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Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Wayne Simkin - Two-time World Champion Wood Carver

     It has once again been my great pleasure to interview a Canadian world champion wood carver. Having now interviewed three carvers, I am struck by the difference in their personalities, but their passion for their chosen art  resonates equally. Make no mistake, these are artists of the finest order, united by a desire for excellence and a love of the subjects they carve.
     I would like you all to meet Wayne Simkin.



     Wayne welcomed me into his home near Waverley, ON, not far from the historic regions of Midland and Penetanguishene, where early French Canadian martyrs met their fate, and evidence of Huron occupancy abounds.
     It is fitting in a way for Wayne to reside in such an area, for he spent part of his earlier life living in the northern settlement of Moosonee, among the James Bay Cree and for several years organized caribou hunts and fishing expeditions for lake trout in northern Québec, ably assisted by the indigenous people of that territory. In fact there were remote regions where Wayne may well have been the first white man to visit.
     Wayne's introduction to carving occurred in the mid nineteen-seventies when he was still a boy of twelve or thirteen. He started to produce working decoys with his father, and quickly displayed a rare talent for creativity and an appreciation of form and function. His moment of epiphany came when he entered some of his work into the annual Sportsmen's Show in Toronto and won thirteen ribbons for twelve birds, a remarkable achievement. This validated his oeuvre and convinced him that he had what it took to pursue carving in a serious way.
     And speaking of ribbons, and plaques, and awards, this is just part of Wayne's "wall of honour."



     How few of us will ever be able to display a ribbon that says World Champion?



        Here is a White-winged Scoter, exquisitely rendered, for which Wayne was awarded Best in Show at the Canadian National Championship in 2015.


   
     Just ponder for a moment that this gob-smacking work of art started out as a block of wood, a hunk of tupelo from a bottomland swamp in the southern United States. The lifelike qualities are stunning; the nuance, the shading, the angle of the head, the detail on the feathers, the elegance of the painting are all the unmistakable hallmarks of a maestro. 
     Wayne went on to enter this piece in the Master Class at the World Championships where it won second place.
     In 2017 this delicate rendition of a Canada Goose at the nest garnered Best in Show for Wayne in the 2017 Canadian National Championship; ironically exactly twenty-five years after he had first won such an award.



     Wayne told me that he was mentored in his early years by Al Glassford, a renowned figure in the world of Canadian carvers, and was always encouraged to develop his own style and not follow that of others. Al promoted individuality. Wayne feels that this was perhaps the most important piece of advice he received, and he has always striven to interpret a bird in the way that he sees it, and not to emulate the successful renditions of others.  While his style may not be instantly recognizable to the casual observer, Wayne knows that it is identifiable at a glance to other carvers.
     In 2010 Wayne was world champion with a pair of Steller's Eiders and in 2013 with a pair of Canvasbacks. Both works were sold before the end of the show so I have no pictures to show you!
     Wayne does most of his work with power tools but still has a set of knives and chisels which he uses also.



     Some time ago Wayne and his wife attended a presentation on the wildlife of Antarctica and his wife fell in love with penguins. I suspect that when you have a husband who can produce what your heart desires, a one of a kind carving is not too much to ask for. And this is what Wayne is working on now - a Rockhopper Penguin if I am not mistaken.




     When I saw this Cackling Goose on the mantle I fell in love with it, but apparently Wayne's wife did too, and this is another piece that will not be for sale!



     We took the birds outside for a little better light and you can see from my very poor picture why I generally leave the photography to Miriam! I did not do well in the bright sunlight and I should have photographed from other angles too. I apologize to Wayne for not displaying his work in a better way.
     This carving was entered into competition and was featured on the front cover of an important trade magazine, and was the subject of an article inside.



     It is ironic that Wayne had no idea that his work was being covered in this way, and was alerted to it by friends who casually advised him to "check the latest issue." Needless to say, Wayne was very pleased with this honour.
     The pair of Ruddy Ducks featured below were scintillating in their lifelike appearance and I regret that once again my photographs do not do them justice.




     For many years Wayne used acrylic paints but has switched to oil. He feels he obtains a much softer look with oil and the delicacy of the plumage is enhanced.
     Although Wayne devotes most of his time to decorative art these days, his roots in working decoys are still a part of his life and he and his father enjoy time in the outdoors together.



