A Carolina Classic, Part Two

Covering and painting a canvas and wire decoy.

By: Keith Hendrickson

Charles Holloman resides in Greenville, North Carolina, and is the loving husband to a beautiful wife and father to three great kids. Keith Hendrickson is a freelance writer/artist/ photographer who also works for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. He has been carving rough working decoys for around 30 years and won best of show at the Ward Museum’s Chesapeake Challenge.

Traditionally, the makers of canvas and wire decoys covered their decoys with old sail canvas and gave them simple block paint patterns with little to no detail, much like the traditional Virginia and Carolina working birds. Today, most carvers still use some sort of cotton canvas type material to cover these decoys, whether it’s artist’s canvas or cotton pillow ticking. Once you’ve covered the decoy with canvas, you can use a modern version of a traditional marine varnish to seal everything up and then the bird is ready for paint. With the paints and tools we have available to us today, any carver can be creative in painting this canvas bird to suit his or her own style using oils or acrylics, airbrush or paintbrush. The finished product is durable enough to use in a working rig, but I suspect many carvers will make room on the shelf for any birds they make using this technique, since the birds end up looking so traditionally handsome.

Last issue, we followed Charles Holloman as he worked on a canvas merganser decoy. To pick up where we left off, the decoy’s wire-and-wood frame is ready to be covered with canvas. Charles likes to use the light pillow ticking available at material stores and department stores to cover his birds because the lines in the material help him keep the bird symmetrical as he stretches out the canvas.

Read the rest of this article in Wildfowl Carving Magazine's Spring 2013 issue.


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I was so inspired by this article that I decided to give this a try. I recently started woodcarving again after years of it being on the back burner. A loon would certainly not be a typical decoy, but my Sisters birthday was coming up and she likes loons. I made her a canvas one.


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