'Short Eared Parliament' (Crating) by Shane Wilson

The time has come to ship ‘Short Eared Parliament’. Axel Pollard has created a crate that will protect it from the perils of its journey - no simple excercize. Here are a few images from the process.

Axel Pollard with 'Short Eared Parliament' in its crate and ready for shipment.
Axel Pollard with the custom crate created for ‘Short Eared Parliament’.

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson, closed up for shipping.
The crate skin is 3/4” ply, thick enough to block stray forks from piercing the surface and damaging the sculpture.

Axel Pollard secures left antler of 'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson, for shipping.
In order to prevent external transit motion from vibrating the delicate left antler, potentially causing damage, Axel secures the outer portion of the antler to the crate.

Axel Pollard secures base for 'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson, for shipping.
Axel secures the acrylic base to the floor of the crate.


The bulk of the sculpture’s weight will be taken by two clamping supports, modelled on the template of the acrylic base.


'Short Eared Parliament' (in crate while supports are put in place) by Shane Wilson
‘Short Eared Parliament’ fitted in the crate. The original intention was to fill the crate with peanuts or padding, but after the supporting structure was completed, it was determined additional padding was not necessary.


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Finished) by Shane Wilson

Portfolio images (taken by Gary Peters Photography, Lantzville, B.C.). For larger images, please see the ‘Short Eared Parliament’ page in the Antler Gallery.

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture)
'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture)

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) left antler
'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) left antler

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) left antler, upper detail
'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) left antler, upper detail

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) left antler, upper detail
'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) left antler, middle detail

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) left antler, lower detail
'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) left antler, lower detail

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) right antler
'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) right antler

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) right antler, upper detail
'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) right antler, upper detail

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) right antler, middle detail
'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) right antler, middle detail

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) right antler, lower detail
'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) right antler, lower detail

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) right antler, reverse, signature
'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson (carved moose antler sculpture) right antler, reverse, signature

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Shane Wilson with 'Short Eared Parliament' (carved moose antler sculpture)
Shane Wilson with 'Short Eared Parliament' (carved moose antler sculpture)


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Photoshoot with Gary Peters) by Shane Wilson

‘Short Eared Parliament’ is a large sculpture with several perpendicular planes which exacerbate the high contrast nature of the medium and make photographing the whole extremely difficult.

I turned to Gary Peters Photography with the challenge and he delivered admirably.

Gary Peters Photography, photoshoot 'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson
Gary Peters shoots the moose antler sculpture ‘Short Eared Parliament’ by Shane Wilson

Here are two photos of him working in his large studio, using both natural and artificial lighting.

Gary Peters Photography, photoshoot 'Short Eared Parliament' (close) by Shane Wilson
Gary Peters takes a close up of the moose antler sculpture ‘Short Eared Parliament’ by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 58) by Shane Wilson

The sculpture has been meticulously sanded, front and back, leaving some of the original coloration on the reverse.

The entire surface has been treated with a clear satin finish to add a protective coating, without altering the appearance of the antler.

And my signature has been carved into the back of the right antler.

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson - signature on back of right antler, close up

Time now for the sculpture to be photographed and on the way to its new home!


'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson - signature on back of right antler

Time now, also, for my sentinel silent, short-eared carving companion (background, above image) to return to the Royal British Columbia Museum, from whence it was borrowed some several years ago, with my gratitude! :)


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 57- Acrylic Stand) by Shane Wilson

The following images document the fabrication and fitting of the acrylic stand by Tom McGraw of Industrial Plastics and Paint, Nanaimo, B.C.

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson - on acrylic stand
‘Short Eared Parliament’ by Shane Wilson on the acrylic stand

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson - on acrylic stand, reverse
‘Short Eared Parliament’ by Shane Wilson on the acrylic stand (rubber non-stick matting used for scratch protection during fitting trial only)

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson - acrylic stand
Acrylic stand fabricated by Tom McGraw of Industrial Plastics and Paint for ‘Short Eared Parliament’ by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson - plywood mock-up of acrylic stand, reverse
Mock-up for acrylic stand fabricated by Tom McGraw for ‘Short Eared Parliament’ by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson - Tom McCaw makes plywood mock-up of acrylic stand
Tom McGraw fits ‘Short Eared Parliament’ by Shane Wilson to a plywood mock-up, prior to fabrication of acrylic stand

Tom McCaw, Industrial Plastics and Paint, makes plywood mock-up of acrylic stand for 'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson
Tom McGraw measures notches in plywood mock-up stand to receive’ Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 56) by Shane Wilson

I made the final short eared owl into an iconic owl bust - like a grand Roman emperor rendered in marble. He ties the principal content of two antlers together without distracting from them.

The carving portion is finished. Sanding and a few touch ups remain, then a protective coat and it's off to the stand maker and photographer.


