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Carving shapes an artistic appreciation for the great outdoors
2/14/2016 Article Published in Uniontown Newspaper.
Denny Nurkiewicz considers himself an avid outdoorsmen with a lifetime full of fishing and hunting experiences.
It was through those countless trips, and exposure to the art of wildlife and decoy carvings, that he found a new way to honor what he knew and loved.
Denny Nurkiewicz considers himself an avid outdoorsman with a lifetime full of fishing and hunting experiences.
Through those countless trips, and exposure to the art of wildlife and decoy carvings, he found a new way to honor what he knew and loved.
"That place is too perfect out there; too nice to leave it all the time, so you bring a little bit of it home," Nurkiewicz said.
The Uniontown native began carving various geese and mallards in the early 1980s as a hobby. Over the years, he perfected his craft through the help of solid reference materials, improved tools and a good eye for detail.
Now, in his retirement, he spends his time in his basement workshop working on commissioned pieces.
"As long as I'm not doing it every day from this time to that time, and as long as I don't have a supervisor, then it's not going back to work. I'm still retired. If I want to take off and go fishing, I can go," he said. "I spend the time outside and still have the joy and thrill of being out there."
Primarily using basswood, Nurkiewicz begins a typical carving by stacking a rough structure with inch-wide boards cut with a band saw. Once the glue is dried, he can begin to sand and whittle away. Once the bird begins to take form, a long, tedious process of wood burning begins.
"The detailing can be another two weeks just to put in the fine lines," he said. "I used to burn about 100 lines per inch, but now I do about 80."
Nurkiewicz said it's all about the making the lines close and tight so that when it's painted, light will hit the surface and refract in certain ways to give it a rich, full sheen and tone.
The base of the wildlife also has several three-dimensional parts including tail feathers and fins. For both accessories to the geese and fish, Nurkiewicz has a process of boiling slender pieces of wood for about 28 minutes and gradually bending them using pre-cut molds. They're then attached onto the base to be carved and painted - a process that he has perfected over the years.
"As your tools get better, your techniques get better," Nurkiewicz said. "This is all about the creative process. It's not a challenge - it's a creative joy."
Though he has mastered the delicate painting and shading over the years, Nurkiewicz said he does regret not having any formal training with painting. Instead, it's essentially been a process of trial and error.
"When I started painting, it was pretty crude - no shading or tonal values. But piece by piece, they tend to change," he said.
An aspect of Nurkiewicz's work that has also changed since its inception is the level of accuracy. Now, it's a matter he prides himself on.
"With my first birds, when I did a bill and got the length and width right, I was happy. But then you start reading and looking at others," he said.
Nurkiewicz has since reached out to several universities and wildlife organizations for accurate measurements and details regarding the desired products. Every detail, including the amount of teeth in a duck's bill, the amount and location of feathers on a mallard, and the location of a trout's anatomy, are accurate to its species.
He said the internet is one of the best tools now with unlimited access to reference materials and photos.
Before those days, Nurkiewicz said he once remembered lying on the ground with a sketchbook to sketch the underside of a duck. Though it earned him a couple of confused glances, he said, at least he could add that level of detail to his fledgling carvings.
Nurkiewicz's work and pricing can be seen on his website, www.wildlifeartcarvings.com. He is also a member of the Uniontown Art Club, where his work can be displayed during shows and exhibits.