Sunday, December 29, 2013

What can you do with an hour?

One-hour carvings by R. Olsen
  On my recent trip to Dayton  I had the opportunity to finally meet Ryan Olsen who in recent years dominated the CCA competition with some awe inspiring carvings and finishes.  Ryan has since become a member of the CCA and since that time put together another really nice carving of a barbershop quartet as part of the CCA's street scene (picture can be found on this blog).

  Ryan hails from western Idaho and is a young and energetic carver who not only takes his carving hobby seriously but also, with his wife, enjoys singing opera.  This is most likely why music plays prominently in his choice of carving subjects.

  My traveling companions and myself happened to be staying at the same hotel as the CCA members and spent our evenings in the lobby both socializing with the members but also carving.  In my discussion with Ryan he mentioned a method he was currently using to improve his skills...the one-hour carving. 

  As part of this effort Ryan was basically pushing himself through what I have termed "carvers paralysis" and as such the result is astounding and attractive.  The carving shown on the left was carved using one of my large Ron Wells knives.  This resulted in a carving with large facets and deep bold cuts.  Of course, in his methods I do not believe he limits himself to a whittling knife but you can't deny the results of his efforts.  This is something worth giving a try.

  Thanks Ryan for the idea, I have since bought myself a timer and will giving this a try.

  It's another beautiful carving day...stop 'em up and get to carving!!

I hope all have had a wonderful and warm holiday filled with carving gifts.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advancing the form...

The Brawl - C. Hammack
Over the past months I had anticipated the Dayton Artistry in Wood show due to the fact that they were showcasing the Caricature Carvers of America, many of the members I have had the pleasure of learning from, carving with, or just discussing the art form.  I have been carving since the 80's (yup, I was around when dirt was born) and to my detriment until a couple of years ago I had not known about Chris Hammack and his art form.  Traveling with a couple of fellow carvers I looked forward to spending some time with like-minded carvers and learning something new.
Now if you have not had the pleasure please take the time to take a look at Mr. Hammack, the man has all around art skills (can also play the guitar and sing) and is worthy of your time.  This year Chris has taken it to another level by taking 2nd best-of-show honors at Dayton, only being eclipsed by Fred Zavadil.  (I believe he also took the Caricature category at Congress but as of this writing I am unable to confirm). 
In the last two years I have been fortunate to carve with Chris, who has recently been selected into the CCA,  and have many of his study casts.  Chris also has the rare ability of being able to carve women who actually appear feminine.  Some of this ability comes from the all around art skills and experience he possesses.
Chris also has composition abilities that elude most of us.  The carving above is truly a representation of that skill as this carving is one of those you can look at for hours all the while discovering new items while maintaining necessary proportions for all the figures (horses, skunk, dog, etc.).  His carvings also bring the humor, as he has a good wit about himself.  At Dayton, I was fortunate to spend some time playing guard dog to his display, while he was attending to other duties and it was a pleasure to observe the attendees reaction to seeing his display and discussing their observations.
All in all, Chris is worthy of your time and admiration for the skills and mentoring he brings to our art.  Chris has taken to the teaching circuit and will be traveling to many a state in the coming year.  If you get the opportunity and are serious about advancing your skills you would be well served to give him a look-see.
It's a good day to be a Caricature do something about it...research, learn, draw, sharpen, and get to carving!!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The simplest of tools...

This is just a quick post to tell you about one of the items I have in my tool box....a circle template.  These items generally sell for less than $10 but do bring some good value to our hobby.  I generally use this when I am designing a cutout or when I roughing out a carving.  It's a good reference to see where you are in relation to round.  If you are a carver who often produces square looking carvings just get a template draw a circle on the end grain of some 2"x2" stock and carve until you reach a cylinder...this will assist you in producing a better quality carving.  A square carving is usually the result of nicking the wood instead of go ahead and take some big, committed cuts for a better result.

HEY ITS A HOLIDAY!!!...Carve something besides the turkey!! 

(Best wishes to all for a safe and joyous Thanksgiving!)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

One from the bench...

Just a quick writeup regarding a painting demonstration I provided my club...the carving to the left was carved along with a couple of carvers I coach in the art of caricature carving.  It's founded on busts generated out of Marv Kaisersatt's book and is a good way to teach face carving.  A while back our club was seeking content for our monthly meeting and I forgot to take one step back sooooo a painting demonstration seemed like a good idea.  I don't believe the club was thinking they would get a demonstration but rather a discussion.  For me its all in the teaching as anyone can just talk about it.  Many folks out there struggle with painting their carvings especially when it comes to the strength of paint color.  I laid it all out there for them and demonstrated it through the carvings dipping in the antiquing mixture.  The carving at left has since been waxed and buffed.  One item of note, I demonstrated with Sharpie markers for shirt stripes and as you can somewhat see the colors bled...its important to test this prior to painting on your carving as experiences will vary. 
This carving was painted using round brushes, H2O, a paper palette, acrylic paints, BLO, Deft, and Feed-N-Wax.  The most important portion of the process is to ensure you have thinned each paint so only a hint of pigment is showing.  Please understand that the color red requires a great amount of water and white is just the opposite.  A 'test block' is an important accessory when painting, its just a scrap block that you can test on.  The paper palette (or Styrofoam plate) is the best for mixing paints as it allows you to draw the pigment to the water rather than trying to mix the appropriate amount of each in a cup.
No matter what...painting takes practice and in order to practice you have to have cleanly carved what are you waiting for????  Carve something!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I am not a bird carver, but...

A gift for Page!
  I will be the first to admit that I know nothing of carving birds, however this would be my third.  The first was when I was first learning about carving and I decided to carve a Rick Butz merganser for my parents...I created that one in cherry.
  The second was my original piece "The elusive Baltimore Oreo" which was driven by the fact that I wanted to show my club members (95% bird carvers) that I could if I REALLY wanted to.
  The latest, the flamingo to the left, is driven by a promise to a friend and one who wholly supports our art.  Many years ago I embarked on a great friendship with a gentlemen from the great state of North Carolina, we had very similar desires, a good sense of humor, and the need to do something different.  I would learn overtime the generosity not only of himself but of his supportive wife, Miss Page.  Over the years I have attended a number of events in the state of North Carolina and it would always seem that Mitch and Page were at the heart of supporting these events.Now I must say that Miss Page goes well above and beyond being supportive all while maintaining her sense of humor dashed with a bit of sarcasm (something I really enjoy).
  It was at one of the aforementioned events that Miss Page informed me that I owed her a carving,  no doubt I did so I inquired as to what she would like me to carve...the answer was that she liked birds, especially flamingos.  Well, it was decided then...a flamingo it would be.
  Now the only thing I new of flamingos is that they get their color from the generous amounts of shrimp they eat.  Not knowing where to begin, the "carvers paralysis" set in.  If you have experienced this you know that it is when you know you want to carve an item however you can't decide where to begin but there are way to many questions. 
  In this case I did what I could knowing that this does not pay the debt but rather just satisfy the bird requirement.  One interesting note when researching the flamingo...they are mostly shades of pink/orange almost everywhere. In finishing the piece I took this into account and gave the piece depth through multiple tonal values. 
  This carving while simple was still somewhat challenging,  a learning experience for sure.

  It's another day, don't wait...carve something!!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Caricature - A real likeness

Chris Rock by A. Filetti
It's always good to have goals and one of the goals I have is to be able to create a Caricature likeness of a real person rather than carving generic folk all the time.  To be clear, carving generic folk and taking what the wood gives me is truly acceptable, this is more about expanding my talents to be able to generate a true likeness.

In studying caricature I put a lot of stock into Tom Richmond's writings, as they are well written and enable caricature abilities.  One of his key stated observations is that a good caricature can be judged by whether or not the likeness truly equates to the subject (the carving/drawing truly looks like the individual). 

As part of my studies I read other blogs, many by other graphic artists and animators.  Some of these folk publish great sketch books, one of which is Jioe Bluhm's Sketch Infectus.  This is where I found a basic drawing on which I could base the carving upon.  Utilizing the drawing and focusing on the parts rather than the whole I was able to create this latest attempt at a carving a caricature of a real person.  My hope is to next generate the Caricature drawing from which I will be able to generate a carving. 

Being critical of my work there are a couple of areas I would do differently to have a greater impact,  I believe the representation would have been better with a smaller nose a larger teeth.  I do believe this carving is close and for those who are aware of the comedian will be able to decipher the likeness.  In carving Chris I did notice that he bears a similarity to both the Prez and also to Eddie Murphy and the they truly only differ in some minor ways.

All-in-all this was a good way to stretch my skills and I hope to improve with each. 

