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Mark Strom

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About Mark Strom

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  1. Thank you Janel for the positive reinforcement. I have always tried to push my skills and range of work but there seems to be a sense of urgency these days. Events in recent years have changed my approach everything concerning my work. To say I have thrown off a great deal of limitations is an understatement. I realized that most of my career has been spent more on the self promotion instead of the self expression. Of course the monetary demands of having a family played into that. The focus now is totally on self expression, taking what I know I am good at and pushing it in all directions. I have begun to reject most commissions, have difficulty making "similar" peices and do my best to avoid deadlines. Of course this upsets the balance of things. Galleries don't know what is coming only that it will be different from the last, collectors have begun to ask for work from a series and carvings come in groups with more time in between groups. My work is not as predictable anymore. Oh but what fun it is to explore, to experiment and to just take the time to let a carving evolve! This approach has brought new life to my work and brought a new vibrancy to my living day to day. You are correct with the canvas reference. I realized why my carvings were not selling in galleries and decided to approach it differently, the results have been amazing....but that is the subject of another time. Mark
  2. I have used wax as a finish on raw wood although not often. My reason for this is due to the fact that I do not sand to the degree that you do. The secret to a good finish with wax on raw wood is the surface prep. Wood sanded above 300 grit would finish nicely with wax. Although the carnuba in the wax is what hardens the finish it is by no means a true finish in terms we usually think of. For the work that you are doing Janel I would stick to the tried and true and if anything use the waxes as an addition to your ability to enhance. I apply wax over lacquer, shellac, varnish, danish oil, acrylic paint or watercolors. The artist oils take as long as 6 months or longer to truly cure in some cases due to the linseed content etc. In my case I use the wax for toning colors, controlling sheen and for ageing or accenting. An example would be coloring a carving of bark with watercolors and then using the wax to color the crevices in the bark or adding a tinge of green to a brown branch. In that case I have more control over the color and sheen that I end up with. Waxes in my realm are for subtle effects and are usually applied just in certain areas instead of say and entire piece. To be truthful my finishing is as intricate as my carving process. I wanted to set myself apart and do something different with my carving so I focused on what I was good at. Finishing effects and colors have always been a strong point with me. Now when I finish a carving I use a large array of paints, stains and waxes in combination with each other and often applied in sequence over each other as well. My carvings have become multi-medium peices. I carve away wood, add wood, add epoxy or sculpting medium, stain and paint as well as scrape and sand to acheive the look I am after all on the same peice. Mark
  3. As requested. I was lucky enough to inherit some supplies from a restoration class that was discontinued at the local college. The class had been taught by a fellow from England that had gone through the traditional apprentice program in restoration and had also taught in London. He ended up in Asheville doing work in the historic Biltmore Estate. Needless to say he is a wealth of information on materials and techniques and I often call him for advice and take little mini classes from him at his home. One of his students taught me this. I use several different waxes which include Johnson paste wax, Briwax, and some of the Liberon waxes. I also have a couple of really fine waxes but do not know their names right off hand. There are all kinds of blends and qualities of waxes and they can cover the scale on price. Believe me when I say there is a huge difference in these waxes and the finish they produce, this is really noticeable on larger or flat surfaces. The difference between a paste wax and a microcrystaline wax is like night and day. Google waxes and do just a little reading. Coloring waxes is really easy and can be done cheaply and safely. Because I am not using large amounts I usually mix mine with a palette knife on a piece of glass or smooth wood. Occasionally I use a little heat to help with the blending but usually it is not required. The colorants I use are artist oils bought from the local craft store. So far I have not had the need for a thinner but mineral spirits, naptha or turpentine can be used. Powdered pigments could also be used as well a japan colors. As you would expect you just scoop how much wax you need and then squeeze the colorant on the wax and start mixing. If I need to, I use a cigarette lighter to heat the wax a little and just keep blending until it is mixed thoroughly. I have never run into a situation where I had to add so much colorant that the wax would not dry. Application is the same as regular wax. The real secret is to work it into the wood and then let it dry. I use a cheap fairly stiff paint brush for oil paints ( also from the local craft store) and just scrub the wax into the surface. It does not take much wax so really loading the brush is not required and I use the same brush to clean out excess wax by letting it dry a little and then scrubbing the wax out of the detail areas. Drying times vary with each type of wax and are important. Drying times can affect how much wax is removed with buffing (especially on carvings where surface heights vary), what kind of sheen results and the amount of buffing the wax will tolerate.it. Generally the longer it dries the high the sheen that can be achieved. You can add color overall, highlight or age using wax. It can also hide or accent wood grain depending on the colors added. It is a great finish with a wide range of effects...and it takes very little experimentation to make it work well. Mark
