Richard Vest, the son of a commercial fisherman, grew up in San Francisco. Though he’s not interested in hauling fish from the sea in nets, he captures fish and wildlife in another way.
Even as a child, he loved to draw, and won prizes for his art. He attended San Francisco State University, where he earned degrees in Fine Art and Design/Technology and acquired his secondary teaching credential. He taught art and woodworking in the San Ramon, California, school district before devoting himself to his art full-time.
Using his own photography of creatures as a reference, Vest first captures his subjects as a sketch. Then he selects his wood, and using various grinders and carving tools, crafts his remarkably detailed sculptures. Most are meant to hang on the wall, but he carves free-standing pieces as well.
All of Vest’s pieces are one-of-a-kind. He also produces artworks on commission, but due to differences in woodgrain and slight variations in execution, no two sculptures are ever exactly alike.
I first met Vest at the Tempe Festival of the Arts, where I was dazzled by an enormous bear, like this one, but larger. Vest is a popular participant at a number of shows every year.
Of course, I had to include the unicorn. But, obviously, Vest was not working from a photograph, because then he’d know real unicorns look more like goats than horses. (Sorry, Richard–I’m a medieval purist. I like my unicorns like the ones in the tapestries in The Cloisters.)
Note: all the photographs in this article are the property of Richard Vest. Used with permission. All photographs are copyrighted, and no part of any photo/carving may be reproduced by any means including photographically, mechanically, or digitally and is subject to all U.S. copyright laws.
Sharing thirteen inspiring articles:
- I love these beautiful woodcarvings.
- One of my favorite quilt bloggers belongs to a fabulous quilt group. I always love to see their newly finished creations.
- Be a fly on the wall and watch these high schoolers create.
- Prize-winning photos from the Siena International Awards.
- Beautiful watercolor sketchbook pages.
- A refreshing take on time management.
- Don’t you wish lint could be used for something? Man, I throw away cubic yards of it every week.
- I want to live here.
- Perhaps the most unusual museum in the world.
- A World War II soldier’s sketchbook.
- Why and how to practice your art.
- Design off the charts.
- Why multitasking is counterproductive.
Today’s post comes with a special blogging *challenge. But first, some background.
I have been wanting to write this post for a long time, but I procrastinated because my office was such a mess–I didn’t want to post a picture of it.
But then I figured out I could just spiffy up the desk where I write, paint, and draw. You don’t have to see the stacked boxes o’ stuff I’m trying to find places for. (Yeah, I know, not that spiffy, but it took me a week to get it this organized.)
There’s my laptop, open to one of my favorite sources of inspiration, Pinterest. The pink flower behind it is actually a pen stuck in a vase. To the right, you can see some of the many receptacles for pens, scissors, paperclips, etc. The ubiquitous water bottle–a must for writers everywhere, but especially in Arizona. In the cubbies, a stack of salvaged notebooks, all kinds of sticky notes, index cards, scratch pads, and thank you cards.
Under the light is a panel from a birthday card Greg gave me years ago with a picture of a little boy singing his heart out (who looked remarkably like one of my kindergarten students, so it spent a few years on the wall of my classroom). Below that, a postcard my friend Judy sent me from Florence, Italy several months ago. To the right of that, a list of my creative goals for 2016 (you’re working on yours, right?), with sticky note addenda attached.
Can you see on the perpendicular surface to the right the post card from the Cloisters of one of the Unicorn Tapestries (to inspire me to work on my mystical fantasy-in-progress)? And to the left of the singing boy, two pages from magazines reminding me of places I need to go for photo-essays I’m planning.
On the top shelf of the desk are art supplies, a box of greeting cards, boxes of envelopes, some supplements old ladies take, a picture of Greg when he was a little boy (because he was so stinkin’ cute!), some toys that used to belong to my kids, tissues, hand sanitizer, a mini-stereo (I must have music when I write! You can see the slots where I store some f my favorite CDs), and a Scripture-a-day calendar.
I am fascinated with seeing the workspaces of writers and artists. You, too?
To see more, check out these articles on creative workspaces:
- 40 Inspiring Workspaces of the Famously Creative
- Japanese Artists Show Off Their WorkspacesArtist’s Studios
- A collection of posts about artists’ and writers’ workspaces
- Offices and workspaces of famous people, some creative, some not
- 25 Creative Workspace Ideas
- Quilter Melanie’s studio
Do you have the freedom to do this in your workspace?
And here are workspaces of some of the people who have been featured on ARHtistic License.
Artist (and writer) Robert Holewinski:
Jewelry designer Shirli Matatia:
Artist Michael James:
Not exactly a workspace picture, but here is artist Jeremy Kirsch at work:
Woodcarver and furniture maker Scott Zuziak of Lazy River Studios:
*And Now, Presenting: The ARHtistic License Workspace Challenge
Fellow bloggers, let’s take this workspace sharing one step further. Your assignment, should you chose to accept it, is to show us where you create. Here’s all there is to it:
- Between now and September 30, 2016, take a picture of your workspace, and post it on your blog. Tell us what you create there. Do you write, design greeting cards, manufacture household gadgets? You can even tell us the special significance of the objects in your photo(s), or why you’ve set up the area as you have. How does it inspire you? Help you to be productive?
