the cafe. The process behind building the table is fascinating, and you can read more at https://www.blockhausen.de/geschichte-gebaeude/laengster-tisch-2010/. For now, enjoy the miners!

life size miners created by various chainsaw artists act as pillars for a canopy over a 40m table

The 2010 Huskycup pillars in place alongside the table, ready for the canopy

 

life size miners created by various chainsaw artists act as pillars for a canopy over a 40m table while a man sands the table

Sanding the giant table!

Huskycup Through the Years: 2012

Simon returned to the Huskycup in 2012 and teamed up with Tommy Craggs and Michael Tamozus to make TEAM EUROPE! They created an incredible piece depicting Christian and Martha from Sabine Obermaier’s book, The Midwife. Once again, the team did brilliantly and took third place.

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

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

Walk of Fame!

2012 was also the year that Simon entered the Blockhausen Walk of Fame! Just like the Hollywood version, it’s an honour to have your name on a star in the Blockhausen Walk of Fame. Unveiling is usually a big event!

Chainsaw artist SImon o'Rourke kisses his star in the blockhausen walk of fame

Huskycup Through the Years: 2016

The 2016 Huskycup was a memorable one for Simon because he took first place. The theme was Vikings, which left plenty of room for creative storytelling – something Simon LOVES to do. He depicted a daughter being taken away by a Viking warrior, while the father grieves. A moving scene! And, just as Simon is often inspired by classical artists such as Rodin,  this scene has hints of Michaelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” in the way the father reaches for his daughter as she is carried away. Winter or summer, it makes a striking exhibit in the Blockhausen open-air exhibition. We shared more about this in our blog about the 2016 and 2018 Huskycup, or you can check out the Viking Raid case study on the website to find out more.

 

Viking Raid at Huskycup 2016 by Simon o'Rourke

Viking Raid, Huskycup 2016

Viking Raid, Huskycup 2016

viking raid sculpture by Simon O'Rourke in the snow

 

Huskycup Through the Years:

By 2018 the Huskycup was no longer a competition. Rather, a showcase event. The theme was once again ‘Miners’. This time however, the finished pieces had a slightly different purpose. Rather than holding up a cabin or canopy, they were going to form that year’s Nativity scene. Simon’s task was to carve two miners that would eventually be two of the three wise men visiting the stable. You’ll see from the pictures that by now Simon had been introduced to Saburrtooth. Their burrs have enabled him to take his facial details to a whole new level! They now form a staple part of his tool collection along with his faithful Stihl chainsaws and Manpa multi cutter and angle grinder.
Once again he had live models, and they looked pretty happy with the finished sculptures of themselves!

Huskycup through the years: Simon O'Rourke Working on details of the miners at Huskycup 2018

Working on details of the miners at Huskycup 2018

 

Working on details of the miners at Huskycup 2018

Using a Saburrtooth burr to create the eyes of a miner

The finished Miners, Huskycup 2018

The finished Miners, Huskycup 2018

Huskycup Through the Years: 2019

2019 was another amazing Huskycup for Simon, as you’ll know if you ready our Huskycup 2019 blog. He teamed up with Keiji Kikodoro, where they had the task of creating a sculpture with the theme ‘dragons’. Simon’s relationship with Keiji goes back years, and he has been privileged to carve with him in Japan. As regular followers know, Simon has MANY dragons in his portfolio, and is something of an expert dragon carver. His most recent dragon sculpture even breathes fire! He wanted something completely unique though for Huskycup 2019, and came up with this idea:

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

The initial concept sketch by Simon

When we look at the finished piece, we see glimpses of the way dragons are traditionally portrayed in the cultures of both artists, and there is no doubt that their teamwork created something fantastic. Even without the competition, this is a winner!

Water Dragon by Keiji Kidokoro and Simon O'Rourke Huskycup 2019

Water Dragon by Simon and Keiji at Huskycup 2019

Profile view of the finished Water Dragon

Profile view of the finished Water Dragon

The finished head

The finished head

Huskycup 2020

And what about Huskycup 2020?
Well, at this point it’s hard to say. Andreas has postponed the main event, and planned a ‘mini huskycup‘ for October of this year, but whether Simon can be there or not is very much up in the air. If it goes ahead, the theme is ‘Brothers Grimm’, and participants are free to choose either modern or traditional interpretation. What a lot of scope for amazing fantasy sculptures AND human form. Some of Simon’s favourite kind of projects!