     As many of you will recall a world championship ring is one of the rewards of winning at the highest level.



     You will see at the left where a diamond has been added to mark Wayne's second world championship and I asked whether another diamond would be added if he wins again. With a wry smile and an instant riposte, Wayne said, "It is not "if," it is "when," David." And I am sure that no truer statement could be made.
     Thank you Wayne for permitting me to enjoy your company and learn a little more about the wonderful art you portray so well. I will look forward to seeing you at next year's Canadian championships. 

58 comments:

  1. talented...
    ducks look so perfect....look like real...

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  2. The medal wall is proof of talent appreciation.

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  3. Tack för ett intressant inlägg David. En fascinerande konstart som jag aldrig kommit i beröring med tidigare innan jag började läsa din blogg. Det är nog svårt att föreställa sig hur mycket jobb det är bakom en sådan skapelse, vackert är det och jag antar att du har några konstverk hemma.
    Inget fel på dina bilder!

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    1. I am very happy that I was able to introduce you to this wonderful art form, Gunilla. You are right, I do have a few pieces at home, but not quite of this calibre! The work of artists like Wayne is at the very pinnacle.

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  4. Que grandiosos trabajos amigo David, ha sido una maravilla poder contemplar semejantes obras de arte talladas por la mano del genial maestro artesano Wayne, todo un espectáculo para los sentidos. Gracias por mostrarnos semejante belleza.
    Un fuerte abrazo querido compadre y amigo David

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  5. I love hearing about specialty artisans starting at such a young age and becoming so successful with their work. That is a lot of awards Wayne has earned! The feathers and textures he creates are truly amazing. So life-like. I am sure that penguin is going to be forever cherished by his wife.

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  6. Hari OM
    Another profile of wonderful talent - thanks David! YAM xx

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  7. What a talented gentleman and it is fun to read about the life of artists .

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  8. No me extraña que sea el campeón, su trabajo es realmente impresionante. Un fuerte abrazo desde España, amigo David.

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  9. They are so beautiful, David! Wonderful art, and they are made from a very talented man.

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  10. A great man, a sculpturer by trade.

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  11. Awe and wonder.
    Huge thanks for the introduction to the man, and some of his art.
    And rockhoppers are enchanting birds.

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  12. Wayne, you were always a master carver, all the way back in RHHS. I'm so excited to see how your passion and the recognition of your talent has grown and that you continue to bring such beautiful pieces of art into the world. Congratulations…you should really share this with Christine Smith!!! I have her email if you'd like it.
    Lesley-Anne Evans (Lesley Clements)

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  13. And he doesn't mention that you actually are mentoring others at this point, and sharing some of the wisdom and tricks of the trade!

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    1. I don't usually post "unknown" comments, but will make an exception since it appears that you know Wayne. Why are you reluctant to use your name?

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  14. You're so lucky you get to meet these wonderful artists. It's even better that you not only see their work but talk to them also. I wonder how their work compares or contrasts in style, size, and other details.

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  15. What talent! No one I know of can take a hunk of wood, and over time, turn it into a masterpiece.

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  16. David - another fascinating profile of a master carver. Intrigued from start to finish! I suppose it is not a coincidence that these folks start young!

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  17. Amazing craftsmanship. Thanks for introducing me to someone that, without the internet, would have been completely unknown to me.

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  18. Well done Wayne nice article about you

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  19. Seeing pieces so well made like this always stuns me at how skillful people can be, it's such a wonderful talent he has!

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  20. Hello,

    Great interview and post! The carvings are beautiful, Wayne is very talented. Happy birding, enjoy your day!

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  21. Wayne is a good friend of ours! Very creative, and a top notch Carver. So humble too!

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  22. it is nice to read about these carvers...and to see their work up close. seeing the ducks outdoors certainly displayed a lot more of the details and beauty!! it is nice to see that he has been recognized so often for his great efforts and beautiful work!!!

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  23. Hi David.

    Beautiful wood carving what this man makes.
    Great to see this.

    Greeting from Patricia.

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  24. This artist is a very talented! His birds are so alive, so beautiful. There is a lot of patience involved in the wood carving to create all the details.

