Proctorville woodcarver puts passion into craft

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 17, 2005

Gary Preston's mind sees things in wood that don't exist until his talented hands pull them into reality.

&#8221Sometimes I know what I want to create,“ says the Proctorville native. &#8221Other times it finds me.“

A carpenter by trade, Preston has always worked in wood - constructing tables, cabinets, desks and so on.

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Preston, a self-described dabbler in many of the arts, found his true love in wood sculpting three-years ago. His creative interests grew when he discovered the Ashland (Ky.) Woodcarvers group.

Since that time, his craft has grown as has his reputation.

Currently, some of Preston's works - both wood sculpture and paintings - are on display at the new Pendleton Art Gallery on Winchester Avenue in Ashland, Ky.

&#8221Some of my best work comes from random pieces of wood I find in the woods or on my property,“ Preston says.

A self-taught artist, Preston says he uses the natural shape, design and texture of the wood to &#8221see“ what's inside.

One such piece, &#8221The Root of Dance“ was created when Preston saw the movement of a dancer within the shape of the wood.

Though walnut is his favorite wood for carving, Preston says what he sees in the wood, not his preference for the type of wood, dictates whether he'll carve it.

The sculpture &#8221Red Horn“ is made of cottonwood bark, for example.

Preston's first attempt was that of Chief Joseph of the Nex Perce tribe of Oregon that had been created out of firewood. The success of this first piece started a domino effect with a variety of Native American woodcarvings including Geronimo and Sitting Bull and other inspired pieces.

Preston's sculpting talents also work their way toward natural species of everyday life-like animals such as frogs, elk or black bear.

Preston also constructs instruments where he has carved a lion's head bearing teeth on the handle of a dulcimer.

Since wood carving can be tedious, time-consuming and frustrating, Preston turns to other types of medium, such as acrylics, to keep his passion alive.

&#8221Sailboats at Dawn“ is one of many oils on canvas on display at the Ashland gallery.

Regardless of the medium, Preston says he works meticulously.

&#8221I start on a project with an idea, most of the time, then I sketch it out,“ Preston said. &#8221Other times I might make a clay mold.“

Though not exact, his step-by-step process prohibits unnecessary error and unwanted frustration.

&#8221I work on multiple projects all the time, says Preston. &#8221Carving is intense and when it gets too much I move back to painting or working on a lathe.“