Strop 'em up and get carving my friend!


Saturday, June 29, 2013

The use of a Soft-V

Denny (OCCT) Ortel Soft-V
A recent question on one a Caricature Carving forum polled the members for their favorite roughout tools.  One of the often mentioned items was a Soft-V.  Now I understand some folks might wonder what a soft-v might be as compared to a standard V gouge.  Simply stated the bottom of the V is rounded and does not form a strict angle.  This can be seen a little better in the picture below.

Ok, so its rounded...what does that mean for me the carver?
Well with time carvers come to realize that before actually adding detail to a carving they really need to get the foundation correct.  In the above pictures is an in progress whittling modeled after a rough setup demonstrated to me by Mitch Cartledge.  At this point in the carving I am locating the elbows, shoulders, overall head  size, eyeline, and bottom of the nose.  A major portion of what has been done so far has been done with a Soft-V, knife, and a very large #9.  The use of a Soft-V vs. a standard V tool allows me to set planes of the carving without committing to that plane.  If I had used a standard V tool I would have left lines in areas that I did not want.  The carving in its current state allows me to make changes or adjustments without major issues.

One other item of note is that the Soft-V in the picture has very high shoulders which I also find helpful.  As you become more advanced you will learn to use these shoulders and find they are quite useful.  In case you are wondering about gouge size,  I tend to buy the largest palm gouges as it is best to start at the largest sizes and work your way to the smaller sizes as a carving progresses.

The gouge shown is a tool I would recommend...its stout, in use by many carvers, been around for a few years, and manufactured by a maker committed to quality.

I hope you found this helpful...sharpen and strop them tools and get out there and carve something!


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Vendor relationships..some insight into recent experiences

Another tool for the collection!
I have to say the thought for this post came from a post I recall reading on a forum regarding the quality of a tool purchased and my experiences coaching other carvers.  The post questioned the quality of the tool due to it's condition when it arrived and recently I have taken notice of some this as the vendor landscape has transformed over recent years with some folks retiring and selling their business to others.

In my experiences as a carver and a coach I know the importance of sharp and the impact it can have on a carver and the carving experience.  I was heavily influenced early on by my friend and first instructor Gary Falin.  He taught me sharp and gave me my first enjoyable carving experience with sharp tools.  Carving in Tom Wolfe's whittling competitions with the likes of Mark Akers, Mitch Cartledge, and Alan Goodman also reinforced the need to maintain my tools keeping them in optimal condition.  In coaching others this is where I see some of the greatest difficulties...teaching sharp and how to maintain sharp and I hope this message will be of benefit to others.

Like others my hobby budget is limited so I want to avoid the mistakes I made early in my carving experience by purchasing the correct tools needed for a particular purpose.  Now please understand that a pretty tool is like an expensive set of golf clubs,  having them doesn't mean you will qualify for the tour.  So I am focused on buying quality tools that fulfill specific needs.  Recently when carving  with Mitch I asked if he would be so kind as to demonstrate a particular setup and I appreciate the fact he was able to share that with me.  While he was demonstrating this for me he happened to pull out a couple of Henry Taylor palm gouges that I had not previously seen (one of which is shown above).  These gouges were 3/4" wide and were in a #7 and #9 sweeps...ideal for caricature carvers seeking to remove wood quickly.  After seeing these I knew I wanted to have them in my toolbox.  Not having purchased this makers tools before I did a quick online search and found one the foundational U.S. companies I had purchased from before in person and placed an online order.  Now placing online orders you would expect to get a confirmation of the order email stating the order was received, whether or not the product was in stock, and its expected ship date.  I GOT NOTHING!!!  OK, so I am a busy person and I did not have time to chase this vendor so after waiting over 3 weeks without hearing anything from them I decided to forget about the order, if it was filled it would go into my collection as a backup set.  I then did another online search and discovered that another acquaintance of mine also sold this brand.  I gave him a quick call, he stated that he had them in stock and asked if I would like them sharpened...I said no I have a Burke and need more experience with it.  THE TOOLS ARRIVED IN 3 DAYS !! (Thanks Bob Stadtlander).  Now knowing Bob and the discussion we had around the sharpening aspect my expectations were set.  The tools came with a wax coating over the cutting edge but were in no way near the point of usability, they were dull and just tearing at the wood.  The shafts of the tools had a fresh from the forge tool grind with sharp edges that would irritate the hand during prolonged use.  This to me is not the way the tools should arrive and it is my belief that this only serves to discourage new carvers.  I have to say that I am spoiled and that I had the fortunate experience of buying from Little Shavers where Rick does not let a tool ship until he ensures it is ready for use.  BTW, after a month and a half I got an e-mail from the first vendor saying my order had shipped.  The tools arrived in the same condition as the other set (note I was not offered a sharpening service).  As you would expect I will not be ordering anything further from this company and word of mouth will not positively affect their business.

