R.L. Blair: The Art of Wood Carving

wood-carving-tool-480For some, it may be hard to imagine life without cable television, Playstations, and the Internet.  R.L. Blair never knew of these luxuries as a child growing up on a farm in Washington.  At the age of twelve, Blair found something great to occupy his time with and it had nothing to do with video games or remote controls.  Blair had discovered whittling wood with a knife.  He began carving creations that could be found on any boy’s wish list.  Sling shots, toy guns, and bows and arrows were favorites of Blair’s to make.  Eventually the novice carver moved on to bigger and better projects.  Shortly before Blair’s high school graduation he carved the mascot, a totem pole.

Today, Blair’s beautiful and original artwork is known all around the world.  In fact, it is estimated that more than 30 million people view the talented carver’s creations each year.  Many of those people see Blair’s work while on vacation, perhaps without even realizing it.  After all, he is the premier wood carving artist for Disney and has been doing so since the mid-1980s.  Blair’s work can be seen at all of the Disney owned theme parks.  In addition to the six major theme parks, Blair’s sculptures are displayed all around the country at restaurants and in private collections.

The wood carver, who resides in Oceano, California, is famous for creating contemporary fine art sculptures, wood carvings and statues which include figurative and animal designs, marine life and carved wood wall works for both the home and garden.  Blair’s sculptures are beautifully detailed, each one uniquely carved with great skill.  There is the proud eagle, handsome and strong, with outstretched wings.  A mermaid with her long hair flowing in unseen waters. And then there are the whimsical, silly faces carved in eternal laughter.   But none of Blair’s sculptures are more popular than his wooden bears.  These life sized carved creations are done in caricature style, giving these typically grizzly and menacing beasts a much softer, cuddlier side.  With these kinds of sculptures and wood art, it is no wonder Blair has made such a name for himself as an artist, earning much respect and admiration with each new creation.

An artist in other mediums such as paintings, steel, glass and stone, Blair says wood is his favorite.  “I like to carve because I can create a tangible object.  It is something I made with my hands and will hopefully enhance your surroundings and have some affect on the viewer,” states Blair.  The artist also reveals how much he loves wood for the warmth of the patina and the unique character found in each piece.  “It {wood} was once a living thing and is becoming rare, so this is how it can be preserved,” explains Blair.  For many years Blair studied wildlife and describes himself as an avid nature lover; therefore, he feels strongly about being able to carve anatomically correct pieces. However, one of Blair’s favorite wood designs exposes his sillier, more carefree style.  “I like the whimsical, “goofy off-the-wall stuff,” states Blair.

And when Blair is ready to carve a masterpiece, where does he find his canvas?  Blair says he uses salvaged and recycled logs, mostly from fallen coastal redwood trees cut over 100 years ago and left on the ground, still lying in the forests.  Trees like this are no longer harvested, but many were cut in the 19th Century.  Today, redwood harvesting is closely managed to insure the future of forests and their environment.

And how exactly does Blair carve these fallen redwoods?  He uses chainsaws, various power tools, carving knives and a mallet and chisel.  Blair carves the wood with one tool at a time, working his way from the top to the bottom.  The artist explains that each tool adds increasing degrees of detail to the wood.  When finished with one tool, Blair will then move on to a new and different tool which helps to give even more detailing til the product is finished.  The process may seem simple enough, but the fact of the matter is, very few artists have the skill to do what Blair can do with carving wood. He is a master; self-taught and doing what he loves for 35 years now.

R.L. Blair’s wood creations are full of whimsy, originality and pure magic.  These pieces are a definite must-have for the person who already has everything, but could always use that extra special something.

If you are looking for that extra special something, contact R.L. Blair at 512-820-1409 or by his email address: rl.blair@yahoo.com.  His hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can view some of Blair’s work on his website which can be found at www.rlblair.com.  Blair is available to do commissions and special requests.

Blair was also recently featured in the book, Art of Chainsaw Carving, published by Fox Chapel.

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