tolkien

Two life size sculptures of women carved from oak, standing on a balcony at Prestatyn Hillside Shelter. They are two of Simon O'Rourke's public tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend

Eight Tree Carving Sculptures to See this Bank Holiday Weekend

Eight Tree Carving Sculptures to See this Bank Holiday Weekend 1024 600 Simon O'Rourke

It’s bank holiday weekend which means an extra day for relaxing. With reasonable weather predicted, why not get out and enjoy some of our British outdoors or attractions? And if you wanted to take in some public art while you’re out, here are eight of Simon’s tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend…

the giant hand of vrynwy by simon o'rourke. Photograph is taken at night and shows an illuminated 50ft hand sculpture surrounded by woodland

The Giant Hand of Vrynwy by night by Gareth Williamson

One: Giant Hand of Vyrnwy

The first of our sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend is the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy. The hand has taken the social media world by storm, and it’s even more impressive in real life. Standing at 50ft tall and surrounded by trails through the stunning Welsh countryside, you won’t be disappointed by your visit. Plan your trip at www.lake-vyrnwy.com.

giant hand of vyrnwy. one of simon o'rourke's public sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend

Two: Dragon of Bethesda

Technically, the Dragon of Bethesda is on private land. However, it’s viewable from public areas – but please don’t block the driveway next to the layby when you park! If you’re travelling through Snowdonia, it’s worth a look for sure. Find the dragon at 53°11’40.6″N 4°04’42.4″W or https://maps.google.com/?q=53.194613,-4.078445.

Simon O'Rourke's dragon of bethesda, one of his public tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend

Three: Prestatyn Hillside Shelter Walkers

You get two in one for our third suggestion of tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend! The sculptures are installed at the Prestatyn Hillside shelter and represent the era the shelter was built, and the Offa’s Dyke National trail. And the view is simply incredible! Definitely worth the walk up the hill. All the links you need to plan a visit (map, public transport, parking etc) are at www.haveagrandtour.co.uk/take-five-for-a-view-across-prestatyn.

Two life size sculptures of women carved from oak, standing on a balcony at Prestatyn Hillside Shelter. They are two of Simon O'Rourke's public tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend

Number Four: Maes Y Pant Boy Sculpture

Maes y Pant is a lovely woodland close to Wrexham, ideal for a walk and with the bonus that dogs are welcome! Simon and his team actually have a few pieces there, including the Maes Y Pant fort and Gwyddion the Wizard. However, we feel the highlight is the young boy planting a tree. Plan your visit at www.maes-y-pant.com.

Trees for Kids 'Boy Planting Sapling' sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

Number Five: The Shakespeare Seat at Poulton Hall

This Shakespeare Seat is one of Simon’s most recent pieces. As well as this piece, Poulton Hall is also home to his Ent and Gollum sculptures as well as several pieces by other artists. Although the gardens are only open on select weekends, this weekend happens one of them! Book your visit at www.poultonhall.co.uk/GardenOpenings.html.

A client sits on on the bespoke shakespeare seat at poulton hall. It appears as if she is in conversation with a life size sculpture of William Shakespeare by Simon O'Rourke

Simon positioned Shakespeare to sit as if in conversation with anyone who sits with him

Number Six: The Highclere Airman

The sixth of Simon’s tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend is the Airman sculpture at Highclere Castle. Something for Downton Abbey, history and architecture fans all in one place! Plan your visit and book your tickets at www.highclerecastle.co.uk.

Highclere Castle Airman by Simon O'Rourke

Number Seven: Marbury Lady Sculpture

The Marbury Lady is our seventh suggestion of tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend. She cuts an impressive (and ghostly!) figure at Marbury Country Park in Northwich. The park is free although the pool does have an admission fee. And it’s another one that allows dogs! Find out more about the various trails and plan your visit at www.visitcheshire.com/things-to-do/marbury-country-park-and-outdoor-pool-p32091.

Number Eight: Woodland Sculpture Trails

If one sculpture leaves you wanting to see more, our final suggestion for tree carving sculptures to see this weekend is just what you want! Simon has created sculpture trails at Page’s Wood, Meadow Park and Fforest Fawr. Each of the trails features multiple sculptures based on local wildlife, tells a story and encourages conservation.

Click on the links below to plan your visit to each:
Page’s Wood Woodland Sculpture Trail
Meadow Park Woodland Sculpture Trail
Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail

woodland sculpture trails by simon o'rourke. Photo shows a howling wolf in redwood, surrounded by trees. Located in Fforest Fawr.

This wolf forms part of the Fforest Fawr trail.

Share Your Experience!

Whatever you do this weekend, we hope you have fun, feel refreshed and stay safe. And if you do visit one of Simon’s sculptures, please share your experience! Tag Simon in your photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and tell us what you thought. It’s always great to hear from you!