For the inexperienced out there when ordering a tools ask if they sharpen the tool prior to shipping and for the businesses out there don't ship a dull tool.  In the long run our hobby and businesses will benefit from this practice. 

Either way the consumer should be prepared when the tools arrives to put the edge on the tools cutting edge, polish the channel (if you have the tools necessary), and lastly dress the shaft ensuring comfort when carving.  In the case of these aforementioned Henry Taylor tools I have a Burke sharpener and I was able to bring these up to spec, my carving experience with these tools since then has been favorable and I would continue to consider this brand with this understanding that they will require refinement once received.  As consumers we must understand that a good vendor wants our positive feedback in order to make a better product satisfying our needs and making the carving experience better for all.

It's a great day for others would say to become a good carver get into the practice of carving 30 minutes a day and success will follow.  Now get out there and carve something!!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Gone clubbing...

Ross Oar and his creation

Well maybe it is not the type of clubbing you had in mind but it sure is my kind of clubbing!  A fellow carver gave me a heads up that the one of our neighboring clubs was going to hold their annual shindig and invited me along.  Of course the spouse was happy to have me out from under feet, so off we went.

The club in question is the Southtowns Woodcarvers of Western NY.  I had in the past taken classes with many of the carvers and it was good to see their latest creations.  I finally got to put a face with a name...Ross Oar (see picture above).  Ross was the originator of the "Oar Carver" pocket knife.  One of the few that contained one or multiple Wharncliffe blades (it is a blade shape desired by many a Caricature carver).  Shown above is an early creation of his,  what I presume to be an early revolutionary period soldier (not a historian, so this is an uneducated guess).  Prior to this I had not seen an in-the-round caricature carving fully painted in this size.  The carving was done out of a log cut by Ross with the only attachments being the weapon and a scabbard.  My guess is that with the base the carving is about 42" tall.  In speaking with Ross we learned that the face was that of one of our former presidents, Jimmy Carter.  It was really is an attractive carving and Ross really excelled in the finished presentation and the carving of its hair.  Hard to believe but if I read it right the carving is about 25 years old!

The clubs show was hosted in a local Senior Center, a spacious and bright space that allowed for the display of many carvings.  Being a member of a club we are truly thankful for the entities that host our organizations, without them we would surely be lost. 

Bob Statlander was also in attendance and he had a wide array of items for sale at the show.  No, I did not buy a knife...but I did buy reference material...nice!  (i.e. Tom Richmod's MAD Art of Caricature)

Of course after making our purchases and perusing all of the nice carvings we stepped outside to a picnic table and carved for about an hour.   It was a beautiful day and the club did a nice job of hosting.

All in all a great outing, if you ever get a chance to meet up with this group you are sure to enjoy the company. 

It's another day...carve something!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

For a Song...

Ryan Olsen's Barbershop Quartet
  In recent events the Caricature Carvers Of America have placed their recent creation up for sale and it's one that most have only caught a glimpse of.  The CCA's 1930's Street Scene has been put up for sale (building by building) some of which are already sold.  It's no surprise that the scene with Joe You's figures went first but that also was followed by a quick sale of Dave Stetson's "Under Construction" building.  As of this writing 3 of the 11 scenes have been sold.
  As done with previous projects these items will be the subject of another book published by Schiffer Publishing.  The scene will be placed on public display for the first and most likely only time at Dayton's Artistry in Wood show to be held in November.
  While I do not have the means to purchase a building I will procure a copy of the book.  In what I can view online the one set of figures that jumps out at me is the Barbershop Quartet shown above.  The quartet is from one of the organizations newest members Ryan Olsen hailing from the great potato state of Idaho.  This is one grouping I look forward to seeing in person.  Of course Joe You's contribution is one I always look forward to and he doesn't disappoint with his likeness of CCA legend Dave Dunham.  No matter whom I speak with Dave seems to have left a lasting impression and I would have liked to have met him.
  Other carvings of note in this collection were a couple of  "zoot-suited" gentlemen by messers Kaisersatt and Falin, fireman sliding down a pole by PJ Driscoll, a comical scene by Chris Hammack, and a paperboy by Mitch Cartledge.  Of course, there are many talented carvers who contributed and this review is based on the images posted by the CCA.  I am sure like all of the other scenes there are many quality items to discover.
  Also of note, the CCA has put the entire CCA Train up for sale for one price.  My hope is that it finds a nice home where it can be displayed to be enjoyed by all.
  Check out the CCA's website for more details.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

A promise is a promise...

Thread spool carving
  Well there I was luxuriating at the Renegade Roundup and admiring someones creativity when it hit me...I have to do this.  My friend CarverDale (Dale Kirkpatrick) who is known for his abilities to carve interesting subjects into everyday objects (golf balls, etc.) had been carving wooden thread spools.  The sight of these spools sent me on a trip back to my youth with my mom sitting at the green monster (Singer sewing machine) with a gas pedal.  That pedal was tempting as I just wanted to see it fly.  But as we were in a small dwelling you couldn't help but see the operation my mother used to carry out and I have to say it was neat to see her fill the bobbins,  that machine could fly.  Now as a son of a Steelworker and one of four children my parents had to make to which included repairing our clothes rather than the more disposable nature we have today.  With that said if I needed a repair my mom would send me off to grab her a spool of thread.  I must admit the wide array of colors made it all the more interesting and the fancy Coats & Clarks label is one I still remember fondly.
  So there was Dale carving one of these spools when my brain got the better of me (again...dang).  I of course couldn't help my overly curious nature and started asking questions.  For those that don't know me I have an extreme thirst for learning, especially when it comes to art.  So I did my best not to annoy the spool master and he was gracious enough to show me some of this creations (you can see more via his link on this page..).  With that I went back to luxuriating and whittling.
  Well the next day rolled around and as scheduled the evening activity was to commence...the trading blanket.  For those who have never participated before its where carvers sit in a circle around a blanket and take turns putting items up for trade while the others offer up goods or monies in attempt to consummate such a deal.  For the second year in a row I had been trying to divest myself of some #3 palm gouges that were gathering dust.  So there I was looking for any kind of deal and I placed my gouges out for bargain.  Well all of a sudden a whole Quaker Oats container was placed on the blanket as a trade, upon opening the container I was surprised to see a bucket load of spools.  Of course this was like throwing down a gauntlet and my curious nature got the best of me, so ignoring all other offers the deal was done.
  Unfortunately for me, the week went way too fast and it was time to say our goodbye's and scatter to the four winds.  In parting I made a promise to Dale that I would put up a blog post of my first spool creation and that's where we are today... the picture above represents my first attempt.  Having never carved on a spool I was surprised to see that they are somewhat hard.  During my attempt I and several of my carving friends tried to figure out what they are made of to no avail.  My best guess is that they were made of whatever serviceable wood was available.  I am not sure if all spools are made of the same wood, but I would have to believe there is some variety there.
  As you can see from the picture I was not the kid who colored inside the lines.  Carving within the spools boundaries posed a challenge, one that I failed on.  I am sure further attempts will result in better outcomes as I now have some understanding of these creatures.
  You might be saying...why would I want to carve a wooden spool?  I would say, why not?  If nothing else it opens your mind to creativity and the ridges on the spool force you to be aware of the grains direction (think 3-D) and adapt.  So if you happen to run into this opportunity give it a go, make sure your tools are sharp, and be prepared for a test.  If nothing else it will make you a better carver.
Now get out there and carve something!!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

DA GRUMPS - Backscratcher

   About 7 years ago I bought a hilbilly backscratcher roughout and to this day it is a handy tool in the man cave.  As I continue to work on my design abilities I thought I would give designing my own version a go.  The intention with this one was to add my type of humor intio it and also continue to work on expression. 
   As most others do I started by taking a picture of myself in the desired position and used that as my reference.  The focus here was on arm position and expression.  As you can see from the waist down he is pretty blah, but that is intentional.  My designs intent was to focus on the facial expression and arm positioning.  I am please with the way this turned out and might make further attempts at expanding on this thought.
  I hope you find this one amusing and may your tools be forever sharp!!