'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 56c - owl bust on moose skull complete) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 56b - refining owl bust) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 56c - roughing out owl bust) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 56d - begin roughing out owl bust) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 56e - design of owl bust, in progress) by Shane Wilson
‘Short Eared Parliament' (carved moose antler sculpture) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 55) by Shane Wilson

I have finished the garter snake and cleaned up the entire right antler.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 55 - right antler complete) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (right antler) by Shane Wilson

The garter snake’s head extends out from the border, an effect achieved by the use of a small tine, otherwise carved away.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 55 - garter snake complete) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (garter snake) by Shane Wilson

After playing with a number of different textures and approaches to the surface of the snake (scales, stripes, varying combinations) I decided to leave it clean. Less is more.

In order to give the snake’s body life, it has been carved (mostly) in the round as it moves on, over, under and through the border strip and grassy elements.


'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 55 - lower right antler complete) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (lower right antler) by Shane Wilson

Time now to move to the centre of the sculpture and create the final, signature element: a short eared owl head rendered abstractly on the moose skull.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 55) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 54) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 54 - vole complete) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (lower right antler, grasses complete - from front) by Shane Wilson

Voles are the ‘grass-fed beef’ of marsh and meadow, preyed on by a bevy of carnivorous creatures, including the Short Eared Owl.

Voles, unlike mice, have small eyes and ears, since grasses and leaves are not hard to find. Which makes them easy prey. Their predation coping strategy: breed, breed, breed.

A female vole births 8 litters per year, 6 babies per litter. If 50% of each litter is female, she produces 24 offspring capable of having litters of their own, and a female vole is ready to breed at 1 month. Based on 100% survival, each female vole has the exponential potential to produce more meat than muscle mass on a bull elephant!

Such is my little female vole, carved within the grassy vortex. As always, the challenge has been to bring her to life within the narrow depth of antler.

Due to the odd, outward sweeping angle of the antler shovel, I have attempted to create a believable relief effect from the front and side of the sculpture, from a 3/4 angle above the vole.


'Short Eared Parliament' (right antler, in progress) by Shane Wilson<br />**********
'Short Eared Parliament' (right antler, in progress) by Shane Wilson

Another fun fact - muskrats are large voles adapted to life in water!

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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 53d - vole complete) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (vole completed) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 53c - vole, in progress) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (shaping head of vole) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 53b - vole, in progress) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (begin roughing out vole) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 53a - vole, in progress) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (outlining vole) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 53) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 53 - grass, close) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (lower right antler, grasses complete - from front) by Shane Wilson

It took a while to figure out how best to represent the grasses, providing detail that seemed grass-like and also tied into other portions of the sculpture: the large spiral swaths pick up something of the movement of the trees on the left antler; the choppy pattern of some of the grasses have a similar rhythm to that of the bark on those trees; the ‘tufty’ leaves echo the tufty feathers of the baby owl; the flow or direction of the grasses and leaves pulls the eye into the sculpture and directs it to the owls, left and above; the 6 larger leaves on the centre grass element subtly echo the 6 eggs; and the overall busy-ness of the pattern provides a strong grounding for the right antler, enhancing the flying effect of the owls. 

Now on to the snake and vole.
 

'Short Eared Parliament' (right antler, in progress) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (right antler, in progress) by Shane Wilson

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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 53 - grass complete) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (lower right antler, grasses complete - above) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 53d - grass, in progress) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (6 leaf pattern on right antler will echo 6 eggs on left antler) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 53c - grass, in progress) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (grasses in progress) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 53b - grass, in progress) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (begin roughing in grasses) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 53a - lower right antler) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (refining lines of the snake and grass elements, beginning design of the grasses) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 52) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 52 - sanding back of antler) by Shane Wilson
Short Eared Parliament' (back of the left moose antler) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have sanded the upper left antler: front, edges and back. The image above shows how I will leave the original antler surface on the majority of the back antler - sanded gently to remove sharper portions and expose some of the white to transition nicely with the tines and front of the sculpture.


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 51) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 51 - lower left antler, owl on nest) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (close view of lower left antler, owl and nest complete) by Shane Wilson

The nest at the base of the left antler has been completed in this phase.

The short eared owl makes its nest on the ground using a loose assemblage of grass or twigs which form a kind of crib and seems to do little besides preventing the eggs from rolling away.


'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 51 - lower left antler, nest from left) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (close view of nest from left) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 51 - lower left antler, nest from right) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (close view of nest from right) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 50) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 50 - upper half, right antler) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (close view of upper right antler, three flying short eared owls finished) by Shane Wilson

The head, shoulders and back wing of the large flying Short Eared Owl were carved in this phase.

This completes the last of the seven whole Short Eared Owl to be carved on this moose antler sculpture! Remaining are the vole, garter snake, some grass and twigs and a Short Eared Owl face, to be carved on the skull.