And if you feel inspired and want your own sculpture, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

 

Sculptures for world book day by Simon O'Rourke. An Owl sits on top of a tower of books in a 'totem pole' style sculpture.

Sculptures for World Book Day

Sculptures for World Book Day 400 600 Simon O'Rourke

If you have school-aged children you will know next Thursday is World Book Day. We’ve actually heard it might be the most dreaded day of the school year!!! Based on all the Facebook posts of the last-minute scrambling to find a costume, we that could easily be true!
Costume-panic aside though, the mission of World Book Day is fantastic. Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success – more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income. And so to engage with the day and celebrate, we wanted to share a selection of literature-related sculptures for world book day…

sculptures for world book day: learning to fly by Simon O'Rourke depicts a child about to soar standing on top of a tower of books

“Learning to Fly” clearly reflects the message and mission of World Book Day

Sculptures for World Book Day: Learning to Fly

This sculpture wasn’t commissioned specifically for World Book Day. However, it does reflect their message well. The child is standing on top of a tower of books, ready to fly which clearly depicts the potential we have to achieve when we have a solid foundation of reading for pleasure.

Our next sculpture has a similar message. In this case though, it is an owl sitting on the book tower though. Owls have long been associated with wisdom and learning, so it subtly reminds us of the wisdom we gain through reading.

Sculptures like this are great for libraries, nurseries, schools etc. Children often struggle to engage with reading, especially in this age of technology. However, gentle but powerful visual reminders like this can capture their attention (more so than an adult telling them!) and reinforce the message that reading is beneficial.

Sculptures for world book day by Simon O'Rourke. An Owl sits on top of a tower of books in a 'totem pole' style sculpture.

Owls are often a symbol for wisdom

Sculptures for World Book Day: Children’s Classics

Of course, you may prefer your World Book Day commission to reflect a favourite book or character. Simon has created many literary-themed sculptures over the years, including some beautiful children’s classics. Who can resist a cute Peter Rabbit (from the Beatrix Potter classics) or Hans Christian Andersen’s beautiful Little Mermaid?

Sculptures for world book day by simon o'rourke. The Little Mermaid from the Hans Christian Andersen classic.

The Little Mermaid is a much-loved children’s classic.

 

Oak sculpture of Peter Rabbit by Simon O'Rourke

Most children in the UK are familiar with Beatrix Potter Tales of Peter Rabbit

Sculptures for World Book Day: Modern Classics

Perhaps modern classics are more your thing. In which case, Simon has you covered! This Charlie and the Chocolate Factory booth was made for Cardiff’s Steak of the Art. It features many of the key characters from the Roald Dahl classic including Charlie, Oompa Loompa’s and the main man, Willy Wonka. How many references can you find?

Will wonka restaurant booth by simon o'rourke

How many ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ references can you find in this restaurant booth?

Sculptures for World Book Day: Trails

Sculpture trails are a brilliant and fun way to convey information and attract people to your venue. Books are rich with characters and events so it’s easy to tie a trail in with World Book Day – or reading in general. Or perhaps you want to celebrate an author who lived in your home town and draw visitors. to the area. Simply choose the book or author, and Simon can create a series of sculptures to be installed around the venue or town. One such trail in his portfolio is his Alice in Wonderland series created for a location in Scotland. The full series has ten sculptures, but here’s four to whet your appetite!
A trail like this is a great year-round attraction, but could become a key part of your World Book Day events and activities.

sculptures for world book day: alice in wonderland series by simon o'rourke

Sculptures for World Book Day: All-Age Classics

Over the years Simon has also created some incredible sculptures of characters from literary classics enjoyed by all ages, which could also become a feature of a World Book Day activity. When we think of classic books that all generations can enjoy, one of the first to come to mind has to be Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. In fact,vital they rank at 12 and 7 respectively in the top 25 best selling books of all times. It’s no wonder then that Simon’s Lord of the Rings sculptures have also been incredibly popular when we’ve shared them.

Gollum and the Monkey Puzzle Ent are both more recent sculptures that can be viewed by the public at Poulton Hall when it is open. Radagast the Brown was a private commission, which is all the more reason to share it here so you can enjoy it too!

sculptures for world book day: gollum by simon o'rourke

Gollum is one of the characters in the classic Middle Earth series by Tolkien

 

Monkey Puzzle Ent sculpture by simon o'rourke

The Ent are a race of treefolk in the Tolkien Middle Earth books

 

radagast the brown. a sculpture in fir by simon o'rourke

This sculpture of Radagast the Brown gave new life to a diseased tree

Sculptures for World Book Day: Upcoming Sculptures

If you read our new year blog, you’ll know Simon has some more exciting literature-related commissions coming up this year. We can’t wait to share them with you! And we hope that they will somehow play a part in encouraging reading for pleasure as the sculpture prompts reading or re-reading of the book.
But we’d love to know…. who are your favourite literary characters, and which would you like to see Simon create?

