Eight Tips for Carving Better

It is often said about artists that they are “gifted”. This is true some, but every artist will tell you they also have worked very hard, studied, and put in much time and effort to hone their artistic skill. To be a better carver there are some things one has to be willing to do to move on to the next level. I want to share with you eight things that have helped me to keep moving forward, improve, and enjoy woodcarving more than ever. I hope these help you out.

  1. Have the right tools and keep them sharp.

2. Invest the time. You won’t improve your carving if you don’t carve. It takes time and it’s a great time. You have to carve almost every day.

3. You have to be a self-learner. No one is going to push you to be a woodcarver. Be motivated to learn on your own.

4. Invest in books- Order or borrow, but read them and do the projects step by step. I have been mentored by Vic Hood, Jeff Phares, Harold Enloe, Terry Kramer, and John Burke, through their books, as well as many others.

5. Take a class in some way. I have had classes with Alec Lacasse, live and online. I have been part of online woodcarving classes, with Chris Pye, Ian Norbury, and Alec Lacasse. I have bought DVD’s from Mark Gargac, Gene Webb, and Ron Adamson. It’s costs money, but its still cheaper than golf, and it is worth every penny if you want to improve. Every carver has something to impart to you. There are also a lot of free Youtube lessons available.

6. Go to some woodcarving shows – I really got excited about carving when I went to my first woodcarving show in Saline Michigan and watched Floyd Rhadigan, carve caricatures. Wow was I excited. I talked to Vic Hood at a show in Archobold, OH, and looked at his amazing work and I wanted to do that. I talked to Don Mertz at a show and he said “You can do this.” It is motivating to go to shows, talk to carvers and see their art.

7. Carve with Others- We have a small club I started a few years ago. There are woodcarving groups and clubs within driving distance of you. You will learn, stay encouraged and meet some great people. The woodcarving community is so great.

8. Don’t get discouraged and quit. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. I’ve carved a lot of things that weren’t great, but every project adds value to you as a carver because you are learning. Don’t give up or quit when discouraged. Get online, and order a book or watching something for that inspiration to keep at it.

Enjoy the journey. I have been carving for 12 years, a lot the last 3. Just enjoy the process of learning, of a project, and the successes. Remember, anything worth-while takes preparation and time. It is also very fun. Woodcarving has been a gift to my life. It is peace and therapy to me. Enjoy every minute of it. I remember the man that got me into carving, Marty Eddinger. He said, “you love talking and reading about carving more than actually carving.” I took that to heart and go my hands on a chisel and knife to get at it. Enjoy this incredible art form. Be creative, be free, work hard, learn, expand, and grow as a woodcarver.

Keep carving friends! -Nate Elarton

Hitting the shop while at home

With the corona virus keeping us home more than normal I am out in the shop carving more than ever before. I am trying to push myself and not carve just what I am familiar with. I did sell a carving through Instagram, so I ordered more Bark to keep me stocked to carve. Thank you for the amazing bark from Western Canada Cottonwood Bark. I will be carving more today. I have a few new pics. My daughter is a photographer and took some wonderful shots. I will post them below.

I am also looking forward to classes online with an amazing carver Alec Lacasse. Alec is one of my instructors and a personal friend. Here is a free lesson Alec Posted, then go to his sight to sign up for his class information (Click here) If you can ever carve and learn from Alec, you will be blessed, as I have. He is a great teacher.

Again, carving brings me peace. During these times we need the peace of God. Here are some recent pics. (Thanks again Abby of Storylines Creative)

A Medieval Dragon in Cherry wood. I love carving realistic faces but am stretching out.

Some final Touches

This is a prince of a distant land. His headpeice and the details symbolizes his royalty. I am not done with him yet, and yes I made this all up, but it’s my art :).

Alec Lacasse comes to Temperance, Michigan to Teach

Alec Lacasse, wood sculptor, instructor, and musician came last weekend to Temperance, MI. Alec taught a face-carving seminar for 4 hours. We had 12 guys and we all had a great time, learned a lot, and enjoyed this young man and gifted teacher. If you can ever take any instruction with Alec, live or online, I highly recommend it. I have taken lessons with him and to have him here teaching was so great. He is an amazing individual. He stayed and also sang a few songs at our church. Check out his work, schedule, or get a lesson at Alec Lacasse’s Website Alec taught us more than woodcarving, but so much more through his character and music. Thanks Alec!

