'Five Wolves' (Finished) by Shane Wilson

LINK: Gallery Images

Here are the Five Wolves, mounted and ready for display.

'Five Wolves' by Shane Wilson, 2011 (carved moose antler sculpture)
'Five Wolves' by Shane Wilson, 2011 (carved moose antler sculptures)

'Wolf 1' by Shane Wilson, 2011 (carved moose antler sculpture)
'Wolf 1' by Shane Wilson, 2011 (carved moose antler sculpture on oak base)

'Wolf 2' by Shane Wilson, 2011 (carved moose antler sculpture)
'Wolf 2' by Shane Wilson, 2011 (carved moose antler sculpture on padouk base)

'Wolf 3' by Shane Wilson, 2011 (carved moose antler sculpture)
'Wolf 3' by Shane Wilson, 2011 (carved moose antler sculpture on walnut base)

'Wolf 4' by Shane Wilson, 2011 (carved moose antler sculpture)
'Wolf 4 by Shane Wilson, 2011 (carved moose antler sculpture on walnut base)

'Wolf 5' by Shane Wilson, 2011 (carved moose antler sculpture)
'Wolf 5' by Shane Wilson, 2011 (carved moose antler sculpture on walnut base)


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'Five Wolves' (Bases) by Shane Wilson

Here are some of the images from the creation of the bases for the Five Wolves.

I chose three different woods, walnut, padouk and oak for their natural colour matches with the undertones of the individual moose antlers used in the carving of these sculptures.

Three of the bases will be wall mounted and two will be stand-alone.

Over the years, I have tried different methods for attaching the antler to the base, and have found the least destructive to the antler over the long term, to be rare earth magnets. The second least destructive method is to glue the antler to the base without screws using a polyurethane (Gorilla Glue) or white glue (Weldbond). Often I will use a combination of the two methods.


Wolf 2, padouk base, showing magnet

Wolf 2 (above) is mounted on a free form padouk base, using a 1.25" rare earth magnet, counter sunk into the base. When using magnets, the best adhesion is gained when the magnet is backed with a metal jacket (Lee Valley sells the complete set) and is set against a similarly sized washer attached to the mated piece. In this case, the washer is attached to the bottom of the antler with a short, wide threaded screw in a pre-drilled hole and secured with Gorilla Glue.

This same method was used for Wolf 5 (seen in next two images), and on Wolf 1 (below). Note with Wolf 1, I used three 5/8" magnet/washer sets.

Wolves 1 and 5 shown with washers glued in place.

Wolf 5, mahogany base, showing magnet.

When the antler is too thin to take a screw, the washer can be adhered with the Gorilla Glue and then clamped until set (See Wolf 3, below). When using Gorilla Glue, remember to apply it sparingly to the antler, then moisten the washer before bringing the two together.

Wolf 3, washer on back and base with rare earth magnet.

In the case of Wolf 4 (below), I felt the carving was too delicate to take the force needed to separate the rare earth magnet from the washer, and so opted to glue it directly to the base.

I used the Gorilla Glue along the back of the wolf in order to fill in some of the small gaps between the irregular surface of the antler and the custom support. On the second contact point, which was sanded flush along the lower edge of the shield-like element, I used Weldbond, then clamped the antler to the wood until dry.


Wolf 4, shown clamped and glued to mahogany base.

Going backwards in time, you can see the five bases and Wolf 2 (below) after the planing, cutting and routering were complete.

Wolf 2 shown with all five bases.

The shop after the bases were completed (below). Note the Delta planer (left) the DeWalt router and table (against the back left corner wall), the Steel City bandsaw, Mastercraft drill press and, in partial view, the General edge sander - reliable tools all!

Shane Wilson's wood shop and tools.


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 1 - Phase 12) by Shane Wilson

Wolf 1 completely carved. Now onto the bases for all five wolves and then off to the photographer!

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 1 - Phase 12) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 1 - Phase 12 - left) by Shane Wilson


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 1 - Phase 8-11) by Shane Wilson

The phases in which Wolf 1 was brought to the cusp of completion went very smoothly.

Most of the tough decisions about placement of the various planes of the wolf's body in space were made in the initial phases and so these phases were more about detailing of fur and limbs.

I wanted to create a feeling of movement and variation in the fur, to give a sense of depth and allow the eye to travel freely between head and tail along the entire surface of the wolf.

