Monday 9 July 2018
As far back as he can remember there has been a link, of some kind, between Terry and art. He told us that this link was not so much through art lessons at school, but rather from his experiences outside of school. “Having a father who was involved in commercial art/design for a living, and painting in watercolours and oils in his spare time, was all the inspiration I needed to spur me on,” he says.
He showed early promise in art classes. “In school my favourite subjects were sport, English Language and art, and although I left without qualifications to take up an apprenticeship in the printing trade, I always remember a conversation between my art tutor and my father regarding me staying on and going straight to A Level art, skipping the O Level. But after a discussion with my dad, the decision was made and off I trotted into the big wild world of work. I can't actually recollect having much of a say in it. Mind you, I was only 15!”
After leaving school he tried out as many different art media as he could, starting out with pencil drawings, then point-and-line drawings in pen and ink and later using watercolours. With his love of birds he found himself drawn to these as the subjects of most his work. He told us that with all this art, he always strove to achieve fine detail: “The big attraction for me was the challenge of getting as much fine detail into each piece of work as I could, a trait that has lived with me to this day.
My attempts at painting nice loose watercolour landscapes never really succeeded; they always ending up looking muddy as I overpainted them, trying to add too much unnecessary detail.” However, not wanting to give up on watercolours completely, he reverted back to wildlife/birds as subjects. “This time my aim was to do studies of birds of prey and owls, using the watercolours very dry, which allowed me to put in plenty of fine details by layering colours on top of each other, building up the depth of the birds,” he explains. Some of these paintings can be seen in the 'Paintings Gallery' section on his website.
In the 1990s, and now living in north Norfolk, Terry came to the conclusion that too many wildlife artists and not enough buyers could only mean one thing – a change in direction and medium had to be made, so he swapped his paper and paints for timber and knives. “The added bonus was that, if I could carve and burn in as much detail as possible, I could then use my fine detail painting experience to enhance the work further. This was a eureka moment for me and the start of my journey to this day!”
The majority of Terry's work is based around British songbirds, a subject close to his heart. “The essence of my work is to replicate them as best I can, but also to mount them in a way that shows the habitat and personality of the bird. My 'Barn Owl' comes to mind here with the peaceful serene look of the bird, also the 'Bearded Tit' holding on amongst the reeds and the 'Dartford Warbler' up on high, in full song. These are the things that I've had the pleasure of watching out in the field and the memories that I've taken home with me.
Terry often receives requests for carvings of various other animals, but prefers to carve pieces based on his own experiences of watching birds. “I've been asked many times could you carve a so and so? Technically I suppose the answer is probably yes, but I personally believe that the correlation between the carver and subject shows itself in the finished piece of work. I have been told many times by followers of my work on social media and at exhibitions that they can feel the love and passion that goes into each piece, and they're right, that's what they see, and that's exactly what I put into each bird I carve.”
Starting to work full-time on carving has given Terry a chance to produce a larger variety of work to put on his website and to take to exhibitions. He now makes birds in a greater selection of shapes, sizes and colouring, something which he purposely set out to do. He relishes the challenges this has brought: “Not only does this give the presentation at exhibitions that 'wow' factor, it also tests my painting and carving skills, especially the painting of a bird like the kingfisher with its iridescent colouring, a process that can ruin a great carving.”
Terry gives careful thought to each subject he makes: “The most important factors for me when choosing a bird to carve are the form and shape of it, the pose and how I'm going to mount it. Would it look better with its head slightly turned? Will I be able to do the bird justice? I decide on all these aspects before starting my sketches.” He explains that he doesn't spend too much time on detailed drawings when making non-commissioned carvings. “My main object is to make templates of two profiles which I then transfer to my piece of timber for cutting out.” When doing commissioned work, however, he makes more detailed drawings to give the client a better idea of what to expect, although he told us that the majority of his clients trust him to do what he thinks is best.
Influences and inspirations
From an early age, Terry's father was a great influence on him. “Rather than wasting his free time watching TV he spent it honing his painting skills, and later on in his life carving decorative decoy ducks. He attained a really high quality of work, purely through his hard work, dedication and ethics, traits that have been passed down to me. I think one of the most important values I learned from him was that you only get out what you put in, something I've put into practice myself since starting out on this carving journey.”
He explains that he has not been influenced by other carvers, preferring to cultivate his own style. “I've never looked at other carvers' work for inspiration or technical know-how. I firmly believe that your style and techniques for carving will, in time, surface naturally, you'll find the techniques that work well for you, you will create your own style. You have to ask yourself, why try to produce a piece of work that looks like someone else's? Individuality is what stands out amongst others! If you can't emulate another carver's work, you'll feel that you've failed. You haven't, you've just failed to make a copy! People want to buy original works of art, copies aren't original.”
He is inspired by the responses to his work that he gets from clients and from people who have visited his website or follow him on social media. “Their enthusiasm and appreciation of my work makes me want to create better and more exciting pieces. I've never felt the need for someone to stand over me pushing me on, the desire I have to do my best and succeed has always been the driving factor to any success I have had up to this point, and success can only be measured by the achievements you set yourself as an individual anyway.”
Approach to carving
Right from the start, Terry has enjoyed the tactile nature of woodcarving. He says: “One of the first things I noticed when I changed from painting to carving was the great buzz I got from being able to feel the piece of wood in my hand during the carving, texturising and painting. Having got used to using really fine brushes, minimal paint and light delicate strokes on my bird paintings, I now realised how little contact there was between the brush and card, lacking a connection you could say. But now I had total control and feeling of every inch of the piece of work in my hand.”
When he began carving, Terry had to gather the bare amount of tools together with the minimum outlay.
“I didn't own any chisels so I used the craft and scalpel knives that I already owned, and to this day they still do the bulk of the work on my songbirds. My only extravagance has been a knife handle I had made, which only takes disposable blades. No time spent constantly sharpening blades here!”
He has recently started working on larger, more prestigious pieces such as the 'Barn Owl' and 'Peregrine Falcon'. Due to its size, the latter had to be worked on with chisels at the outset, but a lot of the reduction and all of the intricate feather work was still done with those same knives that Terry had started out with, and the same needle files too. As Terry says, “it doesn't take a big cash outlay on tools to start carving, and patience comes at no cost. So if you have a piece of timber, some knives, needle files, some time and patience, then you've got what you need to start this wonderful hobby.”
Terry tells us that his major aim at the moment is to be able to continue working as a professional bird carver. “It's what I love, and I feel that it's what I'm meant to be doing. I started doing it full-time in the middle of one of the worst recessions in recent times, and I've managed to survive. It's been really hard going during this last 18 months but as I sit here, I have next to me a commissioned piece of work which is in progress. During the last 18 months I've also written an ebook, A Bird in the Hand, which is available on Amazon and a carving manual, Secrets of the Bird Carver, which is a beginner's guide to carving a robin. As well as these books, he has written several articles for magazines, which he enjoyed doing and hopes to get similar opportunities in the future.
He has ambitious plans for his next carvings. “I intend this year to put all my efforts into creating another four bigger, prestigious pieces of work like the 'Barn Owl' and 'Peregrine Falcon'.
I hope to get out more to exhibit my work and meet up with some of the great followers I have on my social media sites, who inspire me to keep creating my works of art, and finally, improving the standard of my work!”