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Saturday, 11 May 2019

Jason Lucio - World Champion Wood Carver

     Can you even begin to imagine what it is like to be best in the WORLD at anything? I am not sure that I can wrap my head around that, but at the tender age of fifteen this was true for Jason Lucio. He won the Fraser Award for the best carving in the under sixteen years of age category at the World Championships held in Ocean City, MD, USA.



    When I visited Jason at his home in Bothwell, ON he told me that back then he was a shy young kid, and was intimidated by the fact that he would have to go up onto the stage to accept his award and get used to the attention that followed his success. He has since gone on to have a highly successful career as a wood carver as we will explore in this piece.
     Jason revealed that when he was young his father was a constant source of encouragement and urged him to exploit the talent he was already exhibiting. It seems to me that so many parents instruct their children to get a "real job" and pursue music, or writing, or weaving,....... or wood carving as a hobby. Jason's father saw the joy his son derived from creating works of great beauty, and invested in equipment for him, and encouraged him to try to make his way in life doing what he loved to do most. I have never met Jason's father but he must be a rare man indeed, a visionary and a remarkable parent.
     As proof of a father's faith in his son, Jason has gone on to win "Best in World" twice. That phrase means exactly what it says, best in the entire world, in every category in the competition. 
     Aside from the recognition, the monetary award, and the enhanced commercial desirability of the winning piece, a commemorative ring is issued to the champion carver.




     As Jason points out, he has two daughters and each will ultimately receive one of these rings, unique to world champion carvers.
     Jason has also won second in the world four times and third in the world once - and in recent years has not even competed!
      The wood most favoured by carvers, especially for decorative pieces, is a species of tupelo, a tree most closely associated with the swamp margins and seasonally flooded bottomlands of the southern United States. It is soft and responds well to contouring and fine detail. It is not inexpensive and the block shown below cost approximately $600 in Canadian funds.



       One of the principal dealers in tupelo goes to the World Championships every year and takes customers' orders with him, and Jason was able to arrange with a friend of his to have it brought back in a pickup truck; otherwise there would have been a hefty freight charge in addition to the cost of the wood. 
     For this reason, carvers very carefully plan the best use of their wood, minimizing wastage.  The head of a life-size duck, for example, is often made as a separate piece to avoid the excessive waste that carving from a single piece would entail. Small pieces are always saved for possible future use.



     Jason kindly showed me exactly how he carves and how he contours and burns feathers using a variety of bits, generally starting out with large bits and moving to ever smaller bits as fine detail work is involved.



      It was impressive to watch the confidence with which he "attacks" a piece of wood and how his steady hand and artistic eye produce curves and pleasing lines from a rectilinear block of wood. The transformation occurring before my eyes was remarkable.
      Jason always creates his own plans, and uses skins and taxidermy to help him to get the right "jizz" of the bird, and for colour fidelity. 
      Let us look at just three of Jason's finished works. 
      Firstly, I have little doubt that this Virginia Rail will leave you gasping. Jason has captured the living qualities of the bird so well, that you almost expect it to walk right off the log.



     The colours, are exquisitely rendered, and applied with hand brushes and air brushes; but you are never able to tell which parts have been air brushed, so skillfully is the work completed. Everything about this piece captures the bird in life. 
     Jason is always striving to present his subjects in non stereotypical ways - interesting poses, birds engaged in lifestyle activities, appealing landscape features and subtle nuances. 
     The following two pieces show us the chain of events in the natural world in all its heart-stopping drama. This is the raw stuff of daily survival, brutal in its own way, yet revealed here as the wonderful primal force that is at the core of much of our love of and respect for nature in all its guises.



      
     The American Kestrel perched on a rocky outcrop has captured a rodent and even the indent of the talons of the bird are shown. It is in every way a gripping portrayal of the role of predator and prey, on an incredibly interesting substrate, which in itself contributes immeasurably to the portrayal of the bird. I find this a very compelling work indeed.
     It must be remembered that the artist has to create every component of the work and Jason recounted to me a humorous anecdote about how he came up with the material for the whiskers on the mouse. He had tried the bristles of brooms and brushes, and other strands he was able to locate, but nothing quite worked. At the time he had a Black Labrador dog who was sitting at his feet while he worked. Jason glanced down and saw the solution to his dilemma. A little of the dog's whiskers fit the bill perfectly!
     The portrayal of a Sharp-shinned Hawk below was for me the most fabulous piece in a series of nothing but fabulous pieces. 



