Chad sculpts figures out of wood, life size figures he creates after making body casts of live models. The results are unique and stunning. He hasn’t always created fine art, but he didn’t exactly fall backward into it, either.
“I’d done classical carving,” he says. “I’d done furniture design and architectural wood work for quite a few years, but I’d been thinking about doing something that was more artistic.”
He did a project for a friend who had an art gallery and told him what he’d been considering. They decided to do a show, and Chad produced a handful of work. A lot of it sold.
“I looked at my friend and said, ‘So, I should do this again, huh?’ I’ve been doing them ever since. I rarely do architecture or furniture work anymore, unless someone talks me into a project.”
Chad came by his affinity for wood naturally. When he was a child, Chad spent a lot of time in his grandfather’s basement watching him “whittle.”
“His stuff was technically called whittling, but at a phenomenal level. And he was very prolific. I thought everyone’s grandpa carved in the basement. I thought it was normal,” Chad says. “My dad was a carpenter, and had a workshop at home, so I grew up around tools and wood.”
He wasn’t an art major while he attended the University of Colorado, instead studying anatomy and physiology. His art education came after where he says he pieced together an apprenticeship on his own.
“Wood carving is a dying art,” Chad says.
“The few carvers I met were old European guys.”
His sculptures typically originate with a casting of a live model.
“It’s another thing I had to teach myself. Since I’m working in a medium where models can’t stand and pose for me, I have to use a study. I’m working in a little bit of a dangerous environment,” he says. “They don’t lie down, either. They have to stand and hold the pose. But once I have that as my study, I can work on it indefinitely. It’s nice having the life-size reference like that. I can literally take a direct measurement and decide what log I want to use.“
Chad says his studio is littered with logs, most of which he gets after storms roll through. In fact, almost everyone he knows will call him when they see a downed tree.
“I spend a lot of time looking for logs,” he says. “If I see a cherry or maple tree down, if it’s in a good location, I’ll stop. I got a giant cherry tree from the photographer who shoots my work. One of the good things about living in Atlanta, I have quite a resource of hardwoods available.
“I spend a lot of time looking for logs because I want some character in the wood. I don’t look for the perfect piece. I want something that has pattern and detail I can incorporate into the figure. It needs to accentuate the figure instead of being distracting.
When he’s set to begin a piece, he examines the logs already in the studio.234-Vimala-right-wall-mount.
“I study the patterns in them. You can tell from the end of the log and other things on the surface where the pattern is going to go,” says Chad. “But once I cut into it, that’s it. That’s going to be the piece. Every once in a while I cut the profile out and it’s not what I thought it would be.” Once the rough profile is cut out, Chad proceeds to the removal process and starts sculpting it down toward its final form. When he gets it close to finished, the wood is kiln dried.
“If anything was going to happen to it, it would happen in the kiln. That’s the most stress that wood will ever endure. Every once in a while, it ruins the piece, but that’s only happened a few times.
“After that, it’s tons of sanding and finishing. I take it down to a highly polished surface and bring out the wood grain. The detail, the faces, that has to be done with hand tools, chisels and shapers.”
Some of Chad’s sculptures have colored paint on them. A few have gold leaf inlaid. But mostly, the grain and figure stand alone. In his most recent work, there are dark patterns and animals, reminiscent of Native American art, burned into the wood.
“There’s sort of a Native American influence,” says Chad, “but it isn’t Native art. There’s nothing specific. It’s more of a spirit guide kind of thing. I like drawing animals. It’s something new I’ve been working on, and I finally reached the point where I was ready to use it. I’m excited about the new pieces.”
In addition to getting ready for Loveland, Chad is also about to send his youngest daughter to college, but he promises us he’ll send some work to Lovetts soon.