As always, if you would like to see one of them realised, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

open book by simon o'rourke

Sculptures for World Book Day: Final Thoughts

Lastly, reading is SO vital in reaching our full potential, but sadly access to good books is a privilege many are denied – even in the UK! So if you are interested in the valuable work of World Book Day you can find out more about getting involved at https://www.worldbookday.com/about-us/how-can-you-get-involved/. Whether you’re a teacher looking for resources for class, a parent thinking of ways to engage your children busy, or just somebody who would like to make reading more accessible for others, there’s something for you!

 

george clark stands next to sculpter simon o'rourke. they are in front of a small brick building with a redwood fire breathing dragon mounted on the wall. the dragon is made of redwood and was one of simon's sculptures of 2020

Sculptures of 2020

Sculptures of 2020 960 1280 Simon O'Rourke

HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Wishing you all a healthy and prosperous 2021 with much less turbulence than 2020. Thank you to all those who have continued to support us through this year through commissions, sharing, commenting. We value you all.
Before launching into 2021, here is a month by month highlight of Simon’s sculptures of 2020…

sculptures of 2020: close up of the face of a lion. Carved by Simon O'Rourke

This lion was one of Simon’s last sculptures of 2020

 

SCULPTURES OF 2020: JANUARY

January started with some smaller projects including one which is still a secret! The ‘highlight’ we’ve chosen though is The Marbury Lady. She was commissioned to give life back to an elm that had sadly died from saline poisoning. She’s in a public location in Marbury Park, so if you are in Cheshire you can enjoy a walk and see her in person.

simon o'rourke's sculptures of 2020: photo shows the marbury lady in northwich

SCULPTURES OF 2020: FEBRUARY

For February’s highlight, we’ve chosen this hiker. He was commissioned to stand on a disused platform at Prestatyn Railway Station. The plan was to install and unveil him in March, but then a global pandemic hit, and you know the rest! As things begin to open up again though it will be possible for travellers to Prestatyn to view the sculpture.

Life size oak culpture of a hiker carrying a backpack. He leans on a signpost. One of Simon O'Rourkes sculptures of 2020

SCULPTURES OF 2020: MARCH

March was the month that the UK turned upside down! The rumours and stories from other countries suddenly became our story too. Before lockdown happened though, Simon was able to complete a few sculptures, including George and the Dragon. Our chosen highlight though is this massive Oak Maiden on a private estate in Surrey. The tree had died, and Simon was able to create this stunning oak maiden using the natural fall of the oak tree’s shape as inspiration. In this photo the oak maiden isn’t finished yet, but we love the way it gives a sense of scale. Also featuring one of Simon’s trusty Stihl chainsaws used to make the sculpture!

simon o rourke stands in a cherry picker next to the oak maiden sculpture he created in a dead oak tree. sculptures of 2020.

SCULPTURES OF 2020: APRIL

During April the workshop was closed, and Simon wasn’t working on commissions. This first lockdown gave him opportunity to work on another project though: his art coaching. During the month, Simon created the first in a series of teaching videos available at https://artcoach.teachable.com/
If you are interested in an online art course and not sure if this is the one for you, there is also a short free course there for you to ‘try before you buy’. Find out more in this video!

SCULPTURES OF 2020: MAY

May saw Simon return to carving in his own garden. His first piece was this beautiful, serene memorial sculpture. As an artist being able to help people grieve and heal is a real privilege, so this felt like a special piece. The full story is at https://www.treecarving.co.uk/a-memorial-sculpture-for-robyn/.

sculptures of 2020 by simon o'rourke. A girl is depicted as a fairy sitting surrounded by greenery. A robin sits on her hand as if in conversation with her.

SCULPTURES OF 2020: JUNE

For June we had a couple of sculptures to choose from, but how could we not settle on Maggon the Dragon?! Maggon is a fire breathing dragon commissioned for a holiday rental property in north wales. The property known as The Dragon Tower is INCREDIBLE and even features a folding bathroom. Really! It was featured on George Clark’s Amazing Spaces, which meant Simon also made a small appearance. You can watch the full episode HERE.

george clark stands next to sculpter simon o'rourke. they are in front of a small brick building with a redwood fire breathing dragon mounted on the wall. the dragon is made of redwood and was one of simon's sculptures of 2020

SCULPTURES OF 2020: JULY

Usually, Simon cuts into trees. In July he had to create one! It was commissioned for the entrance to the new Ronald McDonald House in Oxford, and created from one of the trees cleared from the land used for the property. It will hold leaves that bear the names of donors, hence its name: The Giving Tree. Families using the house are often going through some of their hardest times, so being asked to create something which helps to create a beautiful environment for them was an honour.