      How one arrives at a "favourite" work I am not quite sure, but this magnificent oeuvre did it for me. I swear that if I turned and looked at something else and then came back to the hawk I could have been convinced that a Sharp-shin had just flown into the room.
     Every single component of this work conveys perfection and I found it particularly appropriate that Jason had used a Red-breasted Nuthatch to convey the predator/prey relationship of life in the wild. I am often struck that if a prey animal is something generally reviled by people, a snake for example, there is approval for the action of the captor, but disapprobation if it is delicate and pretty.  A raptor seeking food, however,  makes no distinction between cute and not cute, and a nuthatch is fair game, and it illustrates the point that life in the wild is a constant struggle for survival.
     Jason's works are in demand the world over and routinely sell for thousands of dollars.
     In addition to his decorative carvings, Jason creates gunning decoys such as those shown in his hands in the first picture above, and also he is the artist behind a whole range of commercial decoys sold in sporting goods stores.
     A plan is created and Jason produces the bird in wood. This is then sent away to have a resin mould made. That mould is then sent to China, both  unpainted and painted (to show exactly how the finished product should look), where the decoy is mass produced and shipped back to North America for retail sales.



     These decoys are created in a whole range of natural postures and are clearly superior to the run of the mill stereotypical dross so often seen.
     Jason is also in demand as a teacher and has conducted classes as far away as Victoria, British Columbia and Calgary, Alberta.
     I urge you to check out Jason's website at http://www.jasonlucioart.com/  and his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/JasonLucioArt.
     Let me make a final point about the fine art of wood carving - and make no mistake, that is what it is - when you acquire a piece it is absolutely unique and there can never be any reproduction of it. I own quite a few high quality original paintings, but with today's techniques to produce a set of numbered prints, supervised by the artist to ensure technical and visual integrity, and signed by the artist, the original and the prints can become virtually indistinguishable. A facsimile of one of Jason's carvings will never greet you in somebody else's home. It is a one and only every time.
    And so I present to you this amazing artist, creator of an art form I have come to admire so much in recent years. a master at everything he does, a maestro in every way. But above all a kind and gentle man, a person who gave freely of his time to me, welcomed me into his home, and shared his creative passion with me. Thank you, Jason. I am forever in your debt. 


54 comments:

  1. The is so amazing! One of my sons has done some carving and I have a bird he made. It's a work of art...and of love! (his hands show the scars) Thanks for sharing this story.

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    1. There can be little more precious than to have it made by your son.

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  2. Wow, wow and wow.
    I am so impressed that Jason's father encouraged him to follow his heart - and that with a lot of dedication and hard work his dreams became reality.

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  3. Hari OM
    David, as a child who was encouraged to 'keep my hobbies to myself', I appreciate your comment on the excellent parenting experienced by Jason! What a talent - astounding! YAM xx

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  4. Hi David.

    Wonderful what they can all make.

    Greeting from Patricia.

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  5. A gifted young man indeed and his father certainly was on the right path with his son.
    Pity more father's are not like Jason's dad.
    Jason's work is amazing to me.

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  6. ¡¡Magnifico profesional!! ¡¡Excelente trabajo!! Y una muy bonita y enternecedora historia que a buen seguro sus padres se sienten muy orgullosos de su hijo. No cabe duda que cuando surge el talento y se trabaja todo ese esfuerzo se ve materializado en una gran obra al unisono. Gracias por compartir amigo David esta extraordinaria y grata experiencia.
    Recibe un caluroso abrazo de tu siempre amigo alicantino Juan.

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  7. These are exceptional pieces of work. What a talent. The Virginia Rail looks so life like in its pose. The attention to detail is spot on.

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  8. Impossible to choose, they look so lifelike. I am more than a little impressed. Thanks for sharing, Diane

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  9. Hi David,
    It is fascinating to see what kind of skills people can develop. It is simply amazing what this guy produces.
    Greetings, Kees

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  10. Jason was very fortunate to have a dad who encouraged him with his craft. Life is too short to be doing things we are not passionate about. We enjoy the tupelo trees in the bottomlands at a local National Park. They are stunning and it is interesting to see that one can create such beauty from those trees. This work is amazing! It must take hours to create all that texture in each bird.

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  11. Hi David - well Lucio's father had the right idea in encouraging his passion. Lucio has made his parents very proud. An incredible achievement to be awarded best in the world twice ... and gosh they look such superb carvings ... I'm so pleased you've been fortunate enough to have a few at your home. Brilliant - thanks for the update on Lucio - cheers Hilary

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  12. That is an amazing feat. And he is extremely talented. I love the views of his workshop the best though. All that wood. I think he can have a lot of fun!

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  13. Amazing work. I was closely watching a Water Rail this very morning and I swear that it was moving with exactly the same stealth and alertness exhibited by the Virginia Rail carving. Ans as for the falcon and the hawk, I'm sure you could pose either among some suitable vegetation and fool many a practiced eye.

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  14. Impresionante el arte que tiene, sus trabajos son hermosos y con todos los detalles de las aves, no me extraña que gane premios, además se le ve muy satisfecho con lo que hace.
    Un abrazo.

