Monday, October 3, 2011
Faces are an endless source of fascination for me and for many other carvers. One of the most often heard requests is "Can you teach me to carve faces?" And that's only natural.
Human beings are hardwired to recognize faces. I believe that to be a survival skill from our earliest tribal days a million years ago. At that time our pre-homo sapiens sapiens ancestors lived in small groups that could be called tribes. Inter-tribal warfare was probably more common than not, so it was a decided advantage to be able to distinguish between "us" and "them". "Them" were dangerous!
Facial recognition was also a great help in keeping the nuclear family stable. Imagine the embarrassment if Ugh got caught dragging Eeep's wife off to his cave. "Ooops! Sorry Eeep! I thought she was my wife. You know these females. They all look alike to me."
Research has shown that humans can recognize a face in the most rudimentary of drawings or pictures. Take the Happy Face for example. What is it but a circle, two dots and a curve.
Not only do we see faces in rudimentary drawings, we also see them in nature: clouds, rocks and even pieces of wood. Take The Jester up at the top of the post. Before I took my knife to him, he was just a piece of a tree branch, but I could see him in there just waiting to get out.
It's a lot of fun to carve faces into found wood, but for beginners or moderately advanced carvers it is easier to learn with commercially processed wood. Found wood is, to be polite, variable in quality. The piece that I used to carve The Jester had soft spots, downright rotten spots, and grain that went every which way. It short, it was a challenge, one that required the use of CA glue to stabilize a couple of areas.
That's why, as I show you how I carve faces I'll be using a piece of 1-1/2" birch dowel that I got from my local Woodcraft store. You just buy a 3-foot length for less than $5.00 and cut it up into six 6" pieces. It's cheap, so if you accidentally turn it into firewood, you haven't lost much in the way of materials. The wood is consistent in density and the grain runs all in one direction. That's what I used to carve old Windy there.
In the next post I'll talk about the knife I use. I say knife instead of tools because I'm going to be showing you how to do this with one knife. Once you learn how to carve a face with only a knife, it's easy to bring other tools into the process.
So, until next time, let those chips fly!