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 1 - Phase 11) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 1 - Phase 10) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 1 - Phase 9) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 1 - Phase 8) by Shane Wilson


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 12) by Shane Wilson

Wolf 2 completely carved.

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 12 - close) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 12 - left) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 12) by Shane Wilson


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 8-11) by Shane Wilson

Wolf 2 represented a challenge of its own - the face is partially turned away from the viewer, resulting in a 3/4 view. This is always a challenge when carving high relief, since the natural inclination is to 'correct' the perspective and carve the face full on, as if it were sculpted in the round.

The secret to carving the 3/4 face is to rely on the reference image completely, to trust it as a pilot trusts her instruments when there is no visibility. What seems right to the pilot in low visibility is not - if the instruments are disregarded the pilot's 'corrections' will often put the plane into a spiral. Likewise, what seems right to the carver is not - if the reference image or drawing is disregarded, the sculpture will end up looking wrong.

The key is to observe the larger planes (pun not intended) on both sides of the face. They are shaped differently. Because the mind thinks they should be proportional, it tends to adjust. Don't do it. Try to keep the shapes intact. If in doubt, measure both the shapes and the distances (eg. eye to cheek) to get them right.

Also, remember that as you carve into the antler, the planes, shapes and edges will need to be checked and adjusted. Happy carving!

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 11) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 10) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 9) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 8) by Shane Wilson


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 12) by Shane Wilson

Wolf 3 completely carved.

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 12 - close) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 12 - left view) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 12) by Shane Wilson


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 8-11) by Shane Wilson

Wolf 3 was challenging, to say the least. It is carved almost completely from the inner, softer and more porous antler. Detail and depth, the subtle shaping of bone, muscle and hair - all become exponentially more difficult and time consuming as there is little room for error.

When working from a reference photograph, such as this, it is necessary to determine where the animal 'lies' in 3D space. This becomes more difficult when the photograph is taken using a telephoto lens, since the effect is to compress the subject.

After studying dozens of other photographs of wolves in various states of repose, and reviewing wolf anatomy, I was able to locate the major landmarks (hip, knee, shoulder blade, vertebrae) in order to properly orient this wolf in the antler.

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 11) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 10) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 9) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 8) by Shane Wilson


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 12) by Shane Wilson

Wolf 4 completely carved.

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 12 - close) by Shane Wilson



'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 12 - left) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 12 - right) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 12) by Shane Wilson


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 8-11) by Shane Wilson

The various stages of laying in the hair patterns and sculpting the whole to create the illusion of three dimensionality. Note the soft inner section causes a banding across the wolf's back and a need for extreme caution during the carving process, since this material is extremely delicate.

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 11) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 10) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 9) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 8) by Shane Wilson


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 12) by Shane Wilson

After working on Wolf 4 for a week (in progress images and notes to follow), I returned to Wolf 5 to finish up the details.

While doing so, I realized that photographing the sculpture from up close was distorting the illusion I am creating for this piece, since the relief was designed to provide the greatest verisimilitude when the work is viewed from a moderate distance, sitting on table or shelf.

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 12) by Shane Wilson
This image was taken from a distance of about six feet (two meters) with a moderately zoomed telephoto lens under ambient florescent light (never the most flattering).


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 8-11) by Shane Wilson

Back to Wolf 5. The bulk of the carving is done now, save some detailing of fur on the legs and refining some of the transitions between fur zones or planes.

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 11-close up) by Shane Wilson
I have included two images taken from the left and right side of the wolf (below), so that you can see the curve of the antler and the effect of the relief carving.

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 11 - right view) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 11 - left view) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 11) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 10) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 9) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 8) by Shane Wilson
I'll continue by working through each of the remaining four wolves to a completion point, then effect the last minute adjustments and touches before creating the bases.


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 1 - Phase 2-7) by Shane Wilson

This is Wolf 1. The following images show the progress from the outlining stage (bottom), right up to the completion of the basic shaping of the major planes with some face detail (top).

This one was difficult for a couple of reasons. It took a little while to get my own head around the fact that the wolf's head is upside down, so gravity acts on the facial skin and muscles differently. Also, the wolf's head is also partially buried in the pillow of snow, pushing the plane within the antler upon which it is carved back into the middle soft, sponge-toffee like layer, where the creation of detail is much more difficult.

Time now to move onto the final detailing and mounting phase for each of the wolves.

