Chuck Clarke and The Picaroons Stump

Now that No-Mow-May is over and the grass is neatly trimmed, the Picaroons Stump has been moved to the dooryard of the Roundhouse. Fabricated by local craftsman Charles ‘Chuck’ Clarke, The Stump is brought inside over winter to minimize damage by the elements.

Chuck has a long history with Picarons starting back in the very early days when he was asked by owner Sean Dunbar to carve a sign and some tap handles. Chuck’s background in the arts is as rich as it is diverse. He grew up in the country and lived near an auto salvage. When he was young, he built a ‘motorized-bicycle’ with parts from his father’s garage and the salvage yard. His interest in art was ignited when, as a 10 year old boy, he was one of the subjects of a painting by Tom Forrestall. Struck by how Forrestall used the brush to capture the scene, Chuck’s fascination with art grew from there.

Over the years he has worked in a variety of disciplines and media including screenprinting, painting, sculpture, wood carving and wood turning. He has taught art – including a multi-year residency at The Ville in Marysville – worked for a time at Aitkens Pewter and is a member of the Sculpture Saint John group where he participates in their annual symposium and conducts workshops teaching carving and other subjects.

While honing his woodworking skills he was the protégé of master woodcarver and Atlantic Salmon guide, Bill Page. When Page was struck with cancer, he asked Chuck to finish his large-scale bas-relief piece featuring Atlantic salmon – a Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation – that was hand carved from a piece of native New Brunswick black cherry. While discussing the salmon carving with Picaroons’ owner Sean, Chuck asked him if he’d like a salmon of his own – but then instead told Sean he could create a sculpture of his logo – the stump and picaroon.

Chuck built a rough template to show Sean the size of the final sculpture and gained approval to proceed on the full-sized sculpture itself without the usual middle step of a small sculpture proof-of-concept. The Stump took two months to build over the summer – at times work was slow due to weather – it was difficult to work when it was too hot or wet. The Stump shape is carved from styrofoam blocks, then overlaid with fibreglass. Chuck then used automotive body putty to smooth and sculpt the details. It was then cured and painted.

Picaroons’ owner Sean Dunbar notes that he is “really pleased with the result. We’re very happy we were able to work with this talented local artist.” Like many other regional traditions, when The Picaroons Stump is placed in the dooryard at the Roundhouse it’s a marker of another year passed and a look forward to things to come, made all the more poignant thanks to the shared history of Chuck and Picaroons. We hope you’ll take a minute on your next visit to the Roundhouse to appreciate Chuck’s sculpture and dedication to his craft.

Chuck continues to create his art, though he says the Covid-19 pandemic has made work challenging as both teaching opportunities and commissions have dried up. He has been featured in the Atlantic Salmon Journal and is a featured artist at Gallery 78 in Fredericton. You can find more information, view samples of his work, or reach out to discuss commissions or teaching opportunities via the Gallery 78 Website, or via his instagram or facebook profiles.

photos courtesy of the artist, Chuck Clarke

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