ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Minnesota Arts: The Woodcarved Realistic People and Animals of Herman Swenson

Updated on November 14, 2016

Herman Swenson

My father, born in 1924, passed away in 2012. He was a talented man who worked with wood, and worked on cars. He was in the navy during World War II, and was serving when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

He had grown up on a farm in the Moose Lake area and had learned to maintain a farm environment. He was also a thinker and an inventor and spent many hours thinking about the way things went together and how to improve them.

He started wood carving in the 1960's. There was a class on wood carving and he learned the basics on how to carve a simple object like a cat.



Herman Swenson was creative enough to think about a subject, grab a pocket knife and just start carving. Many of the carvings were of himself, doing work around the yard. Strong men wielding axes. Strong men in nice clothes. Many of the carvings he did, were probably a self likeness since the body style was very similar to my fathers body style. Tall, thin, broad shouldered, athletic.

When we lived in Grand Marais; he did a carving of my sister playing her guitar. Some people draw. My father carved. The carving was of a long haired blond girl playing a six string guitar.

We had bears in our yard and he did a carving of a man with a berry bucket and a bear. Both were running away from each other. Both have scared looks on their faces.


His Style Was Realistic

I have a carving of a man in hunting clothes, kneeling on the ground next to a deer. I had wanted a carving and since my husband liked to deer hunt, he carved a carving of a man tying a rope to a deer that he shot.

My mother painted the man with a hunting red sweatshirt and the deer was brown She even painted the hooves

He liked to carve old men just sitting around waiting. Many of his smaller carvings were of men that were sitting around eating cookies and drinking coffee. Why? I think it's because he sat around eating cookies and drinking coffee. The characters wear hats. My father wore hats.

He sat with his leg crossed over his knee. The carvings show the person doing that.


No Limits

There are carvings of men with binoculars wearing a jacket. There are men wearing shop clothes and scratching their heads. There are men carrying a rifle. The carvings are true to action. The man with the ax has a log that he is working on, complete with bark and a notched out spot for the ax.

There is a man sitting at a table, praying.


My Mother

My mother requested an elf for her stairwell. When you walked in our house, there was a stairwell going up in front of you. She wanted an elf to sit on the bottom of the railing so you'd see it when you came into the house.

He carved this on his lunch hour when he worked at a college. It took him 45 minutes to whittle it out. He did it on his lunch hour. A coworker watched him do it.



The legs were realistic.


Head and Shoulders

The head and shoulders were also realistic. I'm assuming he stood and looked at himself in a mirror to get the jist of the carving.


Different Viewpoints

Realistic poses. Hands at sides.


See the Detail?

This is a close up of the elves face. Once again, a reminder. He carved this in 45 minutes from a 4 x 4 block of wood.






Again, it must be his face because he includes his own smirk.


His First Project

This is the cat that he carved in his carving class in the late 1960's.


A Typical Old Man

I think that the old men of the day and age he was from, probably wore bib overalls. This is a classic example of such.



The more you look at this carving, the more details appear. It's incredible the amount of detail he put into his carvings.

My mother was the person who painted all his carvings. Give her credit for the details in painting them.



Again, this is a typical pose that my father would do. Sitting, legs crossed, eating a doughnut with a cup of coffee.


Another Old Guy

This looks like the same carving, but, it's not. This guy is just sitting there with his hands folded. The other guy has a cup of coffee and food.


Another Old Guy

Sitting around and listening.


Standing and Thinking

Note the rolled up sleeves. I think hes taking a break. Or, contemplating how he's going to cut this chunk. Or, perhaps he's planning on sitting on it.

Note the look on his face. Perhaps he was thinking and someone asked him a question. Or perhaps he's angry. Note the fist.



I think this one is of my father's father. As I look at the clothing, and the hat, I see the clothing my grandfather used to wear.


See How Small This Is

It's so small I can just hold it in my hand.


Same Size

The detail and the size. Just amazing.

Soft Pine

I asked my father where he obtained the wood he used and what type of wood it was. He replied that soft pine was the answer.

Well. A long time ago, we lived next to a lumber mill in Grand Marais. There was a pile of 'cut offs' that were just laying about and dad was invited to help himself to whatever he wished to use.

There was quite a bit of soft pine and it worked quite well he said.

New Guestbook Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Beautiful work.

    • CruiseReady profile image


      6 years ago from East Central Florida

      Unbelievable that you dad did that elf in just 45 minutes - he sure was fast!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      6 years ago from United States

      I really like your dad's carving. What a treasure gift!

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 

      6 years ago

      Love the carvings! Beautiful!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)