Teaching Living Tree Art at the West Coast Training Class #3 in Lorane, Oregon

I love to teach Living Tree Art.  I just didn’t know it yet, that is, until I got to Lorane, Oregon and the West Coast Training Center Class No 3 put on by Nathan Giffin of VerticalArtisans.com.  What a great experience that started with my stay at a bed and breakfast called the Blue Rooster.  Let’s start with a video and some photos of what a magnificent place this is to visit.



On the way here with Nathan Giffin and Jody Smith, we saw about a dozen elk strutting across a field like this.  What else can I say.  The Blue Rooster sits on the historic Oregon Trail in a most beautiful valley.  The proprietor, Nancy Pelton, is the former owner of a restaurant that ranked in the top 25 in Wisconsin. I’m not sure if restaurants are rated at four or five stars, but all of the breakfasts at the Blue Rooster were definitely five star.  Lots of great chats and interesting history.  I didn’t want to leave.  I asked Nancy if she would adopt me.  Here’s a picture of the barn built in 1880.  This was erected back in the days when neighbors would help neighbors to do barn building.  We may be going back to that someday, soon, I hope.


Here’s what the front of the barn looks like.  Wait until you see what it looks like on the inside.





The barn on the inside.  What?  No hay loft!  Shiny floors!


All mortise and tenon joinery.  For all of you engineer wannabes…no nails!  You don’t see this kind of quality construction these days.  Nancy said that she toted and nailed all of the boards in the floor.  On the weekend after l left Lorane, Nancy was making preparations for a high school prom to be held here.  On one occasion, the bride and groom showed up here for their wedding party on a John Deere tractor!





Here are some more views of the countryside you can expect to see around the Blue Rooster Bed and Breakfast.


All of the trees in the area were covered in various kinds of moss.





The Swans in the pond at the Blue Rooster.


Different species of Blue Jays that we don’t get to see in Michigan.





Here’s a close up view of some gigantic iris flowers at the front gate.  I arrived in Lorane, Oregon just at the right time, at the tail end of a brutal Upper Peninsula of Michigan winter.  How refreshing it was to see flowers blossoming.


The view from the side porch.





While at the West Coast Training Center, Class #3  in Lorane, Oregon, the group of students learned from several different artists how they go about doing their specialty.  Mine of course was how to make a small size version of Living Tree Art.  I put together a bonsai tree that looked like it was growing out of a rock just like a real bonsai.  Nathan Giffin demonstrated creative rock forming and built a Moongate with the base structure of Styrofoam designed by JoeTran of the Foam Design Center in Bakersfield, CA.  Nathan put together the class through his website at VerticalArtisans.com.  Another artist by the name of Steve Koernher designed a radical version of a cupola using his own unique technique for thin wall construction.  Each artist performed his specialty with the students jumping in wherever and whenever they wanted to get involved.  Nothing was missed because there were so many photographers and videographers capturing everything so that the students could review anything they might have missed while engaging with the artist of their choice.  My personal videographer wasJody Smith of Coastal Rock Productions 

Fellow artist, David Seils, shown below, shared time with me at the Blue Rooster .  Here he is savoring strawberry cream cheese stuffed French toast with locally produced sausage.  David does extraordinary wall relief sculptures.  If you want to see other work he has done, check out his website at  http://wallsculpture.net/


It was determined that David Seils was a child prodigy at age 4.  By age 12 he was invited by Walt Disney to go to Burbank, California where he sat next to the artists working on the movie, “The Lady and the Tramp.”  He also got to see the warehouse wherein the entire underwater scenes were shot for the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”  David decided he didn’t want to be an animation artist and ended up doing wall relief sculptures.  He is also a classical violinist.  So glad I got to watch his process.  People can purchase his course through VerticalArtisans.com and see the process of how David created a beautiful 360 degree forest scene in a circular room.

