Unlike many professionally trained welding artists, however, Ownby is self taught. His most recent project of an American bald eagle is so authentic in its detail and appearance that it is hard to imagine such raw talent existing without any training, and yet, the Cleveland resident credits his abilities to being blessed by the greatest Artist of all — God.
“I have been doing art since childhood. When I was 6 or 7 I noticed I was able to draw pretty good,” Ownby said. “Over the years I have tried to get better and hone my skills. I’ve tried different mediums — pastels, charcoal, oil — creating murals, drawings, pictures and sculptures, among other things.”
His father, Donnie, was also a gifted artist, according to Ownby, who said both parents encouraged him as much as they could, although their lifestyle was focused more on dairy farming. But his skill as an artist and craftsman would not be denied. Inspired by the desire to create something unique for his wife, Ownby set out to do something he had never done before in December 2006.
“I was wanting to make something special for my wife that she couldn’t buy,” he said. “I saw some scrap metal lying around and said, ‘Maybe I could try this.’ I drew out an idea of what a dolphin would look like, cut it out and started hammering on it. The end result is this dolphin — my first project. About a year later, I wanted to make something for myself. I’ve always liked dragons. So I started developing that. In November 2008, I started working on the head of a dragon. Then I started the heating process and hammering on the body, the arms and the legs.
“Since that time I have created a variety of sculptures. They range from a small giraffe head to a dragon with a 5-foot wingspan.”
The dragon, weighing some 80 pounds, is constructed from recycled steel, according to Ownby. Each section was heated, hammered and welded to the correct contour. The project took more than 400 hours to complete. Ownby said he sold it to Smokey Mountain Harley Davidson in Maryville.
His finished project of a pouncing American bald eagle has over 1,800 individual feathers and a wing span of 4 feet. It has already been purchased. Ownby said most of his projects are made from recycled materials.
He explained, “The finished projects are sprayed with a urethane clear coat to help preserve the finish while still allowing the metal to show. I enjoy sculptures because it allows me to make my visions into something tangible for others to experience. I can create just about anything you can imagine.”
The self-taught welding artist is currently working on a metal skull and an 18 inch sunflower, and is ready to take orders, adding that his prices are based on size and the amount of detail requested.
According to www.gowelding.org, the earliest examples of welding are of welded gold boxes belonging to the Bronze Age.
“The Egyptians also learned the art of welding. Several of their iron tools were made by welding. During the Middle Ages, a set of specialized workmen called blacksmiths came to the fore. Blacksmiths of the Middle Ages welded various types of iron tools by hammering. The welding methods remained more or less unchanged until the dawn of the 19th century.”
However, welding has become a more common technique in the art world. For the average person, sculptural welding requires extensive knowledge and skill, because it involves welding materials of different shapes and colors into intricate designs. Ownby said he is thankful to God for his unique gift and would love to make the art of sculpture welding a full-time career.
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