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 7) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 2-7) by Shane Wilson

This is Wolf 2. The following images show the progress from the outlining stage (bottom), right up to the completion of the basic shaping of the major planes with some face detail (top).

There is plenty still to do, but I'm going to put this wolf aside for now while I bring the last wolf up to the same level of completion.

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 7) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 2 - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 2-7) by Shane Wilson

This is Wolf 3. The following images show the progress from the outlining stage (bottom), right up to the completion of the basic shaping of the major planes with some face detail (top).

There is plenty still to do, but I'm going to put this wolf aside for now while I bring the next wolf up to the same level of completion.

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 7) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 3 - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 2-7) by Shane Wilson

This is Wolf 4. The following images show the progress from the outlining stage (bottom), right up to the completion of the basic shaping of the major planes with some face detail (top).

There is plenty still to do, but I'm going to put this wolf aside for now while I bring the next wolf up to the same level of completion.

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 7) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 4 - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson


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'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 2-7) by Shane Wilson

I have been working on Wolf 5 for the past couple of weeks. The following images show the progress from the outlining stage (bottom), right up to the completion of the basic shaping of the major planes with some face detail (top).

There is plenty still to do, but I'm going to put this wolf aside for now while I bring the next wolf up to the same level of completion.

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 7) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves' (Wolf 5 - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson


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'Five Wolves' (Phase 1) by Shane Wilson

Using a scroll saw, I have cut the rough blanks for each of the five wolf sculptures from moose antler.

'Five Wolves' (cutting moose antler blank) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves - One' (cutting moose antler blank) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves - Two' (cutting moose antler blank) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves - Three' (cutting moose antler blank) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves - Four' (cutting moose antler blank) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves - Five' (cutting moose antler blank) by Shane Wilson


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'Five Wolves' (Beginning) by Shane Wilson

I have been asked to create five smaller moose antler sculptures for the Arts On Atlantic Gallery in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. This group will feature five wolves in various poses.

Thinking of Christmas ...

'Five Wolves - One' (choosing image and antler) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves - Two' (choosing image and antler) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves - Three' (choosing image and antler) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves - Four' (choosing image and antler) by Shane Wilson

'Five Wolves - Five' (choosing image and antler) by Shane Wilson



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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 27) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have sharpened up the outlines around the roosting short eared owls.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 27a - by Shane Wilson
I have also worked more on the short eared owl nest, cleaning up the lines and defining the intersecting planes.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 27b - by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 26) by Shane Wilson

I have decided to do a little grunt work on the major planes, outlines and borders, as well as some refining of the eggs in the short eared owl nest.

The eggs in the foreground are created in relatively high relief compared to the eggs closer to the brooding owl, which are carved in lower relief.

Lighting will be key in the final display of this sculpture.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 26 - by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 25) by Shane Wilson

I have been playing with various arrangements the feather structure on the breast and head of the upper, large short-eared owl on the left moose antler. I hope to create a more naturalistic appearance for the feathers as a base for the abstract 'colour' elements, which will be added later.

The breast feathers will be carved in relief, with intersecting instead of overlapping border planes in order to capture something of the smooth shadows typical of owl plumage.


'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 25 - by Shane Wilson


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'Silvi-Skullpture Series - Wolf, Pine Beetle Track, 2011' by Shane Wilson (complete)

LINK: Gallery Images

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Wolf, Beetle Tracks' by Shane Wilson


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'Silvi-Skullpture Series - Black Bear Birch, 2011' by Shane Wilson (complete)

LINK: Gallery Images

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Black Bear Birch' by Shane Wilson


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'Silvi-Skullpture Series - Black Bear Oak, 2011' by Shane Wilson (complete)

LINK: Gallery Images

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Black Bear, Oak' by Shane Wilson


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'Silvi-Skullpture Series 2011' - Wax

After the bronzes are coated with a few thin layers of lacquer, they are waxed and buffed with Trewax. This picture shows the bronzes after the wax has been applied and dried, but before the buffing and brushing, which will reveal the finished Skullptures!

Bronzes waxed following patina sealed by lacquer


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'Silvi-Skullpture Series 2011' - Laquer

The laquer is applied over the patina to seal and protect the effect.

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Wolf, Beetle Tracks' by Shane Wilson, lacquer applied


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'Silvi-Skullpture Series 2011' - Patina Complete

The ferric nitrate - bismuth nitrate patina combination has been applied to the bronzes, creating a range of brownish orange colours. The patination process is complete. The powdery surface will darken and clarify when lacquer is applied as a sealant.

