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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

close up of the face of the old oak father by simon o'rourke

Old Oak Father Sculpture

Old Oak Father Sculpture 1368 1824 Simon O'Rourke

This week Simon completed his final carving for 2020. If you follow us on Facebook, you may already have seen it. It’s a fantastic creation with a lovely story that we wanted to share. So why not grab a cuppa and a mince pie, and keep reading to find out about the Old Oak Father Sculpture…

Simon O'Rourke's Old Oak Father sculpture. The sculpture is carved into a standing tree trunk of a dead tree. It shows a mythical 'treefolk' old man.

The old oak father sculpture in Surrey.

The Story Behind the Name

Sometimes before a sculpture is started, Simon has a story in mind. And sometimes that story evolves. This is one of those times.
Earlier in the year Simon completed a sculpture of an oak maiden. There were other dead or dying trees on the property, so this week he returned to create another sculpture.
This sculpture actually points in the direction of the Oak Maiden which is a few fields away, and the client decided this sculpture is her father.

the old oak father sculpture by simon o'rourke

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

Creating the Old Oak Father

Before Simon arrived on site, a tree surgeon cut the dying oak to the right size. It’s actually really helpful if this can happen beforehand, and can save on some costs too. Incidentally, if you are looking for a good tree surgeon, we recommend TreeTech.
Simon had drawn a sketch over a photo of the tree to show the client. That concept sketch was also a basis for him to work from, but as always, he had to be open to change because of the quirks of the tree. This time though there were no surprise cracks, rot, or holes, and the finished sculpture is faithful to the concept sketch.

view from the ground of the old oak father sculpture by simon o'rourke

Mystery and Whimsy

When Simon creates a sculpture, he wants people to feel they’ve seen part of a story. This is a connection with his training in illustration and love of children’s stories, fairy tales, and different worlds.
In this case, Simon wanted him to have a feel of age, eternity, and mystery. To create that feel, he used lots of spirals similar to the trunks of gnarly old trees. That’s why viewing the sculpture feels like meeting an old man. Well, that and the beard!!!
Spirals also add a sense of mystery and intrigue. The lines are forever disappearing, and you never reach the beginning or end, adding to the sense of age and eternity.
There is also wisdom, acceptance, and calm in his eyes – like one who has witnessed many things and found his peace with the world.

That ancient, mysterious feel of the finished piece inspired Simon to write a beautiful short story:

The Oak Father…
The old oak,
bereft of leaves,
leaned into the oncoming winds of winter.
He would weather it like he always had done,
close his eyes once more,
and dream of Spring.
close up of the face of the old oak father by simon o'rourke

Connection & Relationship

There is also a lot about ‘connection’ in this sculpture. The organic lines and the sculpture using the natural shape of the tree very much connect it with the earth. The direction of his gaze, pointing hand, and similarity of style connect this old oak father with his daughter. And the viewer becomes connected when they are drawn into that story.
For those who are interested, Simon shares his thoughts on that sense of connection and relationship as well as on the sculpture itself in this five-minute video…

The Aging Oak Maiden

Obviously Simon couldn’t resist popping on the original Oak Maiden to see how she’s doing too while he was on the property. She’s looking great and aging nicely with those darker hues and deeper shadows enhancing the sculpture

oak maiden sculpture by simon o'rourke

Write Your Own Story

We hope you’ve enjoyed finding out a bit more about the Old Oak Father sculpture. And if he inspires any storytelling in you, why not drop us a comment or send us an email to let us know? It’s always great to hear how Simon’s work has impacted you.

You can email him using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact which is also the best way to contact Simon if you would like to commission a sculpture.

Next blog we’ll be back with the sculpture highlights of 2020, and until then wish you all a Merry Christmas.

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!