the giving tree by simon o'rourke

SCULPTURES OF 2020: AUGUST

OK, so this one is a little bit of a cheat, as most of it was created in July. But right at the start of August, Simon finished an exciting sculpture: The Ent at Poulton Hall. Simon loves fantasy and fiction and it ties into his training as an illustrator. There was a historic link between the residents of Poulton Hall and J RR Tolkien, so creating something from Tolkien’s works for the property was a lovely connection. The Ent has been one of Simon’s most popular works of the year, and can be viewed by the public when the grounds are open for visitors. Check for dates at www.poultonhall.co.uk.

monkey puzzle ent sculpture by simon o'rourke. one of his sculptures of 2020

SCULPTURES OF 2020: SEPTEMBER

Are you still with us?!
September’s highlight is another fantasy sculpture. This time, a phoenix rising from the ashes. Made from cedar, it represents the client’s rise from depression. It was an honour to depict such a positive mental change.

phoenix carved into a cedar trunk by artist simon o'rourke, one of his sculptures of 2020

SCULPTURES OF 2020: OCTOBER

In October Simon returned to Poulton Hall to create a sculpture of another Tolkien character: Gollum. Simon is an incredible storyteller through his sculptures, and we love this depiction of Gollum startled whilst catching fish for his dinner. If you have ten minutes, this is a great video where Simon takes you through the process of creating the sculpture. If you prefer to read, why not check out this blog about the process of creating Gollum.

SCULPTURES OF 2020: NOVEMBER

Armistice Day.
11:00am on 11/11/1918.
A day the world should never forget.
Sadly there have been many wars fought since then, with so many lives lost or irrevocably changed, which means November 11th is always a somber occasion. During this year Simon went back and forth on this sculpture which he completed in November: A WWI soldier for public display in Cumbria. We don’t have the details yet, but once we do, we will let you know where you can view him, and take a moment to remember those who gave their lives for the sake of others’ freedom.

World War I soldier in oak. Carved by simon o'rourke.

SCULPTURES OF 2020: DECEMBER

December was a busy month as Simon worked on Christmas commissions as well as some other bigger projects. The workshop looked a little bizarre in all honest with everything from fairies to lions to aliens! As our highlight though we’ve chosen Simon’s final carving of 2020: The Old Oak Father.
The sculpture is on the same property as the Oak Maiden, and the client decided they were Father and daughter. As well as the story on the blog (linked above) you can also hear Simon’s thoughts in the video below if you have five minutes. If not, don’t worry – we’ve included a photo below too!

the old oak father sculpture by simon o'rourke

The Old Oak Father points across the fields to the Oak Maiden

FINAL THOUGHTS

We hope you’ve enjoyed this highlight reel of 2020. If you want to see more of Simon’s works from this year, you can visit his Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.
Although you can use any of these to contact Simon, we recommend using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/, especially if you are interested in a commission.
January and February are looking busy next year, so we’re looking forward to sharing some new sculptures with you in the next few weeks, depending how lockdown unfolds.

We hope and pray this year is a good one for each and every one of you, and you are blessed with health, joy, and peace throughout the year, no matter what it holds.

With love from Simon and the team

face of the gollum sculpture at poulton hall by simon o'rourke

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture 1368 1824 Simon O'Rourke

Over the last few weeks we posted photos on social media of a Gollum sculpture Simon created. Thank you to those of you who left kind comments. It’s always encouraging to hear and see you enjoying Simon’s pieces. As always, there were questions about how to see it in real life, and about how Simon made it. And so, in this week’s blog we walk you through the process of creating the Gollum sculpture.

Sculpture of Gollum carved into a standing tree trunk, surrounded by the gardens at Poulton Hall. Sculpture is the work of chainsaw carving artist Simon O'Rourke

About the Sculpture

Regular readers will remember that in July Simon created an Ent sculpture from a Monkey Puzzle trunk in the grounds of Poulton Hall;  the seat of the Lancelyn-Green family. The father of the current incumbent was Roger Lancelyn Green – well known author, member of The Inklings, and friend of J R R Tolkien. This connection was the inspiration for a Lord of the Rings sculpture, which ties in with some of the other sculptures in the ground which are also based on Fastasy Literature.
As well as the standing monkey puzzle stump, there was a good, workable piece of the monkey puzzle trunk left over. It was perfect for creating another Lord of the Rings sculpture for the grounds of the hall. In this case Simon created something better known: Gollum.