Either way, we feel strongly that safety needs to come first, so we watch and wait, and will choose wisely at the time, within the regulations.

Even if it goes ahead, it will be with much reduced attendance. So, with little likelihood of you enjoying Husycup in person this year, we hope you enjoyed seeing Huskycup through the years from Simon’s perspective. If you can’t go the the event, we bring the event to you!

But seriously, if you can ever get there, we recommend attending a Huskycup. The atmosphere is amazing, the carving off the charts, and the venue stunning. Andreas has created an incredible destination, and a great event, and it’s definitely been a highlight to be part of the whole thing.

If you feel inspired by any of these sculptures to commission your own, contact Simon using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Sri Lankan Lion Sculpture

Sri Lankan Lion Sculpture 720 960 Simon O'Rourke

Back in February Simon began posting photos of a Lion sculpture Ihewas working on. Last week he was able to deliver and install the finished piece. Keep reading to find out more about the Sri Lankan Lion sculpture!

a 12' sri lankan lion sculpture in oak in progress. the head is carved but the rest is stripped timber with scaffolding in the foreground

Early work on the Sri Lankan Lion

 

The Beginning….

Simon was first contacted by this client at the end of 2019. She was looking for a unique and significant gift for her husband’s retirement after 32 years working in the NHS. They had seen and admired the Dragon of Bethesda and initially reached out to ask about something similar.
Initially they talked about a lion-dragon combination. This would certainly have given lots of room for Si’s imagination!

A Sri Lankan Lion sculpture in oak by simon o'rourke against a vivid sunset. The lion holds a sword as he does on the sri lankan flag.

Progress on the Sri Lankan Lion Sculpture

Evolution of an Idea

Deciding a final design is often a conversation though, and progression of ideas. This commission was no different. Early on, the client assessed their garden to see if they had any trees suitable to be carved as they stood. This is a great starting point, and it saves the step of sourcing timber. The shape, size, and unique characteristics of that tree are then the starting point for a design. In this case, there were no trees suitable though. The client realised too that they would rather have a free-standing sculpture so it could move with them if they ever moved.
We sourced a large piece of oak from JRB Tree & Timber Services, and work began!

felled oak tree wth a stihl chainsaw

The chainsaw is here to show the girth of the tree used for the Sri Lankan lion sculpture

 

15' oak on the back of a trailer ready for transportation

Ready to be brought to the workshop!

Behind the Lion…

The client had come back to Simon at this point and settled on the idea of a Sri Lankan lion sculpture. Her husband is half-Irish, half-Sri Lankan and is proud of his heritage. The flag of Sri Lanka features a lion, and he even has a tattoo of this lion on his shoulder! This gave Simon a great starting point.

The lion on the Sri Lankan flag has been around since around 500bc and was seen carrying a sword from around 160bc.  The lion represents strength and bravery, and the ethnicity of the Sinhlaese people, so Simon’s lion sculpture needed to reflect that same strength. No cute and cuddly Disney Simbas for this sculpture! That pose, the clear muscle and the pose are striking and awesome, in the true sense of the word. A definite depiction of the bravery and strength the lion represents. And carrying a sword makes it clear this is the lion of the Sri Lankan flag.
By the way, if you enjoy learning about the history and symbolism of flags, you can find out more about the symbolism in the Sri Lankan flag on this blog.

An oak sri lankan lion sculpture by artist Simon O'Rourke depicting a 'real life' version of the sri lankan lion holding a sword. The lion is in the workshop surrounded by tools and carving paraphernalia

The finished lion in the workshop

Creating the Sri Lankan Lion Sculpture

As you can see from the previous photos which show the lion in progress, Simon began with a rough outline of the lion. The first areas he started cutting detail into were the mane and face. This is important, as they were to be the focal point of the sculpture. Starting with them makes it easier to ensure the rest matches them,  rather than making the focal point fit something that is less important in terms of focus. By carving them first, Simon really can make sure that everything else about the sculpture compliments and directs the viewer’s gaze towards the ‘main feature’.