- Somewhere in the post, include this sentence (cut and paste so that you include the link–when your post goes live, it should automatically generate a ping-back to your post in the comments below): This is my response to the ARHtistic License Workspace Challenge.
- Share your article on social media with this hashtag: #ALWorkMagic.
- Optional: to spread the word, share this article on social media with the hashtag #ALWorkMagic. Cut and paste this shortlink: http://wp.me/p6gt9v-33p or use the sharing buttons below.
I can’t wait to see where you work!
Scott Zuziak, nature enthusiast, has been carving and woodworking since the early 90s. He specializes in custom wood signs for homes and businesses, and rustic furniture.
Zuziak says, “I love the outdoors, the national parks, road trips, and my favorite pastime is canoeing down a lazy river.” His love of nature influences all his work and even the name of his business.
Here’s how Zuziak describes his sign-making process:
“I begin by hand picking and purchasing pine or cedar free of defects. The lumber is delivered to my shop and prepared by planing both sides of each plank and ripping on a table to ensure smooth and square building blocks. I then laminate all the pieces. Laminating allows for those highly desired, beefy slabs of wood. The main shapes of the sign are routed in an automated process. When the main shape is carved, I begin hand carving the scenery. This is the most rewarding part of making a wooden sign. After the scenery and sculptures are carved and sanded, I begin the text. An outline of the text is machined, and the letters and the surrounding surfaces are hand finished using gouges and chisels. The text turns out perfectly each and every time, and I can carve any font. Finally, I complete the custom wooden sign by finishing with multi-tone stains and/or with acrylic. Airbrushing techniques are utilized for a special shading effect. The end product: a custom wood sign that is of the highest quality and completely unique…and one that you will be proud to hang on your business or home.”
Here is where the magic happens:
Here are some samples of his signs:
I first came across Zuziak’s work when I was searching for handcrafted furniture on Etsy.com. Here is what made me take a closer look:
But look at this drop-dead gorgeous instrument he made:
Would you like to watch Zuziak at work? Here he is, building and customizing a camper trailer:
My husband, Greg, is a lifelong enthusiast of the sport of shooting, including reloading ammunition, plinking, target shooting, and skeet shooting. He collects books about guns, and he pores over the illustrations, admiring the craftsmanship and aesthetics. He improved a few of the guns in his own collection, rebrowning or rebluing the barrels as appropriate, and refinishing the stocks.
His appreciation for workmanship led him to try his hand at building derringers (nineteenth century pistols like the one used notoriously by John Wilkes Booth) from kits. This involved taking a rough-cut wooden stock and shaping it to fit comfortably in the hand, carefully inletting it to accommodate the mechanical workings of the gun, and staining and finishing his product. It was largely a process of trial and error, with some unsatisfactory results, and other more successful ones, some of the better pieces found new homes as gifts to friends and admirers.
Greg also built several flintlock and percussion rifles, and three cannons.
Then he built a blunderbuss, a muzzle-loader with a flared barrel (like the Pilgrims might have used), and decided to do something more with it—carve the stock, like some of the historical examples he saw in his books. So far he’s made four, each with a unique design. (Click on the images for a larger view.)
Greg bought himself a Ruger® 10/22® rifle and the plain stock suddenly looked like an empty canvas to him. Yielding to his artistic impulses, he removed the factory finish, and carved patterns into the stock. He’s since carved six more with various designs, including a dachshund who looks suspiciously like Rudi, who lives at our house.
When he starts working on a stock, he spends time visualizing what it could become, sometimes choosing a theme. For example, one of his blunderbusses has a boat on one side and a bluefish on the other, a reference to his youth on the New Jersey shore, when he spent many days fishing with his father. “I’m taking a common thing and making it into something special,” he says. His main carving tool is a simple X-ACTO® knife. He buys ten packages of blades at a time. He also uses a Dremel® tool, an engraver, a woodburner, various sanding tools, and tiny paintbrushes capable of depositing stain in the skinniest of indentations. He keeps Bandaids® handy for the occasional carving accidents.
Greg often starts by marking the boundaries of his design area in pencil, then carving the borders. He’ll sketch out his motif on paper first, then transfer it to the wood in pencil. First he’ll carve roughly, then go back and refine, rounding some edges, beveling others, gouging some backgrounds, and stippling other areas, producing a variety of textures. After staining, he applies multiple coats of oil to finish the stock.
Retired after thirty-plus years of teaching in elementary school, Greg feels fortunate to have the time and means to immerse himself in wood stock carving.
What creative interests do you have that you are pursuing now, or hope to, once you retire?