3m tall scultpure of an Ent, created from the stump of a monkey puzzle tree by chainsaw artist Simon o'Rourke

The Ent at Poulton Hall

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Evaluating the Timber

The first thing Simon does when he starts a sculpture, is evaluate the timber. There are a few things he looks out for. However the first is definitely looking at what is useable, and where there is rot. For those who are interested, Simon explains a bit more in this video about different kinds of rot. For those who prefer to read, we also have this blog explaining the difference between white and brown rot.
In the case of this stump, it looked pretty nasty on the outside, but had some good, solid timber on the inside.

The process of creating the gollum sculpture step one. Simon evaluates the wood. Photo shows a large stump of monkey puzzle tree lying horizontally on the ground. It appears to be rotten. A chainsaw sits on the top.

The monkey puzzle stump Simon used to create the Gollum sculpture.

Simon also has to evaluate the timber from an artistic perspective. Using his original sketches as a guide, he has to imagine the figure within the stump. This includes thinking about the position of the figure, and what sections can be used. He pays attention to any visible branches, knots and other characteristics that he can use to help give shape to the figure. He also needs to find the point at which he wants the head to sit. From there he can work out the size and proportions.

The process of creating the gollum sculpture: photo shows SImon O'Rourke's original sketches of the sculpture. It shows the face from three angles, and two full length sketches of the sculpture.

Simon’s original sketches for the Gollum sculpture.

 

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Removing Large Facets

The next part of Simon’s process as he created the Gollum sculpture was to remove large pieces of the wood and outline the basic figure of Gollum. For this, he will use a ‘meaty’ chainsaw like the Stihl MS500i. It’s well suited to harvesting and processing large timber, but also makes easy work of this part of creating a sculpture!
Simon will still consider the original sketch, but at this point may need to change or adapt certain parts. As we have said before, wood is unpredictable. At this stage he may find pockets of rot, cracks and knots as he strips back the timber. All of these may mean needing to alter angles or even change a pose.
In Simon’s own words, this stage of the process is all about “working into the wood and working with it”.

The process of creating the gollum sculpture: photo shows simon o'rourke using a chainsaw to remove large pieces of wood from the trunk of a monkey puzzle tree. he wears stihl clothing and uses a chainsaw. a figure is beginning to emerge in the top half or the timber.

This part of the process is when Simon discovers problems or characteristics which will determine the basic figure of a sculpture

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Whittling Down the Figure

The next stage in the process of creating Gollum was whittling down the basic figure so the pose and proportions were correct. Most human form sculptures have specific fixed points and proportions that need to be considered at this stage. There is sometimes a formula for working those out, for example, The Golden Ratio. In the case of Gollum though, he is almost a caricature with certain features in very different proportion to a typical human. So in creating something like Gollum, Simon had to forget normal proportions and ratios.
Things he had to particularly consider were Gollum’s large head in comparison with his much skinnier body and limbs!

process of creating the gollum sculpture: photo shows a very basic outline of gollum carved into a tree trunk. there are no details such as fingers, face or clothing

It’s important to get the basic shape of the body correct at this point before details are added

It’s important for Simon to get this right at this stage. If he began working on details like facial features before this is done, it would be easy to make a mistake that can’t be corrected once the wood is removed. In particular, an anatomically correct head shape gives Simon the reference points to begin adding facial features.

process of creating the gollum sculpture: photo shows simon o'rourke using a chainsaw to create the head shape of gollum's head from a monkey puzzle stump

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Creating the Face

Once Simon is happy with the shape and pose, he can begin working on the facial features. One of Simon’s strengths as an artist is that his work always tells a story and invites the viewer to participate. The face is a key part in that. And that means Simon always needs to have a back-story in mind which will determine the facial expression. In the case of the Gollum sculpture, Simon wanted to go for a look of surprise. The sculpture is more reminiscent of Gollum’s alter-ego, Smeagal. He has just caught a fish which he is about to eat, and is caught off guard by someone or something disturbing him. The moment Simon captures in this sculpture is when Gollum turns to face the thing that has disturbed him, surprise on his face.

Surprisingly, at this stage, Simon doesn’t usually switch to smaller tools yet, and will still use a chainsaw! He is still able to create a lot of detail just by using a smaller chainsaw (such as the Stihl MSA 200c) and a smaller blade.

process of creating the gollum sculpture: simon o'roruke uses a stihl msa200c chainsaw to add facial features to the sculpture

Simon uses the Stihl MSA 200c to add facial features to Gollum

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Refining the Facial Detail

The final stage of creating a sculpture is to refine the details on the face – and indeed the rest of the sculpture. At this point Simon will use a Milwaukee angle grinder with Manpatools multicutter or Saburrtooth burr bits. The latter are especially great for adding shape and texture. For those who are interested in finding out more about how to use these tools, we have a blog about Simon’s favourite burr bits and how he uses them HERE. We also have a blog about the Manpatools tools he favours HERE.

