Sunday, November 29, 2009

...and a one, and a two...

...and a three!  The carving at left was carved this Fall and is destined to be given as a present to a nearby friend.  It was carved in a class given by Mr. Eldon Humphries, here in western NY.  This humorous character is one of Eldon's designs (he has got a quite a few good designs he is currently working with).  This class was very enjoyable and Eldon is a good instructor and each carver left with a well completed carving. 
   Having said all this, I must be honest and say that this carving is really not "my style".  I was shown the carving prior to deciding on the class.  Now this might have you asking "why would I spend the money on a class that is going to carve a figure I personally would not normally carve?".  The answer is quite simple though.  My artistic skills are the composite of all types of knowledge from all sorts of places, media, and instructors.  I attend classes in the hopes that I will learn a new technique, or techniques I would care not to repeat.  The more methods I have at my disposal the greater of variety of carvings I can produce.  So when you are contemplating your next course ask yourself "what can this instructor offer me?"  Once you have an answer to that you can determine whether or not you would be getting your hard earned monies worth.
  As for this class and this carving...I learned to simulate ruffles and scrolls.  Something that will come into use in the future, as for the carving I am sure my friend will cherish it as it truly represents the eccentric individual he is. 

Friday, November 27, 2009

How do I...

  Inspiration can come from just about anywhere,  however, when we are inspired we often find that we just don't know how to go about it.  A nice assortment of reference books can assist with this. 
  In the picture shown at left is Andrew Loomis' "Fun with a Pencil" a great instructional drawing book that was purchased off of Ebay.  Also in the picture are Cartoon Animation which I use to help me design motion into my carvings,  Tales from the Crypt which has great physcal detail of the human body especially when it comes to expression, and the last book is Warner Brothers "That's all Folks" which is a wonderful history of the Animators and how their work and efforts grew with time and effort.  These books as well as a whole lot more provide me the basic information I need to create the effect I am looking for.  So next time you are at your library browse through the drawing and animation books as well as books about the things you know (I grew up reading Tales from the Crypt comics and watching Bugs Bunny).  For more immediate results you can always do a Google image search too.
  Enjoy the holiday weekend...carve something!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sketchy Sundays...

  Sundays are my day!!  I work all week and have a sizeable piece of real estate that requires my attention regularly, but Sundays are mine!  OK, they are really only mine because the "spousal unit" is working.
  When this golden opportunity came about I wanted to make sure a portion of the day was dedicated to my love of Caricature Carving.  I also like a nice breakfast too, something I do not get everyday.  So every Sunday morning I get up and head down to the local diner and tuck myself away in the farthest corner booth and break out my sketch pad.  Over the last few years I have been working to break away and not just carve what everyone else is carving but rather to try and be able to carve what I would like to carve ( please understand this is my desire and in no way should be construed as a slam against those who love to carve the "standards")  .  Even if you are not looking towards designing your own carvings, if you draw at regular intervals, your carving skills will improve.  All you need is something to draw on and my personal favorite a Ticonderoga #2.  If you'd like to take it a little deeper, then I would recommend you visit your local art store,  pick up a simple sketch pad, a kneadable eraser (the gray blob in the picture),  and some Prismacolortm Col-Erase pencils (blue works well).  The visit to the Art store will not break the bank.  If it's truly an Art Store (not a major craft chain store) you should take some time to browse,  there are a lot of neat tools and methods that can come in handy.
  For something to draw pick a copy of someones sketches and just start copying (a sketchbook from Bobby Chiu at is shown in picture).  This practice will help you overcome one of the biggest issues we face...overcoming our subconcious tendancy to see things as a "whole".  When we look at someone we tend to see their face, rather than seeing the parts that make up the whole.  Being able to break this down allows us to accentuate a feature appropriately to the point of Caricature.  Besides, doing it is just plain fun. It does not have to have a purpose, just let it be enjoyable.  Sure some days will be better than others, but who cares?  You are doing it for yourself and in doing so you are nourishing your artistic soul. 