Gradually he was able to add more details, with attention being given to even the tiniest aspect of this Sri Lankan Lion sculpture. Check out his lion dentistry with the Saburrtooth coarse flame bit

A bit of careful dentistry!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Saturday, 22 February 2020

In fact, Simon used the full arsenal of power tools on this commission! Here he is using the Manpa Tools Multicutter tool with the triangle head to create the lion’s fur. For those wondering where to get their own, Manpa Tools are not easily available in the UK, but Simon sources them through www.chainsawbars.co.uk. We thoroughly recommend Chainsawbars as a company too, as you can find out in our blog  Collaboration with Chainsawbars.co.uk.

Using the Manpa tools Multicutter with the triangle cutter head to create fur texture.

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Tuesday, 11 February 2020

A Roaring Success

Seven months on from the first conversation, and Singha the Sri Lankan Lion sculpture (named after the Sinhalese people and meaning ‘Lion’) is in his new home. He looks magnificent in place. Most importantly though, the couple love him, describing him as ‘absolutely wonderful’ and ‘fabulous’.
32 years of service to the NHS is no small thing. This Sri Lankan lion sculpture is a wonderful gift to recognise that service and honour their heritage.

Sri Lankan Lion sculpture by simon o'rourke standing in a paved area of a private garden

 

12' oak sri lankan lion sculpture by simon o'rourke pictured with the clients in a paved area

The client and her husband with Singha the lion

A Unique Gift

If you are looking for your own unique, significant, and personal gift, we would love to hear from you. Contact us via the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and Simon will get back to you to chat about design and costs.

 

TV presneter George Clarkes standing in from of a small stone building with a wall mounted fire breathing dragon made from redwood by Simon O'Rourke

A Fire Breathing Dragon

A Fire Breathing Dragon 768 1033 Simon O'Rourke

This week Simon was featured on the series opener of Amazing Spaces. It was a great episode, featuring some spectacular architecture and engineering. Simon’s contribution? A 7ft fire breathing dragon!

The Clients

Local couple Guy and Tracey commissioned the fire breathing dragon. They were renovating a former bakehouse, and it was to be the finishing touch. When they approached Simon, he knew he couldn’t say no. He always loves a challenge, so a wall-mounted, fire breathing dragon was a project he couldn’t turn down!

TV presenter George Clarkes standing in from of a small stone building with a wall mounted fire breathing dragon made from redwood by Simon O'Rourke

George Clarke with the fire breathing dragon

The Building

The building itself is incredible. When Guy and Tracey bought their property, it came with a small stone building, which was a former bakehouse. Although it only measures around 3m x 2.5m, they had the idea to turn it into a little crash pad/den. A mini-house!
Space was obviously going to be an issue. Guy is a gifted engineer though and came up with an ingenious fix. In his own words:

“Your bathroom only needs to be big when you’re in it, so I figured you could have the whole bathroom wall moved across and stuck on the wall, and when you need it, pull it towards you to create the bathroom”

That’s right! Guy created a disappearing bathroom to maximise the space! George Clarke was so impressed, the property now ranks in his top three builds!

A Dream Holiday Home

Now finished, the property is a beautiful little getaway, ideal for a couple. Once lockdown is over, it will be available to rent via www.thedragontower.co.uk. If you are impressed with the creativity and engineering, you can also follow them on Twitter where they share more about the process.

fire breathing dragin made from redwood by simon o'rourke mounted on a small stone two storey building

The Story of Maggon the Dragon

The idea for Maggon the Fire Breathing Dragon came from Tracey. The fairytale look of the bakehouse captivated her, and she made a joke about needing a dragon to protect them. Tracey is also a big fan of children’s literature and illustration and had always wanted a piece of fantasy art. And so from there, the dragon commission was born! They also had the idea that he could breathe fire when the doorbell rang. Such a fun, and creative finishing touch to a creative and ingenious renovation!

