Sunday, 18 March 2018

Twenty-ninth Annual Canadian National Wildlife Carving Championship

17 March 2018

     This year I had the distinct honour, and great pleasure, in being asked to be a judge at the Canadian National Wildlife Carving Championship, an annual event I always look forward to attending as a lover of this art form (and that is what it is), and as a collector, so to be a judge was a rare and much-appreciated privilege. 
     The Grand Valley Woodcarvers Club is a primary organizer of the event and deserves much credit.
     I owe a great debt of gratitude to Peter McLaren for asking me to take part, to Lyn Burnett for her superb organizational job, but most of all to Jeff Krete, ( www.facebook.com/JeffKretewildfowlart; www.legendarywings.ca) a five-time world champion carver, and to Jason Lucio (www.jasonlucioart.com; www.facebook.com/JasonLucioArt), a three-time world champion, with whom I formed one of the judging teams, for their great kindness and willingness to explain the myriad nuances of what makes a good carving, and the techniques, thought processes and design decisions that go into it.  I saw carvings in a way I never saw them before; my astonishment at the creative forces behind a carving grew exponentially. I have little doubt that my meagre contribution in terms of ornithological knowledge was insignificant compared with the expert assessments of these world class artists.
     The show was opened by the Mayor of Waterloo, Dave Jaworsky, with suitable words of encouragement.


      We were judges in various categories and skill levels, beginning with the Master Class.
     One of the pieces in our first group was this male Belted Kingfisher, perched on a branch, draped in an epiphyte looking down on the water, where Yellow Perch were hiding beneath aquatic vegetation and submerged logs.



     In the same grouping was this female Green-winged Teal, carved and painted to perfection. 

     
     I should mention here that sometimes it was relatively easy to narrow the choices down to three finalists, but then selecting between the final three was much more difficult. I relied heavily on Rick and Jason to guide me through these final steps, knowing that the characters between first and third place were both subjective and subtle. I am sure that in some cases if the winner could be assigned a score of 100, second was 99.9 and third was 99.8. It was sometimes that close.
     African Pygmy Falcon was the subject for one of the Purchase Awards and there were several carvings of this beautiful, diminutive little bird that I have had the pleasure of seeing in both South Africa and Ethiopia.


     This one was in our group, characteristically perched among the sharp thorns of an Acacia, and as you can see we accorded it first place. The red sticker indicates first, blue second, yellow third and green honourable mention. Once the judging has been completed appropriate name tags are added, with the names of the species and the artist.


     Here are some of the other renditions of African Pygmy Falcon.


      We had to judge a group of carvings in which Jeff had an entry so he had to excuse himself from participating.  A substitute judge was added to our crew and I say with pleasure that we unanimously came to the conclusion that Jeff's rendition of a Griffon Vulture high above a carcass on the African savanna was the clear winner.
     Look how Jeff has given the perception of the height of the bird descending from the sky, by minimizing the size of the zebra and presenting it in a muted way so as not to draw attention away from the bird.


     The details in the wing were quite remarkable to me, where moulted feathers are shown, with some positions already showing emergent new plumes. The margins were emarginated in classic vulture fashion; I swear that if that bird had flown off the wire it would not have surprised me!


     The detail on the underside was completed with the same precision and attention to detail as the upper surface.


     Was I biased because I knew it was Jeff's work? I don't think so, and the verdict was unanimous in any event. And Jeff would have only wanted a totally honest approach from all of us.
     Just before lunch we did some judging in the Interpretative Class, where there is a very wide range of styles, and evaluating one piece against another is highly subjective and far from easy.



     A fine lunch of soup and wraps was provided and a lively discussion took place around the table. As an "outsider" it was fascinating to hear the shop talk of carvers and competitors.



     By the time we returned from our lunch break the public was starting to arrive in increasing numbers.




     A female Belted Kingfisher was the subject for another Purchase Award.


     As was a miniature Northern Cardinal.


     Working decoys have a long and storied tradition, and it is probably in these utilitarian objects that decorative carving originated. These modern working decoys must have a keel and be able to float and self-right from any position to qualify for the competition.


     Here is part of one group of Intermediate Class carvings we had to judge.