  4. Janel, I agree about the character of the wood. This piece does have some really wonderful protrusions and points that could not have been better placed if planned. I carve a lot of oak leaves and frequently run into the problem with the points and the undercutting. Sometimes I feel like it is an unfirtunate compromise I have to make to achieve a balance. Of course basswood is not the strongest wood and at some point I will order some linden wood to see what can be done in that material. Bark carving is such a fascinating experience to me. I often try to make the animal secondary to the wood focusing the attention on the so called secondary elements. I totally understand the battle with small problem areas. A days work yields a thimble of chips with little visible difference but it is part of the deal you make. Sometimes you have to feel your way through instead of designing or planning...not always the easiest on the brain or nerves. You already know that this piece will exceed the last, it is your nature to push, to try for more and to go just a little farther with each new work. That is what makes each piece exciting, keeps you carving and keeps your clients enthralled by your work. Looking forward to the next photo. Mark
  5. Don't know how I missed it but am glad that I found it. What a fantastic carving. I have a large skull collection with some duplicates and your peice is definitely an inspiration....it is just beautiful. Thanks for sharing! Mark
  6. Oh the patience you must have! It is truly amazing work and to be able to hold it and work it while being so small, I am afraid my fingers would be like clubs trying to work something so small. I understand your hesistance with the foredom, a small mistep and your work would be ruined. There is also the issue as you say of the sheen of the finish. The Briwax is nice to work with, especially with the colors available. I have used a number of different restoration waxes that are soft and you can always color them by adding artist oils. Waxes are highly underrated. Looking forward to seeing more of your work. Mark
  7. I have been watching the progression of this carving with great interest. It is obvious the effort you are putting into the composition. Everything flows and the details are amazing, especially the caps on the acorns. Very meticolous work and attention to every detail. I know from my experience carving bark and trees that it is not just random carving that there truly is a rythmn and flow to these details. Is there a particular type of bark or tree you are working from or is this a free form? I like the bare wood protruding from the bark although I admit that the many round protrusions are a little disconcerting, that is why I ask about the type of tree. Carving leaves is always a challenge when it comes to undercutting and getting "lift". I would have thought the boxwood would have been a little more resilient for that effect. It does appear that most of the carving is actually scraping away instead of chiipping away pieces. It truly must be rough on the hands and finger tips. I look forward to seeing more of the progress and congratulate you on the well spent efforts so far, it is looking fantastic! Mark
  8. I have looked at this piece several times now. I love everything about it. The frog posture is so typical and due to the smoothness of the finish is almost abstract against the tree. The eyes also fascinate me and draw you in. The branch is just wonderful and I bet was an absolute joy to work on. The details and textures are something to get lost in. There are just so many subtle elements from top to bottom. Really wonderful and a wonder to look at. Great work Janel and thanks for posting it. Mark
  9. Thanks for the support. I am and have been working hard on this new direction, trying to create a style that is new, fresh and totally my own. It has taken a great deal of experimentation and thought to find my way with this work. It is definitely new and exciting and although I speak of it as work it is also a great deal of fun. Painting carvings was something I had avoided at all costs and was not something I had any training in. I think a lifetime of exposure and appreciation for the processes of all kinds of art has helped me tremendously to find my path. Needless to say, it is some of the most rewarding work that I have done in my career. Thanks again, Mark
  10. I haven't posted anything in I quess a year or so. Here are the last three panels I finished today. They are carved from basswood, the rabbit and barn owl from 8/4 stock and the owl on a branch from 4/4 stock. All three have been painted with a combination of watercolors, acrylics and artist oil paints. I also used modeling paste to sculpt the lichens on the owl branch. These represent a turning point in style and intent on my part. I am using techniques from many different fields of interest that I work in and trying to put them all together in my carving. I am focusing more on panels with select subject matter from nature and am just trying to experiment. I do have a end game in mind but I am trying to let things evolve to see where they end up. rabbit 13" x 10 1/4" barn owl 13" x 10 1/4" tawny owl 29" x 11 1/2" Mark Strom www.stromcarver.com
  11. I haven't posted in quite awhile and do not visit as much as I used to. Part of this is because the last year or so has been filled with to much drama and trauma in my personal life and the other is the changes that have taken place with the forum. This may step on toes but here is what I have observed and my opinion. The Natasha/Ford debacle really slammed this forum. There was a large group that posted regularly and a small but vocal core group that was heavily involved. The fall out from that affair caused some members to be invited to leave, others left on their own and some became disenchanted with the openess of the forum. Healthy debate brings vitality and life to a forum, unfortunately that affair left the lines unclear what was acceptable and what the repercussions would be for crossing the line. Oh I know there was some kind of history with some of the members then but from the outside appearances it was very unclear what happened and some of it appeared very unjust. A great many active participants disappeared after that and no one has taken their place. There has to be more tolerance for heated debate and if it goes to far the thread gets locked and the discussion shut down. If it goes into PM mode then a little transparency solves that issue. I think the forum has always been good at self censoring or public reprimands and for the most part discipline should be left in that arena. There has been a great influx of new members however not many of them are very vocal and dare I say some what nervous or insecure about their work. Not many do wood carving and if they do their work is not posted. Although I do appreciate the bone work and jewelry related pieces there is not much that I can add about techniques etc, as it is out of my field. For that matter most of what is posted is out of my field or has been covered many times which brings me to my next point. When someone asks a question about a technique or whatever I do not think a referral to a search helps much. It is like someone asking you a question and you tell them to go to the library. A short response or discussion with a referral