   Ok, maybe thats just a little TOO DEEP...just go out there and enjoy the journey!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Daddies got a couple new babies!!

  Well I had been saving my pennies and with my visit to the Hickory show I could not pass up the chance to add a couple of babies to the collection!  When it comes to knives a Caricature Carver / Whittler can never have enough (and I of course am no exception to the rule).
   When it comes to knives most folks buy standard knives and just buy varying lengths and shapes.  The upsweep knife is gaining popularity with the carving community for its ability to provide a nice clean cut.  The two featured above are well made (really like the comfort of both handle shapes and Ralph's teardrop fits well in the palm) and perform as you would expect with a good amount of flex in each blade. 
  The only drawback to an upsweep is if you are not paying attention you can cut yourself deeply by pressing against what "you thought" was the spine.  It's a painful lesson and you only have to do it once to learn a valuable lesson (put your glasses on!).  I did it while checking out some beautiful knives at a show,  my embarassment could not be understated...DUH!
  At one point or another carvers learn that to get a proper clean cut with a knife you have to utilize a slicing cut.  That is to say that, on a draw, the knife is pulled through the grain while the blade is also being pulled across the grain. If you are unsure about this, grab your knife and scrap and give it a shot, do a few draw cuts and watch your hand motion it should not only be a pull but rather a "slicing" pull where the blade is also shifted in the direction of the hand you are using (to the right for right-handers and vice versa).  While a slicing cut can be using a standard blade,  the upsweep blade accomplishes this much easier and this ability is greatly enhanced when performing "scissor" or "push" cuts.
  The upsweep knife enhances the ability to achieve beautiful cuts in tight places and at least one deserves a place in a Caricature Carver's toolset.  These two already have an "official" place in my box and I am sure they will get a lot of use!

TIP:  When watching a demonstration from your instructor most students look at the wood to see where the "cut" is taking place.  Change your thought process and watch the carvers hand you'll learn a lot more about carving watching how they make their cut rather than the cut itself.  Remember the "cut" is only good for that particular portion of the carving while the "method of the cut" can be used over and over again.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

It was just two months ago at our September club meeting we were each handed a wooden spoon to try our hand at carving.  Not necessarily relishing the thought, I set it aside, as I prepared for the competition at Hickory.  It wasn't that I was unwilling to participate it was just the same old question what am I going to carve.  This question haunts quite a few carvers who just don't want to follow the leader and would like to be able to carve their own designs.  Given my tendancies I decided to do it and just give it some time to percolate.  I came across a fantastic drawing and decided to modify it somewhat and give it a go.  The spoon would be carved as a relief and then I would wood burn for effect.  This is not a normal practice for me but I decided that since I had nothing invested in the project (other than time) that I would push myself to try different techniques.  So I decided to wood burn and practiced shading techniques by just varying the teperature of my pen and the type of stroke I was using.  For the sky it was a series of dots burned at differing temperatures and spacing. 
   Overall I would not say this is a masterpiece by any means, but as a positive, I did try different techniques (relief and burning) and therefore have just that much more experience.
   So if your club prompts you to participate in an event, take the chance, participate, don't worry about the result but rather enjoy the journey.  The result will take care of itself and in the long run you will become a better carver who has a much wider range of experience that you will be able to use in the future.

  Now, pick up that knife, give it a good stropping and carve something...anything.  You'll be the better for it!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Show Alert...

Bruce Henn's 2008 display (he is one carver worth meeting!)

Well it's November and that means its time for the Dayton Carvers Guild's Artistry in Wood show held at the Dayton Exposition Center located at the Dayton airport (click on the link at the right to find more particulars).  This year they will be featuring a Spit-N-Whittle which will be sponsored by Woodcarving Illustrated where carvers will be on hand carving and available for questions.  As far as demonstrations go I would check out Don Mertz whittle-doodle demonstration.  The man can carve wonderous things with only a knife.