     And more....




     Looking at these Killdeers, one gets the impression that perhaps these carvers all took the same class!


     I found this portrayal of an Elf Owl especially appealing.


     Don't forget that every element has to be carved; look how well the artist has rendered the effect of insects or caterpillars feeding on the leaves.
      A Northern Saw-whet Owl is guaranteed to earn the approbation of everyone!


     And I thought this approach to presenting an Eastern Screech Owl was bold and creative.


     As you can see we awarded it second place in its category.
     After our judging I walked around and chatted to various friends and acquaintances who had come to the show, and took a few more miscellaneous photographs of carvings that caught my eye.




     From Novice to Master Class, from the most humble beginner to a world class artist, all of these carvers deserve our respect and admiration for their commitment to their craft, and the continuation and enhancement of what is still primarily a North American art form.
     Long may it continue.

65 comments:

  1. I admire all the work, but the winner is great. Congratulations that you were chosen as one of the judges. greetings

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello David, what patience do these people have and such skills. Amazing!
    Regards,
    Roos

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patience is an essential commodity to be sure and a tremendous eye for form and symmetry, apart from the ability to portray the bird accurately. Painting is a whole other skill requiring great patience. Jason told me that he worked for six months on nothing but one of the pieces which was ranked first in the world.

      Delete
  3. Espectacular, que maravilla David, todas se ven hermosas. Enhorabuena para todos y en especial para ti. Abrazos.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello David, the birds carving are all just stunning. I see a few I would love to have, like the Screech Owl in the tree and the Puffins. It would be hard for me to judge, I love them all. Happy Sunday, enjoy your day and the new week ahead!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They really are stunning, Eileen. I have a fairly decent collection and a few pieces of great merit, but a lot of the stuff I have is more in the nature of folk art and couldn't hold a candle to the work I was judging yesterday. But (rightly so) it is not an inexpensive pastime to collect works like this! A friend of mine has a tremendous collection of original decoys which I drool over. And some of those primitive works now sell at auctions for huge sums.

      Delete
    2. Hi again Eileen: I wonder whether you know that annually the World Championship is held in Ocean City, MD. Perhaps a chance for you to go.

      Delete
  5. Hari OM
    The carving is astounding enough, but the painting is another skill level... who wouldn't be happy to have such a sculpture on display?!! Observation - all men??? Surely there's a lady or two who likes to 'whittle'? YAM xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We were actually discussing this very point yesterday. There are a few women carvers, but not many. The creator of the Eastern Screech Owl in its hole is a woman, but most of the carvers said that they had reasonable success getting their sons interested but almost none at all with their daughters. Jason's thirteen year old daughter was with him yesterday, but I got the impression that she was happy to hang out with her dad, but was not gung ho to take up carving.

      Delete
    2. It's a shame... I desparately wanted to do woodworking at school (1960s) and my mother had to fight long and hard to have it allowed; girls were expected to do needlework and sewing and the boys only were permitted wood and metal work. To this day I detest sewing and would happily build cabinets. A bit different from this stuff, but you understand me I'm sure! I am delighted that gorgeous owl in trunk was a female artist. Yxx

      Delete
    3. Hello Yam: I suspect that there are others, perhaps many, who share your frustration.

      Delete
  6. Wow, wow, wow, they look so real. Such clever people not only to carve so brilliantly but to paint them to perfection. I can only say each one is a winner in my eyes.
    So glad you were picked as a judge and we got to share this with you. Well done.
    Take care, Diane

    ReplyDelete
  7. each and every one, a true work of art. an honor to judge indeed but i don't know how anyone could pick a winner. i had so many favorites.....what a talented group of people.

    and how lucky you were to see and be able to photograph all of these!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. this visit, my second, the kingfisher was a favorite. also the last 3, the ones you picked. the woodpecker is amazing!!!

      Delete
  8. Hello David!
    The birds carving are so beautiful!
    Great art and how talented those people are! I’m so impressed!
    My favorite is the Screech owl! Love it!!
    Enjoy your new week!
    Dimi...