Initially, they planned on making the dragon themselves. But then, they met Simon. His portfolio includes many incredible dragons, including the well-know Dragon of Bethesda. His background as an illustrator also tied in with Tracey’s love of children’s illustration. So all in all, he was the perfect fit for this commission.

redwood fire breathing dragon mounted on a small stone bake house in north wales

Making Maggon the Fire Breathing Dragon

Maggon is 7ft and made from a fallen redwood tree. The warm red colour is perfect for this property in North Wales, as it reflects the red dragon on our flag.
Nerd alert! In dry climates, redwood actually becomes a lighter-silvery tan shade if left to weather naturally. These clients needn’t worry though. In damp climates, redwood darkens, so the North Welsh weather will mean that lovely red colouring is retained for years to come.

Engineering Challenges!

The most obvious challenge for this commission was how to make it breathe fire! In this case, Guy had a plan, and Simon’s role was to create a cavity within the sculpture for the propane pipe. If you saw the episode you will have heard Tracey joking about the dragon breathing fire when the doorbell rings. So, for the curious among you.. yes, it is really connected to the doorbell! However, Guy and Tracey wanted to make the fire breathing dragon as environmentally friendly as possible. For this reason, they limit his ‘bursts’ using their own control box – which also helps limit accident potential! Health and Safety matters!

Another problem for Simon to think through was the installation. The dragon not only needed to breathe fire but was going to be mounted on the wall of the house – as if it was climbing towards the window. This meant keeping strictly within certain specifications so it would fit the space. It also meant Simon needed to create the dragon in sections so it would be easier to mount on the wall. Being able to visualise this and take account of it in the design is an essential aspect of larger projects.

More About Making a Fire Breathing Dragon

Simon used a few different Stihl chainsaws with various bars to create the main shape of the dragon. He also used these to begin to add a few cuts that give depth, and some of the more general shape and texture. No dragon is complete without scales though! Simon created the scales with the Manpa Tools Multicutter with a round cutter attachment. The friendly grin (we didn’t want Maggon scaring off guests!) and other facial details were created using Saburrtooth burrs.  The flame-shaped burr is an especially useful tool for these projects. You can see a bit of a ‘before and after’ in this photo, Tracey and Guy took in the workshop. Simon has created the main shape and some details with the chain saw, and begun to add the scales with the multi cutter around the dragon’s hind legs.

close up of a dragon tail made out of redwood

Although it took several days to create Maggon, you can watch the process in under a minute! What are your guesses for who the sculpture in the background will be?

Being on Amazing Spaces

As an artist, it is always an honour to have a piece featured on television. The focus of the show was the build itself, but Simon did also get to meet George Clarke on unveiling day, and enjoyed a good chat! He also loved seeing the build too:
It’s incredible what they’ve managed to do with such a small space! It was great to be involved and to add to a project like that.

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke with TV presente George Clarke. They are pictured in front of The Dragon Tower, a stone bake house converted to a guest house in NOrth Wales. Simon is holding a Stihl chainsaw

Simon with George Clarke and a trusty Stihl chainsaw!

What’s Your Fire Breathing Dragon?

Thank you to those who took the time to comment on social media. It is always lovely to hear from you, and we’re touched by all the great feedback.

If you have a rental property, a novelty piece of art is a GREAT way to make it stand out, and to attract attention – and gain business! If you have an idea for your home or rental property, why not have a chat with Simon? Contact us using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and someone will be in touch!

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Memorial sculpture for Robyn by Simon O'Rourke

A Memorial Sculpture for Robyn

A Memorial Sculpture for Robyn 1824 1368 Simon O'Rourke

In our blogs,  the perfect portrait sculpture for you part one and part two, we mentioned commissioning a portrait as a memorial. This week we would like to share a memorial portrait Simon recently created. In fact, it was Simon’s first piece after lockdown began to lift. Thank you to the family for allowing us to write about this memorial aculpture for Robyn.