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Black Bear, Birch Bark' by Shane Wilson, patina complete

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Black Bear, Oak' by Shane Wilson, patina complete


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'Silvi-Skullpture Series 2011' - Patina Base - Birchwood Casey

The first step in the application of the patina is the cold treatment of the bronze with a 50% solution of Birchwood Casey (a gun bluing compound suitable for use on silicon bronze.) After the Birchwood Casey has been applied cold, it is rinsed off after a short period, then the bronze is heated. The silver nitrate patina will be applied over this layer.

Birchwood Casey applied, rinsed and heated on bronzes prior to application of patinas.
Note that the two black bear bronzes were not treated completely with the Birchwood Casey. The orange-brown ferric nitrate based patina does not require it for the base coat.


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'Silvi-Skullpture Series 2011' - Highlight Sanding

The bronzes after sandblasting and then one more fine sanding to expose the highlights which will be treated with a silver nitrate patina.

Highlights sanded on bronze sculpture after sandblasting.


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'Silvi-Skullpture Series 2011' - Bronzes Sandblasted

The sandblasting facility located at a local establishment called Share Cost. The experience was a bit like walking on the moon when I crossed through that tarp, what with the accumulation of sand from previous blasters ...

Share-Cost SandBlast Booth
The bronze ready to be sandblasted to remove any debris and oxidization prior to applying the patina.

Bronze ready for sandblasting as a preparation for patination.


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'Silvi-Skullpture Series 2011' - Bronzes Chased and Sanded

The bronzes have been chased to remove the remaining bits of sprues left over from the casting process and to refine the designs.

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Wolf, Pine Beetle Track' by Shane Wilson, bronze chased

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Black Bear, Oak' by Shane Wilson, bronze chased

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Black Bear, Birch' by Shane Wilson, bronze chased


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 24) by Shane Wilson

The short eared owl has been further refined. I'll leave it at this stage and move on to the next owl, returning later on to unify the design elements on all of the owls on this side.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 24b - by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 24b - by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 23) by Shane Wilson

The major planes are more clearly established. Some of the feather lines are sketched in to facilitate further refining work.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 23 - by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 22) by Shane Wilson

The roughing out proceeds ...

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 22 - by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 21) by Shane Wilson

The major planes are more completely established and smoothed out, in order to take the detail required to further complete the roughing out process.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 21 - by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 20) by Shane Wilson

A slightly concave, otherwise flattish surface begins the transformation into a convex 3-D relief representation of an owl. This is the messy phase, when it is easy to lose one's bearings. To avoid this, I am using the red pencil crayon to provide a sense of direction to the various planes that will make up this 3/4 view of the owl.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 20 - by Shane Wilson
I have spent a week or so with all of my reference material on the short eared owl to review the basic physiology and feather structure. This is vitally important to understanding what I am actually seeing in the 2-D photograph, in order to convert it back into three dimensions.


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 19) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have begun to rough out the nest and eggs. I'll return to these later, but for now this will serve to establish their basic forms in relation to the owls, which will be roughed out next.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 19 - by Shane Wilson


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'Silvi-Skullpture Series 2011' - Black Bear, Oak - Raw Bronze

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Black Bear, Red Oak' by Shane Wilson, raw bronze a
The raw bronze has been returned from the foundry.

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Black Bear, Red Oak' by Shane Wilson, raw bronze b
Some of the gates and matrix from the casting process are still attached and will need to be ground away using carbide burrs and sanding disks.

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Black Bear, Red Oak' by Shane Wilson, raw bronze c
This process is called 'chasing.'

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Black Bear, Red Oak' by Shane Wilson, raw bronze d
Also, I will add some additional detailing directly into the bronze prior to finishing with a multicoloured patina.


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'Silvi-Skullpture Series 2011' - Black Bear, Birch Bark- Raw Bronze

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Black Bear, Birch Bark' by Shane Wilson, raw bronze a
The raw bronze has been returned from the foundry.

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Black Bear, Birch Bark' by Shane Wilson, raw bronze b
Some of the gates and matrix from the casting process are still attached and will need to be ground away using carbide burrs and sanding disks.

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Black Bear, Birch Bark' by Shane Wilson, raw bronze c
This process is called 'chasing.'