    ReplyDelete
  9. The artists are very talented and creative. I was impressed by their carving and painting.
    It's probably was very difficult to decide who would be a winner because every art work is unique and special.
    David, it's an honor to be chosen a judge. Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wonderful blog, what are they all creative?
    They are all pieces of real art.
    Greetings Tinie

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi David,
    This must have been a wonderful experience and honour but also very difficult with so many top quality carvings.
    People always amaze me with the pure skill not only to carve these creatures but then to be able to paint them, I have a job in carving a pencil sharp and my artistic skills are not a lot better.
    Fabulous post a real enjoyment to go through.
    All the best to you both. John

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow, these are wonderful. You had a tough job to do!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi David,

    What a honor to be a judge! Beautiful wood carvings. They are really amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Wow!
    These are all stunning, what works of art they are.
    How lovely for you to be asked to judge them.

    All the best Jan

    ReplyDelete
  15. It's amazing what those people do, they are wonderful works of art, one better than the other, with a surprising realism. I have some in my house that I bought when I traveled but they are not how they are. How much would one of these works have? I think they must not be very cheap

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The prices vary with the piece of course, but from the very skilled carvers (and painters I should add) the prices can easily range from $2,000 to $5,000. Large works in general sell for more than miniatures and there are other factors influencing the price.

      Delete
    2. I figured they were expensive but not so much, if I buy the 3 most expensive I have to sell my car!

      Delete
  16. Amazingly talents carvers. I do like the owl, to me that is just pure magic.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Vilka fantastiska konstverk som skapats av dessa konstnärer! Jag har aldrig sett något liknande och jag kan bara ana hur mycket arbete som ligger bakom detta. Jag kan inte välja ut någon favorit men jag gillar de konstverk där man även fått med en bit av fågelns naturliga miljö.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The carvings really are quite amazing, Gunilla, and I agree with you that the addition of contextual material is very appealing.

      Delete
  18. Beautiful to see, David.
    Have a lovely week!

    Ida

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi David.

    Nice that you could judge.
    What is everything nicely made.
    One more beautiful than the other.
    Beautiful in color how beautiful the people have made this.

    Groettie from Patricia.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hi David,
    OOhh, what an amazing job ! It's very beautiful. I would like to see this on day !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will personally take you to the show next March!

      Delete
  21. Hi David. Those carvings are indeed remarkable. I hope that the current generation of artists are passing on their skills to younger folk. I certainly don't envy your task of choosing winners from those exhibits. Like you say, 0.1% between many of them.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Oh David, I hardly have words! I am wildly impressed by these talented artists (and thank you for recognizing them as such). Their work is magnificent. I'm sure some is 'better' than others, but truly, I would have had such a difficult group of decisions to make. The details are exquisite and I have to admit, you have some remarkable carvers there. Thank you for a wonderful post.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Stunning work by some very talented carvers. Congrats on being chosen as a judge, that's quite the honour.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Fantastic exhibitions David, what a sight.

    ReplyDelete
  25. interesating post. I was not sure where to comment. Thanks for visiting my blog and the waxwing post.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Incredible! What an honor to be chose for this difficult job t -- because you are right they all deserve commendation.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'd choose the Griffon Vulture if I were a judge.........

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hi David - Amazing post - and I'd be totally daunted by the choice ... I'm sure you all selected the right winners - such talent ...

    I don't know if you do talks up at Duncan ... but if so ... let me know please ... and thanks for coming over to comment on my positiveletters blog ... cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i certainly could. All they have to do is invite me! I will be arriving very late on 4 April and leaving dark and early on 13 April.

      Delete
  29. Hello David!:) What an honor to have been asked to judge this quality exhibition, and I certainly appreciate how difficult a task it was to chose winners amongst them. I love them all David, just beautiful all of them! The attention to detail in both the carving, and the creative way they are displayed, combined with the panting skill is remarkable. I called Americo over to share the experience, and we were both in awe of the beautiful craftsmanship of each piece. Lovely post!:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am very happy to hear that you shared with Americo.

