Sunday, October 25, 2009

It Ain't Fire Wood Redux

We got some snow this week. I took a couple of pictures through the windshield of my car on my way to work just before sun-up.

The quality isn't the best, but you try taking a picture one handed through the windshield of your car! That white peak to the right in the first picture is Pike's Peak at 14,192'. Or something. It is one of the Fourteener's here in Colorado. If you look closely you can see the line on the mountains where the snow starts. That's about 8,000 feet.

I also did some reworking on last post's subject. I'll post the photo of the original next to the photo of the revised work.

It's amazing how little wood was taken off to produce this effect. I thinned down the nose and changed the profile of the bridge and elevated the tip a bit. I removed some wood between her mouth and her nose. I also altered the lower lip and took some shavings off the bottom of the chin. All the chips I removed could be put in a thimble with lots of room left over. She's still not as feminine as I would like, but good enough until the next one.

Currently I'm working on a new Santa ornament, a small male wood spirit and a very small tasting spoon. I'm using slightly different techniques on all of them. It'll be interesting to see how they turn out.

Until the, let the chips fly!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It Ain't Fire Wood 'Til It's Kindling!

Fire wood is the term carvers and whittlers use to designate carvings that have gone wrong. Might as well use 'em for fire wood and get some utility out of 'em.

My view is that most carvings that go wrong can be saved with a little imagination, flexibility and perseverance. Witness my latest foray toward the female face.

As you can see, the eyes are a mess. The level of difficulty is a little higher on this one than on my last because of the hair drifting down over the face. Her right eye is partially covered and the space between the main hair falls is pretty narrow. This branch is about 4 inches long and about 1" in diameter. (And if anyone can identify the wood, I'd be most grateful.)

All of the carving up to this point was done with my self-modified Kissing Crane Four-Blade Congress pocket knife. It's a nice, well-built knife for $15, and performed admirably up to this point.

One of these days I'll get over being afraid of eyes, but that day ain't yet. I was too timid about the first set of eyes I gave her. They were too small and too shallow. I'll admit that I was also rather intimidated by the lack of space left by the hair. I could have redone the hair, but I wanted this kind of look, so I decided to redo the eyes. Lord knows there was enough wood left.

I couldn't get the pocket knife blades down in there at the angles I needed to make the cuts I wanted to make, so I switched over to my Ralph Long long knife. That narrow 2" blade was just what I needed. It may seem contra-intuitive that I needed a long blade to get into a tight spot, but the narrowness of the point and the curve of the blade allowed me to get down in there and cut around the eye without nicking (mostly) the eyebrows and hair.

I deepened the cuts above the eyes and moved the bottom of the lower lids much further south making them deeper as well. I used the very tip of the knife to make lots of very small chips while building the eye mounds.

While building the eye mounds I decided that a sleeping dryad fit this pose better, so I finished the eyes that way.

I think she turned out pretty well, but while looking at the photos I began to think she had a rather androgynous look. She could be either a pretty-boy rocker or a woman. I'm beginning to think it might have something to do with the lower lip where it meets the corners of the mouth. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.

Until next time, let the chips fly!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My First Woman -- Carving, That Is

I've learned a lot about carving faces over the last couple of weeks. I had decided that I wanted to carve a female face. I happen to like women. A lot! So a female face was a natural subject for me. It only took me almost six decades to actually do it!

But just doing something I'd never done before wasn't enough for me. No, not only did I decide to go to the distaff side of subjects, I also decided I wanted to do her as a woodspirit. In found wood! Not even that was enough. I did her in seasoned found wood. Am I a glutton for punishment or what?

Of course I wanted to do a good job. I wanted to at least make her attractive, if not beautiful. Think dryad. So I had to do some studying. My first stop was Ian Norbury's book, Carving Classic Female Faces in Wood. Of course Norbury is a good carver (yeah, let's understate the thing just a bit), but his women are fantastic. So I spent a goodly amount of time poring over his step-by-step photos, learning what he did when. (The time I spent droo . . . um . . . studying the blown up photos of his model was purely research. Yep!) I must admit, though, that his slavish attention to perfect symmetry got on my nerves a bit.

Speaking of symmetry, or the lack thereof, my next stop was a Marv Kaisersatt study cast of a young woman. I made the mind-boggling discovery that Marv is no more wedded to bilateral symmetry than I am. I must make a small diversion here to explain how I went about studying the Kaisersatt cast.

One of the blogs I follow is Doug Stowe's "Wisdom of the Hands", an excellent blog about the role of the hands in education. One of his posts (I wish I could find it again) made the point that modern Man has effectively lost the ability to "see with the fingers". As a woodcarver/sculptor I took that to heart and decided to take the Kaisersatt cast into a dark room and study it with my fingers. It took me a while to get into the groove, but eventually what a revelation! I saw something with my fingers that I had never seen before while examining the cast visually. The left side of her face was off! I speculate that while messing with the hair, he carved off a little (actually more than a little) too much off the temple. Instead of coming down and merging more or less smoothly with the cheek bone as on the right side of her face, he left a shelf of cheekbone running back under her hair toward her ear. A not inconsiderable shelf even though I never noticed it until I took her into a dark room and ran my fingers over her face. (yeah, yeah, take your best shot!) Not only did he make that "mistake", he allowed it to be immortalized in a study cast! How's THAT for confidence!

Okay, okay, moving right along. The next place I went was Lynn Doughty's blog, Out West Wood Carving. Lynn, like Marv, is arguably one of the finest caricature carvers alive today. He's always been generous with his advice and has an extensive gallery of WIP photos of his pieces. Just recently he's begun posting tutorial videos, and during the last week or so has posted a series of videos showing how he carves a head and face. Absolutely first rate work! He does have a tendency to get between the camera and his carving, but his wife, who is both cameraman and director, doesn't let that last long. If you have ANY interest in carving faces, whether caricature or realistic, you MUST view that series.

So that's what I studied. And I got a lot out of all the sources. You've seen my starting point above. You'll notice that the face is very long and the brow comes out just as far as the tip of the nose. One of the things I picked up from the Kaisersatt cast and was echoed in the Norbury and Doughty materials was that the brow is typically farther in than the tip of the nose. This next photo shows that corrected.

This is a front view at the same stage of carving. The chin is still longer than I like, and the sketched-in eye is too high.

I was able to correct that, mostly. The rest of the photos are of the almost finished piece. The only think I lack is putting in the pupils.

She's pretty good, but I'm going to do better.

Until next time, let the chips fly!