Carving a niche: Artist uses wood to create life-like sculptures

“Cardinal” is a wood sculpture by Christine Townsend.

“Cardinal” is a wood sculpture by Christine Townsend.

EMMA Series

By Janelle Faignant | Correspondent. 

At a Chaffee exhibit not long ago, someone saw Christine Townsend’s life-like replica of a male blue jay and assumed she used a store-bought mold to make it. Her hand-carved and painted wooden birds are that detailed.

Townsend is a painter and wood sculptor whose inspiration comes from anticipating what people might be interested in seeing, or what she’s interested in at the time. Her carvings have won awards in the biggest woodcarving show in Florida.

“The cardinals are so beautiful here, and the blue jays are just gorgeous and so big,” she said. “I was so inspired to do them because they’re beautiful.”

Four years ago she moved to Vermont from northern Florida to be with family, and fell in love with the area. On a recommendation from her daughter, she became a Chaffee member, and there she met Christine Holzschuh.

Townsend and Holzschuh started talking about forming a group to get local artists together to create. Townsend had helped start the Create Artist Guild in Florida, and was a member of the Palatka Art League there as well, and missed being part of that kind of group.

“We needed to get a group going,” Townsend said. “Because you can paint together, critique together, and if you have somebody to do it with, you tend to do it on a regular basis.”

So three years ago EMMA was formed — East Mountain Mentoring Artists — and ten local artists started meeting regularly to mentor one another and exhibit their work at local galleries.

Townsend’s collection includes a wren carving, watercolor prints, a series of parrots, and duck heads carved on wooden golf clubs — just a few of her paintings and sculptures.

She says her sculpture of a mother blue jay on top of her babies that was mistaken as a store-bought mold was the hardest one to cut, full of intricate angles. In general, countless hours of work are involved in making the life-size, three-dimensional pieces.

“I do a lot of research on each bird to carve it,” she said, “then I paint them to be as life-like as possible.”

She uses mostly electric tools and hand-carving chisels to make them, which she first started doing when her church started a wood-carving club.

“I went and I just became addicted,” she said. “I really enjoy carving. It’s a challenge, since it’s 3D.”

You can see Townsend’s work currently on display in EMMA’s exhibit at Compass Music and Arts Center in Brandon. Her pieces in the show include paintings of wildlife, birds and animals, and woodcarvings of birds.

And on Sept. 13 she’ll be giving an artist talk and demonstration at Compass on the techniques she uses to bring her wood carvings to life.

The artists of the Rutland-based group, EMMA (East Mountain Mentoring Artists), will conduct a series of artist talks, demos and classes to share their breadth of artistic skills and experience. The series will take place on Sunday afternoons at the Compass Music and Arts Center while their exhibit “What EMMA Loves” is on display. All events are free. See below for dates and details on each event.

September 13, 1 p.m.:
Karen Seward and Christine Townsend
Painter Karen Seward and wood sculptor Christine Townsend will give a demonstration and discuss their work. Seward will talk about how her paintings have evolved, and give a demonstration using oils to show her process and unique use of and experience with color. Townsend will demonstrate techniques she uses in bringing her animal wood carvings to life.

Seward studied art at Castleton University and studied painting with several local and nationally acclaimed artists, including Kevin MacPherson, Wayne Thibaud, Charles Sovek and Frank Webb; Townsend helped start the Create Artist Guild, was a member of the Palatka Art League in Florida, and her carvings have won awards in the biggest woodcarving show in Florida.

September 20, 1 p.m.:
Ann McFarren and Christine Holzschuh
Ann McFarren, an oil landscape painter and teacher of 45 years, will give an artist talk and demonstrate the painting of a Vermont landscape while explaining her technique. Christine Holzschuh, teacher, and founder of EMMA, will explain what it means to be a “Daily Painter.” She will share how to paint small paintings (she calls “gems”) in vibrant color using value (white, gray, black) to map it out.

McFarren participates in many juried shows throughout New England and is affiliated with the Chaffee Art Center, Southern Vermont Art Center, Vermont Watercolor Society, Vermont Hand Crafters, Vermont Arts Council, and Vermont Crafts Council; Holzschuh has taken courses at Universities across the country, frequently participates in professional workshops, and blogs about her daily paintings.

September 27, 1-2:15 p.m.:
Mary Crowley – Drawing Made Easy: Anyone Can Draw This Way
Mary Crowley, an art teacher for 30 years and the current host of Peg TV’s “The Art Show,” will lead a simple four-step approach to drawing that allows anyone, at any age or ability, to draw. The method can also be applied to any subject. Materials can be provided if needed. Beginners are welcome – even accomplished artists can learn something.

Crowley graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Middlebury College and is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Education.

October 4, 1 p.m.:
Heather Shay and Lowell Snowdon Klock
Painter Heather Shay and fine-arts photographer Lowell Snowdon Klock will demonstrate and discuss the differences in how they each approach the same subject with their different mediums. Shay will show the whole process of creating a painting, starting with the decisions on composition, the original sketch, blocking in the colors and finishing the work.

Shay is a former student of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum School in Boston, a juried member of the Chaffee Art Center and has exhibited at Okemo Mountain in Vermont and throughout Boston, Klock has an associates degree in photography, is a former student of Frank Lavelle and Elizabeth Opalenik, as well as a juried member of the Brandon Artists’ Guild, the Chaffee Art Center and artist member of the Southern Vermont Arts Center.

October 18, 1-2:15 p.m.:
Mary Crowley – Making the Grammy Book
Mary Crowley, the author and illustrator of the children’s book, “I Love to Visit My Grammy,” will explain how she came to write, illustrate and get the book published. In addition, she will talk about her second book, and the one she is working on now.

Compass Music and Arts Center is located at Park Village, 333 Jones Dr. Brandon VT, 05733 (Park Village used to be the Brandon Training School, located 1.5 miles north of downtown Brandon off of Arnold District Rd.).

Janelle Faignant

Janelle Faignant is a freelance writer living in Rutland.

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