      Delete
  30. Wow, there is an amazing array of skill on display, what an experience it must have been to take part as you did!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Lovely carvings!
    The hollow hawk for its originality is my favourite (below the vulture photos) but they all are superb!
    I hope you are both well, abrazos dear friend :)

    ReplyDelete
  32. Bonjour David,

    Tout d'abord merci d'être passé chez moi et de ton gentil commentaire.
    Je viens de lire et regarder ton article, j'ignorai qu'il existe de tels concours. Au début je pensais que tu étais juge pour oiseaux. :-) Ces sculptures sont magnifiques et leurs auteurs de véritables artistes. J'ai plusieurs coups de coeur dans les oiseaux présentés, dont le Vautour fauve en vol, le pic et les hiboux.

    Bonne journée.

    Caroline, Passion Nature

    ReplyDelete
  33. Also this year, the carvings you have shared with us are incredible - so much talent and passion have been needed in creating them.
    Indeed everyone would be happy to have such a sculpture on display, even a tiny one. :)
    Enjoy the arrival of spring!

    ReplyDelete
  34. It is amazing to know that" Carving Championship" is held as an annual event in Canada.
    Interesting to see such various bird works from small ones to big ones, each one is pretty and very creative. Congratulations,David, you are one of the judges!
    Love great carvers and judges!!

    ReplyDelete
  35. I'm sure that your contribution to the judging process was a highly significant one, with your depth of knowledge on 'the real thing', David - but what an honour!. I'm in total awe of the skill of these carvers and painters. There's always an exhibition of decoy carvings at Birdfair here, and I have to be careful each year that I don't ruin them by drooling over them! The UK championships are held in the next county to us, and I keep promising myself that I'll go, but never succeeded in doing so. Must check on dates and put it in the diary this year.

    Currently trying to sort out the multitude of photos I took on the Scillies - strange to say but, because of the bad weather, it was probably our best stay ever.

    My love to you both - - - Richard

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am looking forward to your reports on what turned out to be a grand adventure, Richard. I am sure the Snowy Owl will be your “Bird of the Year.”

      Delete
  36. What an honour! You certainly have the experience and depth of knowledge. And, look at you all polished up in a suit! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The guy in the suit is Dave Jaworsky, the mayor of Waterloo, not me. I don’t even own a suit!

      Delete
    2. Oh, I did think "you" looked rather different all polished up. That it explains. ;-)
      BTW great question on my last post. I replied with a rather long answer and hope that it satisfies a curiosity. I always welcome more questions though. My philosophy is not the norm.

      Delete
    3. I remember asking the question, but I can’t find the post where I made it. Let me know and I will check it out.

      Delete
    4. On Shanghai Restaurant. Link is here: http://theyumlist.net/2018/03/shanghai-restaurant-jw-marriott-kuala-lumpur.html

      Delete
    5. Thanks. I will go and check it out.

      Delete
  37. Hello David,
    Nice to see so many different birds are made with the carvings.
    Nice that you could also judge this, you do a good job.
    Best regards, Irma

    ReplyDelete
  38. Awesome creations ~ what an event ~ thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

    ReplyDelete
  39. Seems wonderful that you had this experience and also learned so much while doing it.
    The carvings are gorgeous and amazing to consider how realistic they look. What a joy to see.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really was wonderful. I enjoyed it immensely.

      Delete
  40. These are simply stunning in every way - I can certainly see why this was such an honor for you! Thanks for sharing these talents with us!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Unas reproducciones fantásticas, me han gustado mucho todas y en especial la del buitre volando y también la del autillo metido en el agujero del tronco. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

    ReplyDelete
  42. My goodness! This art is amazing, these people are real artists and I envy them for that they're able to make such beautiful art. It looks so realistic, even the water looks like real water, unbelievable. I can understand you felt it like an honour to be part of the jury David and I'm sure you had a wonderfull day!
    I think that when I must have been a visitor, all of my money was gone by now ;-).

    Kind regards,
    Marianne

    ReplyDelete
  43. Remarkable skills - I have few bird statues about my house - but they are rather more abstract than these!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    PS; I suspect that coming to Australia and spending any time at a sewage works would be considered a waste by some people!!

    ReplyDelete
  44. I guess birders are the only people who love sewage lagoons! We will look forward to having you guide us around Melbourne’s finest!

    ReplyDelete
  45. WOW!! They are so beautiful these wood carvings! I love them.

    ReplyDelete