Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Proverbial 'Now What' - part 2

I think the most responsible thing I can say first is that I'm not a great or even good decoy carver.  What I am is someone who enjoys the art, and believes that each decoy I gain a new knowledge on the subject that will help me years from now.

In my last article The Proverbial 'Now What' I showcased a fine hunt, and at the same time lamented the fact I'm now in search of something to do until fall rolls back around.  Considering all the decoys I need to be carving, I figured it was a fine time to write a "workbench" article.  As my interest and skill in decoy carving grows, I hope this becomes a popular read each time I sit down to show a few decoys.

I guess I'll start with a few patterns I have drawn out.  I'm all over the board, jumping from one interest to the next, but I'll eventually get to them all.  *Note* these are rough drawings, none of which I've come back to in order to enhance for actual use.  All are free-handed with nothing but photos of God's creations and my own imagination of what I want them to be as a guide.

The first is a coastal Maine style Red-Breasted Merganser.  This bird was drawn after seeing a George Huey Red-Breasted Merganser, and also after seeing Keith Mueller's interpretation of the same.  I have not decided on a paint scheme for the side pockets, but they will be dropped and I want to pull off an almost  "flame" yet "folky" look - think bonfire painted on a Mustang.  The head/neck will be "inletted" in the traditional ship builder style of the area:

The next several patterns are my interpretation of the John English/Florence School (i.e. Delaware River) style birds.  Thanks to carvers like Jode Hillman, Sean Sutton, George Strunk and Geoff Vine (found in the 'Links of Interest' to your right) I have truely found an area of decoy carving history I both enjoy reading about and attempting to emulate.  Jode actually took the time to answer several questions, and they (along with a few of his decoys) are found here: Interview With Master Carver Jode Hillman. For the historian, there are a lot of twists, turns and intrigue in the Delaware River birds.  I plan on writing about it one day soon.

In any case, here are my paltry interpretations:

Delaware River high head canvasback

 Contented bird

Canvasback sleeper

Lesser Scaup contented bird and sleeper

Left hand bird - preening Lesser Scaup

I wanted to say a few words about the right hand bird.  It is a combination and my interpretation of what would happen if a John English ruddy duck was carved with a Lee Dudley influence.  I believe no one on the planet has created a decoy that screams Ruddy Duck more than Lee Dudley of Knotts Island, NC.  I don't think a man should create certain decoys without having a bit of those who really mastered "that bird" in them.  Shang Wheeler sleeping blackducks and Joe Lincoln wood ducks have the same appeal to me.

After scratching out these patterns, turkey season came on...and, so did the desire to have a turkey decoy.  Many will remember I've set out to kill every species of waterfowl on the North American continent over my own decoys.  Recently, I've added turkeys to the list as I've seen the Slams, and have seen them accomplished by folks shooting handmade bows...why not a decoy.  Why not?  Well, there's no good reason.

If the picture is good enough, you'll note all kinds of eraser marks.  I had an awful time with the form of a hen turkey.  It wasn't until my first hunt of the season (which resulted in my first kill of the season, found here: Second Chances ) that I got to watch a hen in action, really focusing on the way she behaved.  I watched every move she made and figured out exactly how I wanted my decoy to look.  I wanted her in a leaning position that depicted natural movement, and the pattern is also my interpretation of what a Delaware River turkey decoy would look like:

I admit to still having some things to work out with this decoy.  The big thing is the allowance for movement, by decreasing "bulk".  I have some ideas, and will give them a try.  I'm sure in 30 years (give or take) I'll have it down to a science.

The last pattern I'll share today is a mini greenhead a friend of mine commissioned for his wedding cake.  I'll cut this bird out this weekend and start on it.  Again, my ideal of a Delaware River bird.  Pete, he'll be ready, you have my word....but, like the caption says (hehe).

Lastly, I don't normally do this because things look so terrible at this point - even more than my finished birds - but I'll show you two birds on the bench.  They will be named "the Elder Rig" due to the John Blair and John English influences on both.  I plan on writing about them in full when they are done, until then, the roughed out birds:

Blair influenced blue wing on left, English influence blue wing on right

Two little blue wing teal with differening styles, captured by men in the late 1800's and early 1900's hunting the same river - the Delaware.  I'm carving and painting these birds as practice for a couple of blue wing teal rigs I have been commissioned by friends to make.  Hope everyone has a great end of the week and weekend.  Check back often and tell your friends.


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