- Andrea Durnell
It's Not All Peaches and Roses!
I usually, like most artists, post photos of the things I feel I have successfully finished. I don't plan to change that! I do share more of my general process than I used to including unfinished work, which means you get to see the good, the bad and the ugly!
It is important to take note of the journey because there is a lot of failure involved in every hat or doll you'll find in my booth at a show. If it is in my booth it is because it has survived a lengthy ordeal while coming to life and I am ready to celebrate that. You are the recipient of a lot of thoughtful trial and error, learning, blood, sweat and tears, a huge amount of laughter, as well as happenstance. I don't view failure as a lack of success, but as a necessary step of "happening on" a finished piece. Because I don't thrive on repetition, every day really is a new day in my world with a new adventure in creativity.
When I carve, it is in stages. I find the piece of wood on a walk because the shape practically leaps out at me and I have a sense of who it is before I even touch it for the first time with a chisel, gouge or knife. At the beginning of carving season I have a pile of identities that, to many, probably looks like an ordinary wood pile. Although I often begin my season with someone equine because they are somewhat second nature to me, this year I began with a howler monkey, chosen because of a natural feature in the wood which created a perfectly howling mouth. The owl, the fish and the baboon came to life because of similar characteristics in the wood that made them, in my view, unmistakably who they are. Genders are often pretty fluid until after the whole menagerie is painted. Occasionally an animal will even change species. This can happen if I make a mistake or if the wood at the center is in poor condition and more needs to be removed than I planned.
The fish may not survive to be finished, the baboon has changed genders twice and the owl refuses to tell me anything at all. The turkey vulture is a blank slate and the small raven a mere idea in the back of my mind. I am working on a bear who really doesn't look much like one yet! And, I haven't chosen the remaining creatures for this year. Flying by the seat of my pants is how I keep the novelty in each day. Yet, having a plan and a work ethic is essential.
This year is a little unusual in that I had to stop in the middle of my carving season to have some stitches in my wrist. Normally, I like to paint everyone all at once but this gave me the opportunity to clarify the identities of half of this year's menagerie. Switching gears is a little discombobulating, but it may also prove useful by disturbing the usual flow of things. I am trying to remain open minded and not be a creature of habit. The stitches have also given me an opportunity to sit in my garden and delve into a book illustrated by J.J. Grandville called "The Public and Private Lives of Animals". (https://publicdomainreview.org/collections/public-and-private-life-of-animals-1877/
This book was published in 1877 which is a time period many of my creations can related to and his understanding of the habits of both people and animals aligns very well with my own style of overlaying human traits onto animals. It is very entertaining to read as well as to see. The book delves far deeper into a story than I go with my carvings and has some content relevant in today's world, if you feel like reading any of it. Some things never change...politics, religion, the world of humankind. I typically steer clear of overt statements and try to keep my impressions a bit more whimsical in nature but when looking back, there are a few who seem to share what I was thinking about at the time they were created!
There are a few weeks left in carving season for the remainder of the menagerie to show themselves, then will come the series of stages needed to bring their characters full circle. Bodies. Stuffing. Tail Day. Shoe Day. Underpants Day. Clothing. Hat Day. Bag Day. Accessory Day. Usually everyone has a name after Tail Day when their posture and personalities are cemented in my mind. As each doll unfolds, I will share a bit of their evolution. The fabrics of their lives often shape their stories.
Meanwhile....I'm gathering inspiration in the garden this weekend with my animal muse, Townsend!