When I first started I used a hammer, saw, axe, three straight chisels, and a torch. Now it’s different: knives (homemade), round chisels, electric sander and band saw. The new tools help it look better and smoother. I paint the objects with acrylic paint and sealer. Some of my family members paint the sculptures too. I use pictures for some things, especially fish and animals if I want to get realistic details.
Hardwood is the best for carving: maple, birch and spruce. I like straight grain on wood. You have to carve with the grain. Some twisty wood can be used if I see something in it. Some pieces are bought (if I need a large piece from loggers); other smaller pieces I find myself.
A medium-size carving takes two days of carving and three days to paint. A life-size carving can take up to three weeks to complete using these steps:
- Outline is sketched on wood
- With small chisels I stamp out the basic shapes
- Continue working with small chisels on the details sketching more detail as I go
- Sometimes you glue on extra pieces or use sawdust and glue
- Crack filling and sanding
Born in Arichat, Cape Breton, in the old hospital across from the church, Kenny is an Acadian artist whose first language was French. Kenny came to Guysborough County to work at Sea Freeze in Canso. He has also worked as a cook and a musician.
Kenny is a long-time local artist who does wood carving, sketching, painting, and portraits although carving is his main activity. 35 years ago Kenny was cutting a load of wood and saw a face in the wood. He “took some chisels and tried to take it out and got it. Another local was visiting and recognized the carving as Folk Art.
Kenny is completely self-taught and was inspired by fellow Arichat folk artist, Amelda George, by her variety of images and the technique of putting wood in the microwave to loosen it up before carving. As he says,
“With folk art you want people to smile when they see your work. You want it to be colourful. People sometimes relate to my work in unexpected ways. I did a carving of a man with a balding head like some of my uncles and a client with a bald head saw it and bought it. You never know what people will see in your work.”
Kenny has many pieces in private collections, as well as businesses and public galleries.