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Featured Artist: Russ Mann

"Russ began carving wildfowl almost three decades ago and since then has been a student of creating three-dimensional wood carvings of these beautiful creatures."
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A miniature great grey owl carving created by Russ Mann. | JAG

Russ Mann, a member of the Jasper Artists Guild, remembers always being connected to nature. He was born in Jasper, the son of a fisheries biologist, and began his life’s journey living at the fish hatchery located on the banks of the Maligne River. On family walks around the Maligne and over to Lake Edith and Lake Annette, he recalls being fascinated by the wildlife, particularly the birds. He learned to identify the different species that lived there or visited Jasper during their migration. Their colours, postures and poses, flight patterns and songs fascinated him then as they do today.

Russ began carving wildfowl almost three decades ago and since then has been a student of creating three-dimensional wood carvings of these beautiful creatures. He has been fortunate to study with and attend workshops by internationally acclaimed wildfowl artists such as Bob Guge, Pat Godin, Jeff Krete and Jean Minaudier.

What starts as a block of wood (Tupelo is preferred) is slowly shaped into his subject, reflecting the posture and nature of the bird. The feather shapes, wing and tail position and cocking of the head are all considered. The sculpture is then painted, respecting the seasonality of the setting in which the carving is placed. The habitat of the art piece is often created as well.

There are also times when the whimsical side of Russ takes-over when he finds pieces of driftwood that may have a hint of a bird hidden somewhere in there. He modifies these pieces to provide the suggestion of a particular bird, then finishes them in a variety of oils and waxes to preserve them and show off the beauty of the natural wood grain. The second finish is his “Comfort Birds,” which are carved from a variety of wood and polished to a “glass smooth” consistency. The completed piece fits the hand, is very smooth and is organic in nature, providing a sense of calm or comfort to the holder.

Mann has experienced success as a wildlife artist, having won awards in a variety of juried shows across Canada’s four western provinces, and at the Wards Corld championships held in Maryland, USA. He was also commissioned to carve a Falcated Duck which was featured in the TV series “Decoys” which was aired on CBC’s GEM network.

A variety of Russ’s art pieces can be seen at the Jasper Art Gallery, located at 500 Robson Street.