Simon O'Rourke uses saburrtooth burr bits and a milwaukee angle grinder to add texture to the face of a Gollum sculpture

Simon will often use these smaller tools to get into small nooks and crannies and create small, deep features. The gaps in Gollum’s teeth in the photo above are a great example of this.
Unlike visual art where there are different tones and colours that can be used, Simon is dependant on different depths of cut creating shadows which create the illusion of shape and texture. This means that at this stage he may need to exaggerate some cuts and create depths or gaps that are deeper than they would be in real life. Examples of this in the Gollum sculpture are the eyes, toes, and the tunic.

close up of the face of the gollum sculpture created by chainsaw artist simon o'rourke

The Eyes

In the case of the eyes, Simon used the eye bit to create a deep cavity, where our eyes would usually be a ball shape. He left wood in place, and so created the illusion of a pupil.

close up of the toes on simon o'rourke's gollum sculpture.

The Toes

We can also see this exaggerated cut in the toes. Simon has created much deeper cuts than we actually have if we examine our bare feet. The shadow this creates help give the impression of five distinct digits. If he didn’t do this, the viewer would have only the impression of a foot rather than a realistic representation.

process of creating the gollum sculpture: close up of the tunic shows the exaggerated cuts simon uses to create shadow

The Tunic

The final example of these exaggerated cuts is the tunic, photographed above. In reality, this tunic would lie flat against Gollum’s legs. Simon, however, has made a deep cut along the edge of the tunic, which creates a thicker edge to the tunic, several centimetres removed from the leg underneath. This trick is what allows us to see that Gollum is indeed wearing clothing! Without that exaggerated gap and with no difference in the colour between the body and clothing, we wouldn’t be able to see the clothing from a distance.

process of creating the gollum sculpture: close up of simon o'rourke using a saburr tooth eye bit to create the cavity that will be gollum's eye

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Knowing When to Finish

The final stage of creating a sculpture is refining the rest of the sculpture. This may include texture or folds in clothing, wrinkles in the skin or the fold of an elbow or knee. At this point though, the key part in the process is…. knowing when to finish!

Simon – like most artists – is committed to excellence. In a quest for perfection though, it can be easy to ‘over do’ it. There will always be small tweaks and refinements that can be made. However, Simon has to consider that those things may actually take away from a sculpture of this nature.
Simon also can’t rely on ‘am I happy with this?’ to determine if something is finished. Like most artists, he can be over critical and see flaws or things he would do differently next time, so that point may never come!

And so, at this point, Simon will be asking is the pose correct? Are all the proportions correct? Is the overall effect as it should be?
Yes?
Then the sculpture is finished!
And in the case of Gollum, we hope you agree that it’s another fantastic piece.

gollum sculpture by simon o'rouke

Sculpture of Gollum carved into a standing tree trunk, surrounded by the gardens at Poulton Hall. Sculpture is the work of chainsaw carving artist Simon O'Rourke

Any Questions?

If you have any questions about Simon’s process as an artist, we would love to answer them! You can contact Simon through his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or by filling out the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.
That form is also the contact if you would like to commission your own sculpture.

Lastly, if you would like to see Simon creating this sculpture and hear his own thoughts on the process, we will have a video on Simon’s YouTube channel soon. Watch this space!

 

 

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.

 

Radagast the Brown by Simon O'Rourke. Radagast is on of his movie based sculptures.

Fan Art Series: Movie Based Sculptures

Fan Art Series: Movie Based Sculptures 720 960 Simon O'Rourke

This week we return to our Fan Art Series. In Part One we looked at sculptures based on literature. Then, in Part Two we shared some of Simon’s TV themed sculptures. This week, in Part Three, we are going to re-visit some of the movie based sculptures Simon has created over the years…

Movie Based Sculptures: Ent from Lord of the Rings

The first of these movie based sculptures had its own blog, but we think it’s worth sharing again. We’re talking about The Ent sculpture from Lord of the Rings. This Ent can be found in Poulton Hall on the Wirral, which is good news because it means it can be viewed by the public! The gardens are open on specific dates during the year, so if you’re in the North West why not take a look?

Movie Based Sculptures: Radagast the Brown

Again, our next sculpture has a blog of its own. You can read the full story at www.treecarving.co.uk/radagast-the-brown-blue-and-pink/, but basically, the Radagast tree sculpture came about as a way of transforming and giving life back to a diseased tree. For Lord of the Rings fans, there are endless possibilities for unique fan art. Simon is incredible at creating both fantasy and human form works of art and Lord of the Rings has plenty of both. If you’re looking for something unique either for yourself or a gift, why not a full-size sculpture or miniature piece for your garden? Create your own Hobbiton!

Radagast the Brown by Simon O'Rourke. Radagast is on of his movie based sculptures.

