Creating A Masterpiece

About The Wood

The golden-colored wood in these sculptures is West Texas juniper (juniperus texensis Van Mull). The only place in the world it grows is along a stretch of cliffs in the Texas Panhandle, ranging from north of Amarillo to near Big Spring, Texas. This juniper is the densest juniper known, approximately 44 pounds per cubic foot.

By hiking through the canyons, I am able to examine hundreds of dead-standing and fallen trees in an effort to select one that fits the idea  I desire to carve. Since many portions of the canyons provided the firewood and fence posts used during the early 1900’s, most of the really big dead trees are found where the cedar cutters could not get a mule or a fool to go. I have always felt like God left those especially for me.

The dark wood in most of the sculptures is what I call black mesquite. Mesquite, if left in the ground long enough, will eventually turn as black as ebony (at least what is left of the wood will). To find the dark wood takes a lot of looking, but, when polished, it is well worth the effort. Hopefully, you now understand that the challenge to make one of these sculptures does not begin once the wood is strapped to the work table. By that point it has already been proven to me in many ways that I am merely God’s vessel and it is His project, not mine alone.

Note: I extend a special thanks to the ranchers who have allowed me to search their ranches for wood and solitude. Thank you so much. I really do appreciate your generosity.

Unlikely Tools

A question commonly asked of me by people viewing my work is, “What kind of tools do you use?” My answer is usually hand tools, however that is an abbreviated answer. Some tools go on the feet. From hiking hoots to 1500 sand- paper, there are a lot of tools that, at first glance, one wouldn’t consider tools. Most of these sculptures couldn’t happen without the back muscles of good friends, not to mention my trusty old canyon truck and the occasional rappelling gear. There are some very unlikely tools involved in producing a sculpture, many of which go unacknowledged.

Most of the acknowledgments and almost all the compliments and praise I’ve observed are directed towards the artist, not his or her tools. Folks always seem to credit the person behind the tools not the tools themselves. True, to fashion old dead trees into flowing images of people, birds and animals requires ajoint effort between tools and artist, but there is a third dynamic that needs to be acknowledged.

It is my prayer that people would realize the artist is but a tool in the hand of God, the supreme Artist and Creator of all things. The skills, ideas and patience required to complete one of these works are merely gifts to be used to His glory. Each sculpture and poem in this book is a work of grace of which I thank my God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

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