The end of the tunnel is in sight.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 50 - right antler) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (right antler, in progress) by Shane Wilson

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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 50c - head and back detail) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - face and back finished) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 50b - head and back detail) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - major planes on head roughed in, feathers on neck and shoulders blocked out, back wing refined) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 50a - head and back detail) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - design of the head added, some refining of back wing) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 49) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 49 - upper half, right antler) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (close view of upper right antler, large short eared owl in progress) by Shane Wilson

In order to bring some unity to the large flying owl and give it life, I have been wrestling with feather patterns on the wings and back.

In this phase, some of the detail on both wings has been softened and stylized. The feathers on the back and neck have been added, then some were removed and the remainder clarified.

In the next phase, I’ll need to spend more time on the rear wing, further softening the pattern and then adding some detail back in, while deciding how much feather detail to add to the far side of the owl’s back and neck.


'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 49 - right antler) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (right antler, in progress) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 49f - back detail) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - feathers on owl’s far back completely removed, area reshaped, close back further refined. Forward wing detail cleaned up, additional rear wing detail removed) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 49e - back detail) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - feathers on owl’s far back and neck removed, area shaped, close back refined. Forward wing stylized, rear wing detail removed) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 49d - back detail) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - feathers on owl’s back roughed in and some forward wing detail removed) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 49c - back detail) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - feather on owl’s back continue to be roughed in and refined) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 49b - back detail) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - beginning to rough out feathers on owl’s back) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 49a - back detail) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - feathers on owl’s back sketched onto antler in coloured pencil) by Shane Wilson


'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 49 - feather pattern) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - feather distribution on owl’s back determined) by Shane Wilson






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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 48) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 48d - large owl - back wing and tail) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - back wing and tail complete) by Shane Wilson

The tail and back wing of the large flying owl are now complete.

Since my intention is to create the impression that the back wing recedes into the sculpture away from the viewer, the definition of the carved elements along this wing are less emphasized (less sharp) than the elements in the forward wing. It is a fine line, because it is necessary to retain enough punch in these elements to register the design as a wing.

While I think I have struck an appropriate balance, it should become clear if modifications to further lessen the emphasis on the back wing will be necessary as the body and head are completed in the coming weeks.


'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 48d - full antler) by Shane Wilson

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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 48c - back wing and tail - detail) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - back wing and tail complete - detail) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 48b - back wing sketched and tail roughed in - detail) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - back wing sketched and tail roughed in - detail) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 48a - back wing, contour roughed in and tail sketched - detail) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - back wing contour roughed in and tail sketched - detail) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Acrylic Stand - Design) by Shane Wilson

Tom McCaw, Industrial Plastics and Paints in Nanaimo, British Columbia, is designing a clear acrylic stand for ‘Short Eared Parliament’. There are four different design possibilities, though my preference is the one featured above.

Acrylic stand proposal-detail for 'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (acrylic stand proposal - detail) by Shane Wilson

Much will depend on the actual physics of the completed sculpture. The stand is designed to support the weight of the sculpture on the two antler shafts. Since the upward distribution of weight along the antlers will cause the sculpture to tip forward, a small central stop will be added to steady the skull just behind the tipping point in order to present the carved surface of the sculpture at an optimum viewing angle.


Acrylic Stand proposal for 'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (acrylic stand proposal - design variations) by Shane Wilson

When the sculpture is completed the precise tipping point will be calculated and the best support profile chosen.



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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 47) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 47d - large owl - wing) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - wing) by Shane Wilson


I learned something about flight and the wing during the carving of this large wing on the nearest flying short eared owl.

The wing is an arm with two fingers. The large primary feathers attach to the larger of the two fingers while the secondary feathers attach to the forearm.

But the most extraordinary thing I learned was that the short eared owl’s wing is duplicated, that it has a miniature second wing called the alula, attached to the second finger, which is used with great precision like a spoiler in low speed flight to add lift and control.

All birds have the alula, but the short eared owl seems particularly gifted at its use.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 47d - full antler) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 47 - right antler) by Shane Wilson

While roughing out the marginal wing coverts, it occurred to me that the covert feathers seemed to resemble scales. I wondered if there was a connection and was pleased to discover that, indeed, feathers are thought to have evolved from scales. How marvellous!

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 47d - right antler, low angle) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 47 - right antler, low angle) by Shane Wilson

Of all carvings in antler, the vast majority feature birds. And of those birds, the vast majority are eagles carved with wings extended in flight. (This is perhaps due to the natural large eagle-wing shape of the antler in proportion to the eagle-head sized antler base and coronet.)

It follows that feathers are the most commonly carved objects in antler. Usually they are represented in minute detail with every barb meticulously carved. Though a legitimate approach - this level of detail in antler may create a literal version of the bird’s anatomy - the sense of the whole, living bird (the proverbial forest) tends to get lost in the treatment of the individual feathers (the proverbial trees).


