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Reflections of Nature 2001

11th Annual Wildlife Art Competition and Sale

April 6 to 8, 2001


by Bob Gander <r.gander@home.com>

Once again the Saskatchewan Wildlife Art Association organized an excellent show. There was actually 18 months since the last show, as the SWAA decided to move from an October date to April. The location was the same as the last show-- the Saskatoon Centennial Auditorium. The show, like the association members, includes flat art, photography, and wood carving, and all the pieces entered must relate to wildlife. This report, however, will focus exclusively on the wood carvings. Since it is a competition, I will also be presenting primarily the winning carvings in each of the events and divisions. I will go through them in the order in the program. My apologies in advance to all the carvers; my images do not do justice to the excellent work that has been done on all the pieces. The fluorescent lighting in the hall does not lend itself to capturing the true colors of the pieces.

Feature Artist--Cam Merkle

Each year the show has a Feature Artist. This year it was Cam Merkle, who has gone from carving as a hobby to full-time professional carving and has now gone back to it as a hobby. When he was heavily involved in competitions, he carved mainly realistic life-size birds. Now that he is doing it more for himself he prefers miniatures. However, he strives to put as much detail in the miniatures as he does in a full size bird (or fish). The reason that carving has become a hobby again is that his manufacturing business, <http://www3.sk.sympatico.ca/razertip/>Razertip Industries, has become so successful with its pyrography tools and dust management system.

Cam Merkle with two of his carvings. The magpie is one of his favorite birds. He has done several in different poses including in flight. One of the reasons that he likes carving magpies is the challenge of getting the iridesence of their tail feathers. The other carving is a work in progress. It is a northern pike (or jackfish) attacking a school of perch.

Another miniature northern pike by Cam Merkle. The pike is usually considered to be undesirable because it is quite bony, but I understand it puts up quite a fight when on the line.

Cam is an excellent instructor and is very knowledgable about wildlife in general. In a prior career, he was a professional photographer, who did a lot of wildlife photos. Every year he is one of the judges for the carving events.

And now for the carving competition!

There were two events for wood carvers: Bird Carving and Wildlife Sculpture. The Wildlife Sculpture event, however, also includes other media besides wood. Each event had a Best of Show as well as division and class categories. There were three levels of expertise in most divisions: open, intermediate, and novice. I have tried to be selective by choosing a wide range of subjects done by different carvers. Not all classes had entries, but in many cases I have chosen not to include class winner because their work has been included elsewhere. However, there are some omissions because the lighting or display did not allow me to adequately capture the piece. Overall, I think that the number of entries was down from previous years. However, there seemed to be more out-of-province entries from carvers who were new to me.

Event #1 Bird Carving

Division A: Decorative Lifesize Decoys (Flat Bottom)

This division had three classes; however there were only entries in Class 1 Ducks

Bufflehead Drake by Larry Vanderhyde, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Third Best of Show Open and First in Class and Division


Ruddy Duck by Duane Bristow, Regina, SK

Best of Show Intermediate and First in Class and Division


Green Wing Teal by Ron Leontowicz, Saskatoon, SK

Best of Show Novice and First in Class and Division

Division B: Decorative Lifesize Bird Carvings

There were 3 classes in this division: 1) songbirds 2) birds of prey and 3) all other species. However, I was unable to get satisfactory images of most of these entries.

Tree Sparrow
by Jean Minaudier
St. Claude, Manitoba

Best of Show Open and First in Class and Division

This image does not do justice to the bird or the perch. The texturing on the feathers was remarkable. It made you want to stroke them to smooth out the ruffles. The perch was about 2 feet long, and was a very realistic dead branch.

Jean was also one of the judges. His critiques are always very helpful to carvers looking to improve their technique and presentation.


Division C: Decorative Miniature Bird Carvings

There are 3 classes in this division also: i) Miniature Flat-Bottom Decoys, ii) Miniature Songbirds and iii) Miniature all other species.

Blue Phase Snow Goose by Harvey Welch, Saskatoon, SK

First in Class Open and Second in Division

This was another beautiful bird by Harvey, whose work we will see more of later. For those of you unfamiliar with snow geese, most are pure white except for black wing tips. However, a few have a strikingly different coloration, known as blue phase. The front of a real bird does look bluish in the right light. The scanned image does not capture the subtle variations in browns and greys on the body.


Snowy Owl
by Glenn Maber
Sherwood Park, Alberta

First in Class Open


by Barb Mikaluk
Ardrossan, Alberta

First in Class and Division Novice


Division D: Traditional Hunting Decoys

This division is for working decoys. General texturing is allowed, but no individual feather detailing is allowed. There can be no loose or fragile parts. The first three classes: i) Diving Ducks ii) Dabbling Ducks and iii) Geese and Confidence, were judged floating on water. Class iv) Shorebirds were to be mounted on a single wood or metal rod. There are no experience levels in this division.

Black Scoter by Ray Minaudier, St. Claude, Manitoba

First in Class and Second in Division

Ray is Jean's father. Between the two of them, they have enough entries for a small show. This image does not show the contouring that gave proper shape to the body.

For Part Two click HERE.