'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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