As one possible solution to this problem, I have carved variously angled, contoured planes on the surface of each grouping of feathers to indicate dimension and life. The flow of light and shadow over these surfaces creates the effect of feathers as they might appear in flight on a living bird.

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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 47c - large owl - wing) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - marginal wing coverts roughed out) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 47b - large owl - wing) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - primary and secondary feathers and coverts roughed out, beginning on alula feathers) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 47a - large owl - wing) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (large flying short eared owl - wing outline trimmed and feather pattern outlined) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 46) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 46a - lower flying owl) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (lower flying short eared owl - final detail) by Shane Wilson

When I embarked on the bird watching component of this project, unsuccessfully as it happened, I met one of Nanaimo's more notable bird watchers and bloggers, who went by the moniker Brit Birder in BC. Asking him about the short eared owl, he recalled a rather grizzly tale involving the mobbing of the only short eared owl he had seen so far that year.
The account appeared in his blog:

"I noticed something of a commotion going on some distance away, involving around 40-50 ravens. They were all flying around, quite high and seemingly excited by something. Getting my bins on them, I noticed a short-eared owl amongst the melee. The ravens were relentlessly mobbing the owl, which was flying around in small circles, in a panicked state. Convinced that the shortie would soon break away and head for cover, I kept watching, fascinated. Suddenly a sub-adult bald eagle flew through the flock and grabbed the owl in its talons. It flew up, mangling the owl in the progress, and then spiralled downward, eventually releasing its limp victim, which fell toward the ground pursued by a mob of murderous ravens. Very curious behaviour, and not a little depressing! I've seen owls mobbed by all manner of things in the past, but this is without doubt the first time I've seen such a brutal, and terminal, finale."

Clearly the short eared owl is not an apex predator, sitting proudly atop the estuary or meadow food chain. Loss of nesting habitat from development also poses a threat for the short eared owl.

This little fellow's backward glance hints at the vulnerable aspects of the short eared owl's life.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 46 - right antler) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 46 - right antler) by Shane Wilson

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In this phase, the principle challenge was to create a believable head with a sense of volume and direction. The curve of the antler moves away from the viewer and thins considerably making this extremely difficult, especially given the much larger thickness available for the back and tail feathers.

'Short Eared Parliament' (lower flying short eared owl - final detail from side) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (lower flying short eared owl - final detail from side) by Shane Wilson

The fact that the head is rotated backwards on less than a 3/4 viewing angle was also a cause for concern when 'reading' the carving. A literal rendering of the reference image left the impression of a head deformed. To remedy this, I rotated the head back slightly toward the viewer, hinting subtly at the backward orientation by pushing the carving of the left side of the head (from the viewer's perspective) almost to the back of the antler, and reduced the head's diameter on that side slightly, drawing the eye back toward the beak. (For other facial 3/4 relief carving treatments check out this Q+A on antlercarver.com.)

The final challenge was to carve the eyes in such a way that they gave the correct impression in relief of a binocular backward glance. To accomplish this, both eyes are slightly indented on the left side.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 46c - upper flying owl) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (lower flying short eared owl - head roughed out, with slight rotation back toward the viewer) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 46d - upper flying owl) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (lower flying short eared owl - head provisionally roughed out) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 46e - upper flying owl) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (lower flying short eared owl - wing and tail complete, back feathers roughed out) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 46f - upper flying owl) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (lower flying short eared owl - major planes blocked out, primary wing feathers roughed) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 46g - upper flying owl) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (lower flying short eared owl - major planes laid out in pencil crayon) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 45) by Shane Wilson

When these owls fly for the purpose of finding a meal, they give the impression of incredible lightness and agility, their impossibly long wings more butterfly-like than bird. They dip, twist, and skim low over grass and short brush before popping up, then dropping down on an unsuspecting vole or snake.

Short eared owls are diurnal, hunting in the morning and evening when the low sun casts their shadows away from the ground beneath their flight, disguising their presence while exaggerating the forms of the creatures they hunt. Brilliant birds.

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Despite many hours of bird watching at the Nanaimo River Estuary Reserve, where short eared owls spend their winters, I never spotted a short eared owl.

On the day before I began carving this flying owl, on my daily walk through a light industrial area far from the owl's reputed wetland home, I spotted strange movement over a back-filled gravel and scrub lot. I knew right away that it was a short eared owl. It is said that chance favours the prepared mind, but wow, what a gift! I stood spellbound for an hour while the owl hunted and rested, hunted and rested, unconcerned by my presence.