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Black Bear, Birch Bark' by Shane Wilson, raw bronze d
Also, I will add some additional detailing directly into the bronze prior to finishing with a multicoloured patina.


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'Silvi-Skullpture Series 2011' - Wolf, Pine Beetle Track - Raw Bronze

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Wolf, Beetle Tracks' by Shane Wilson, raw bronze a
The raw bronze has been returned from the foundry.

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Wolf, Beetle Tracks' by Shane Wilson, raw bronze b
Some of the gates and matrix from the casting process are still attached and will need to be ground away using carbide burrs and sanding disks.

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Wolf, Beetle Tracks' by Shane Wilson, raw bronze c
This process is called 'chasing.'

'Skullpture Series, 2011 - Wolf, Beetle Tracks' by Shane Wilson, raw bronze d
Also, I will add some additional detailing directly into the bronze prior to finishing with a multicoloured patina.


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 18) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have begun to work the whole antler, roughing out the major planes between the owls, background and border elements.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 18a - by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 18b - by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 17) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 17a - by Shane Wilson
In this phase, the oak trees have been roughed out.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 17b - by Shane Wilson
I'll leave the branch ends at this point, returning to refine them later on, so they retain strength against the possibility of accidental breakage during the carving of the owls and border.


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 16) by Shane Wilson

The die is cast, the carving begun.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 16a - by Shane Wilson
The larger negative spaces have been created by drilling several holes to provide openings and relief points for the hand-held jigsaw, which was used to remove the antler.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 16b - by Shane Wilson
Next, I'll use the grinders to open up the smaller negative spaces in preparation for establishing the major planes and design elements.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 16c - by Shane Wilson


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'Silvi-Skullpture Series 2011' - Three Waxes

I have decided to create another series of themed bronze Skullptures, and to continue to do so on an annual basis going forward.

Part of the inspiration for this decision came from an invitation to show at the
Algonquin Arts Centre Gallery in Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada. The Algonquin Arts Centre Gallery is open seasonally from June 1 to mid October each year.

This year the theme for their exhibition and sale is 'The International Year of Forests', which was chosen to coincide with the United Nations initiative of the same name.

I will incorporate forest themes into unique bronze sculptures which will comprise this year's aptly named 'Silvi-Skullpture Series, 2011'.

'Silvi-Skullpture Series, 2011' - three waxes ready for bronze casting - a
The first three waxes have been individually sculpted and delivered to the foundry: two black bear skulls and one wolf skull. Each wax has been created as a unique sculpture, in a one-of-one 'edition'.

The first black bear employs a red oak theme, the second a birch bark theme, and the wolf a pine beetle track set.

I'll be creating more as the year progresses, so stay tuned.

'Silvi-Skullpture Series, 2011' - three waxes ready for bronze casting - b
Sculpting wax is an art unto itself. It has properties which allow: carving (like ivory or antler), melting and fusing (like metal), smoothing and addition (like clay or paint).

You may notice that the wax is differently coloured. The red wax is the purest casting wax and most brittle. The darker waxes have been through the burn out process at least once and contain sprue wax in combination with the casting wax, making for a softer, stickier more malleable wax.

Once the bronzes return from the foundry, I will carve them again, refining existing detail and adding the final design elements and embellishments, before applying the patina and finish.

I have decided to create these sculptures to stand alone without a base, or to hang on a wall with a sturdy nail or hook.


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Redesign Complete) by Shane Wilson

These images represent the sum of the redesign changes that I have made to 'Short Eared Parliament' over the last several months. I was not satisfied with the background elements on either antler. The more I considered the overall design, the less I felt that the background represented a coherent approach.

So rather than forging ahead with cuts and carving, from which there would have been no return, I elected to sit and think about the sculpture. There is an old carpentry maxim, "measure twice, cut once", which I have applied here: "consider the design hundreds or even thousands of times, and then reconsider again and again, if necessary, before making the first cut."

'Short Eared Parliament' - redesign
I'll explain the changes in detail in the following four posts, but it is easier to see the compositional tie-ins and repetitions in these larger images.

I have removed the various border designs from the entire sculpture and will add back in a minimal, consistent design when the principal carved elements are complete.

'Short Eared Parliament' - redesign left
I have simplified and rationalized the design of the lower antlers, and worked in an echo of elements found diagonally across the sculpture.

The flowing form of the trees on the upper left is duplicated in the grassy terrain on the lower right.

