Don Van Horn

Don Van Horn

As a Colorado native, Don Van Horn has spent his life close to nature and interested in art. Don says, “When I was growing up, it seemed my family was either in the outdoors or doing some sort of project with their hands. Painting, sculpting, woodworking and carving, have always been a part of my life.” It was this exposure and groundwork, which laid the foundation for where he is today.

A quick glance at his art and one sees his versatility; a close inspection reveals his attention to detail. Whether it be a full sized carousel horse carved in the traditional manner, or a hummingbird so delicate and exact that most think that it is stuffed, Don’s work captures a realism and expression that few can.

Don with Students

Don, Keith, Duke, & Tom at the Ward World Championship

In his Lakewood, studio, specializing in woodcarvings of birds, Don puts his artistry to work. He meticulously carves the birds from tupelo wood (A species of wood from the south). Exact to size in every way, the birds are brought to life with a process that includes the carving, grinding and burning of individual feathers. He fabricates stems and branches from brass & wood; leaves hammered out of copper or carved from wood (depending on what’s trying to be replicated); and one-piece flowers, milkweed pods, or whatever else needed, carved from wood, to help bring his sculpture to life. “There’s a tremendous challenge in working in wood, you only get one chance, and there’s no room for mistakes.” The final (and most difficult) touch is the painting. Done with multiple, fine washes of acrylics, the finished product has a softness that makes his sculptures unbelievably life-like. Even with the knowledge that it is a carving, close-up scrutiny leaves the viewer wondering if they are looking at real piece of nature or something that is fabricated.

Although birds are the primary subjects in most of his work, Don does not hesitate to sculpt mammals in sizes ranging from miniature to larger than life. No matter the subject, realism is achieved in all of his art using many of the same tools and processes. Several of his pieces have been replicated in bronze.

His Carousel horses and Menagerie animals rival work done by the finest carvers from the “Turn-of-the-century carousel era”. Built, carved, & painted in the “traditional“ manner. The life-size animals are made hollow from up to 70-80 pieces of wood, & hand carved using chisels and mallets. For the finishing touch, a oil paint recipe from the turn of the century is painstakingly applied by hand. The first in a Series of full-sized Carousel animals replicated in bronze was completed in the summer of ‘05.

Don's Dogs Hannah and Barney

Don's dogs Hannah and Barney

The list of accomplishments for his awards are not only numerous but also extremely impressive. They include countless “Best of Show” and “People’s Choice” awards at State, National, and International Carving Competitions and Art Shows. Four Best-of-Show’s have come at the prestigious “Ward World Wildfowl Carving Championships,” held in Ocean City, Maryland. His credentials as an artist and sculptor have led to numerous requests for him to appear as a judge across the country including The World Championship. The list of awards for his students is impressive as well. Eight times his students have won best of show in the novice and intermediate divisions (Including the A. Danner Frazer Award, as well as other best of shows from around the country). He has participated in the Loveland Sculpture Invitational in Loveland, CO for the past 13 years. Currently his work may be viewed at the Wild Horse Gallery, the Horizon Gallery in Jackson Hole Wyoming, Registry V2 in Redstone Park City Utah, on his web site, or by making an appointment to visit the studio.