David’s aim when making a bird is to achieve as realistic a carving as possible, with as much detail as the wood can accept, and to paint it in as lifelike a manner as possible. The pose takes considerable time to get right. Capturing the ‘Jizz’ of the bird means that size, proportion, shape and colouring must all be right. He thoroughly researches all his birds including observation in the wild, especially if the carving is his first of that species. The wood he uses is kiln-dried Jelutong (Dyera costulata); he selects the rough-sawn planks himself in the timberyard then processes them in his workshop. For some birds he uses Lime, usually English, and air-dried. This means that quite a few carvings come from wood that he has had drying in his workshop for twenty years or more. As well as ease of carving, he needs the wood to have strength and durability for seemingly delicate separate featherwork. David began carving in about 1985, having been a patternmaker and modelmaker. His first textured and painted bird was a Teal drake, produced in July 1990 and the first carving that he sold, at Ardingly in April 1991. The paints he uses are lightfast acrylics, either by Winsor and Newton, or more recently, Jo Sonja. All his birds are carefully varnished to give just a hint of a sheen, and this, together with the sealing and undercoating of the textured carving before painting, gives a very durable and long-lasting finish.
“We all grow up knowing that feathers are soft; we know this from stroking a bird, such as an owl, at a country or craft show as a child. We also know from an early age that wood is hard, so carving and painting birds is actually an exercise in deception, convincing the onlooker that what they know to be hard is soft. This skill is at the root of what I do; the extent to which I possess it is reflected in my carvings, and I leave for others to judge.”
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