Here is Bob prepping the room with a Mortar Sprayer.  By use of this sprayer, Bob was able to cover all the walls in a short period of time.  With several students helping, including me, we smoothed out the walls with special hand trowels to make ready for the relief sculpture by David Seils.


This short video shows how fast the mortar sprayer works to cover the walls.



Here’s a video showing the work that David Seils did in just a few days.  He used a product called “Sakrete” to create the texturing of the trees.

It’s got to be hard for anyone to believe that these huge rocks on the side and on the Moongate are not real.  They were created by Nathan Giffin of VerticalArtisans.com.  Nathan put the whole show together and arranged for the artists to be at the West Coast Training Center Class No 3 in Lorane, OR.  Here is a picture of Nathan standing in the middle of the creations that he taught everyone how to do in just five days.



Here are some close up photos of the work that was performed with help from all of the students.  Hard to believe these are not real rocks.


Some photos here by Jody Smith of Coastal Rock Productions.  These huge rocks are hollow.  They start out with rebar covered in a fiberglass fabric mesh called “Spider Lath.”  Spider Lath replaces the commonly used expanded metal mesh that many of us in the industry refer to as “Blood Lath,”  aptly named due to the cuts that always happen when using it.


Pretty interesting to watch how all this was done from scratch, actually, from a scratch coat. Lots of clever and interesting techniques that you would never imagine are part of the process.



The colors don’t seem to look right at first, but then it all ends up looking great.  Nathan has tons of tricks to show you.


Hard to believe the rocks end up looking like this.



Here’s a closeup view of the stones on the MoonGate.


Pretty amazing to see it all happen in such a short time. Lots to learn in these classes.  Fun times.  Fun group of people.  Lots of hands on help.  I thought the Mortar Sprayer was the coolest and fastest way imaginable to cover the MoonGate substructure designed by Foam Design Center.  It makes covering a surface with concrete so much easier.  Here again is the Mortar Sprayer in action, this time sprayingElephant ArmorTM which sets up to 5000 psi in about an hour.


After that, the students pitched in to do the texturing with HerbCreteTM as Nathan proceeded to apply the concrete.


David Biellier was deemed by all the artists as the most diligent of the students.  He got involved in every single thing that was going on, the MoonGate, Living Tree Art, Thin Wall construction by Steve Koernher (teacher from Mexico), wall sculpturing with David Seils, and rock forming with Nathan Giffin.  Here again is David discussing the scratch coat on the bonsai tree that he spent a lot of time helping me to make.



The bonsai tree texturing is completed.  Here I am trying to figure out which of the Walt Tools TruTint color choices to use for the bark.


Fortunately, Walt Tools has quite a selection of water based Tru Tints. Here are the colors of the tints I chose to use and the end result of the bonsai tree on a rock.  It turns out that Oregon got hit with a few below zero days, what we would call a “heat wave” after spending last winter in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Since no nurseries had living plants, I resorted to using artificial flowers.  This tree can be changed out at any time to using living potted plants as foliage.




If you are a contractor wanting to put together a business using this one-stop-shop-business-in-a-box approach to learning, I can’t recommend VerticalArtisans.com training courses enough.  Nathan Giffin is an excellent teacher and gifted artist.  All of the people with whom he associates benefits by his talents.  I recommend to anyone who wants to have an absolute blast, please attend the newMoonGate class coming up in Chicago.

Soon, a new course in how to make small Living Tree Art (30-48 inches tall) will be posted on the Vertical Artisan’s website.  Here’s the tree I used to teach the course.  Every aspect from the steel plinth (the base platform), the tree making process, texturing, coloring, and even how I did the flowers are demonstrated through the course of making this “Wedding Tree.”  To learn what’s involved in making Living Tree Art, go to my blog at “What’s Involved with Making Living Tree Art.”


“Wedding Tree” made of concrete and steel with faux flowers. This can be converted to living plants to become the foliage. 34 inches tall.


As you go through life, leave no stone unturned. Rock On!


Earl Senchuk

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