that for a more indepth view go to the search function and look for ........whatever. Finally as much I hate to say it....people need to post their work and be proud of it and those of us who are professional should be FAR LESS judgemental about it. If there is something to be said the consideration should be given. The last time I posted was in reference to just such a circumstance. People should be far more tolerant than they are and those who post should stand up for what they post. After all....am I ever going to meet any of you, does it really matter what you think, are you really that good and who made you king? Part of the reason for real names and picture avatars was to make this a more personable place and more like a real conversation in the real world....would some of you really say some of the things you say in a public discussion in a room of 20 other crafts people...I doubt it. This fear and insecurity keeps people from commenting and from posting pictures. For that matter insecurity kills creativity, discussion, progress and exploration so anything that can kill the insecurity is a good thing. I have been in transition with my work for the past two years redefining and reshaping my business as well. I do have some work that I will post in the coming week or so. Pictures always bring activity so maybe I can do my part to help. Mark Strom www.stromcarver.com
  12. I read the above posts with a stunned amazement, walked away and then reread them again. I let some time go by but it just would not go away. I have to say something. I frequent and am a member of 7 or more forums all related to carving. All of these vary from the "feel good" forums to the serious forums of critiques for the confident and brave. This forum covers all skill levels and has always been middle of the road with an encouraging nature. Generally responses are geared not only to the skill level of the poster but to their request for feedback. The response from Niky is the height of artistic arrogance showing little concern for the feelings of a stated beginner. No encouragement, no questions, no constructive criticism, just a harsh unadulterated slap. Besides saying the work was lacking in design there was the added insult that it was not even carving. Definetly something I would expect from a classically trained academic artist who spent their career working for others. Someone from the school of hard knocks or who makes a living from their own creations would have a little more compassion. Not all of us have the opportunity, the finances or other resources to be trained or classically schooled in the arts and have no other recourse but to go the hard road of self education. I am self taught and after over 35 years of full time work feel that I am just now beginning to produce the work I desire. The need to survive, raise a family and all the other mundane things in life have kept me in the world of commissions instead of the awe inspiring work of "art". My first efforts make me shutter in hindsight but I was damn proud of those efforts then. I applaud Tony's response that he can only get better and for his ability to shirk the insults. As for the work in question. It would appear to me that it was a technical exercise and after having visited Tony's site I can see that it is quite a departure form his usual work. Is the design lacking...that depends on what his intent was dosen't it. Intent needs to be considered before a critique is given regardless of the outcome. Is it a technically proficent piece, no but then again he stated it was his first attempt. I believe he is trying to develop a skill which is the starting point for excellence and of creating art if that is the intent. Does it need to be awe inspiring, is that a requirement, is that everyones goal, is that a pre-requisite to enjoying the process or the outcome? I carve because it is a passion and a joy....and it is theraputic. Producing awe inspiring work is not the main goal and what inspires one may disgust another. Carving is theraputic...it forces you to face your fears, confront your failure and endure judgements from anyone that views your work. It tests your fortitude when faced with such harsh, uncaring comments from your peers. Niky, I am sure your first attempts were sheer works of artistic beauty of a technical skill unsurpassed and above reproach. Please consider where you are on this forum, what skill level you are commenting on and take the time to ask a question or two before posting a comment. If by chance you have years of experience maybe consider your early experiences with the process and how your feelings were impacted by those early "critiques". I think we all do the best we can and that is all we can do. I don't think your average person would post what they consider garbage. They post their best efforts, maybe keep that in mind. Mark Strom www.stromcarver.com
  13. These are actually meant to be sharpened this way. They meant to be used the opposite of a regular gouge. They are for carving convex surfaces. Resharpening them can be done but without graet care you could lose the temper. Stave
  14. I agree with the observations listed. The painting did take some of the mystery out of it. The paint added about as much as it took away. As for the painting...it is a learning curve for me and the one thing I try to be concious of is to not get to "painterly" and do to much. In my defesnse there are some subtlies in the snow that do not show up in the photograph not only due to the size of the file but due to my lack of photographic skills. I am enjoying the new freedom from previous conventions of mine. These days all my focus is on doing what I want and to push my personal envelope. There are some who aren't to happy with the new directions, not because of the quailty of the work but due to their own opinions concerning simplicity and coloring. Such is life! Learning to use the camera and lighting is a real challenge but fun in its own right. I think after all the years I have put in it is about time to really work on what I want for my own reasons, being a rsponsible adult is overated. Mark
  15. I finished the original in 2010 and personally was very happy with the way it came out and it was well received here on the forum. Of course it went out to the galleries and for some reason was not well received by the galleries. One gallery had it on displasy for less than a month before they requested I pick it up. Well to make a long story short, I decided to rework it with the new technique of finishing with the artist oils and glazes. My thought was it would either be a grand failure or it would be something very new and unique. Here is the before and after. What is your opinion on the change...disaster or sucess? Mark Strom www.stromcarver.com
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