From the time he was very young, it was clear Tanner Elliott is artistically gifted.
Always a nature-lover, at age 2 or 3 the son of Steve and Jill Elliott would ask his mother to draw whales or fish. By 4 or 5, he was correcting her drawings and doing his own.
"It's just a God-given gift," said Jill Elliott. "We saw his talent very early and pray for opportunities."
He started out with painting, taking lessons from portrait artist Lynn Johnson in Marion.
For the past 10 years, he's been applying those painting techniques to wood carving.
"Carving is just painting, but three-dimensional," said Elliott, 24, of Greencastle, who is among 17 members of the Cumberland Valley Wood Carvers displaying their work and demonstrating their craft from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 7, at a Tuscarora Wildlife Education Project open house at the Charles Brightbill Environmental Center behind James Buchanan High School, Mercersburg.
A wood carver in Path Valley gave Elliott some early tips, but he is mainly self-taught, progressing from knives to Dremel tools to power carving.
Most members of the wood carvers group are older and when Bob Garnes of Chambersburg died, he left his power carving tools to Elliott.
"Not many people my age get into carving, it's more of a retirement thing. He wanted them to go to a young carver, it was blessing upon blessing," Elliott said. "He was a very good carver and a lot of people learned a lot from him."
Working in a shop at the home of his grandmother, Lorraine Reeder, up the hill from where he lives on Williamson Road, Elliott starts with a block of basswood and roughs it out with a bandsaw, before moving to his other tools.
Growing up in the area and a hunter and fisherman, Elliott naturally gravitates toward wildlife in his work — birds, fish and some mammals.
Some of his pieces adorn his parents' living room, where his paintings are displayed on the walls. In one window sill stands a pheasant it took 46 hours to carve and paint and in another windowsill, a hummingbird hovers over a zinnia.
Elliott researches his subjects online for accuracy in his painting, with a sharp-shinned hawk featuring detailed wing markings, yellow legs and black talons.
"I am constantly learning, constantly improving and I also learn by looking at others," he said.
Elliott works as a house painter, but later in life would would like to make his carving a business.
"I love to do it and I would love to do it all the time," said Elliott, who makes furniture, too.
For more information about Elliott, see Facebook Gifted for a Purpose or visit the website:
In addition to watching the wood carvers at the TWP open house, visitors can also tour the environmental center.
TWEP was founded in 1987 to provide and promote environmental education in wildlife, conservation and ecology.
Named in memory of one of the founding members of TWEP, the Charles Brightbill Environmental Center was built in 2000 and features a large display of animals in its natural history museum, along with collections of nests, shells, rocks and minerals, fossils and skulls.
For more information, see TWEP on Facebook or visit: