Chad Awalt Original Scupltures

Chad sculpts life size figures out of wood created after making body casts of live models. The results are unique and stunning. He hasn’t always created fine art, but he didn’t exactly fall backward into it, either. He has done classical carving. He has done furniture design and architectural wood work for quite a few years, but always yearned to create something more classically artistic. He did a project for a friend who had an art gallery and told him what he’d been considering. They decided to do a show, and Chad produced a handful of work. A lot of it sold. “I looked at my friend and said, ‘So, I should do this again, huh?’ I’ve been doing them ever since. Chad came by his affinity for wood naturally. When he was a child, Chad spent a lot of time in his grandfather’s basement watching him whittle. “His stuff was technically called whittling, but at a phenomenal level. And he was very prolific. I thought everyone’s grandpa carved in the basement. I thought it was normal,” Chad says. “My dad was a carpenter, and had a workshop at home, so I grew up around tools and wood.” Chad wasn’t an art major while he attended the University of Colorado, instead studying anatomy and physiology. His artistic ability is innate and self-taught. His sculptures typically originate with a casting of a live model. “It’s another thing I had to teach myself. Since I’m working in a medium where models can’t stand and pose for me, I have to use a study. I’m working in a little bit of a dangerous environment,” he says. “They don’t lie down, either. They have to stand and hold the pose. But once I have that as my study, I can work on it indefinitely. It’s nice having the life-size reference like that. I can literally take a direct measurement and decide what log I want to use”. His studio is littered with logs, most of which he gets after storms roll through. In fact, almost everyone he knows will call him when they see a downed tree. “I spend a lot of time looking for logs,” he says. “If I see a cherry or maple tree down, if it’s in a good location, I’ll stop. I got a giant cherry tree from the photographer who shoots my work. I look for natural distress and character in the wood. I don’t look for the perfect piece. I want something that has pattern and detail I can incorporate into the figure. It needs to accentuate the figure instead of being distracting. Chad studies the patterns in the wood. “You can tell from the end of the log and other things on the surface where the pattern is going to go,” says Chad. “But once I cut into it, that’s it. That’s going to be the piece. Every once in a while I cut the profile out and it’s not what I thought it would be.” Once the rough profile is cut out, Chad proceeds to the removal process and starts sculpting it down toward its final form. When he gets it close to finished, the wood is kiln dried. “If anything was going to happen to it, it would happen in the kiln. That’s the most stress that wood will ever endure. Every once in a while, it ruins the piece, but that’s only happened a few times. “After that, it’s tons of sanding and finishing. I take it down to a highly polished surface and bring out the wood grain. All of the detail has to be done with hand tools, chisels and shapers.” Some of Chad’s sculptures have colored paint on them. A few have gold leaf inlaid. But mostly, the grain and figure stand alone. Because the sculptures have been kiln dried they are completely stable and they are finished with a varnish.