Have you looked through the 162 posts of this site recently? I have. Things start out rather rough; I was learning the blogging ropes, new photography, editing, etc. Some early photos weren’t very good. Some early links have disappeared.
This I noticed, the first four posts back in 2011 were cottonwood bark. Many more followed. Here is a listing of bark posts to date: 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 14, 28, 33, 62, 66, 70, 73, 83, 102, 103(83), 107, 111, 118, 120. There are several I really like: a second-place award winner with an exterior staircase,p; two big, tooth grinning faces; a sailboat and sea captain pair; and a church with a “repaired” front door.
Then we have the farmer below. I really like him. His smile is appealing. He fits this piece of bark well. This was a first try at neck details which I find satisfying. And the coloring, a wash style, also fits well. Anything else you notice?
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Prov 11:2
I have been showing the work of others for the past while. Thought it might be time to show something I have carved. These two pieces were begun at the end of last summer. They are now finished and hanging in our house. The work in progress is shown here. Will show the painted pieces soon, after I take a few more pictures. The carvings are roughly 18 long x 4 wide x 2 inches thick.
Both carvings are done in cottonwood bark. Last summer I revisited a lightening struck tree while on a family vacation. For years small sections or pieces have been falling off the tree. This past summer the tree’s entire bark skin came off. The morning we were to return home, while I still had an empty vehicle, I loaded up as much bark as would fit in my small SUV. I found some storage for the bark and was even able to squeeze a few pieces into the load returning home from vacation. Good thing we ate our way through some of supplies from the incoming trip. That left room for some bark.
I found inspiration for the pieces in a carving magazine. One picture gave the idea. The challenge was to get the correct cuts to recreate feeling of the photo. My dentist liked the pieces. Perhaps I will have to replace the bad spot in Big Mouth 1 with a gold filling.
Enjoy. Feed back is most welcome. Inquiries about purchasing pieces also.
“If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.” Proverbs 29:12
Bark church with “tree”
I still like carving cotton wood bark. It is always a joy to see what appears from underneath the gray skin. It is also a great challenge to see how much of the original outer bark can be preserved and make something out of the rest of the piece.
The little church in the pine forest.
The intent for the piece had been to put in the church and then create a tree long the right side. I completed the church first, in case I broke too much of the door or too much on the windows I wouldn’t have “wasted time on the tree. After having finished the church I began setting in the tree. But as you can see, the tree is as finished as it will get. Once the top of the tree was put in place and the outside edge cleaned I stepped back and noticed how the gray bark reminded me of pine trees seen in the moonlight or semi-dark of a north Wisconsin forest. So, the tree was “finished.” I like the effect.
Good view of front door and side bench.
I like how the details on this carving stand out. The block of the walls add some nice high-lights. Their size also seems to work well with the over-all piece. The bench is eye-catching. The shape invites one to come aside for a time and rest a while. The stairs came out rather nicely, given the struggle to work around the crack along the right side of the platform.
Happily this piece is sold. If you would like one like it, please do contact me here. I have several more churches in stock, some simpler and some much more complex. See post #66. Thanks for looking.
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” Proverbs 18:24
One of the joys of carving bark is dealing with what each piece of bark brings to the table. The challenge, always, is finding ways to incorporate the natural features into the finished piece. In this piece of bark we have a very deep fissure bracketed by two nice, solid pieces of bark.
The fissure itself creates a wonderful negative space for the eye. The dark slash through the piece takes your eye up in to the house at the top. Shadows and light spots add lots of visual interest to the base of the carving.
The two solid masses of wood on either side of the fissure have been dealt with in view of the strong visual texture of the fissure. As you can see in the picture immediately above, lots of bark has been left on the base. This light bark stands in contrast to the dark fissure. But, in order to tie the base to the house above, some rocks have been cut into the bark of the base to expose the redbrown of the under wood. The shapes and the color add another layer of visual interest.
Moving up from the base we come to the house itself. The base has drawn our eye to the color and texture of the house. Small rocks in the chimney echo the larger rocks of the base. The rounded shapes of the chimney rock and base rocks are countered by the strong vertical and horizontal lines of the roof shingles, squared stones of the walls the steps and landings, and door and windows. More shadows and highlights are created by the bench underneath the window.
All in all a piece I really like. Trust you do too.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:22
Bark houses are a delight to carve. The colors, contrasts, and creative opportunities make carving cottonwood bark a great medium.
Following the flow of the bark is one key to making a pleasing looking bark carving. In “The Water Barrel,” one interesting feature was a large wing of wood plunging off to the left. One method I have used to enhance such a piece is to pierce the wood under the house to allow light through. In this carving, I chose to add rocks, stairs and a bench. The shadows under the bench, created by the stairs and the rocks add visual interest. I like how the outer skin of the bark which has been left on the carving draws the eye up to the house.
Bark carving is both interesting and challenging. This can be seen in the view of the front door and wall. The door ended up being recessed because of the fault lines running through the piece. At the same time those fault lines needed to be kept visible to add more interest to the piece. Because of the faults the surface finish chosen was block or “stone” rather than clapboard. This allowed for working around the faults.
Details can be added at any time in the carving. However, some details need to be anticipated. The water barrel in this carving was planned for.
The sides of the house, both the bench and the barrel, needed extra wood. In the rough out stage, the house was not completed to the base so that these details could be added in toward completion.
The same planning needed to go into the chimney. Wood needs to be left on the roof anticipating where the chimney may go. Position the chimney where it will add to the over-all design of the piece.
Even though much of the base wood has been left, some piercing has added to the eye appeal of this carving. Note the contrast created by the light, rust colored inner wood and the skin gray. I find this one of the most appealing features of bark carving.
One more picture. When carving bark and doing a lot of piercings, the view from the back of the carving can be nearly as interesting as the front.
One more comment on this post. Did you notice the quality change in the photos? I love wood carving. Not so adept at picture taking. Learning as I go. The early photos were taken in the basement under indoor lighting. The pictures at the end were taken in the sunlight. I needed a better picture of the barrel. Of course, that means I should take all my photos in the sunlight. And that means I would need to commandeer not only the entire basement, the whole garage, but also a corner of the living room where we find the best sunlight. Hmmmm. may be plan B. Until next time. Shalom.
“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light .” Romans 13:12
One of the joys I have in carving is cottonwood bark. The bark of the cottonwood tree is a delightful carving medium.
It can grow up to six inches thick on certain Plains trees. Most of the bark I work with is from two to four inches thick.
Another great feature of the bark is its color. The outer part comes in many shades of gray, maybe black or I have even found pieces that have been bleached white by the sun and other conditions. The exterior coloring is also varied by the amount of moss or lichen which may cover the piece. While there is great coloration on the exterior, the interior coloring always takes my breath away. Tones of color from rich, deep reds to light browns and even yellows make cutting into any piece an adventure.
In the next months I will post many more bark carvings,
take note of the color variations. Added to the coloring is the growth layer variations which are exposed in different ways with each new cut. If you have not, let me encourage you to pick up a piece of cottonwood bark and give it a try.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music… Psalm 98:4