 

Movie Based Sculptures: Groot

Our next movie based sculpture is a character Simon has made on several occasions. Groot.

The loveable Flora Colossus was originally a Marvel creation and has featured in several popular films. Simon has created Groot sculptures for private and public commissions including this giant marionette version for Wales Comic-Con in 2015. This depiction of Groot is much more like the comic book version, or the Groot seen in Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014. It’s also an amazing likeness to the version in Marvel’s ‘Rocket and Groot’ animation from 2017.

sculptures based on movies: simon o'rourke creating a giant groot marionette for Wales Comic Con 2015

giant groot marionette tree carved sculpture by simon o'rourke

sculptures based on movies: giant groot marionette by simon o'rourke

Another version of Groot that Simon created is this sculpture. It shows a cuter, more cartoon-like Groot which is much closer to how we see him a little later.

groot by simon o'rourke, photographed in his workshop whilst in progress

Our final Groot sculpture was commissioned as a 50th birthday gift. He was hanging around the studio for one of our open days in aid of Clatterbridge Hospital. That was when this little chap got to meet him. As well as making for a cute photo, it shows the scale too – similar to an average nearly-two-year-old!

Movie based sculptures: a 3' groot carved by simon o'rourke stands next to a two year old in winter clothing to show scale

The client was kind enough to share the video with us from when she was given the Groot sculpture. Thankfully was less bemused by him than our little friend above! She shared:
Am over the moon with my 50th present off my family. As always Simon got the character spot on. Thank you so very much, he’s amazing
If you have a special birthday coming up and have a movie fan in the family, why not commission something for them?

Movie Based Sculptures: Spiderman

Continuing with the Marvel Comics theme, the next of our movie based sculptures is Spiderman. SPiderman is a little different from many of Simon’s pieces because he doesn’t just rely on shadow from cuts/texture to give him his distinctive pattern. Simon will sometimes use colouring techniques and stains or a blowtorch to create colour on a sculpture. These still allow for an organic colour and feel, so it remains in keeping with natural wood sculpture.

movie based sculptures: life sized spiderman wood sculpture created by simon o'rourke

Movie Based Sculptures: Batman

Looks like we’re on a roll here the comic book movie characters, because our next character is Batman. Good to give DC some representation too!

Batman was commissioned by Phil and Leah Jackson of Wahoo Marketing Agency (we are thankful as a business for their expertise), and helped them sell their house!
It’s true!
Batman doesn’t just fight crime, he moves real estate!
How?
Well basically, photos of the Batman sculpture went viral and drew international attention to their property.
Although it may seem excessive, in the context of the costs of renovating, improving, and staging a house for sale, a novelty sculpture can be a great investment. Not only can it help attract attention, but it may be that if the sculpture is free-standing, that you can take it with you or sell it later. A sculpture could also help tell the story of a property or area which moves the viewer in a way words don’t. So, if you are selling your property and think a sculpture may help, we’d love to hear from you!

Movie based sculptures: Batman by Simon O'Rourke

 

Movie Based Sculptures: Marilyn Monroe & More Comic Book Heroes

Our final example of movie based sculptures might be a bit of a cheat, as it’s not actually sculpture. But we’re going to go ahead and share anyway!
For people without room for a sculpture, an illustrated wall hanging may be just the solution. These are examples of some Simon has created over the years, including the original ‘blonde bombshell’, Marilyn Monroe.
Simon uses his background in illustration and combines it with his skill with an angle grinder, blow torch and, saw to create these unique illustrations. They make a striking piece of fan art, and are perfect for a gift or commemorating an occasion.
Please excuse the resolution. These were all created at events a few years ago, and cellphone camera technology wasn’t quite what it is today!

Marilyn Monroe illustration wall hanging by simon o'rourke

superhero wooden wall hanging illustrations by simon o'rourke

Commissioning Your Own Movie Based Sculpture

We hope you enjoyed this tour through some of Simon’s movie based sculptures. If you feel inspired and would like to commission a piece, we would love to hear from you. You can use the contact form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and Simon will get back to you to chat through the details.

The Great Resc-yew (rescue): Two Towers and a Dragon

The Great Resc-yew (rescue): Two Towers and a Dragon 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Two Towers and a dragon.
Sorry, nothing to do with the movie! Although if you enjoy Tolkien, you could read our blog about Simon’s Lord of the Rings sculpture.
Rather these two towers and a dragon were straight from Simon’s imagination. As well as telling a story, they are actually also a happy ending in themselves! Read on to find out more about ‘the great resc-yew’…

Two towers and a dragon by Simon O'Rourke

The Resc-Yew Plan

These stunning sculptures began their life as yew trees (now the ‘rescue – rescyew puns make sense!) which had become problematic. Yew is a fascinating and beautiful wood which grows in all kinds of shapes and patterns. They are some of the oldest trees in the country, are great for making all kinds of things. This ranges from carving household objects and art to furniture. Most famously though, they have the reputation of making the best long bows! However, that wild beauty can sometimes cause problems for the landowners.
In this case, they were growing too close to the house.