Alec Performs at Compelled Church
12 Men learned so much from Alec
Alec Lacasse and Nate Elarton
Alec Lacasse and Nate Elarton

Black Friday Carving

I finished this guy I call “Deep Sleep”. I tried to pay more attention to the detail in the neck for more realism. I used a pic to help.

I did end up winning the blue ribbon and white (1st and 3rd) at the Bedford Arts show in the sculpting/ceramic/glass catagory. I was pleasanlty surprised that the “Four Face” won the Blue. The Chief took 3rd. I think the amazing grain in the wood that popped when I applied the finished sort of washed out the detail.

I had a lot of Christmas carving plans and it’s black Friday already. I will enjoy doing my best. It’s all fun and I don’t put pressure on myself that would steal the joy of carving.

Make time to create. TV is all the same, screens get old, and creating in whatever medium you enjoy, art, music, drawing, painting, carving, ceramics, scuplting, pyrography, is better for you heart, mood, and emotions than you know. I have found, that once I get out to the shop and get started, I never regret it. Getting started is the challenge. Keep creating friends.

2019 Bedford Arts Show, Temperance, mI

I put 3 carvings in the art show this year. I dropped them off today. I have been working on them on and off for the last few months, the last several months for the chief. The piece I call “Four Face” was carved out of cottonwood bark gifted to me from the great carver Alec Lacasse . He has been a great help to me, as teacher, coach, and friend. I’ll let you know if a nab a ribbon or not.

Entered into Art Show
Four Face

Why I love wood carving

I love woodcarving. Since that first time I held a chisel in 2007 in Newport TN when Marty Eddinger encouraged me to “give it a try.” I connected emotionally with carving.  I have never considered myself an “artist” but I know I am.   I love music. It moves me.  I create weekly messages to communicate Christ to the church I pastor.   That is a form of art.  I am attracted to creativity, even though i am an “8” on the enneagram I am often a #4.

I love creating. I love the “shop”. I love the smell, the space, the feel i get when I walk into my shop.  The wood, the past are, the music/podcasts I play. I love it.  I love the friends I have made, the ones I carve with.  I love the fellowship when I carve alone.  I mean God is the greatest creator.

I often chuckle at those that “poke” at me for carving, saying they don’t have that kind of time. Well, I know we make time for what we love. People are sitting too much. I know most people watch a couple hours of T.V. a day. I don’t watch that much.  I don’t hunt, or fish much, hate golf, but I love wood. I am loving the creating, artistic side better.  There is just something about working with your hands.

Cardiovascular disease is the western worlds biggest killer, with stress being one of the main contributing factors. Creativity seems to be the ultimate stress buster, and artists have an ability to move effortlessly from the analytical left brain mode into the sublime right brain creative mindset, dissolving stress in the process. “Being in the zone” refers to that magical state of being completely engaged in something to the point of a near meditative state. This single-minded immersion is like being on autopilot, totally in control without consciously thinking about the process.

Picasso once said, “when I enter the studio, I leave my physical body at the door “. I too feel like that.

I love the learning involved. I have learned to carve. It’s not a gift. I have to read, study, take lessons, practice and fail. I love it all.

Woodcarving my not be your thing, but something is and it’s not watching cable and Netflix all the time. Learn an art, an instrument, a hobby and enjoy it. Woodsculpting is a gift from God to me and I am thankful.

Guy in butternut from the 40’s with ears.

I’m not quite done with this guy. I have been avoiding him because I have not detailed ears much. A carver messaged me on instagram encouraging me to do ears. I did them and now I know I can do full busts with ears. They are tricky and I have more practice to go to perfect them. Butternut is a trick wood, as the grain chips. I love the look. I’ll be finishing this and will post the final pics.

Ears in Butternut

I have been challenged by a fellow carver to work on ears so I started this bust in wonderful butternut with the goal of carving ears below the cap.  I have another bust I am attempted ears. They are harder than I thought.  I will persevere and learn. I want to be able to do it.  It’s one of the next steps to being  better carver.