In mid-July, local business owner and artist Bob Minton hosted an adult wood sculpting class at Grant Career Center for nine excited students. Instructing the class was award winning artist and instructor Jeff Phares, who traveled from his studio in Illinois to work with the students. Ed Calhoun, a retired art teacher from Amelia was very willing to chat while he carved his coal miner from Catalpa wood. “Some people can carve, and some people can teach carving. Jeff Phares is one of those rare people who can do both exceptionally well!”
Phares is well known for his realistic carvings of western subjects and has written several books on the subject including carving the intricate details of the human face. Currently, his work is being bronzed in Texas for collectors around the world.
The students, members of the East Fork Woodcarvers Club, tested their skills while carving Native American Faces, mountain men, western cowboys or coal miners during the class session. Calhoun told me that half the fun of the class for him is the research that he does for weeks prior to the class to find the perfect face. His coal miner had the craggily look of an exhausted miner at the end of a hard day. The details in the carving were quite amazing and looked etched by years of hard work.
Phares worked with each student and demonstrated techniques on the drawing board so that everyone knew how to properly set up a face and understood the muscles and structures of the human face. As an observer, I noticed how the technique helped the carvers show emotion and depth of character in their pieces. Many carvers were working on a similar piece with a wolf head’s cloak over the Native American face. Although similar, each piece had its own distinct style and special characteristics.
During a visit to the class, Phares was working with each student to individually carve away extra wood on the base of their sculpture with the chain saw. He looked at each piece and made suggestions on how he envisioned the final presentation. They discussed options and then the wood chips began to fly as it went from a block of wood to a masterpiece. The students then returned to the lab to add the final touches.
Jeff Phares had words of praise for the facilities available at Grant for the class. “This is the best facility I have had the opportunity to work in. It is just perfect for the work we are doing and the accommodations are wonderful! I really appreciate Bob Minton and the entire class for taking such good care of me on this trip.”
Bob Minton said he was most appreciative of the staff at Grant Career Center who were attentive to their needs and went out of their way to make the class a great success.
For more information on upcoming woodcarving classes at Grant Career Center, visit www.grantcareer.com or call the Adult Education Department at 513-734-6222.