Sitting at the table in his studio, he stares intently at a chunk of rock, turning it slowly in his hand, scrutinizing the, lines and crevices, obviously seeing potential in the rock, meaningless to most of us. He is Doug Honeycutt, a multi-talented artist – sculptor, painter and musician who’s studio is located in the Old Chicken House in Saluda.
He began to chip away at the rock with his knife, apparently sensing a form in its neophyte phase. He uses only hand tools: knives, chisel, mallet, rasps and wet and dry sandpaper, wet to eliminate much of the dust raised in sanding.
He never begins to sculpt, he commented, with a preconceived idea of what he expects it to become. Every object evolves as either a human or an animal. Each he sees as abstract. Others, he said, perceive them differently. A piece he completed some time ago began developing a Mayan look, unintended, it just happened. Some see Inuit characteristics in certain heads and faces he carves.
Most of the rock he uses, he explained, is either soapstone or serpentine. At one time he experimented with a new and different technique on a head, crushing the red soapstone in a fine powder and brushing it over green serpentine. The combination worked well turning it into a copper-like color.
“Serpentine is found in different colors,” he added, “depending on the combination of the earth where it is found.”
He chooses rock now that is inexpensive or free. “I really look forward to sculpting in marble,” he contemplated a moment, “but that will be a future goal. For now it is too expensive.”
Not all rocks can be carved. Only certain rocks, depending on hardness, are suitable and lend themselves to varying degrees of detail; for example, compared to steel with a hardness of 5, wood to approximately 2.
Rocks Doug uses, he said, are between 3 and 1. It must be hard enough to be polished, if desired. Serpentine is harder than soapstone – marble is hardest.
The earth has produces various types of rocks due to constant changes even eons ago: Glaciers, earthquakes, heating and melting, volcanoes sometimes five miles deep. A geologist in the 1800s found that melted limestone when cooled formed marble; volcanic rock formed granite.
Doug’s earliest inspiration as a young boy leading to his interest in geology was his hobby collecting rocks and the influence of his great grandfather. “My great grandpa was a miner primarily of mica – some gold,” Doug recollected.
Along with knowledge he shared about the earth and its minerals, Doug’s rock collection continued to grow along with his knowledge of geology.
His work as a surveyor as an adult furthered his fascination with the subject, especially the topography of certain areas in South Carolina and Georgia, where, through his later research, he was able to find rocks he could carve.
Friends visiting from Pennsylvania brought him a chunk of serpentine. From this he carved his first piece which came to be a called – a ram. This project inspired him to search geologic surveys for South Carolina where soapstone had been found. He discovered a site and was able to gather some. However, the site was later closed off and anyone attempting to go in, if caught, was fined.
Doug has continued his first love of painting and sometimes even now goes from one to the other of the two creative arts. This enables him to return to each, seeing each work with a fresh vision.
Because sculpture is three dimensional, contrasted to two dimensional paintings, he explained, forms need to be viewed from every perspective. “Sculpting takes a long time to realize completion,” Doug commented. He, as many sculptors do, may have several works in progress at the same time. “It’s not unusual for a piece to take at least a year to complete,” he said.
While attending the Atlanta School of Art, Doug remembers words of wisdom from several artists who later became famous. A sculptor whose first name he recollected was Felix, was never to copy, not even to look at, another artist’s work, to avoid being influenced even subconsciously.
The Old Chicken House in Saluda is honored to have Doug’s work, both painting and sculpture, exhibited in the gallery. His works has been exhibited in Saluda Fine Arts owned by Beverly Pickard (not now in operation). He entered a juried show at the Upstairs Gallery in Tryon. The piece, a lady, as most designated it, won second place. His work has been exhibited also in Asheville at a gallery on Patton Avenue and in Charleston, S.C. at Martin Gallery. Doug has visited local area schools where he has shown his work for the students and discussed the process of sculpting.
Doug’s fine art and music will be covered in later articles. The public is invited to see Doug’s work displayed in the Old Chicken House studios and gallery at 143 Mountain Page Road, Saluda, N.C. (828) 749-9718.