This is that owl.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 45 - upper flying owl - close) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (upper flying short eared owl, close) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 45 - right antler) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 45 - right antler) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 45d - upper flying owl) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (upper flying short eared owl - final detail) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 45c - upper flying owl) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (upper flying short eared owl - body, wings and tail feathers refined, face blocked out) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 45b - upper flying owl) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (upper flying short eared owl - body, wings and tail feathers roughed out) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 45a - upper flying owl) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (upper flying short eared owl - major planes blocked out) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 44) by Shane Wilson

In this phase I have worked the entire right antler, roughing out the border and major elements within the antler including three flying short eared owls, a vole and a garter snake.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 44 - full sculpture) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 44 - full sculpture) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 44 - right antler) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 44 - right antler) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (upper portion of right antler - three flying short eared owls, over estuary, front) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (upper portion of right antler - three flying short eared owls, over estuary, front) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (lower portion of right antler - garter snake and vole in grass, top angle) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (lower portion of right antler - garter snake and vole in grass, top angle) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (lower portion of right antler - garter snake and vole in grass, low angle) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (lower portion of right antler - garter snake and vole in grass, low angle) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (full sculpture prior to Phase44) by Shane Wilson
'Short Eared Parliament' (full sculpture prior to Phase 44) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 43) by Shane Wilson

The nesting owl is complete, save some sanding and polishing, which I'll save until the remainder of the sculpture is carved, in order to achieve a uniform finish.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase43 -nesting owl complete) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase43 - left antler, close) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase43 -left antler) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 42) by Shane Wilson

The nesting owl is now almost complete, after a few weeks of working on the feathers. The progress images go from latest to earliest stages as you scroll down.

The challenge as always in antler, is to create a relief effect that brings the creature to life, is true to its basic structure and makes room for some artistic interpretation.

All that remain are the breast feathers and 'pants' of this little owl.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase42f -nesting owl feathers) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase42e -nesting owl feathers) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase42d -nesting owl feathers) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase42c -nesting owl feathers) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase42b -nesting owl feathers) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase42a -nesting owl feathers) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 41) by Shane Wilson

The nesting owl's facial disk is now complete. The following images show the progression from most recent to earliest incarnation, as the face evolved into the antler.

I have chosen to highlight the 'short ears', prominent feathers around eyes, beak, and jaw and downplay the feathers around the facial disk and ears.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase41e -nesting owl face) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase41d -nesting owl face) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase41c -nesting owl face) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase41b -nesting owl face) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase41a -nesting owl face) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 40) by Shane Wilson

This mantling short eared owl reminds me of one of those military jets, usually photographed on an aircraft carrier, bristling with weapons and every flap and wing bit raised and extended.

I have spent considerable hours staring at the photo of this owl, waiting for the feather pattern to pop, kind of like the effect one hopes to achieve when staring in a slightly out of focus way at those colourful patterns that resolve almost by magic into a 3-D scene.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase40-nesting owl) by Shane Wilson

The mottled patterning of the short eared owl feathers, combined with its fluffy (messy) auxiliary feathers that poke through in random fashion, make reading the owl's overall design and rendering it into a carve-able design difficult.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase39a-left antler with nesting owl and sketch) by Shane Wilson

I have used several additional resources to assist, the most helpful being a stuffed owl, borrowed from the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria and Floyd Scholz brilliant reference book, appropriately entitled Owls.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase40-designing nesting owl) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 39) by Shane Wilson

Here are the first tentative steps to blocking out the major planes on the next short eared owl, in a mantling position over its nest.

I thought this one would be relatively easy after the baby owl, but sadly this was not to be. There is a whole bunch going on with these feathers, each one controlled by the owl with separate muscles.

While at first glance the feathers seem relatively smooth, the relief-carved realization of the feathers in antler is turning out to be quite another matter! I am feeling my way here, trying to establish the illusion of the owl in the round.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase39d-nesting owl) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase39c-nesting owl) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase39b-nesting owl) by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase39a-nesting owl) by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 38) by Shane Wilson

The short eared owl chick is complete. Note the detailing on the feet, lower feathers and adjacent fence post, added in this phase.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase38 - Left Antler), by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase38 - Left Antler, close), by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase38a-owl chick), by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 37) by Shane Wilson

I experimented with a few different treatments for the breast feathers on the short eared owl chick, before deciding to render them with fine detail, simulating the fine, almost hair-like nature of the downy baby feathers themselves.

I also wanted to create levels of complexity within the fine-feathered element to provide both a sense of depth and lightness, as the feathers blow against the chick as it stands its ground in a gentle breeze.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase37a-owl chick), by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase37b-owl chick), by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase37c-owl chick), by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase37d-owl chick), by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase37e-owl chick), by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 36) by Shane Wilson

I have returned to finish the small perched owl and its tree. (For the last In Progress entry on this owl, see Phase 24, from last year.)

They eye was particularly challenging, as it was necessary to create an effect that would read properly from a moderate distance. My early attempts created an effect that looked great up close by appeared flat and almost uncarved from a distance. (Scroll down for earlier versions of the small owl.)

