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Carving Award Winning Songbirds

By Lori Corbett

Reviewed by Mike Bloomquist


OK, this is going to be an adventure... at least for me because you see I'm not a bird carver.  In fact at one time, when names were being auditioned for my hobby-almost-business, "Anything But Feathers" was a candidate.  Nothing against bird carvers.  In fact, the cold hard truth was/is that bird carving is intimidating to me.  It requires three kinds of artistry, sculpture artistry, texture artistry, and painting artistry all wrapped into one.  Fortunately for you and me, faithful readers (all three of you), I have several club members handy who carve birds very well, and  they were tapped for second and third opinions on my observations here.  Ok, they're not Ward Foundation winners, but they're better qualified than most... like... ummm... me?  The first opinion my "experts" back me up on is that this is one heckuva book!  In fact the opinion was unanimous.
Here are some of the high points of the book.  All of chapter four, "Design, Clay Models and Patterns", was fantastic.   At carving shows there have been plenty of bird carvings that were anatomically right on, but still the bird looked dead.  You could mount said bird on a branch during a windy day and, from across the pond, tell it was not a live version of the original. The discussions of design, color scheme, and model making in chapter four would have brought them to life.  Carvings that are animated and breath should be your ultimate goal as a wildlife carver. 

Another feature I liked in this book was the gray boxed "mastering it" tips sprinkled through out, and many of them were not limited to bird carving. Already mentioned a little, the color scheme discussions, painting techniques and color schedules helped make the most daunting part of carving a bird look very doable. The how-to section on building your own bird feet was very good. 

Finally, Lori Corbett's bases for her songbirds are great.  They are abstract and still very natural, always complimenting the bird, never distracting, and she illustrates how to accomplish them for yourself very well.

A brief tour of the contents:

About the Author
Introduction by the author

Chapter 1: Tools and Materials

Chapter 2: Anatomy Primer

Chapter 3: Songbird Basics

Chapter 4: Design, Clay Models and Patterns

Chapter 5: Making Legs and Feet

Chapter 6: Mountain Bluebird

Chapter 7: Cedar Waxwing

Same outline as chapter 6 except, well, it's for a cedar waxwing.

Chapter 8: Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Same outline as chapter 6 for a red-breasted nuthatch.




Further Study

Resource Listings


Here comes the nit picking so, if this part annoys you, just skip to the next paragraph.  My first nit is that the anatomy lesson carries pretty heavily through most of the rest of the book, and it sometimes make your eyes glaze over.  A good example would be step 140 of the mountain bluebird, "Draw the subgroups on the rimal feathers, lores, and auricular coverts."  Auricular what?!  Thank God for pictures is all I gotta say.  Friends... DO NOT just skim that anatomy chapter.  You will need it.  OK, so that's not a genuine nit pick, more like poking fun.  Here's a legit complaint though... I'm a big fan of cedar waxwings.  One of the features that would scare me to reproduce is that airbrushed, soft to the eye quality of  their breast and throat areas.  I think the carved example in this book has a little too coarse a texture there, and throws a bit too much shadow.  Yes, I can hear you (all the way to Upstate NY), "Well, smart a**, carve one better!"  You know, I should try one, but if I did pull it off, it would be because I used this book for the other 98% of my bird.

four thumbs OK Gang, nit picking is over. My experts and I think this book is another four thumber.  Great in all categories, layout, photography, instructional, and completeness.  If you're an experienced bird carver like my buddies or a first timer for birdcarving, this is a keeper.  So, keep them edges keen, the chips piled high, and next issue I got another of those artsy-fartsy book for us to peruse together.


Keep on Carvin'
-Mike Bloomquist->

Fox Chapel Books http://www.foxchapelpublishing.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=1606

Mike's mugMike Bloomquist is a carver and carving teacher, and a regular contributor to WOM.

You may visit Mike's web site, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving HERE or email him at m.bloomquistATverizonDOTnet.