 

 

Into the 20’s – A Review of the Decade

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

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

Simon O'Rourke Game of Thrones Egg Carrier carving

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

Review of the Decade: 2010

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

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

Simon O'Rourke second place huskycup 2010

Review of the Decade: 2011

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

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

Giant hand by Simon O'Rourke

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

Tree of Somerset by Simon O'Rourke

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

Review of the Decade: 2012

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

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

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

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

Review of the Decade: 2013

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

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

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

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

Review of the Decade: 2014

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

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

 

The Guardian by Simon O'Rourke

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

Photograph copyright of Maria Slough from the Pawtraits Series

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

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

Wooden Batman carving by Simon O'Rourke

Wooden Batman carving by Simon O'Rourke

Batman by Simon O'Rourke and St Giles Church Wrexham

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

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

 

 

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

Review of the Decade: 2015

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

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

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

Review of the Decade: 2016

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

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

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

Viking Raid at Huskycup 2016 by Simon o'Rourke

 

 

Viking Raid at Huskycup 2016 by Simon o'Rourke

 

Review of the Decade: 2017

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

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

 

Beatles at the Liverpool dockside by Simon O'Rourke

 

Nearly done!!

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

 Review of the Decade: 2018

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

Spirit of Ecstasy by Simon O'Rourke

 

 

Review of the Decade: 2019

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

Dragon of Bethesda by Simon O'Rourke

 

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

Game of Thrones egg props Simon O'Rourke

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

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

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

Simon O'Rourke casket Game of Thrones Season Eight

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

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

Partnership with Olfi

Partnership with Olfi 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

This week we’re looking at something a little different in our blog. Rather than tree carving, we’re talking about our partnership with Olfi.

Some of you may remember seeing a video of Simon carving a Weimaraner  in our Pet Portraits blog. In case you didn’t catch it, here’s the video!

I finished a bust of a #Weimaraner dog yesterday! Here's some action footage shot on an Olfi action camera!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Saturday, 20 April 2019

Videos like these have become essential in sharing Simon’s work and processes. Sometimes, we show several day’s worth of work in less than five fascinating minutes!

The feedback on our Facebook page, tells us that you love  these videos, and we think being able to share Simon’s work in this way is really important. It wouldn’t be possible without having access to great technology though. Our partnership with Olfi has given us that technology.

We’re so thankful for being able to be one of their ambassadors, which allows us to bring videos like these to you! This one is from Simon’s appearence on Home is Where the Art is earlier this year.

You may have just watched Home is Where The Art is on BBC one… As you will have seen, I created this horse, and it didn't get picked by the client, so it's for sale! Get in touch if you're interested!It was a great experience and I loved the winning piece. Check out the making of the sculpture here!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Friday, 12 April 2019

Introducing Olfi

So, who are Olfi?!

Olfi are a small action camera company based in North Wales. As well as producing great products, being small means they can also pay close attention to customer service and satisfaction. And they do!

They actually started life as HEDCAMz – a website specialising in action cameras and drones. From talking to their customers they soon got to hear which features and benefits ‘the people’ wanted from an action camera. Whether it was price, usability or build quality, they listened to their customers. Armed with that knowledge, they started licensing in camera moulds, upgrading the quality of the build materials, and developing their own firmwares. This led them to where they are today – a small but dedicated action camera company , producing fantastic quality cameras at affordable prices.

Simon has become one of their many #olfiambassadors, and we absolutely love their products.

The Olfi Cam

So how do we make these videos?

Simon is currently using their Olfi One.Five model camera. As he describes it in the next video, “it’s a nice bit of kit”!

However, videos like these aren’t made using good cameras alone. Simon often works outdoors during all kinds of weather. It can take several days to complete a sculpture too, so he needs something which will remain powered, and is fully waterproof. Cue the External Power Case!

Olfi external power and record case

Olfi external power and record case

The External Power and Record Case

Using the external power case allows the camera to be plugged in, positioned, and left to run. It can then withstand rain and snow, which makes it perfect for capturing the action and timelapse shots that make a great tree carving video. If in doubt, re-watch the video above, or the one below for all the changing skies! Olfi also sell essentials like chest harnesses, anti-moisture inserts, mounts, stabilisers and so much more. Basically, everything you could ever need to make an action camera work for you! Some of these also feature in the video below where you can see we manage to get shots from all kinds of perspectives. So fun!

Editing and More

Once we have the raw footage from the camera, there’s obviously an editing process. Basic free software available online can do the job. There are also lots of companies to outsource to as well. We’re currently using another local company for our videos, Filmage.co.uk. They edited the video below of the making of the RAF Valley Dragon Throne (also made with the olfi one.five), and we thoroughly recommend them!

