30"H x 25"W x 4"Deep Driftwood
I don't mind confessing that some of my most striking work results from happy accidents. I was arranging these pieces on my work table when one of the golden bolts got hung in the crook of the larger forked piece. I added the red cedar piece to parallel the other fork, and the composition organically grew from there. The finished piece reminded me of dancing, singing and clapping.
"44H x 38"W x 8" Deep Driftwood
The center piece is a veteran of decades in the river that I love to find. I think when land is cleared, trees are cut up and some of them end up in the river. Over decades the sturdier ones stay intact, their ends are rounded by relentless pounding, and they assume a long capsule-type shape. They're indestructible, so they remind me of soldiers, and the sticks and slices of poplar, sycamore, cedar and oak pieces around them form an imposing, heraldic figure.
45H" x 19"W x 6"Deep Found wood, driftwood, milled poplar
"Twisty sticks" are sculpted when vines spiral around the trunks of young trees, and the trunks grow around them, forming a miniature "winding staircase" around the trunk. I found this slight little one in the woods of North Carolina, and paired it with a beautifully sculpted piece I found on the banks of the Ohio. I bleached and mounted them in milled poplar, whose color is nearly identical.
34"H x 17"W x 3"D Driftwood.
This is a perfect example of simply letting the wood speak for itself. I couldn't possibly improve on its inherent beauty, so I used natural stain with no pigment to reveal the true color of the interior, and left the exterior exactly as I found it by the river. The red pieces are of course cedar. The magnificent golden piece in the middle is likely Osage orange, which Native Americans used to make bows because of its strength and flexibility.
The red wood is cedar, which can season in the river for many years without getting waterlogged or rotting. I love working with it.
34"H x 27"W x 5"D Driftwood
I discovered this wishbone-shaped piece in a giant tangle of debris. I noticed the spider web connectivity, which indicates it's part of a root system, species unknown. It cleaned up well, and on a whim I superimposed those golden exclamation points I had just ripped from an ugly, burnt chunk nobody else would look at twice--my favorite kind of discovery. The finished composition made me think of fiddle music and dancing.
34"H x 14"W x 4"D
The red pieces and the natural gray piece in the middle are cedar, and the chocolate brown pieces are probably black walnut. I obviously wanted to celebrate the wonderful contrasts in colors, and as always used Natural stain to bring out the true color of the wood.
That dark piece in the middle was a real surprise. I found a nondescript chunk of wood about the size of a half-inflated American football. When I sliced it open, I couldn't believe how dark it is. As always, I applied a natural stain (no pigment) to bring out the color, and it's as dark as mahogany. Could be, I suppose, but it was pretty soft, so I don't know what it is.
30"H x 24"W x 6"D Driftwood
I collected a pretty ordinary piece because I liked the shape and was curious to see what it looked like inside. I was awestruck when I ripped it and found a chocolate brown interior! Probably black walnut, and just gorgeous, so it earned a featured spot as the 'wings' of this piece.
To "rip" a piece of wood means to slice through the entire length of it. A piece about four inches in diameter will yield four or five useable three-eighths to half-inch slices that are very similarly shaped or mirror images of each other, depending on how you turn them. Playing with the arrangement is an entertaining exercise in discovery.
36"H x 28"W x 4"D Driftwood, milled poplar
Only the "feet" of this piece were visible when I spotted it, but I've found some of my most interesting pieces by clawing away at mud and piles of debris. Casual beachcombers beat me to a lot of good pieces, but they don't like to sweat and get dirty. I knew it had potential when I grabbled it out of the muck, and it cleaned up beautifully. I thought a poplar frame would accentuate its natural grace.
32"H x 15"W x 5"D Driftwood, milled poplar
I love the sensual, almost feminine look and feel of the central piece, which is accented by sexy little brown "freckles." I juxtaposed two contrasting pieces--one flat and pale, the other sharp and prickly--with the languid, rounded one. The sharp-ended brown crescent--which gives the piece its name--looks delicate but is in fact extremely hard and so durable I suspect it might be an errant piece of mahogany or teak that somehow found its way into the Ohio River.
One FAQ is of course, "What are those little round star-like things?" Well, they literally grow in the woods, but for now I'm keeping it a trade secret because so far I haven't seen anybody else using them. Sorry. I wish I knew what that gorgeous orange piece is. Let me know if you do.
38"H x 21"W x 8" Deep Ohio River driftwood
The center piece is a kind of "long rider" that I love to find. My guess is that when land is cleared, trees that are cut up often end up in the river. Over decades the sturdier ones stay intact, their ends are rounded by relentless pounding, and they assume a long capsule-type shape. They're strong, tough and indestructible, so they remind me of soldiers, and the sticks and slices of poplar, sycamore, cedar and oak pieces around them form an imposing, heraldic figure.
This piece is 100% cedar. What a joy to saw into a piece that might have been in the river for 20 years and smell that unmistakably fresh cedar aroma.
I ripped a chevron-shaped piece that looked interesting, and when I applied the natural stain, the gorgeous golden color just glowed. The silky smooth surface and density of the diagonal "lightning bolt" is pretty convincing evidence that it's crepe myrtle.
An example of how a ripped piece will yield mirror images of each other. I think the pale piece at a 45-degree angle is probably crepe myrtle because it's really smooth and hard.
41"x18" I loved the ancient, unidentifiable piece on the left--what a story it could tell. I contrasted it with the pale slices of what could be poplar or sycamore, and added a red accent with the cedar sliver in the middle. The star-like medallions grow in the woods, but I have to keep them a trade secret because I think I'm the only artist currently using them. Hint: they're as dense as any hardwood.
I love the contrasts--red against white, dark over light, rough beside smooth--all featured in this piece. I didn't notice, btw, how much the piece on the right resembles a human finger until someone pointed (excuse the pun) it out to me.
54"x25" I ripped a wedge-shaped piece and struck gold. It yielded six beautiful pieces that were mirror images of each other, and they seemed to be pointing the way. 'Trail Blazer' almost created itself.
When I first saw the oval center piece, I assumed it was an elbow of a large tree trunk buried in the sand and laughed when it popped up so easily. Years of river travel polished it to a wonderful sheen, and it just looked to me like the body of an elfin woodland creature.
As many times as I've done it, I still get excited every time I start to rip a piece, because--except for cedar--I never know what the grain is going to look like. The exterior gives no clue as to what the color and pattern of the grain will be, so I'm exploring new little worlds every day.
27"x23" Talk about an ugly duckling! I found a roughly two-foot square, completely blackened wedge-shaped piece that I reckoned had a harrowing forest fire story to tell. I couldn't help but wonder what it looked like under the charred surface, and was tickled to find that glowing, clear golden grain. I ripped it into about a dozen slices that highlight several of my pieces.
15"x16" Although this piece isn't an example, I find lots of "beaver chew," bits of wood that have the unmistakable markings of the powerful teeth that chopped through it. I was reminded of that because many of them are in the "slingshot" shape you see here.
28"x6"x8" The gray dab under the top brace is a golf-ball-sized rock this root grew around and captured forever.