bird one

I Love What You Do!              
Meet the people whose work makes life beautiful             Dec. 3, 2010

With the first real snowfall of the season expected to arrive here in Bay View later this evening, I'm happy that the outdoor Christmas decorations are already in place. I had to fight the wind last weekend but at least it wasn't a wind and sleet-snow-hail-wintry mix.

Bay View's boutiques will be welcoming shoppers this weekend with special sales. It's all part of the neighborhood's buy-local campaign, with craftspeople like Eco-Batik's Jennifer Doheny participating. Jennifer is a textile artist and designer who I'm hoping to feature in a future issue. Stop by and check out the goods if you can!

Thanks to all our new subscribers, and hope you have a wonderful weekend, and a great week ahead..

All the best,


This Week's Feature

This week's issue spotlights the talents of Illinois wildlife artist Rob Fulton. The realism of his bird carvings will warm your heart this chilly evening and get you thinking about spring--and remind you to be sure to put out some birdseed tomorrow morning.

Feather Fan


Rob Fulton's carvings bring nature to life

Although winter's chill has arrived in many parts of the country, that hasn't slowed down the many wild birds who continue to look for berries, buds, and birdseed. Watching these beautiful creatures flit from branch to branch or call from the protection of a pine bough is a delightful way to pass the time while enjoying a steaming cup of coffee. 

The breathtaking variety and beauty of North America's birds have captivated generations of artists. Illinois artist Charles "Rob" Fulton proudly admits to being part of these ranks, seeking to recreate the magical character of birds in flight through the intricate wood carvings he creates at the Nippersink Raptor Studio.

Rob started wildlife carving as a hobby nearly two decades ago, but didn't get serious about it until 2006.

"I was on the web searching one day and came across the work of a carver named Floyd Scholz who specialized in birds of prey," Rob recalled. "I ordered his book Carving an American Kestrel. When I read it, I instantly knew this is what I wanted to pursue professionally."

Rob read the book and then resumed research on the Internet, collecting information on what tools and supplies he would need to pursue this new interest. Within a week he started on his first project.

"I have been doing taxidermy for more than 30 years, and that experience seemed to help the most," Rob said. "Thanks to all the art classes I took in high school, I was already somewhat familiar with the different techniques involved like painting, drawing, sculpting, soldering, and designing. The only thing I had to learn on my own-which didn't take me long-was carving the wood."

bitd with mushroom
Rob loves to depict birds in natural settings.

Rob credits with parents with instilling his love of art from an early age.

"They're the ones who helped me the most," he asserted. "My mother was very talented with drawing people from memory or by viewing them. She worked in pencil and paints. My father did work as an exhibit builder for the Lake County Museum in Wauconda, Ill., creating miniature scenes that show how people lived and the houses they lived in during different times in history. From both my parents I would say I picked up my skills in drawing, designing, painting, sculpting, and most of all patience."

Though he works alone at his studio in the northern Illinois village of Spring Grove, Rob said his wife and son help out "by critiquing my work." He also influenced another family member: Rob's older brother has picked up on his passion and has begun carving his own birds "though he does it more as a hobby than a profession. "I also belong to a wood carving forum where members exchange information from time to time."


The Creative Process

Now in his fourth year as a professional, Rob considers himself to be a relative beginner. He finds that his creative process often starts in the evening.

"Night time is thinking time for me because more ideas come to me when I am relaxed," he observed. "I usually start on some of my night-time ideas when I start the new day. That way I begin my day starting on various projects with complete concentration."


Rob at work
A steady hand is required at every step of the creative process.

He said he considers ten sculpture sales to be a good year for his business, but said that the down economy has had a significant impact on his sales.

"I have to sell my carvings below what I feel they are worth because our economy is not the same anymore," he said. "I am in the same situation many other business people are in. We have to make a living the best we can, even though we have to make cuts in our prices."

The majority of Rob's customers find him through the Internet.

"Most of my business is from my website, followed by word of mouth," he said. "I started my website the same time I started carving-from the start I was totally committed to carving as a business.

"It is truly a year round business," Rob observed. "People seem to enjoy birds throughout the four seasons.

"I haven't at this point been to shows or entered competitions because I find myself too busy with my work to leave it while I am traveling around here or there," he admits. "Maybe down the line I may enter some competitions to help get my work recognized."

Rob said he's happy to have visitors stop by to see him at work. "Visitors are always welcome to see my work on my website or to arrange a visit to my home studio,"he said.

birds interacting
Rob captures scenes that may be familiar to many bird watchers.

A Focus on Realism

Asked what he hopes art and nature lovers will notice about his creations, Rob said that realism tops his list.

"I want people to look at my work and believe the bird could lift off the branches and fly away," he said. "That takes patience and a steady hand, especially when you carve some of the smaller creatures such as insects.

"My carvings tell a story," he continues. "When you see the carving as whole, you can see the bird, but you also see its background or insects. Together these elements relate a mood or an event. The bird is interacting with its surroundings."

Rob said he finds the entire creative process fulfilling.

"It begins when you first start out with a block of wood, and see the bird take shape for the first time," he observed. "At the end, when you're finished, you see that the time and effort you took paid off with just a glance at the project you took on.

"There are many challenges with bird carving, especially as you add more detail," he continued. "It takes more research, more patience, and you must have steady hands. You're striving for realism in everything you do. I think my biggest challenge is making the feathers as thin as the real bird's feathers, along with achieving the miniscule detail like insect legs and eyes.

"From a business standpoint, I would say the challenge is having people realize the tremendous amount of work involved in taking a plain piece of wood and carving it into a realistic-looking piece of art that is cherished for a lifetime.

"I love nature and always will," he concluded. "It is a part of all of us that makes us smile and enjoy what God has given us from the beginning of time. And I enjoy carving these birds in the hope that they will get people to smile in the same way they would when seeing the real thing."

Getting in Touch


On the web:

By mail: Rob Fulton, 7702 Arlington Dr., Spring Grove, IL 60081

By email:

By phone: 815-675-9561

I Love What You Do! is a publication of Omniprose, LLC. It is published weekly for $10 per year and is offered online through We're located at 2300 E. Euclid Ave., Bay View, WI 53207-2904.  Editor and Publisher: Mike O'Loughlin.

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