If the process of time lapse video seems daunting, we found the guys at Olfi to have some helpful advice too – another nice thing about partnering with a smaller, more customer-oriented company. If you’re thinking of creating a time lapse video, you can check out some of their tips and tricks for people starting out at https://www.olficamera.com/time-lapse-for-beginner/

Another cracking video from Filmage.co.uk!!The Dragon Throne!!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Monday, 15 April 2019

Get Your Olfi!

Have we sparked your interest in getting one of these action cameras for yourself? One of the nice things about our partnership with Olfi, is that we can share our affiliate code* with you. Visit their website via https://www.olfi.co.uk/?affiliates=59, to get yours! You can also use the code orourke10 for 10% discount across the whole site.  And look out for more great videos made with the Olfi Cameran coming soon!

If any of these videos sparked your interest in having your own bespoked Simon O’Rourke carving, don’t forget you can email us on [email protected] to discuss commissioning a work.

 

*although Simon is not paid by Olfi to promote or share products, he will receive a percentage of sales purchased through his affiliate code

 

A Hydra Rising

A Hydra Rising 150 150 Simon O'Rourke
The Commission

Last week Simon was in Surrey completing a private commission for a client: A Hydra rising from the ground.

The nature of tree carving means really having to go with the flow. Or we should say, go with the grain.
And the flaws.
Plus the cracks and future cracks.
The knots too.
And more!
In this case, Simon had seen photos and had an idea of creating an animal emerging from the ground. However, it was only when he saw the timber in person, that he could fully commit to a design. A hydra rising from among the fallen tree.

A work-in-progress photo of a Hydra rising from the ground by Simon O'Rourke

The hydra in process

The Timber

The timber in question was willow, which is technically a ‘medium hard’ wood. That description is a little deceiving though, as it is actually lightweight, and very soft. That softness is actually why it’s a popular choice for whittling and wood carving. It means that it doesn’t make good  lumber for furniture or construction though. It also isn’t a good choice for firewood, as it gives off relatively little heat compared with other woods. That means a fallen willow is a perfect excuse for having something unique created in your garden!

Hydra tree carving sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

The Process

Once he got to work, Simon enjoyed creating heads from each of the branches. He used a range of Stihl, Milwaukee, and Manpa tools to create the faces and scales that make it appear a hydra is rising from the ground. In part, this effect is enhanced by the choice of leaving some bark and leaves lower down the individual branches. He was especially thankful for the Stihl MS193c petrol chainsaw as there was nowhere to charge any batteries! That said, there is an upgraded Stihl MS 151 C-E out now that he can’t wait to get his hands on. It promises an increase in power and torque, whilst still being their most lightweight back handle saw.

Hydra tree carving sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

Sponsorship News.

While we’re speaking of Stihl, it seems a good opportunity to share that they have renewed their sponsorship of Simon. We’re delighted by this, as they provide such consistent quality tools and customer service. You can see their full range of products at https://www.stihl.co.uk/products.aspx . We also thought we’d share this video from their website which shares a little more as to why we love this partnership.

The Finished Product.

But back to the hydra! After many hours playing with power tools, we have a finished hydra rising. For Greek Mythology purists, Simon suggests not counting the heads as it has a few more than tradition says! And speaking of Greek Mythology, whether it be the intricacies or the teeth and scales, or the ferociousness of expression that wins him over, we reckon even Heracles wouldn’t want to chop any of the heads off this particular hydra!

Close up of the Hydra Heads. A private tree carving commission by Simon O'Rourke

Close up of the heads showing the detail and texture.

Simon is available for bespoke sculptures from your damaged or fallen trees. Contact him using our online form or on [email protected] for quotes or just to find out more.

English Open Chainsaw Competition 2019

English Open Chainsaw Competition 2019 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

The August bank holiday means one thing in the Tree Carving Calendar – The English Open Chainsaw Carving Competition! This year it took place at the Cheshire Game and Country Fair during one of our warmest weekends of the year. We’re happy to announce that Simon took a first and second place!
english open chainsaw competition

THE COMPETITION

Simon entered the ‘Combo’ competition this year. This meant he had up to ten hours on day one to create a piece using ONLY a chainsaw.  He then had up to 15 hours on the Sunday and Monday for the ‘Full Power Event’. The artist can use any power or hand tools, paints, oils and varnishes for this category. For both events the timber is provided and the artist can’t add any fixtures.