The eggs on the lower left are nested in a form which somewhat mirrors the lake on the upper right.

'Short Eared Parliament' - redesign right
Please see the earlier redesign entries for the detailed progression and thinking about each of the sculpture's quadrants.


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Redesign-Lower Left) by Shane Wilson

I erased the triangle-formed nest. The triangles carry no meaning, both in the context of the whole sculptural design and in relation to the nesting behaviour of the Short Eared Owl.

'Short Eared Parliament' - original design, lower left
Short Eared Owls make their nests on the ground, gathering bits of grass and stick into a loose, messy perimeter. The abstract shape that does seem to work in this context is the extended, narrow rectangle.


'Short Eared Parliament' - redesign1, lower left
In the above image, I have added the rectangles under the plane of the eggs and entirely within the border. But I wasn't entirely satisfied with the result.

So I brought the rectangular 'sticks and grasses' up from below the eggs to spill out over the border. I tried closing the circle, but was not satisfied compositionally - it created a barrier for the viewer.


'Short Eared Parliament' - redesign-final, lower left
This arrangement allows the viewer into the sculpture and coincidentally, more closely represents the scattered, almost random nature of the Short Eared Owl nest.

The narrow rectangle is also used as an abstract element in the fence post and oak trees on the upper portion of the left antler.


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Redesign-Lower Right) by Shane Wilson

My dissatisfaction with the design on the lower right antler may have started me down the path to redesigning the background of the entire sculpture.

The pattern of the grasses seemed too random and individualized, missing the essential swirling or vortex patterns of the vole dens I observed on the Nanaimo River Estuary.

'Short Eared Parliament' - original design, lower right
When I revisited the images I had taken of the dens, I discovered that the vortex pattern I originally fell in love with was caused by a bending of organized sheaves of grasses, one sheaf emerging from under another, around the entrance of the vole's den in a triskel-like fashion.


'Short Eared Parliament' - redesign1, lower right
The first attempt above reflects a more literal reading of the pattern. It occurred to me that this pattern was also loosely reflected in the oak tree grouping on the upper part of the left antler. I decided to modify this pattern slightly to make it more interesting and to hint at the structural similarities with the oaks.

'Short Eared Parliament' - redesign2, lower right
After careful consideration, I decided to reduce the number of voles from two to one and situate him or her at the entrance of the den. This indicates to the viewer that the vole is aware of the airborn predators. The fact that the vole is within the safe haven of its den may also give comfort to the viewer, concerned that the vole avoid predation.

The owl skull has been removed entirely and may find a place on the moose skull in an outline form around the Short Eared owl face.


'Short Eared Parliament' - redesign3, lower right
The Garter snake, another prey animal for the Short Eared owl, also attempts to avoid predation by moving carefully through the grasses while on the hunt for a meal of its own.

'Short Eared Parliament' - redesign-final, lower right
In the final variant of this portion of the design, the left sheaf of grass had been redesigned to reflect the final redesign of the oaks.


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Redesign-Upper Left) by Shane Wilson

The lower oak tree presented a problem because it projected forward from behind the large owl on the fencepost. The tree was meant to appear in the background, but the radical forward projection of the portion of the antler occupied by the tree made it appear as if it were in the foreground, in front of the owl.

'Short Eared Parliament' - original design, top left
This in turn affected the perspective of the other two trees, making them appear much smaller than they were meant to appear, even taking into consideration the owl roosting in the top of one of the trees. I attempted a variety of solutions, including inserting a bush appearing to grow out of the lower left side of the upper portion of the antler.


'Short Eared Parliament' - redesign1, top left
I finally settled on a branch which projecting from the more forward of the other two oaks.

'Short Eared Parliament' - redesign2, top left
The first version filled the space appropriately, but the downward orientation of the forward portion of the branch combined with the alignment of the whole branch with the rearmost tree, created a visual barrier which bisected the antler and forced the eye back into the sculpture prematurely.

'Short Eared Parliament' - redesign-final, top left
The second version above allows the eye to travel freely to the outer portions of the antler and back into the sculpture with greater freedom.


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Redesign-Upper Right) by Shane Wilson

Two small but significant changes on the upper right antler.

'Short Eared Parliament' - original design, top right

The first was suggested by the commissioner of this work and involved rotating the top owl so that the left-pointing wing angles up and into the outside tine.

