Charles Allmond

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Meet Delaware artist Charles Allmond who sculpts stylized birds and animals in wood and stone.

Charles Allmond's first career was as an agronomist for the State of Delaware as a seed analyst. Eventually he decided that this was not for him and after trying a few other things he went to law school, and settled down becoming an attorney in his father's law firm. But all through his life he had always enjoyed making things particularly wood working. One project always seemed to lead to another.

Charles Allmond:
"I got into doing a series of Pennsylvania Dutch decorated chests. Some of them I made and some of them I had restored. I restored a lot of things. But these little Pennsylvania German designs became fascinating to me, that I would paint: little animals, birds, floral things; things of that nature. And the more I thought about it the more I thought it would be fun to try this in three dimensions."

"So I took some of these birds and started carving them in wood. And then that worked pretty well, so I began to stylize them like Pennsylvania German art. So I had a great many of these things that I was turning out. They were painted, primitive kinds of things, not anything academically correct as art went. Then I started to carve things that weren't Pennsylvania German, birds with fancy painting, but birds with a natural finish."

All this time Charles had been working just in wood. But he became interested in carving in stone. So he approached another sculptor he knew to find out how to do this and she told him that if he could carve wood he could carve stone.

Charles Allmond:
"I had an aunt who had given me a little piece of soapstone. And, I carved a rabbit out of this soapstone. Well that was all it took. Because then I was hooked on it. I just continued to work very hard at it and I built up a pretty good collection of little animals.

"So then I started to think about where it was going, whether I was good enough to exhibit and maybe try to sell some of these. And so that is what I started to do. I got into some local exhibitions. People seemed to appreciate it. On the other hand I knew I was gonna have trouble because people knew me as a lawyer. And lawyers are not known for having manual dexterity or creative talent when it comes to art. So I guess if I am ever going to amount to anything I better do something else.

"Of course in the meantime my father died. He and I practiced law together for many years. I was fifty-one and so at the age of fifty-two I started this whole business of creating art."

Charles continued his day job in the law but art was his passion. He began exhibiting mostly out of state with some success and then began to show his work locally again.

Charles Allmond:
"I got to thinking about whether I could do it full time. It seemed that the practice of law was interfering with my art work. So I tried taking some extra days during the week. It just didn't work, because your clients have first claim on your time."

Eventually the desire to make art and some health issues overruled his work in the law and so he retired from it. Once he was on the mend he began his third career as a full time artist.

Charles Allmond:
"I built a very nice studio attached to the back of my house, and worked there every day. Seven days a week, I, uh, became obsessed with my work; not in a bad way, in a good way. (laughs). So, that's what I did. I have had some success with it."

Charles is a past president of the Society of Animal Artists. His sculptures have been exhibited in more than 100 museums in the United States, Canada, and Sweden. And, he has a prestigious resume of honors and awards from the Society of Animal Artists, the Salmagundi Club, Audubon Artists, and the Rehoboth Art League.

When Charles began to seriously take up his art he considered returning to the University to study. But, he received some good advice against this. He decided that at his stage of development as an artist, academia would just interfere with the good things already going on in his work. So he continued on his own studies. He had no shortage of inspiration.

Charles Allmond:
"Getting ideas is sometimes easy, sometimes not. You have to keep a receptive mind. Always be thinking - or rather I always am thinking about pieces, designs, that kind of things.

"It just seemed to work out that I might have an idea that I was working on and that would lead to something else. Or, I might think of a half a dozen things all at once and I would have to work at them consecutively to turn them out. I didn't make animals for the sake of making animals. I did that because I liked the design challenges. My work became very interpretive, sometimes even impressionistic. And that was ok, because I never wanted to do strictly realistic pieces. I don't count feathers. I don't go into a lot of detail like that.

"It's worked out. I established my own style which I have pretty well stuck with."

Charles says that he enjoys circular designs that have an interplay between symmetry and asymmetry. His agricultural background comes out in this approach. If you have ever dissected a seed you can see these elements. When you look at his sculpture you definitely see seed like characteristics.

Charles Allmond:
"I have said from time to time in artist's statements, when I have been asked, that I like the idea of turning the idea of the animal into three dimensional form. So if I can turn the idea of nature into some three dimensional form of reality, I like to do that. As they say in law school: "Go for the jugular. Go for the jugular." Don't fool around. So that is what I do. I try to eliminate everything I can and keep the essentials."

You can see Charles' work in the permanent collection of the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover, and at the Hardcastle Gallery in Newark, Delaware where he is participating in their wildlife show for the rest of this month.

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