Friday 29 May 2015

Portrait of Buddha: Part 3

The Buddha portrait is coming along nicely. For a one-inch-thick board, it's looking quite three-dimensional. Bill says he's not really a relief carver but this is working out well. He doesn't need the grid now and is just checking proportions with a ruler.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Portrait of Buddha: Part 2

Here's the first roughing out of this Buddha portrait. Bill decided to echo the line on the side of the face. He redrew the grid lines and says, "So far so good!"

Sunday 24 May 2015

Queen Part 1: A portrait from start to finish

You may have seen in earlier posts on this blog a wood portrait called King. In some photos, he's pictured with his mate, Queen. Here's how she came to be:

Day 1:

She's 10" x 16" x 4" thick on white cedar. Here's what she looks like after the initial roughing out. Only the tip of her nose remains at the original surface level, so as you can see, lots of stock has been removed just to get to this point.

Saturday 23 May 2015

Portrait of Buddha: Part 1

Bill has started with a rough sketch of the face on this piece of white cedar (14" x 12" x 1" thick). He's using a grid to maintain proportions and will try to keep redrawing the grid lines as they get cut away.

King Part 3: A portrait in progress

King, left, has been fine-tuned even more. Bill has shortened the lower part of the dreadlocks to match the Queen, on the right.

Stay tuned for more photo updates on this piece!

Monday 18 May 2015

King Part 2: A portrait in progress

Continuing from where we left off in the last post, here's some more progress on Bill's wood portrait of a West Indian face.

Here, the lips, nose and eyes begin to take shape.

He opens his eyes! (This is Bill's favourite part!)

In this shot, Bill has been fine-tuning the hair, beard and eyebrows.

Stay tuned for more progress on this piece!

Sunday 17 May 2015

Behind the scenes: A portrait in progress

See how Bill Munn's portrait, "King," goes from rough hunk of wood to finished piece.

Rough sketch on white cedar, 12" x 22" x 4" thick

First roughing out. Only the tip of the nose remains at the original surface level.

King's face is beginning to take shape. There's also a curve now for his Queen to nestle into.

Friday 8 May 2015

A dream realised

It was 1999 on the tiny island of Yap, one quarter of the Federated States of Micronesia. Bill Munn was the chef and food and beverage manager at a local resort at the time and somehow found his way to wood carving.

He had never considered himself an artist, though he had sketched here and there and had dabbled in photography. One could argue that there is an art to cooking and arranging gourmet plates but, Bill, an artist? No way!

Then the idea to carve wood came to him, and it had a strong enough pull that he decided to give it a try. First with chisels and zero know-how, then with gradually more progressive tools. Even when he didn't know what he was doing, something in it felt right, good, meant to be. He started buying books about wood carving and upgrading his tools. He learned how to draw animals realistically, in scaled down proportions to their actual life size. He learned about symmetry and what constitutes beauty, about the Fibonacci sequence and about different wood types and grains. And he practised. Bill carved as soon as he got home from work and on every day off. Bit by bit, piece by piece he got better and better and learned more and more, teaching himself to create art and becoming what he'd never thought he was – an artist. 

The local gallery was interested in displaying some of his work. Every piece sold. The resort, where he worked, put his solid-wood sharks, manta rays and dolphins on display in the gift shop; they sold. Tourists began to request custom orders, and soon Bill was shipping his carvings overseas to new homes around the world.

Bill had found an incredible stress release and a passion he'd never known before. He thought he'd been passionate about cooking, a career he'd devoted himself to for 20 years, but this, this was another level of love.

A move to neighbouring Micronesian island Palau temporarily halted his carving, but soon he picked it back up and found a new client base, broadening his abilities and furthering his skill. With every piece he saw improvement in his work and learned something new about his technique.

After three years, another move halted his carving, this time for 10 years. He worked as a chef in St. Lucia, constantly itching to carve but never logistically able to do it. However, in 2015, the stars aligned and an opportunity opened up for Bill to build a workshop – a real workshop, not the tarpaulin stretched over an area outside that he'd been used to.

Bill took a leap of faith and left his job as a chef, saying goodbye to a career to which he'd devoted most of his life. He started to humbly but confidently spread the word that he was carving again, and found support and interest. Within a couple weeks he received his first commissioned projects in 10 years, and happily began working on them.

After more than 30 years as a chef, Bill's dream of becoming a full-time artist has been realised. He is back up and running and open for business – and he couldn't be happier.

Visit to browse some of Bill's work.