October 16, 2021

Gorman’s art takes flight

Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Tom Gorman talks Dec. 29 about painting and carving at his McDonough studio.

Tom Gorman’s wood carving started out with a love of pipers, geese and ducks.

“I like wood working,” the semiretired grocer said. “I build a lot of stuff anyway. I’ve always been fascinated with shore birds and ducks. I started whittling. I just enjoyed it and kept on doing it.”

Gorman, 71, of McDonough, has been carving ducks and other water fowl for almost 20 years. He’s also an accomplished watercolor and oil painter, working at his art for half a century.

“When you are painting, there are happy accidents, like Bob Ross says,” he said of the famous TV art teacher. “You might make a mistake. It might be good in the long run.”

When he makes a mistake while carving, it’s a reminder to go slower.

He’s drawn since before high school and went to fine arts school to Utah. He didn’t finish the program but returned home and has had a number of jobs since.

Through the years, he’s always done his watercolors and oil painting and has always sold them.

Photo by Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Tom Gorman finished this landscape painting the other day

“I’ve only sold a few carvings.”

His work is done by commission, and his marketing is by word of mouth.

“I mainly do them for myself,” Gorman said. “I have not really pushed the carving sales part of it.”

Gorman said when he’s painting, he likes “to get the whole thing going,” putting images down on the entire canvas, not just working on one detail. And it’s same with wood carving.

“You work the whole thing till you get the shape you want,” he said. “I guess that’s the main thing. I guess I am always learning.”

He looks at his finished carvings and critiques them. “This one is maybe too square. This one is nice with the round form,” he said.

He enjoys the watercolor medium the best. “Oils take time. Sometimes the painting sits on the easel for a while before you do it.”

Gorman, who stocks shelves a couple days a week at the Cincinnatus Home Center, uses basswood for carving. “It usually has hardly any knots,” he said.

His favorite bird to make is the Canada goose. He also likes mergansers.

Sometimes, he makes a head separate from the body and glues it on the the body. Sometimes the wood duck is all one piece.

Carving and painting a piece can take a month, perhaps a month and a half, depending on the details.

“I enjoy the painting part of it,” he said.

Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Gorman loves woodworking and finds waterfowl fascinating. He started whittling and is hooked on carving

David Beale of Cortlandville, a watercolor painter and board member of the Cultural Council of Cortland County, says it’s common for artists to work across a variety of media.

“I am trained as a composer and almost had a doctoral degree in music and ended up painting,” he said.

He also was a building contractor. He enjoyed planning a house and building it step by step.

“I built my own house. It’s kind of wacky,” he said. “What I enjoyed about contracting, the design, the figuring out how it can be done, going through the process step by step. … I think that’s why I enjoy big paintings.”

Artists are process-oriented, he said. They tap a creative vein and it funnels into several areas.

Franco Minervini of Lapeer, a sculptor and stone carver who has worked on cathedrals and monuments, owned a machine shop in New Jersey. He made it a point to learn stone carving and got a job carving at the National Monument in Washington D.C.

The carving, working both jobs and the commute back and forth was so tiring, he’d vow he’d quit the stone carving.

But after a few days: “I needed to go back to carving,” Minervini said. “Carving was something I had to do.”

Now that it’s winter, he doesn’t want to go out to his garage shop because it’s cold. A new idea is brewing: jewelry.

He’s going to try it: “Small stone pieces that hang on the neck. It will really test my creativity that’s for sure.”

Gorman gets ideas for waterfowl from photographs or other people’s carvings, and creates them preening their necks or sleeping, or looking straight on.

“I will just do what I like, basically.”

He’s made 15 to 20 ducks. He’s lost count of the paintings.

Katie Keyser/ living and leisure editor

Gorman in his studio.

Gorman uses a chain saw grinder tool and a hand grinder to get a basic shape and then works by hand with a Dremel tool. “Eighty percent is done by hand,” he said, with X-Acto knives and sanding tools.

“Just whatever you need to use,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, try something else.”

He has his sights on a Foredom grinding tool. “It has a big motor … It’s more versatile … it’s expensive.”

The most important tool: patience.

“If you go too quick and you take too much off, you have to boost something up or go smaller,” Gorman said. “I am always learning something, though.”