Art of de­coys

Paul Sharp has been paint­ing wa­ter­fowl since he was a child and most re­cently, he’s do­nated a paint­ing for the WET Trust to auc­tion, but de­coys are also a pas­sion: hand cut, hand painted and turn­ing the prac­ti­cal into an art form.

Field and Game - - THE ART OF DECOYS -

Paul is cur­rently in Nor­way chas­ing love and try­ing to be­come the first Aus­tralian trained paramedic to work there. He’s also en­joy­ing the hunt­ing cul­ture and ac­cess to ducks, geese, deer, rein­deer, moose, wild Mal­lards and a range of other wa­ter­fowl within a few kilo­me­tres of his home over­look­ing the Oslofjord.

“It is a sports­man’s par­adise here,” he said. “I grew up on a farm near Corowa and my dad was a hunter and we had a lot of rel­a­tives around Kerang and of course they hunted ducks, so I’ve been hunt­ing all my life.”

Draw­ing was some­thing he be­gan young but Paul said he would get frus­trated if he couldn’t make some­thing look re­al­is­tic. Early works would be screwed up and tossed in the bin.

As he grew older, and was less im­pa­tient, his art and hunt­ing be­gan to merge.

“It is all self-taught but it de­vel­oped and evolved from me want­ing to get more out of hunt­ing,” he said. “I spent a lot of time in swamps out of sea­son; I just love watch­ing birds and so I started paint­ing them.”

Fif­teen years ago, Paul dis­cov­ered acrylic paints were the per­fect medium. “I can’t draw a per­son to save my life but I can draw wa­ter­fowl,” he said.

“Acrylic is very good: it is a for­giv­ing medium when you are try­ing to cap­ture the essence of flight or move­ment and hav­ing it look like some­thing that should be fly­ing.”

Paul is now earn­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for his de­coys. As a boy, he fash­ioned a few out of palm fronds that fell in the yard but early last year he de­cided to get se­ri­ous. “When I buy de­cent de­coys I re­paint them all and I have al­ways made my own sil­hou­ettes but last year I really got a bee in my bon­net,” he said.

Through a de­coy fo­rum, he hooked up with Amer­i­can carver Bill Thur­man from West Vir­ginia, who gave him ad­vice on equip­ment and ma­te­ri­als. “He sent me over a bunch of wood, from blocks to half-fin­ished ones, so I could get an idea how to shape them,” Paul said.

The first de­coy, a Pink-eared duck, was gifted to Bill as a thank you.

Si­mon Web­ster has al­ready col­lected the sec­ond one, a beau­ti­fully de­tailed pa­cific black duck. “Paul does this as a hobby but he has great artis­tic flair: to get a black duck look­ing that good, it is amazing work and a real work of art, I feel very for­tu­nate to even own one,” Si­mon said.

Si­mon would like one of ev­ery species, or bet­ter, a work­ing set. “A lot of guys dream about their own set of hand carved gun­ning de­coys to hunt over. It would be great just to sit back at 30 yards and ad­mire them set­ting on the wa­ter,” he said.

Paul agrees, but he also understands the time and ef­fort re­quired. “I would be happy to make work­ing de­coys but it is hor­rif­i­cally ex­pen­sive; there is so much de­tailed work and it takes time to build the colours,” he said.

Paul does it for plea­sure and will pick up a de­coy at night and whit­tle away or paint for hours. “I do it for love and to keep oc­cu­pied,” he said.

It might be six months be­fore he takes up carv­ing again as he tries to set­tle in Nor­way but when­ever he does, it will be a run of four or five in­di­vid­ual works of art. “None of them will look the same; they are hand cut and hand painted, so there are dif­fer­ences, but I have a bunch of ideas, in­clud­ing do­ing a freckle duck,” he said. “The Freck­led duck would make a ter­rific de­coy or a crack­ing dis­play piece for a hunter who is never go­ing to stick one on their wall.”

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