Don Watson, a stone carver from Gibsons, continues to make his mark in the art world beyond the Sunshine Coast.
He’s best known for his commissioned pieces — 18 works in 14 months — in which he has depicted in stone a lion’s head awarded as a school’s trophy, a shark’s fin carved in stone for a jewelry designer and an endangered tree frog in alabaster for a mining company.
He has been a carver for 38 years, after learning the basics from his talented grandfather. Birds and animals are a specialty. The kids who play on the fibreglass animals in Shirley Macey Park know him only as the guy who designed and made the neat toys.
Some of his recent works are on display at a new, glittering gallery in Vancouver, the Stewart Stephenson Modern Art Gallery on Robson Street.
Stephenson, the owner who paints vivid abstracts and figurative works under high-gloss resin finishes, sought out the best for his gallery, and he brought three Sunshine Coast artists on board.
Mardi Ahmed of Roberts Creek paints live there on occasion and shows her contemporary work. Todd Clark of Gibsons has work featured in the window and is regarded as a signature artist of the gallery. One of Watson’s carvings, Shelter, a stylized eagle in honey brown alabaster, holds pride of place on the front counter. Another bird is also on display — an eagle with wings spread while catching a salmon.
Watson’s work is not usually to be found in galleries — he hasn’t been part of one for 10 years, preferring to have visitors come to his Rock’N Art studio on Clark Road near Gibsons.
“I liked the fit of this gallery and the location, and I thought I’d give it a go,” he said.
Currently, he’s excited by a new piece he’s working on — a streamlined dorsal fin in white alabaster. He calls it a “simple yet complex piece. The lines are critical.”
He’s shaped dorsal fins before out of other material, black chlorite, but this particular one is inspired by a sighting in the Bering Sea of an unusual white orca — the first recorded, that marine biologists have dubbed Iceberg. Whether it’s a genetic mutation or an albino is not yet known. But it’s enough to set Watson off on a creative run.
In the last two years, Watson has taught sculpting to adults and kids at his home studio. One summer he taught along with traditional Zimbabwean sculptors on tour in Canada. They produced a body of African sculpture that he admires.
The beginners who participated in the sculpting workshops learned quickly and came away with a finished piece of their own making.
“I’m always amazed at the quality of work that comes out of the workshops,” Watson said.
On Feb. 2 and 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. he will be teaching a stone sculpting weekend workshop at the studio for adult beginners and intermediates. Materials are provided. Participants will learn how to design a piece, model it in clay and carve their own in soapstone.
His wife, Birgit Breuer, who has been organizing sports workshops for kids, will be hosting more art classes for ages eight to 18 starting in March with another stone sculpture class taught by Watson. She’s excited by another potential workshop — high action sports photography taught by Dan Tsui, a local volleyball coach.
“There are several Olympians coming to the Coast this year,” she said. “It’s interesting for the kids to learn how to take photos as the athletes play.”
Those adults, whether beginner or not, who would like to participate in the Feb. 2 and 3 sculpting workshop can contact Breuer at 604-886-6591 or can learn more at: www.rocknartgallery.blogspot.com.