'Short Eared Parliament' - redesign, top right
The second change was the elimination of the woven border element. It was too distracting and served to bottle the owls in, lessening the effect that the birds are airborne.


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 15) by Shane Wilson

Before the carving can begin, it is necessary to rig the antlers and skull set to two counter-weights.

'Short Eared Parliament' - rigging, front view
This neutralizes the weight of the antlers, which is considerable, and allows for easier manipulation during the carving process.

'Short Eared Parliament' - rigging, side view
I have used 1/8" coated wire, swivelling pulleys, multipurpose ties and milk crates with 'play sand' in this set up.

'Short Eared Parliament' - rigging, close view, antler attachment point
The pulleys above the sculpture are set close together to facilitate spinning the antlers around a centre point.

'Short Eared Parliament' - rigging, pulleys above sculpture
Each antler is wired to its own counter-weight to allow independent movement.

'Short Eared Parliament' - rigging, counter-weights
A rope fixed loosely around the skull and attached to the ceiling serves as a safety catch, in case one of the hooks or attachments fails.

'Short Eared Parliament' - rigging, safety rope


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 14) by Shane Wilson

A few shots of the mounted Short Eared Owl, on loan from the Royal British Columbia Museum.

Short Eared Owl mount courtesy of the Royal British Columbia Museum - front view
The beautiful taper of the body enhances the terrific aerodynamics of this amazing bird!

Short Eared Owl mount courtesy of the Royal British Columbia Museum - close up of talons
The talons are incredibly sharp and almost cat-like in their narrow length. No doubt the better to grip prey on first grasp!

Short Eared Owl mount courtesy of the Royal British Columbia Museum - side, top view
The owl's wings are incredibly long in proportion to body size.

Short Eared Owl mount courtesy of the Royal British Columbia Museum - rear, top view
Note how they stick way out behind the body when 'at rest'.


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'Dall on the Rocks' (Finished) by Shane Wilson

LINKS: Dall on the Rocks - Complete Work in Progress Video , Gallery Images

Here is the finished sculpture, 'Dall on the Rocks, 2011' on its walnut base.




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'Integration' by Shane Wilson (Discovery and Recovery by Peter Harms)

I will be posting the story here of the discovery and recovery of a massive set of antlers from a rugged Yukon mountain top in September 2002 by Peter Harms. It's quite a tale - Peter is a fair raconteur and bush man, so it will be worth the wait ...

For now, here are some of the pictures he took on his expedition to bring these antlers down from on high.

The antler set will be carved into an abstract masterpiece, entitled 'Integration' which will bring together the two elements of angles and curves which I've used in the 'Duality' sculptures.

Integration - moose skull and skeleton where found

Integration - snow moving in fast

shelter where Peter Harms spent night waiting for plane to remove moose skull and antlers

strapping down moose skull and antlers - 'Integration'


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'Integration' (Begin 1) by Shane Wilson

This enormous moose rack and partial skull was discovered high atop a rock-strewn mountain in southern Yukon.


It is 1.5 meters (5 ft) wide and each paddle is 91 cm (3 ft) high.


It will form the basis for the first of three major abstract works which I plan to create over the next decade or so.


The partial bone skull will be completed with a matching bronze partial skull, which will be integrated into a tapering floor mounted base.


'Integration' will be an integrated duality themed work, where the curved and angled elements will come together throughout the design.


The antlers have been moved into the office, so that I can live with them in order to work out design possibilities over the next year.


Next, I'll post the images and account of the recovery of this amazing set of antlers by Peter Harms, a Yukon teacher and outdoor enthusiast. It was quite the adventure!

[The second major abstract work planned will be carved from a complete, 3 meter (10 ft) long wooly mammoth tusk (~2018) and the third will be carved from a locked set of two large Yukon moose racks (~2021).]


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'Dall on the Rocks' (Phase 13) by Shane Wilson

I frequently spot all the little errors when the work has a little time to breathe.


This is the result after a few days of refining, re-sanding and re-polishing. It is time to move on to the base making and final photography stages ...


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'Dall on the Rocks' (Phase 12) by Shane Wilson

The sculpture has been cleaned up, using small dental burrs to remove small bits of material to improve the flow of lines and shapes.


Following this, the whole sculpture was sanded with a fine burr mounted sandpaper cone, then polished with Tripoli on a cloth wheel.


The sculpture was removed from the mandrel/clamp (which you can see in the last image) and then placed on the walnut base.


The outline of the base was traced onto the wood, following the contours of the sculpture's footprint.


Next the base will be cut, sanded and a router with a cove burr will be used to finish the top edge.


Then it's off to the photographer for the portfolio shot. Almost there ...!



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'Dall on the Rocks' (Phase 11) by Shane Wilson

I have refined the Dall sheep. Now a little cleaning up around the sculpture, then more sanding and finally polishing and the carving is done.









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'Dall on the Rocks' (Phase 10) by Shane Wilson

I have begun to rough out the basic shape of the Dall sheep after completing the roughing out of the rocks, both directly below the sheep and also part way down the hill.



You can see from this 3/4 shot that the ivory is highly curved and the perception of the sheep changes as you move around the curve.




In this last shot, you can gain a sense of the scale of this piece. It is really very small.




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'Dall on the Rocks' (Phase 9) by Shane Wilson

The snow drifts and a portion of the rocks have been roughed out in this phase.




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'Dall on the Rocks' (Phase 8) by Shane Wilson

I have decided on the carved design, outlined it on the ivory in brown pencil crayon. The idea is to portray the Dall sheep standing upon a rocky outcrop that has been swept clear of snow.


Drifting snow is in evidence below. The rear of the sheep has been redesigned to appear in profile or slightly turned away from the viewer.


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'Dall on the Rocks' (Phase 7) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, the mammoth tusk has been reduced to the outline of the dall sheep and the rock below.

I tried to preserve the ivory behind and above the sheep, but it was too thin and unstable, and distracted from the main focus of the sculpture.


The sculpture has been removed from the original backing board and re-glued in an upright position to a fresh piece of wood that has been trimmed to fit the sculpture but leave the carving surfaces exposed.


Note that a second piece of wood has been glued both to the base and to the back of the head and free horn. This is to absorb the vibration which will occur during carving and prevent cracking.


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'Dall on the Rocks' (Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

The mammoth tusk has been ground down to expose the solid ivory. Unfortunately, the blue mineralization resided only on the surface and so was lost when the flaky outer surface was removed.


The dall sheep template has been cut out from a printed image, placed on the surface of the tusk and outlined into the ivory with a ball shaped burr.


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'Dall on the Rocks' (Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

I have decided to keep the dall ram, of course, with some of the rocks upon which it stands. I'll decide on additional background detail after roughing out the carved areas defined by the paper template.


The image below is the final Photoshop compilation before committing to the ivory shard of mammoth tusk.


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'Dall on the Rocks' (Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

After printing out the image of the dall sheep, I outlined the major planes with a marker then rephotographed. After opening up the image in Photoshop again, I lightened the background to emphasize the outlines.


Next, I'll decide what to keep and what to cut, again, using photoshop, then print out this image, cut out the areas I don't want and apply what's left to the piece of mammoth ivory.


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'Dall on the Rocks' (Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

The polyurethane glue set up nicely between board and mammoth ivory.

The next step involved drilling pilot holes into the board from the back, using the carver's vise mandrel as a template. The board is then attached to the mandrel with countersink type screws. Finally, the mandrel is fitted back into the vise and adjusted to suit.


(front view of ivory glued to the board, with the polyurethane glue and clamp in the background)


(view from the top, showing ivory, board, mandrel and vice)


(view of the back of the carver's vice, showing the mandrel attached to the wood backing)

Let the carving begin!


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'Dall on the Rocks' (Phase 2) by Shane Wilson

Prior to beginning the work of carving, I have prepared the mammoth ivory by levelling its base with band saw and belt sander and smoothed out a little of the back edge, also with the belt sander.



Since I'll be using a carving vise for this project, created specifically for the purpose by Lee Valley's Veritas, the ivory is then affixed along its back edge to a piece of wood (clamped using glue which can easily be removed later in the process) which is, in turn, screwed on to the head of the vise.

I chose to use a longer board to give my hands and arms a bracing point while carving.


Carving vise by Veritas with an attachment adaption for the Veritas Carvers Bench.


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'Dall on the Rocks' (Phase 1) by Shane Wilson

This is the basic concept of the carving, the Dall sheep will be situated on and before rocky crags. The image has been compiled with layers in Photoshop.


Designing with Photoshop allows for a faster switching out of images and the instant ability to play with sizing and composition. Another nice feature of Photoshop is the ability to remove material from the background to see how the negative spaces will interact with the subjects. (Not needed in this case.)


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