Fairy carved by Simon O'Rourke at The English Open Chainsaw Competition

The fairy which took second place in the chain saw only event

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

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

THE CHAINSAW COMPETITION

The Chainsaw-only piece was this fairy, created with Simon’s trusty Stihl chainsaws. Although using only chainsaws typically means less detail, we love the texture of her sassy bob, the movement of her dress, and the intricate twisted base. Although she is clearly a more modern take on a fairy, she also has hints of the form you expect from a classic renaissance cherub, and hints of light whimsy with the detail in her wings. The fairy took second place and was part of the auction where all the competing artists sell their work.

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

THE FULL POWER COMPETITION

Simon’s ‘Full Power’ angel took first place in the competition. Simon has recently been sponsored by Manpa Tools, and this was his first piece using their equipment since their sponsorship. This video shows Simon using their angle grinder to create the ‘drapery’ on the angel. Although the fairy doesn’t lack texture by any means, the Manpa angle grinders create more subtle texture and details. As a private commission, the angel wasn’t part of the auction, but as always, if you like her, Simon is available to talk about a commission.

Loving these grinder attachments from Manpatools!! Here's me using them to create some drapery!

Posted by Simon James O'Rourke on Wednesday, 28 August 2019

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

Altogether there were 30 carvers representing 14 nations who took part over the three days. As well as the classic and combo competitions, there were also speed carvings over the three days, which somehow Simon also managed to fit in! The event was a great time to see talented artists at work, and to connect with the community.
When asked about the event, Simon commented: “It was great to be back at the English Open and I’m really thrilled I placed 1st and second in the combo competition, there were a lot of great pieces!

 

Home Is Where The Art Is

Home Is Where The Art Is 2448 2448 Simon O'Rourke

Recently Simon was asked to take part in the BBC’s Home is Where the Art is.  In each episode, three artists compete to win a commission from a mystery buyer. Simon tells us a little more about his experience.

Nick Knowles promotes Home is Where the Art is

Home is Where the Art is on BBC One

What is Home is Where The Art Is?

The three artists met at the buyer’s house and received a brief and a budget. Each artist then produced a sketch to meet that brief. Simon competed against a stainless steel sculptor and an acrylic pet portrait painter in his episode. Three very different mediums! Their brief was to create something that captured both the spirit and the form of the buyer’s beloved horse, ‘Dragon’.

Simon O'Rourke with Nick Knowles and the horse sculpture he created for Home is Where the Art is

With presenter, Nick Knowles and his final piece

Simon Tells All!

Simon says of this process:
“We all got to snoop around the buyer’s house to get a feel for the kind of things they might like. We also got to meet Dragon, which gave us all a flavour of his temperament and form. Each of us went away after this and were asked to come up with a two minute pitch, which was filmed at a studio in Manchester. The buyer then chose two artists to create the artwork they had pitched, and come back in a few weeks to present the artwork to the buyer. The buyer would then choose one to buy!   Nick Knowles is the host of the show, and made us feel really comfortable. The buyer threw a couple of curveballs in by asking if any of us would be happy to change our designs!”

Simon was one of the two artists chosen to compete. He took around eight hours to carve a representation of Dragon out of cedar as his entry, capturing not only his form but his movement and character.

Simon O'Rourkes final piece for Home is Where the Art is

‘Dragon’

The Results Are In!

Now that we won’t be revealing any spoilers, we can announce that sadly, Simon didn’t win.
Simon is extremely gracious in his defeat though. He says: “The buyer Delyse had a really difficult time choosing between us, but I feel she made a great choice. I would have chosen Claire’s work!”

‘Dragon’

Not only is it a privilege to be invited to take part in something like this, but even the name of the horse has tied in with our ‘year of the dragon’ here at Simon O’Rourke Tree Carving!

Making Dragon

If you would like a portrait of your pet, Simon is available at [email protected] to chat about your commission.