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase36a - perched owl and tree), by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase36b - perched owl, close), by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase36c - perched owl, close), by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase36d - perched owl, close), by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 35) by Shane Wilson

Three more phases on the baby owl, with a focus on the head and eyes. This is a very thin area to work a fully front facing relief, so it is important to establish the basics first: eyes and beak. The rest will follow in relation to these basics.

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase35c-owl chick), by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase35b-owl chick), by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase35a-owl chick), by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 34) by Shane Wilson

The short eared owl chick represented in this phase is a complex array of wind-blown downy feathers.

I love the 'messiness' of this part of the overall composition, but it is taking a while to figure out how best to represent this little fellow in carved relief.

I am still figuring ...

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase33c-owl chick), by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase33b-owl chick), by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase33a-owl chick), by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 33) by Shane Wilson

The main shaping and detail work are finished on the large roosting short-eared owl.

Note the striking colour pattern revealed within the antler. It is caused by blood flow into the antler during its formation and will fade over time. This darker colouration may help visually to 'push' the large owl back behind the baby owl, if highlights of white antler in the edges of the baby owl can be preserved.

'Short Eared Parliament' Phase33-roosting owl, by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' Phase33-roosting owl, detail, by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' Phase33-full antler, by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 32) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I refined the breast feathers and began to denote and rough in the wing feathers on the large roosting short-eared owl. I noticed that the wing appeared too narrow when viewed on the antler, which bends toward the viewer creating a false fore-shortening. To compensate, the wing has been widened slightly.

'Short Eared Parliament' Phase32b, by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' Phase32a, by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 31) by Shane Wilson

The face has been further refined. It is a challenge to determine how best to represent both the feathers and the almost sculptural, coloured pattern on the feathers. I am not there yet.

'Short Eared Parliament' Phase31b, by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' Phase31a, by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 30) by Shane Wilson

The face is deepened , the owl's right eye has been roughed in and will require adjustments, while the distinctive facial feather ring has been established on its proper plane. There is still much to do on the face, so stay tuned!

'Short Eared Parliament' Phase30b, by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' Phase30a, by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 29) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, the face has been further roughed out as have the remainder of the feather groupings. These will be further defined later with design elements to bring out the owl's distinctive markings. The face is still not contoured deeply enough ... work for the next phase.

'Short Eared Parliament' Phase29b, by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' Phase29a, by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 28) by Shane Wilson

This owl is situated on a section of antler that bends toward the viewer on the left side of the image. In order to compensate for the distortion this causes, the owl has been designed somewhat broader than it would otherwise appear in the round in order to create the illusion that the owl is properly sized.

In this phase, the head has been roughed out and the limit of the upper breast feathers have been sketched in.

'Short Eared Parliament' Phase28b, by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' Phase28a, 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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'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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'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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'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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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 13) by Shane Wilson

The final part of the design will be an owl, containing both curvy and angular elements, to be carved on the moose skull.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 13a - by Shane Wilson

This owl element will primarily consist of the head and face, with abstracted elements radiating outward.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 13c - by Shane Wilson

I will wait on the design of the radiating elements until the carving has progressed, in order to use these elements to tie the entire composition together.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 13b - by Shane Wilson

Okay, time now to let the design sit for a bit before making the first cuts, to allow the design to settle in my mind and, possibly, to add some further refinement ...



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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 12) by Shane Wilson

The short eared owls on the left side are complete. Note that, as on the right side, the feather structure will be preserved in the carving, the curvy patterns will occur within the feathers themselves.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 12a - by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 12b - by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 12c - by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 12d - by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 12e - by Shane Wilson



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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 11) by Shane Wilson

The owls and other creatures on the right side are complete. Note that the feather structure will be preserved in the carving, the angular patterns will occur within the feathers themselves.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 11a - by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 11b - by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 11c - by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 11d - by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 11e - by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 10) by Shane Wilson

I have begun to transfer the background design to the antlers themselves. I have outlined where the owls will be located.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 10a - by Shane Wilson

The right antler, containing the flying owls, will have a curvy background theme, while the owls themselves will contain angular elements.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 10b - by Shane Wilson

In this close up shot of the lower portion of the right antler you can see the pattern of the grasses. The voles, garter snake, and owl skull and bones will be situated within and through the grass.

Though it is not evident in the pictures, this portion of the antler tilts down and away from the viewer, hence the choice of smaller elements (voles, snake, skull, bones) and the more abstract grass pattern, to allow the design to 'read' properly in context with the rest of the sculpture.

Had I chosen to include a larger design element here, another owl for example, it would have appeared flattened or pancaked when viewed in context with the rest of the sculpture.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 10c - by Shane Wilson

The left antler, containing the roosting, perching and nesting owls will have an angular background theme, while the owls themselves will contain rounded, curvy elements.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 10d - by Shane Wilson

I'll turn next to each of the owls to create individualized designs within the living forms.



