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Tony Angell

 (born 1940)
Tony Angell is active/lives in Washington, California.  Tony Angell is known for stone carved animal sculpture, painting.

Tony Angell

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Tony Angell
Best known as a carver of stone, Tony Angell is a Northwest regional artist noted for his sculpture as well as his finely crafted drawings of birds.  He is a graduate of the University of Washington, and his typical subjects are the creatures of the Pacific Northwest.

Angell recalls that "by the time I was four or five, I had pretty well established a connection with nature.  Animals, in particular snakes, lizards, birds, all fascinated me.  It was a few years later that drawing and painting them on paper (or anything else) became a natural way to express my feelings for them and to explore their lives more fully.  Fortunately, I had (have) a mother who permitted my collections of animals and frequent forays into the woods".

Angell is self-taught, and when once asked in and interview how he feels about formal art training, he responded: "never having had formal training, it's difficult for me to judge, but certainly I can see the benefits from learning the technical skills that formal training can provide.  Much of my artistic evolution has come from trial and error and seeking out mentors of my own choice, -living and dead.  I believe being driven to say something through art is fundamental to success.  The skills can be acquired along the way, but the fire has to be there in the first place.  No amount of talking or expounding of theory will make an artist.  You have to work for it".

After beginning his career in the 1960's as a painter, Angell began to focus on sculpture, which he produces in his studios in Seattle and Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands.  His forms are chosen from the diversity of animals of the North Pacific, an example being his life size marble sculpture Hawk Owl.  Stone has always been his first choice for sculpture ideas although he has worked in other materials.

Both literature and the works of other artists have been an influence on the Angell. In referring to works of creative writing, Angell has said: "I think in images.  This is my vocabulary of choice, but good literature is a powerful influence.  The well-shaped phrasing of an Ernest Hemingway or Ivan Doig passage is great inspiration.  It shows me that a path can be cut to saying just enough to convey your emotion while still leaving room for your reader/observer to respond with their own.  A variety of works, for different reasons, continue to give me strength and energy.  Auguste Rodin's ensemble The Gates of Hell is a source of stimulating possibilities in form and design of sculpture.  John J. Audubon's water colors for Birds of America are an imaginative, dynamic depiction of America's birds-an achievement of extraordinary proportions.  Benvenuto Cellini's works and sculpture in general are a reminder of the passion necessary for the production.  In Jan Vermeer's paintings, quality, not quantity counts.  Gian Lorenzo Bernini's sculpture is stone into life.  Classic Haida and Tlingit carving are noted for their spiritual abstraction".

Angell has written and illustrated a number of award-winning books on nature, and between 1972 and 1992 published several, principally about the birds of the Northwest. Books showcasing his work include Owls (1974), Ravens, Crows, Magpies and Jays (1978), and Marine Birds and Mammals of Puget Sound (1982) all published by University of Washington Press.

When asked where he finds his inspiration for his works, Angell has stated that his most consistent source of ideas for new work comes from moments in the field. "I'll see something that I have never witnessed before and that will ignite the possibilities.  Often, I'll see a subject that I know well in an entirely different light and I'm swept away.  I may make a small sketch then and there, seeking to capture what I saw and felt.  I'll file it away (not too deeply), so I can retrieve it when the time is right.  I must live with the stone for a while to do my best work; consider the shape and inclination of the stone and find a match for it in my imagination.  When it's right, I may retrieve a drawing from my experience in the field and use it in developing a sculpture the literal beauty of the form is part of what I wish to celebrate so there is a realism in what I convey.  I do not feel detail to be as important as the form itself, -its movement, its mood, its place in a larger context".

Angell approaches the art of interpreting animals with extensive research and then lets his feelings, and the stone, guide his work to completion. "My philosophy," he explains, "is to do work that is satisfying to me because it results in an affirmation of that part of the subject that is most attractive, appealing and compelling.  For example, in Magpie I tried to capture the birds sense of inquisitiveness, its wise and sagacious nature, while still paying tribute to the flow of its wings and the sweep of its long tail I've tried to understand my subjects as much as possible, from the inside out." 

By studying animals through taxidermy as well as in the wild, Angell has developed an appreciation of such nuances as the musculature of the wings, the nature and shape of the bill and, in the case of magpies and ravens, the bills capacity to perform a variety of intricate tasks. "I think knowing about the subject from its behavior and its anatomical and spiritual side results in a re-composition of all of those parts in my sculpture".

"Personal events have a powerful influence on my emotions.  Being in love, having children, suffering a loss of someone close have all strongly influenced my work. Everybody in the arts has a favorite vehicle for expressing emotions, giving them tangible form, mine happens to be subjects in nature.  I'm eager to know more about birds.  Bird forms have been a powerful influence for me.  I'm not interested in replicating the bird; I'm interested in employing the form to express what I am feeling.  Northwest Coast Indian art has also been an influence.  Although my work is nothing like it, I've always been interested in it, in the quality of the abstractions. Also, the same subjects that I've chosen to work with are used.  I'm particularly appreciative of how this style of art expresses spirituality".

Angell seeks to involve the viewer with his works. "Sculpture is incomplete if the person fails to feel the form; touch gives fullness to the three dimensional experience.  It's my intention that these pieces be embraced by the hand. I believe this physical engagement is fundamental to understanding the extraordinary forms of nature."

An example of such work would be Courting Ravens, a large black stone piece of two birds courting.  It is a sculpture that is one of Angells own favorite creations, and is in the collection of the company Qwest Northwest.  Other examples of Tony Angells public work may be seen in Seattle and Western Washington at the Seattle Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle Aquarium, Redmond Library, Olympia Public Library, University Hospital, Mason Clinic, Bracketts Landing/Edmonds Ferry, Mercer Island Library, Francis Anderson Art Center, and the Women's University Club. Angells work has also been exhibited internationally.

Among books that have featured Tony Angell are: Iridescent Light:The Emergence of Northwest Art by Deloris Tarzan Ament, and Alaska's Copper River Delta, by Riki Ott.

Mr. Angell has served on the board of the Washington State chapter of The Nature Conservancy.  He has participated in the National Academy of Design shows, and is an elected Fellow of the National Sculpture Society.  He has also been an active participant in the Artists for Nature Foundation, an organization based in the Netherlands and consisting of artists dedicated to promoting through their work, the conservation of natural and historical landscapes.  He continues to live and work in Seattle, Washington.

Rebecca Rowland, "Tony Angell, Romancing the Stone", Wildlife Art magagine, July 2002

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Tony Angell

About  Tony Angell

Born:  1940 - Los Angeles, California
Known for:  stone carved animal sculpture, painting