For those who have never been to Dayton its something every carver should attend at least once if possible.  To describe the goings on,  its held in a large arena where vendors and carvers have there wares on display for sale.  While the carvers are competing against each other and it is a tough competition, each carver and vendor must rent space for their displays and each must apply for a space.  The carvers offset this by selling their carvings.  If you are a collector this is the primary show to go to as the diversity of carvings is quite vast.
It also can be a good show to attend for the purchase of Christmas gifts. If you are a carver it gives you a chance to see other's work, ask questions, and learn.  It also gives you the chance to mingle with many vendors (visit the Heinecke booth on Saturday if you want wood it goes extremely fast), compare prices, and tools available.

If in the future you are considering a display the overwhelming opinion is this is a fantastic weekend.  It has been mentioned by many participants that the only dissenting comments related to the Saturday night dinner.  Since I have not experienced this personally I will reserve comment.

As for the carvers displaying their works, they are a cordial if not jolly bunch of folks and your interaction with them will be for the majority a pleasant one.

Having said this it's now up to you to get up and go, it truly is worth at least one visit, if not many more. 

As is customary a portion of the proceeds from the show support a local Dayton charity.  Bravo Dayton Carvers Guild, Bravo!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Continuing my discussion of basic Caricature Carving tools,  its on to the gouges.  While Caricature Carvers do have a bias towards knives we also use gouges.  Before getting into a discussion of sweeps and types its important to show the different styles of gouges. 
As you can see on the left there is quite a variety of styles (Intermediate-size and back-bent gouge styles not shown) each having their own merits.  The full-size gouges are generally used on larger pieces and can be used by hand or in combination with a mallet. 
The palm-size and micro gouges are most commonly used by Caricature Carvers and since we generally use a large variety of types (sweeps) with multiple sizes the compactness of these tools allows for greater portability and ease of use when carving smaller figures.
  Each of the styles above is used for a specific cut and its angle to the wood while performing the cut is different.  Carvers should experiment with each and should practice inverting tools and making cuts (quite handy on nose bridges!) as well as learning to use each tools cutting surface in different ways.  An example of this would be to make a cut just using the side of a V-tool.  Having this knowledge gives the carver that many more options.
  I cannot stress enough the importance of learning to keep your tools sharp and protect the cutting surfaces.  Dropping a tool or allowing a tool to glance off another can cause damage to the cutting surface and the object here is to keep the perfect edge.
  While the tools shown in the picture above only represent 3 manufacturers these styles are made by several tool makers and its up to you to make the best decision possible before buying.  When considering manufactures its important to compare like styles, sizes, and sweeps as this will give a good indication of how the manufacturer generally makes its tools.  Some manufactures incorporate a considerable amount more steel in the stem of the tool.  It also important to inspect the tool for balance.  This meaning to look at a gouge to ensure the the metal is even and balanced throughout,  you do not want to buy a tool that has more metal on one side than another as it will not cut properly.  IT'S YOUR MONEY, BE CHOOSY!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Even a blind squirell gets a nut (once in a while)...

  One nice thing about attending Woodcarving shows is that there are usually plenty of items being raffled off in order to benefit the club.  The Catawba Valley Woodcarvers were no exception with about 30 items being raffled off (along with about 15 door prizes for competitors).  Well the man above showered his blessings down upon me and my one ticket came up gold!
  To give you a little background, the toolbox was carved and assembled by a gentlemen in the Carolinas well known for his Chip Carving abilities as well as overall woodworking skills.  I met Frank about 4 years ago when I traveled down to Charlotte for the first of many Woodcarving competitions I would attend.  Turns out he is originally from about 20 minutes east of the old hacienda and happens to know the great-grandparents of my grandchildren,  needless to say it truly is a small world.  I had chided Frank earlier in the day that the box did not have a large enough place for a Caricature Carver to keep his knives (joklingly of course) and while I do love his work and this box is gorgeous I believe I will turn his good deed into two, and raffle it off at our local clubs meet next spring.  Great job on the box Frank and we appreciate your donation.