Benjamin Paul Stenlund:
Woodcarver. Painter. Illustrator. Dad.
Fun fact: I would have made an excellent hobbit, except for being over 6 feet tall and having less-than-average hair on my feet. But I have curly brown hair and like mushrooms, staying home, tending gardens, and making beautiful things with my own hands.
That being said, I think I also make an excellent man. That is, my wife tells me so frequently. My kids, not so frequently. But I also try hard to make excellent pieces of bespoke Catholic art, anything from hand-carved crucifixes to illuminated manuscript pages to whatever I am asked to make.
My general rule is that I would never make anything I would not be proud to display somewhere in my home.
Now, I've always been a creative type. My first grade teacher made a point of praising my art, and I still thank God for Sr. Rita. So picking a point and saying, "It started here!" is hard. Was it art class in elementary, middle, or high school? That one college drawing class I took that discouraged realism? The various small projects I did along the way? The entire wooden armory of swords and shields, with leathern armor to boot, for my kids? No, not really. Well, yes, but not really.
It really started with my wife asking me which carved flower things she should get from Etsy for the family room wall. I said, "I could carve that. Don't waste your money!" So I did. Not perfectly, as the only tools I had for that job were a jigsaw and a utility knife. But it was a start, and it led to me acquiring gouges and chisels and real carving knives - so much better than a utility knife! And slowly, rather slowly, I have been teaching myself to carve by trial and error.
I carve in my garage, and I paint and illustrate in my basement (mostly when it is too cold to carve in the unheated garage), working from home in a real, hands-on kind of way. My kids like to watch and "help" as they can, mostly by pounding nails in scrap pieces of wood or using excessive amounts of craft paint on canvases. It's a family affair, and a labor of love. And I'd love to make something beautiful for you!