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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 9) by Shane Wilson

This is the design in its basic, final form. Changes have been made to both antlers:

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 9a - by Shane Wilson

The oak trees on the left have been reduced in diameter, with some branches removed and some added. The effect will be to reflect or mirror the wing arrangements of the smaller flying owls on the right antler.

The standing owls have been reduced in size, slightly and moved away from the border to enhance the negative space throughout upper portion of the left antler.


'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 9b - by Shane Wilson

On the right side, the lowest flying owl has been replaced again, this time by one of the original owls considered in Phase 6. This owl is more interesting and contributes to a more dynamic composition.

The primary flying owl has been separated from the upper owl, both to enhance the feeling of negative space around the owls and to remove the possibility for cracking between the owls as the antler shift and warps during the carving process.


'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 9c - by Shane Wilson

The garter snake images has been changed and may well be changed again when the embellishing detail is worked into the composition.

Which is my next step. The owls and other features will be printed, cut out and taped into place on the antlers. There will be some small adjustments during this process before they are drawn onto the antler permanently.

Then it will be time to play with the curvy, angular pattern throughout the entire composition.

Thanks to Keith, Miranda and Jerry for their eyes and ideas, which were a great help during the compositional design of 'Short Eared Parliament'.



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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 8) by Shane Wilson

Further refinements of the design:

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 8 - by Shane Wilson

The short eared owl, looking down and away on the left, has been removed and the other standing owls have been enlarged.

The trunks of the large oak tree from the estuary have been added in place of a crudely drawn, place-saver tree, from earlier renditions.

The short eared owl head on the centre skull has been changed and is a little more dramatic.

A garter snake has been added to the 'prey' section on the lower right and the owl skull has been moved up to the entrance of the vole den, with the removal of the third vole.

The horizon lines on both sides have been altered off level, to cant in to the centre of the sculpture.

And finally, the bow on the inside of the right antler has been removed, so that both antlers exhibit a consistent line, up and away from the centre of the sculpture.



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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 7) by Shane Wilson

At this stage in the design, I have changed the dynamics of the right antler.

When viewed in a mirror (or by flipping horizontally in Photoshop) it became apparent that the flow of the composition was dumping energy from the top right to the bottom left. By changing the flying short eared owls, this dynamic has been minimized. I may still remove the standing owl on the left side, which is looking off and down to the left.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 7 - by Shane Wilson

The composition will be contained by an antler border, similar to other of my figural sculptures (Yukon Seasons, Rest and Sing, Tribute to Michio) and have removed antler from the background to demonstrate this.

The skulls have been moved: the short eared owl skull will reside with the voles and the vole skull with the baby owl. In their place, I have added a short eared owl face, which will become the centre of a pattern of energy lines which will radiate throughout the sculpture.



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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

This image represents a Photoshop compilation well into the design process. I have decided to treat the overall composition in quadrants:

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 6 - by Shane Wilson

The upper left antler will feature standing and roosting short eared owls, including a baby owl. The figures need to reside close to the inner side of the left antler to maintain an illusion of three dimensionality, since the antler curves sharply towards the viewer as it moves out into the tines. Any large design element would read as flat if located too close to the tines.

The lower left antler, which sweep towards the viewer, will host a nest, replete with eggs, which the short eared owls create on the ground. This quadrant is completed with a protective parent owl.

The upper right antler will feature short eared owls in flight over the estuary in search of food. The upper right antler does not curve as dramatically toward the viewer as does the left antler, allowing more use of the palm for three dimensional relief imagery.

The lower antler projects down and away from the viewer, with only the leading edge and a bit of the back edge of the paddle visible. Design elements that are flattish, like voles, the short eared owls main prey, work quite well here. The underlying pattern in this area will be the grassy vortex that forms the voles' den. I'll probably add a leaf or two as well.

I have added two skulls to the moose skull, a short eared owl skull and a vole skull. I'm not sure I like them here, but they will be included in the sculpture somewhere.



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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

This phase represents several hours of outlining and trimming multiple short eared owl images in Photoshop. Each owl, the moose antler, skull set and the grey background all rest on separate layers, enabling me to move each independently, expanding, flipping cutting and adjusting in order to create a pleasing composition.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 5 - by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

This shot comes after printing out several short eared owls in varying sizes to try them out on the antlers.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 4a - by Shane Wilson
Not satisfied with the flexibility of this process at this stage, I have learned a little more about the structure of the antlers.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 4b - by Shane Wilson
I will move now to Photoshop and try combining several owl images in layers within the program.


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have begun to play with some ideas for the composition of the sculpture.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 3a - by Shane Wilson
There is a definite structural pattern within the antlers and their orientation in space to each other. As I described to the commissioner of this work, the pattern "radiates out from the top of the skull, following the inner edge of the antlers. The design elements need to work as if they were located on a large target or dart board that has been split in half, moved apart to different distances from the centre, with the outer edges curled in to the viewer in varying amounts."

