MAGNETAWAN – When most people look at a piece of wood what they see is merely that, a piece of wood, but Larry Hurtubise sees a blank slate from which springs a new life.
FACES OF TALENT:.
Larry Hurtubise's specialty is carving faces.
Hurtubise is a wood carver who has been honing his craft for nearly a decade. He has always been an artist but he has traded in his brushes and pencils for carving tools, of which he has an extensive collection.
“I’ve always enjoyed art. I used to draw and paint,” he said.
There is a dramatic difference between painting and carving. Painting, says Hurtubise, is an additive art, where paint is continually added until the work of art is complete. With carving it is exactly the opposite.
Hurtubise found his love for carving when he retired from his job as a teacher at Land of Lakes Public School in Burk’s Falls after 25 years, about nine years ago. He and his two friends and fellow staffers at school, Al Tough and Fred DeLaurentis, decided to take up carving as a way of getting together so they wouldn’t lose touch.
“We still meet,” said Hurtubise, adding that while they still carve, there is a lot more visiting and catching up going on than work.
The home that Hurtubise shares with his wife Shirley showcases his woodworking talent, but it is more than the art that is in every corner of the house, it is the house itself. Much of the work he did himself and he says it is still an ongoing project after 25 years, although there are no unfinished touches to be seen.
Hurtubise’s greatest accomplishment to date was having his work featured on the front cover of the Lee Valley Tools catalogue.
“It’s the premier woodworking supply chain in Canada,” he said.
He says it is an honour that he owes all to Shirley. He says he wasn’t even aware of the fact that she had taken a photograph of his work and sent it in to the company. It wasn’t until he received word that they were interested in using his work on the cover that he found out what she’d done.
He was over the moon. They took some of his pieces to the company’s facility in Ottawa. He says the company had originally requested they ship the work but the idea was nixed because of the weight.
The pieces were faces carved into large pieces of driftwood and the cover looked very much like the photograph sent by Shirley, with the faces side-by-side, vaguely resembling the faces of Mount Rushmore.
Over the past few years Hurtubise has also taken on a more temporary form of carving.
“It was John Heatherington that got me into that,” he said.
Heatherington had been asked by the Kearney Dog Sled Race committee to do a snow sculpture. Due to the amount of time it would take to complete a piece of that scale he called on Hurtubise to help and the two have been working together ever since. Most recently the pair completed a piece in Magnetawan for the public to enjoy. They also worked with students from Magnetawan Central School who carved out the letters MCS.
Hurtubise’s specialty is carving faces.
“It’s an old English tradition,” he said.
He doesn’t map out his project too closely.
“Usually I have an idea. I don’t like to structure it too much,” he said.
He says the advantage to faces is that all faces are different and if one is a little different from the next it’s fine.
“Usually I focus on the eyes and the nose,” he says.
The Green Man, an old English tradition, stands proudly in the family’s sunroom and is a prime example of the expressiveness that Hurtubise achieves.
“I’ll carve anything but birds and animals. I’m not a bird and animal carver,” he said.
When asked if he sells his work he replied, “I really don’t care to go there. When the basement’s full I’ll worry about that.”
The lucky ones are his friends and family who are often receive pieces of his work for presents.
“I’m just merrily trotting into my senior years,” he said. “It’s not something you could do for a living. I can only think of a handful of carvers that make a living at it. Most of them are master carvers who have been at it for 30 years.”
As for Hurtubise, he credits his background in the arts for his ability to be creative with the wood and does not like to work with a template, although he says he doesn’t have an objection to getting ideas from other artists’ work.
“It’s like anything else, it’s hard to come up with something totally new,” he said. “You just have to be respectful of your own style.”
His workroom downstairs is filled with both completed pieces and works in progress, including a number of pieces featuring Father Christmas.