It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. This month I will be discussing carving a duck decoy, as I answer the Insecure Writer’s Support group question for February 6th…
Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?
When I was younger I easily could have answered this question. I was actually a talented artist. I especially loved watercolor painting and drawing portraits. It’s been years since I’ve done either (although, I was thinking recently that I ought to try my hand at drawing my husband).
These days I have a different creative outlet.
A few years back, my daughter, Samantha, and her sister, Emily, volunteered at a local food shelf. One of the other volunteers was a wood carver and was starting a class to teach kids the art of carving duck decoys. Sam wanted to take the class. I had never heard of such a thing, so I dragged my heels, hoping she would forget about it. She didn’t.
So I relented. I called the teacher and signed her up for the class. She was a natural. That year she carved a Bufflehead Drake. She loved the process of both carving, and then painting the duck afterward. I was amazed at the quality of her work. So were the judges in the 2 shows in which she entered the decoy. They were so impressed that she won 1st place both times.
Duck Decoy Carving, Last Year
Last year Sam’s sister, Emily, expressed interest in carving. So, she joined the class, as well. She was also a very good carver. The teacher of the class asked if I would also like to carve. It seemed like fun, so, I said, “yes.”
We carved a duck called the Hooded Merganser. Samantha carved a drake, which is what male ducks are called. Emily and I carved hens, which is what female ducks are called.
Last year, we entered the 14th Annual Rudy Zwieg Decoy & Sporting Collectible Show in Alexandria. Minnesota. My Hooded Merganser hen decoy won 1st place. Sam’s drake took 2nd and Emily’s hen placed 3rd. The Erickson girls swept the competition!
Duck Decoy Carving, This Year
This year, I carved a Redhead Drake. Most carvers make their ducks completely out of wood, hollowing out the body so it will float. For these ducks, we carved the heads and tails out of red cedar and the bodies out of cork. Then we sand the duck and touch up and mistakes with a special wood filler; a type of plaster with sawdust in it).
Painting the Duck Decoy
Then we prime the decoy, and after that, paint it. There are many different techniques that carvers use to make the decoys look real enough that another duck might be fooled into landing beside it. Each carver has their own style. Mine is to try to be somewhat realistic (much like the style of my art when I was younger).
Often, the paint is applied in several layers. Different types of brushes are used to create different effects.
One popular technique is called “dry brushing.” You dip the brush in the paint and then “paint” a paper plate or a newspaper so that the brush is almost dry. Then you can brush the decoy, leaving a feathered, almost transparent layer of paint.
Another technique I like adds texture to the decoy. A gel-like paint is applied in a thick layer. Then you take a 1” piece of a comb (just cut a hair comb into 1” pieces) and create “feathers” with it by pulling it through the paint. I like to shake my hand a bit as I do this to create a more rippled look. Then, you can either dry brush over this or paint the second layer in a different color of paint and lightly sand it once it has dried completely. That will allow the color of the 1st layer to come through.
The Eyes Have it
Once all of the painting is done, you peel off any paint layers that are on the glass eyes. Then the duck decoy is ready to be sprayed with a final clear coat to waterproof your duck. If you intend to use it for hunting, it will also need a keel. I don’t hunt, but carving duck decoys is a great way to relax.
What Are Your Thoughts?
It’s wonderful to be able to exercise your creativity in a variety of ways. How do you get creative?? I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!
I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:
I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.