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 3b - by Shane Wilson
Time now to shift to the antlers themselves to try on some of these ideas. I'll print out these birds in varying sizes and try them out on the antlers.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 3c - by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 2) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, the antlers have been sanded to provide a smooth, clean surface to receive the design.

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 2a - by Shane Wilson
Due to the unique structure of this particular antler set, I have found that the best presentation of the carving surface comes when the antler and skull set is hung from above, allowing the lower palm portions to drop away from level, revealing more of their surface to the viewer.

Also, there is something slightly poetic about mounting a sculpture about owls in the air, as it were, suspended from the ceiling, floating above the ground.


'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 2b - by Shane Wilson

'Short Eared Parliament' - Phase 2c - by Shane Wilson


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'Short Eared Parliament' (Phase 1) by Shane Wilson

Using an Optoma PK301 micro projector, I projected an image of the moose antler and skull set to be used for this sculpture onto paper affixed to a drafting table, to trace the outline for design purposes.

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson - moose rack image projected

Optoma PK301 micro projector
(Optoma PK301 micro projector)

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson - outline moose rack on drafting table
Note the additional tracing of the skull, to enable the creation and trial of separate designs which can be overlaid on the base drawing.

'Short Eared Parliament' by Shane Wilson - outline moose rack
The outline is smaller than the actual antler and skull set, but sufficiently sized for design purposes.


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'Short Eared Parliament', Reference Pics-Environment 2

I visited the Nanaimo River Estuary Conservation Area again today to see if the Short Eared Owls had returned.

Since the Short Eared Owls live principally on mice, the choice of this area for a winter range makes eminent sense.<br />Since the Short Eared Owls live principally on mice, the choice of this area for a winter range makes eminent sense.<br />'Short Eared Parliament', Reference Pics-Environment-4a
They had not, but during the search, I ventured out into the large, field-like area that is the Conservation Area and was able to take more habitat reference shots.

'Short Eared Parliament', Reference Pics-Environment-4b
I noticed a great abundance of mouse housing. The den entry designs were quite striking and I've included a few examples with this update.

'Short Eared Parliament', Reference Pics-Environment-4c
Since the Short Eared Owls live principally on mice, the choice of this area for a winter range makes eminent sense.


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'Short Eared Parliament', (Begin 2) by Shane Wilson

In order to design this complicated moose antler and skull sculpture, I'll use this drafting table sized surface, upon which I'll sketch, project, paste and insert a variety of images over the outline of the moose antler and skull set. The next task is to create the outline, which I will do by tracing a projected image onto the paper.

'Short Eared Parliament', (Begin 2) by Shane Wilson
I am using three different pieces of paper, one for each antler and the skull, so that the three portions of the sculpture can be redesigned as necessary without necessitating the redrafting of the whole. When it comes time to transfer the design to the antler and bone, it will be much easier to work with the smaller sheets of paper.


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'Short Eared Parliament', Reference Pics-Environment 1

I visited the Nanaimo River Estuary Conservation Area, the known habitat of the Short Eared Owl on Vancouver Island, to take the following reference photos for use in planning the design of the sculpture.

Short Eared Parliament - Environment Reference Pic #1

The owls return to the area in late October or early November when I'll get some shots of the birds in situ.

Short Eared Parliament - Environment Reference Pic - RIGHT

In the meantime, I'll begin the planning of the sculpture with reference shots of the Short Eared Owl found in books and on the internet.

Short Eared Parliament - Environment Reference Pic - LEFT
More Text and Images ...

'Short Eared Parliament' (Begin 1) by Shane Wilson

This is a fresh commission for a carved moose antler and skull sculpture with a theme to be based around the Short Eared Owl. Since a grouping of owls is called a 'parliament', I have named this sculpture, 'Short Eared Parliament'.

(There is also a more pedestrian meaning for parliament, which describes the group of sage individuals our nation throws together to conduct our collective business here in Canada and in other countries structured during the British Empire.)

'Short Eared Parliament', (Begin1a) by Shane Wilson
I am fortunate to live near a known habitat for the Short Eared Owl on Vancouver Island. They overwinter on the Nanaimo River Estuary, arriving in late October or early November. I'll visit the Estuary Ecological Reserve Area next to take reference photographs for the background and detail of the sculpture.

'Short Eared Parliament', (Begin1b) by Shane Wilson
These are very large antlers to carve with an enormous surface area. I am estimating that the design of carving of this antler skull set will take at least two years.

'Short Eared Parliament', (Begin1c) by Shane Wilson
This moose antler skull set came to me from Yukoner John Maissan.

John Maissan with moose antler skull set to become 'Short Eared Parliament'
John Maissan with the moose antler rack and skull which will become 'Short Eared Parliament'

He hunted this animal for subsistence in 2007 and kindly packed the skull and antlers out of the bush for me. This was no mean feat as the rack measures 5 feet across and weighed over 100 lbs!


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