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  25. I love when you talk to the artists. Wayne is indeed gifted in his art or craft. I admire those who can create a lifelike form from a solid block. His work is exquisite. Thanks for sharing this.

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  26. My compliments to this artist. It is not only the carving but painting the carved birds is something else! Stunning!
    Regards,
    Roos

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    1. I can tell you, Roos, that the painting takes my breath away.

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  27. Great interview with this talented wood carver. His work is beautiful to see. Thank you for sharing Wayne's story with us.

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  28. Wow, a top artist in every respect, his work is outstanding and so lifelike. Very impressive. Hope all is well Diane

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  29. Hi David,
    You certainly have some plum visits, what a talent Wayne displays in his work, as Roos says once they have carved the subject, they have then got to paint them and they have to be a top class artist as well as a carver.
    I'm afraid they leave me in awe of the talent they display, the nearest I get to carving is sharpening a pencil, and i'm not very good at that.
    Wonderful post to read and study.
    All the best,
    John

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  30. Gobsmacked AGAIN! Your posts are a pleasure to visit and contemplate. This one is another winner - inspiring any artist to stick with what they love and be the best they can be. Thank you David.

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  31. Hi David,
    It is amazing how well woodcarvers are able to make works of art of wildlife that look so natural.
    Greetings, Kees

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  32. Hi David,
    these birds look amazingly real. That's superb craftmanship.
    That sure justifies a world champion.

    Best regards, Corrie

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  33. Simplemente maravilloso. Besos.

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  34. Judging by your pictures, Wayne is handsome and has great carving talent. God loves him.

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  35. That is some exquisite artwork! I am impressed about this craftmanship. Well deserved World Champion.

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  36. What a talent.
    I enjoyed your post and meeting Wayne.

    All the best Jan

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  37. Hi David. We can all agree, Wayne has an immense and special talent. This is the kind of art and craftsmanship that can only be appreciated in full by close inspection rather than as you say, photographs. Nevertheless I can see for instance the phenomenal examples of the Ruddy Ducks - truly remarkable.

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  38. How amazing! Love seeing the tiny details when you take close ups! They are all so beautiful and so much work! What a talent!

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  39. Wow, what a talented artist. The ducks look so life like, it's amazing!! Congratulations to Wayne.

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  40. Such a talented man, beautiful carvings.

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  41. His work is so realistic! Great talent!!

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  42. Well done. The Canada goose is really remarkable!

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  43. Fantastic work.. A big artist.. Cheers

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  44. Hello David,
    I am really impressed with this woodworker!
    He makes beautiful animals and they also seem to be real.
    Great that you have interviewed this artist, Tell him that I find his work very special and incredibly beautiful.

    Kind regards, Helma XO

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  45. Of course all of his carvings are beautiful, but my favorite photo is the one showing the penguin. When it comes to art -- or much else in life -- the process can be as compelling as the final product, and seeing that little penguin emerge from the wood is fascinating. It brings to mind the words of Michelangelo: "Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it." Or wood, obviously.

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    1. The process is very compelling, Linda. When I was still working, I acquired over several years quite a few original works by Barry Kent MacKay, a well known Canadian wildlife artist, and one of the joys of visiting Barry was to have him explain in great detail his original vision for the work, and the way he created it. Obviously, I was not there while he did it, but I appreciated it in the telling. My walls are festooned with his work. I would love to add one of Wayne's carvings, but now that I have retired and no longer have a regular pay cheque, the price is more than I can afford - or justify! My wife would be the first to tell you that I would gladly spend thousands of dollars on a piece of art, yet whine like a baby if I have to spend money to fix the roof!

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    2. I took the time to look at Mr. MacKay's paintings, and they are beautiful. It was impossible to choose a favorite in this gallery, although the coot and loon did hold special appeal. If nothing else, you'd best keep that roof in good repair to protect your paintings!

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  46. Hi David - how honoured I am to be introduced to Wayne ... these champion carvers are so so clever and creative - he's obviously humble too ... not following his own trail in the woodworkers world. Quite wonderful and I love that you can add to the meeting eg about Barry Kent MacKay, Wayne's diamond is awaiting him ... perhaps for a penguin this time ... cheers Hilary

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