Initially, the owners had the tops removed, but it turned out that wasn’t going to be a good long-term solution. Rather than remove them completely, they decided to turn them into a different kind of beautiful – a Simon O’Rourke sculpture! All projects have their points of fun and excitement, but one of the things Simon enjoys about this kind of commission is the sense of giving life and purpose back to something that had either died, was damaged, or could no longer remain as it was. Even better when it’s something as fun and unique as this fairytale sculpture!

Incidentally, if you have trees which are becoming problematic, read our blog about Treetech, a tree surgeon we work with and recommend to give you an evaluation!

The dragon from Two Towers and a Dragon by Simon O'Rourke

Creating the Sculptures

After chatting with the owners about what they would like, Simon went to work, employing not only his skill, but his creativity and imagination to create this scene from a story Tolkien or C S Lewis would be proud of!

Simon kept some of the bark to allow the trees to blend in more with the rest of the garden. This also adds age and authenticity to the towers, as if they are something from an long-ago, far away adventure. He created the initial shapes using Stihl chainsaws, then used his Manpa angle grinders and chainsaw bars, and Saburrtooth bits to create the details and added texture. The beautiful natural patterns within the yew combined with Simon’s deeper cuts that mark the stone and tiles, to create the feel of ancient stone towers that have been weathered over the years.

The Two Towers from Two towers and a dragon by simon o'rourke

Choose Your Own Adventure

One of the fun things about a sculpture like this, is it not only looks great, but sparks the imagination. This is something that is important to Simon in every sculpture he creates, and even shares in his biography that he wants “people to feel like they’ve experienced part of a story”

In this story, with the two towers and a dragon, the castle is under threat from the dragon. As we look at him, we see he is quietly watching, formulating his plan, and resting his wings, which although relaxed at this moment, are clearly powerful and large.

But what happens next?

Simon has set the scene and created a stunning piece of art, but the rest is up to you.
Can the towers withstand the attack?
Who or what is within them to attract the dragon?
Who will be victorious and how?

We think it would be wonderful to spend a summer’s evening in this garden – perhaps after a BBQ with a glass of your favourite drink in hand – inviting family and friends to tell the rest of the story. What do you think happens next? How would you end this great resc-yew story? Why not comment below and let us know!

As always, if you feel inspired by this week’s featured carving, you can talk to Simon about commissioning something unique for your home and garden. Contact us on [email protected].

Radagast the Brown, (Blue and Pink).

Radagast the Brown, (Blue and Pink). 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Isn’t he amazing?! Meet Radagast the Brown!

Radagast the Brown by Simon O'Rourke

 

Simon recently worked on this sculpture of Radagast the Brown from Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’.

We think he makes a striking figure rising up among the shrubbery. We love the detail too like his wise, all-seeing eyes and wild beard. It’s so easy to imagine birds nesting in it, as the story goes. The bird on his head and the bottle of medicine are perfect references to the series. Radagast the Brown is known to communicate with ‘beasts and birds’, so it is especially appropriate that this sculpture is found outdoors.

Radagast the Brown by Simon O'Rourke

 

 

Why the decision to have a wizard in this otherwise typical garden?

Sadly, it came about because of disease in the tree: a blue atlas cedar.

The fungus responsible is sirococcus, and its incidence has gradually been increasing throughout the UK since 2016. It’s thought that it spreads through rain splash, strong winds, and possibly seed transmission, and there is unfortunately no known cure. Damaged trees must be cut back. Although it will sometimes kill younger trees, the RHS reports mature trees can live for many years.

If you are the owner of a Blue Atlas Cedar, there are a couple of signs to watch out for. The main one is pink needles. This is a sign of death, and they will later turn brown and drop off. The tree may also get cankers, gum bleeds, and grow fruiting bodies on the dead leaves. Click HERE to find out more and see images of things to look out for. Forest Research have also published a helpful article HERE.

Sirococcus-conigenus-on-cedar-of-Lebanon-

Example of the typical pink needles of an infected tree.

Government bodies are also trying to track the spread.

That means it’s important to report it, if you see a tree you think may be infected. The link and everything you need to know to make a report can be found HERE. Reporting is so important, so we ask you to PLEASE consider doing your part.

Radagast the Brown by Simon O'Rourke

All is not lost though if  your own tree is infected!

Simon is on hand to transform it and give it new life. Whether a fantasy sculpture like this, or something more ‘natural’ like THESE are your thing, Simon is able to create something beautiful for your garden.

Email  [email protected] to find out how he can help you.