A memorial sculpture for Robyn carved by Simon O'Rourke depicting a young girl as a fairy with a robin on her open hand

The Commission

Several years ago, Simon received a commission to create a sculpture for a local High School, in memorial of a young student who had tragically passed away. The family were touched by the way the sculpture captured their daughter’s character, even though Simon had never met her. More specifically, they were moved by the way Simon’s portrayal of Robyn captured her loving and caring nature. A

Memorial sculpture for Robyn, carved in oak, depicting a young girl reading a book

Simon’s original memorial for Robyn

Any death of a young person is difficult. However, for this family, there were also questions that took several years to settle. Thankfully they were recently able to find closure and resolution.
To mark the ending of this horrendous time in their lives they wanted to celebrate Robyn’s life. They also wanted to do something that would help eradicate the legal battle which had prevented them from being able to grieve their beautiful daughter. And so, when they moved house, they created a garden that would honour and remember her. Remembering the original memorial scultpure for Robyn that Simon had created, they commissioned a portrait for their garden.

 

memorial sculpture for robyn by simon o'rourke in process. picture depicts a metal stool with a very basic outline carved in oak of a young girl sitting, woth a robin on her outstretched hand

The memorial sculpture for Robyn underway in Simon’s garden

Creating the Memorial Sculpture for Robyn

Although the commission was small in scale compared to many Simon has undertaken (have you seen the Giant Hand of Vrynwy or the Marbury Lady?!), in some ways, it was a big undertaking.
Ensuring a memorial sculpture captures and reflects the person is SO important as it is often a key part of the grieving process, and impacts the way the person will be remembered. Simon understands this, and takes time to ‘get to know’ the person through photos and conversation. He is then able to create a memorial sculpture that is truly honouring to the person.

In the case of Robyn, she was a caring, and loving young lady. The many cards the family received after losing her showed them how respected and valued she was for being a good friend. This sculpture shows Robyn at peace, and serene. It also reflects that caring and gentle nature through her body language and relationship with the robin on her hand.

close up of the face of the oak memoral sculpture for robyn by simon o'rourke. a young girls face is shown in an oak carving with a serene expression

Working from Home

Simon didn’t just face creative challenges with this sculpture. There was also the very real practical challenge of …… LOCKDOWN!

Health and safety of all the team is important to Simon and Liz. So, like many of the population, Simon had to work from home! Also like many of the population, that meant learning to deal with new interruptions (like the dog moving the video camera) and new distractions (a beautiful garden to tend) In case you didn’t catch them on our Facebook page, here are some of the videos of the memorial sculpture for Robyn in progress….

Back on the chainsaw after 8 weeks! It's been good for me to have a break though …

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Wednesday, 20 May 2020

What a scorcher!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Wednesday, 20 May 2020

The Finished Sculpture

As you can see in the videos, Simon used his Stihl cordless chainsaws for the bulk of the carving. He then used Saburrtooth bits to add details and texture. The memorial sculpture for Robyn is oak, which means it is sturdy and stands up well to the chainsaws! It also means it is durable, and will withstand wind and rain – essential for an outdoor sculpture. Oak tends to pull out more brown hues than blacks or greys. This means as the sculpture ages, it will both deepen in colour and become much ‘warmer’ in tone.  This video shows the finished piece from several different angles.

 

Here's a little video to show a different angle!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Friday, 22 May 2020

Testimonial

Simon received a lot of lovely feedback on social media when he originally shared the picture of the memorial for Robyn. Thank you to those who commented! The most important thing though is that the client is happy…..

I do need to thank you for undertaking the carving. As soon as I saw it I was so moved. It is beautful and I thank you for creating a carving in remembrance of Robyn

It is ALWAYS humbling to receive such lovely comments. Even more so when the piece marks the ending of something as challenging as these clients have walked through. Being a part of the healing journey for clients is truly an honour. We think Robyn looks beautiful in the garden created in her memory, and we hope this sculpture will bring the family joy for years and years to come.

Photo provided by client and used with permission.

Commissioning Your Own Memorial Sculpture

If you would like to commission a sculpture in memorial of a loved one, Simon would love to hear from you. Visit us on http://www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ to connect.