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  15. Vilken underbar berättelse om en begåvad konstnär, jag förstår att du är imponerad!
    Naturen är grym sett ur ett mänskligt perspektiv och du har så rätt, visst kan det vara svårare att se ett "gulligt" (cute) byte förlora sitt liv än något levande som betraktas som mer eller mindre önskvärt. Jag har nog också varit sådan, kanske är det mera kvinnligt, men idag känner jag för allt levande, medveten om att allt och alla vill försvara det enda de har, sitt liv.

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  16. I admire the talent of this sculptor. He creates real works of art.
    Greetings

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  17. Un trabajo maravilloso, me ha encantado. Besitos.

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  18. Hi Both,
    What an amazing talent, I am always so envious to see what people like Jason can produce.
    Where as I should not be trusted to carve the joint.
    All the best, John

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    1. As long as you have carved out a niche for yourself in life, John!

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  19. An amazing talent and such beautiful work.

    All the best Jan

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  20. Wow. That is a remarkable skill. I can't even manage to be best in our house at table-tennis all of the time!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. But I know from personal experience that you are a pretty good father!

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  21. Wow, what a talented young man! The birds and ducks look so lifelike, it's amazing!

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    1. From my perspective, it is the very fact that Jason makes the birds so lifelike that is the hallmark of his work. Sometimes you see carvings that are technically correct but flat and lifeless and they have nowhere near the appeal of Jason's work. How Jason achieves that is for him to know and us to wonder!

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  22. What incredible talent. Thanks for sharing Jason's Facebook page. It adds just so much to this story.

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  23. It never fails to amaze me to see the talent and skill people like Jason have, the work is stunning!

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  24. Hello, Congrats to your friend Jason. The "Best in the world" that is an awesome title. I love all the carvings, they are beautiful works of art. Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy new week!

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  25. WoW!! amazing work, the birds/ducks look so real, that must take amazing talent and attention to detail!! and to be the best, in the entire world, how thrilling for him!! i appreciate what you said in the last 2 paragraphs, those facts are important to understand!!

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  26. Your friend Jason is a talented artist. He is very creative and has a great imagination. I love all the carvings he did! Birds, ducks look so beautiful!

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  27. Wow, these are real works of art, all beautifully made.
    A well-deserved first prize for Jason.
    Greetings Tinie

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  28. Wow! Amazing work, the carvings look so real. It's nice when you have parents who encourage you like Jason's did. I love his work!

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  29. They are incredible! He surely is the best.

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  30. Another great article David!!

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  31. I really appreciate this post. What a remarkable artist Jason is. And I loved the peek into his studio. He truly has a great gift for capturing birds with such remarkable detail. He deserves every bit of praise and each award he has received and I suspect there will be many more for him to accept in the future.

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  32. Thank you, David. Best in the world - what an amazing achievement.
    This is a marvelous post. The guy is a genius at truly "seeing"
    One of the hardest of all things to do.
    After that his hands can work their magic. Words fail me.
    Totally made my day.

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    1. From one artist to another - a fine compliment, Julie. I know that Jason will appreciate it.

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  33. A real winner! Fantastic wood carvings of these beautiful birds!
    Congrets to him! And a great article, David!
    Regards,
    Maria

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  34. Wat is dat mooi. Zeer getalenteerd!

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  35. What a talented artist and beautiful creations. My dad was a wood carver. Nothing compared to Mr Lucio but he gave me an appreciation for woodcarvers and a love for the medium.

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  36. David - you are right that kids are often discouraged from pursuing their dreams and talents. It is usually well-intentioned, but a shame nonetheless. Thank goodness that didn't happen with this gentleman. Thanks for sharing his story. Inspiring!

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    1. It would have been a tragedy to have in any way stifled Jason's talent.

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  37. I'm totally in awe of Jason's wonderful artistic and technical talents, David. Many a time I have gazed at delightful wood carvings of birds and coveted them, but the price has held me back. This is not through any doubts about value for money, but because of lack of funds! In the case of Jason's work, I couldn't even dream of owning a piece.

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    1. Yep, they are out of my range too, but they are worth every penny. At least I got to admire them.

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  38. Hello friend David,
    If Jason has made these ducks then he is really very good :-) I read that his father has always encouraged him. Jason's father was already a wise man at the time because he saw what made his son happy :-)
    Jason is also a great artist. His creations of the wooden birds and birds of prey are very cleverly made. Compliments for Jason.
    And thank you for sharing David xx

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  39. I've always enjoyed the words of the wire-walker, Philippe Petit: "When I see three balls, I have to juggle, and when I see a wire, I have to walk." I suspect there's been a bit of that dynamic for Jason -- when he sees a hunk of wood, he has to carve. It's that inner compulsion to create, and his willingness to refine his tools, that has taken him so far. The difference you mentioned above about the difference between technical proficiency and artistry is so true -- in every art, I suspect.

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    1. You are artist yourself, Linda - with words.

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    2. You're extraordinarily kind, David. Thank you.

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