Watch a chainsaw artist carve this month's CBC Arts logo out of wood
The results are chickadee-dee-delightful
Every month, we feature a new take on the CBC Arts logo created by a Canadian artist. Check out our previous logos!
Imagine big skies and a blanket of snow — a winter scene in rural Saskatchewan. The story of this month's profile pic begins and ends in a landscape like that, at the home of artist Michelle Thevenot.
Like many of Thevenot's sculptures, the piece she created for CBC Arts began as a hunk of foraged wood. (She typically salvages material from dead or fallen trees on her country property.) And with imagination, skill and an arsenal of power tools, she's transformed that lump of lumber into a carving inspired by the sights and sounds of home. She shares more about the (26.5 hour!) process in this questionnaire.
Name: Michelle Thevenot
Homebase: Osler, Sask.
For the unfamiliar, how do you like to describe what you do as an artist?
I carve tree logs into nature-inspired sculptures using a chainsaw and power tools. My artwork uses mixed media (more than one material) which is diverse and ever-changing, much like the natural environment from which I draw inspiration.
Let's talk about your design! What inspired the concept?
When considering the CBC logo from a nature-inspired viewpoint, I looked upon the winter scenery around me. Despite the cold, harsh conditions this time of year brings, I stood outside and listened to the cheerful chirps of the chickadees. Their bright and lively demeanour brought a smile to my face as they flitted amongst the spruce trees feeding on cones. The CBC logo reminded me of the circular pattern found at the end of spruce or pine tree cones.
This timelapse video illustrates a bit of the process involved in transforming a log into a piece of art.
How long have you been carving, and what led you to pick up a chainsaw?
I picked up a chainsaw for the first time in early 2019 and haven't looked back. A dead poplar tree was bugging me every time I looked out the window. One day, I decided to read the chainsaw manual, geared up and marched out there to cut it down. Even though it scared the crap out of me, I thrive on challenge and learning new things. Instead of cutting all of it into firewood, I wanted to make something special to pay tribute to the tree. The base of the tree became my first attempt at chainsaw carving. A little bear cub emerged and I discovered this artistic niche.
What's the project you're most proud of?
I recently completed a sculpture called Survival featuring a fox mid-leap in pursuit of a rabbit. The composition was technically challenging in attaching two log sections to create the desired angle. Incorporating two animals carved in the full round meant for a lot of surface area and details to cover. The end result is strikingly dynamic and captures a lot of movement.
What's your favourite place to see art?
The town of Hope, B.C., has a spectacular collection of chainsaw carvings on display.
Who's the last artist you discovered online?
Rob Jüng is a Saskatchewan sculpture artist that I enjoy following online. I find it fascinating to see his process of sculpture by addition of metal pieces vs. my experience of sculpture by subtraction of wood. His work can be found on Instagram and Facebook.
What work of art do you wish you owned?
Taxidermy is a different kind of art, in my opinion. I would love to own a taxidermy mount of an owl, not only because I find them majestic and beautiful, but it would also serve as an excellent educational model and reference for studying feather patterns. Observing natural subjects aids in the carving process.
One day, I decided to read the chainsaw manual, geared up and marched out there.- Michelle Thevenot, artist
What's next for you? Any projects on deck that you can tease?
I have a collection of Manitoba maple tree trunks with roots attached that were salvaged from a construction site. I envision including the roots of the tree with the overall composition of a sculpture. The roots need a good pressure-washing and cleaning before carving can begin, making it an outdoor project. Looking forward to spring/summer warmth to tackle that exciting prospect!
Where can we see more from you?
Take a closer look at the carving.
This conversation has been edited and condensed.