Woodcraft artist Guy Browning held his first art exhibition at the Hinesville Area Arts Council’s Commerce Street gallery on Thursday evening. On display were about 45 of his wood carvings that could be categorized as wildlife, Native Americans, religious, historic and comical.
The detail in each piece of hand-crafted art paid homage to Browning’s artistic eye and his skills when it comes to working with sharp tools.
“I’ve had a knife in my pocket since my daddy said I was old enough to carry one,” Browning said. “I guess I was about 8 or 9 ... My daddy taught me a lot. He always carried a pocket knife.”
Browning said his father taught him how to properly use and safely handle a knife when whittling and cutting things, like pieces of string or rope. Since 1981, he has applied his knife skills to create works of art.
“Every time I forget to put on my glove, I’ll stick myself,” he said, showing off tiny scars on his fingers. “It’s not usually a cut, but I have done that, too.”
He demonstrated a “stop cut,” one of tricks his father taught him. The whittler makes a deep cut in the wood at the point he wants a whittling slice to stop. He also showed exhibit attendees how to use a few of his many carving tools, which were part of the art display. In addition to a surgical-looking knife blade, he held out a tool called a gouge and another called a b-tube. He said they are used to create grooves in the wood, particularly the tiny grooves that depict the fur on the faces of his bobcat, wolf and raccoon caricatures.
One of the visitors at the exhibition asked whether he ever does any paintings. Browning told her that staining his finished wood carvings is about as close as he gets to painting.
He did say, however, that he would like to learn to carve with clay. With that medium, he said, whenever he makes a mistake and cuts off too much, he could just paste a clay patch back on the piece and start over. When Browning is detailing a wood carving that’s really thin, he said he has made cuts that ruined the whole piece, forcing him to get another piece of wood.
Browning’s wife, Anne, was the impetus behind the art exhibition. She said she talked with HAAC member Bruce Muncher about her husband’s woodcraft, and the two of them convinced Guy to do it. Anne Browning said she taught art for several years after graduating from Georgia Southern with a degree in art education.
“I taught art in Liberty County and Clayton County,” she said. “I’m the art teacher, but Guy is the artist. I have no control over him, but I do encourage him.”
Anne admitted she has favorites among the more than 70 carvings her husband has sitting around their home near Midway. One piece, though, is too real for her, and she said she wished he’d left it at home. A dark cedar carving of Browning’s left hand at about one-quarter scale is too lifelike for her. Browning’s details include the veins in the back on his hand and the lifelines in the palm.
The hand was displayed on a table with several religious carvings, including Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, John the Baptist and Moses.
A walking stick leaned on the wall near each display table, but Browning said a special walking stick in the gallery’s picture window reflected his life story. It included his Indian name as an Eagle Scout and Silver Beaver as well as a Yellow Jackets’ emblem. Browning is a Georgia Tech graduate.
Browning’s art will remain on display in HAAC’s art gallery until Dec. 20. Viewing hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday.