Posted by: Michael Keller Woodcarving | May 23, 2011

Woodcarving Inspiration

or… What Inspires Me to Carve Wood

Woodcarving – Evoking Inspiration
I recently read an article about inspiration that evoked consideration as to what inspires me to carve wood.  The article also caused me to consider the time when I feel uninspired to carve mainly because I feel too busy with my day job, too anxious over something or another, or just lazy.  I then concluded that I need to strengthen my woodcarving habits, and to do that, I need to find ways to stay inspired and encouraged even if I don’t feel like it.  And, we all know once we get started on a project, it ignites a spark within us and off we go.  Anyway, I decided to make a list of what does inspire or has inspired me in the past to carve.

Here is the way my list breaks down:

Deadlines – This is by far my strongest motivator.  Like in the business world, or at my “day job,” when I have a deadline I will do everything I can to meet a deadline in the best performance possible.  The looming date will encourage me to finish things early, not to leave everything to the last minute, and to forget about laziness or anxiety.  Self inflected deadlines might be useful, but one thrown on me from outside, such as a commission or a show submission deadline, work much better.  When I have either limited control or no control at all, I simply take charge and make the most of it.  And once I get into the mode of creation, I go like “gang busters.”

Visit a Woodcarving Show or Art Show – Every time I go to a woodcarving show, art fair or a visit an art gallery or museum, I literally feel my artistic juices start to percolate.  I get a real “rush.”  Some time it’s because I think I can do as well as the things that I have seen or maybe even better.  Sometimes its because the carvers/artists themselves inspire me, sometimes it is the subject matter or prospects of interesting designs that inspire me.  And sometimes it’s the business excitement in the air – seeing other artists living their artistic lives.  Its thrilling to me.

Woodcarving Books and Magazines – I always read, and usually more than one book at a time, having books everywhere in the house.  I have a medium sized woodcarving and art books collection, but I can’t buy them all.  The library and bookstores that let you browse are a good resource for books.  And I don’t limit myself to books on one style or specific woodcarver/artist, I like reading them all.  I find a lot of inspiration right there.  I also happen to believe that the great carvers and masters are good for me.  I figure even if I can do a margin of their capability, I feel good and besides… they make me stretch.

Take a Class – That’s a good idea for every woodcarver, to learn and expand our knowledge.  But for me it’s more than that.  I can see a pattern in my past that during a  class or after I completed a course, my creativity levels jumped up and I produced much more than in other times.  So it is a good boost for my inspiration to make art in wood.  And, I probably should not admit this but in a class there is a wee bit of a competition that sparks in me too.  Terrible as it may sound, its true for me.

Browse for Images Online – I don’t work from patterns but I do gather several photographs of my subject matter and hang them up in front of me.  Let’s say I choose to do a dragon.  I select a half dozen photos of a dragon to give me varying perspectives and then I draw my own.  My own drawing(s) and the collected images are great references.  With the ability to access millions of pictures and photos online, all I do is browse on Google Images, museum sites and others.  Since I make up my own pattern and do not copy any picture, I do not infringe on anyone’s copyrights.  And, I find the visual stimulation is an important ingredient to inspiration.

Try New Subjects, Woods, or Tools and Integrate them with Your Old Standbys – I do have my favorite subjects, woods and tools but trying something new helps me grow and improve.   Classes are a great place to try new subject matter.  Also, take a look around and take note of the tools others are using.  They just may know a trick that will help you.

Carve and Visit with Others – I am fortunate to have a group of folks show up at my studio once a week for a “carvefest.”  Great enjoyment and inspiration from helping others… not to mention what I learn from these folks.  Recently, we had a gentleman join us from a local assisted living facility.  He was the sweetest elderly gentleman and although I do not know how old he is, he told us of his time in WW II.  But there he was carving along with the rest of us.

While I don’t get to carve with him, Don Mertz (in Ohio) and me ( in Washington State) became friends a few years back.  Fortunately for me, Don found me on the Internet.  Don will often drop me a note or send me a picture and inspire me in varying ways and he is most generous with his encouragement.  Don’s website/blog is also a heck of a motivator

I live in the sticks and there are not many seasoned carvers around… but I just found a fellow living in Twisp, Washington (Bruce Morrison) that is a professional carver and artist.  Twisp is just an hour away so I am excited about getting up to visit him.  I guarantee you, it will be fun and informative.

Then, there is That, That Can Not Be Labeled – When I walk into my studio amongst my tools, my stash of wood, my finished and unfinished works, I feel a deep feeling of calm.  I feel like I have “come home.”  Just being in my studio provides me with great inspiration.  My woodcarving is a mediation in action and my studio is my sanctuary… a most wonderful and fulfilling experience.

So this is the list of things I came up with that help me when I have dry spells.  Each one of us is different, and we each have different list.  What is yours?

Stay sharp and be carveful!

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