Sunday, November 23, 2014


Line of Action
A. Filetti 2014
Instilling motion into our carvings is one way of creating greater interest.  Motion as shown in the post does not have to be dramatic but rather it must be realistic in nature.  The carving at left demonstrates the subtle line of action and the resulting pose of the carving.
While many instructors teach this method a great reference for this that is used by many carvers is the book Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair  (ISBN 1-56010-084-2).  The book teaches many of the rules of animation (motion) in an easy to understand fashion and is well worth the coin if you can obtain one for a reasonable price,  Amazon is a good place to look.
In the picture included in this post I have taken a picture of the intended line of action as indicated by the pipe cleaner and the resulting roughout.  Motion is something that requires constant attention as it can be easily corrupted resulting in a carving that is distracting rather than pleasing.
In future posts I will speak to design and how stick figures help with design and motion but for now take a look at what you are carving...does it contain motion?  or is it static and straight forward?  It is difficult to break away from static carvings and carving a head that is tilted or tipped takes practice but it is achievable and will teach you about our medium and how the grain of the wood acts in three dimensions.
The days continue to grow shorter and our chores diminish with the approaching winter, now is the time to plan your carvings and experiment with something new.  What will you do to improve your carvings?
The coffees hot and plentiful...grab a cup and start carving!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

This will keep you busy...

Dave Stetson Progression
A. Filetti
So at last year's Artistry in Wood show held in Dayton, Ohio I stopped by Dave Stetson's booth where he was selling two videos.  One was on the carving of an eye, the other Whittling a Head.  Having saved my money for the show the video appealed to me as a way to expand my carving knowledge and so I plunked down my Washingtons and brought home a copy.
To give you a bit of a background Dave is a founding member of the Caricature Carvers of America so he's been carving a long time and is serious about promoting the art form.  Dave has an extensive art knowledge and with this video he does elude to his knowledge of human anatomy.  His artworks have a broad appeal and as was demonstrated by his display of Noah's Ark.  I have several reference pictures of his artwork in my Artist's Morgue as he is willing to tackle a wide variety of subjects and his finishing techniques are distinctive (he likes to say he learned to paint from Michelle).  One technique of his that I use to this day is the use of a "Paper Palette".  I saw him use this while painting a figure and while most folks like to use cups or egg cartons for holding their paints a paper palette enables me to have greater consistency with my colors (it is definitely worth a try...ask about them at your art supply store). 
The video does showcase his talents as he is able to produce the carved head in just 42 minutes of continuous carving and if you get a chance to view the video you will see what a sharp knife should cut like...his knives were surely in Grade 'A' condition as evidenced by the ease with which they sliced through the stock.
In my book Dave falls into the category of a 'commercial' carver seeing as he has business interests in the art form.  This categorization needs to be noted as it does influence ones approach to carving.  An example of this would be that a commercial carver tends to carve and finish their pieces in a way that appeals to customer and on the opposite side of the spectrum would be the recreational carver who carves what appeals to themselves which eliminates outside motives or interests. 
With the aforementioned knowledge I set about whittling a head from the video...and after two tries I had successfully completed a satisfactory carving.  The task is not as easy as one might think as the video is more of a demonstration video and not step-by-step instructional.
After completing this I proposed to my carving friends that we try and create progression of the steps demonstrated and with some good stock of Heinecke Wood products we set about the task.  Now this might seem interesting to you but I should warn you that the result shown above took many hours to complete and is not a trivial task.  Having performed this I can only imagine how long it took Marv Kaisersatt to do his progression (> 20 pieces with specific coloring).
One thing my group tried to do was to vary face shapes along the way as you can see from the picture.  The figure carved is one that is generated from the corner of the block which tends to be a popular teaching method.  It should also be noted that the head carved is what I would refer to as a 'stock' head as it is carved straight forward (no twist, tilt, or tipping), so if you are looking to expand your abilities to create motion in a head this would not be the right tool.
Another thing we can note from the video as that many artists out there vary on their interpretation of human anatomy and what items are present in the human face, we recently had the pleasure of watching a video of some outstanding pumpkin carving however the artists view on the construction of the face differ from what is demonstrated on this video.  My advice would be to ensure you obtain a copy of an anatomy book specifically for artists for reference and also to not rely on a single source for your understanding.  One good reference that is an easy read is Tom Richmond's book on Caricature as its approach to anatomy lessons is easily understandable.
Now as a caveat to my opinion I need to state that I am not one who carves in Dave's style,  this influences my opinion as the purchase of the video was not so I could follow in his footsteps but rather so I could expand my overall carving knowledge.  I am very cautious when it comes to my carving style and try and limit unnecessary influences that might negatively impact what I have learned to date.  This is something each carver must consider especially if you want to step out of the shadows and have your carving be of your own distinctive design.
Overall my opinion of the video is it provided me with substantial value for the price paid and if you are looking to expand your whittling knowledge it is a demonstration in what can be accomplished with just a knife.
On the effort of carving a progression, well lets just say if you do decide you are up to the task ensure you will be able finish as its a marathon not a sprint.

In stepping off my soap box I have only one question to ask...what steps are you taking to expand your carving knowledge? 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

A little something...

A. Filetti 2014
As I learned from a good friend sometimes carving small figures can bring some of the greatest joy.  This figure was started from a simple  1.5" X 1.5" X 4" block while sitting in a lawn chair watching my better half and my niece swim while on vacation. 
The figure was created by first establishing the front profile and then adjusting the side profile to give the figure movement.  The "movement" I am referring to is the minor adjustments that break away from that straight ahead figure.  In the case of Stan he has alternate foot placements, hand placements, upper torso twist, and his head is turned as well.  These small movements help to bring the figure to life.
Once the front profile is roughed in you are on to a series of small cuts.  These figure types require effective use of triangle cuts and improve a carvers cutting skills.  In addition the carver gets a chance to carve a full figure which also helps the carver advance.
Now for those who don't think you can do it,  what do you have to lose by trying...heck for a dollar you get 3 tries and a whole lotta entertainment.
It's a beautiful day, why don't you give this a try? 

Congratulations are in order...I hear through the grapevine that Mr. Steve Brown and Mr. Dale Green have been elected to the Caricature Carvers of America.  Great job guys! 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A new deal...

Chris Hammack Barflies

So I was speaking with my contemporaries and it was heard through the grapevine that due to the popularity of Chris Hammack's Barflies he was going to offer a subscription.  Rumors being rumors I reached out to my friend for the details.  For those of you interested here are the details Chris has provided:

Here's the barfly details.

Basically, I have lots of people that are carving all the barflys as they come out, so I decided to start a "barfly of the month" club. Starting in October and the first of every month thereafter, for $18.50 I will send them a brand new barfly and go-by sheet every month. I have the first six already carved. I'll attach a photo of these six to a separate email. And once a year I will send them a free one if they are a member of the club. Also, these barflys will only be available to club members. They can also order more than one, study casts, or finished castings of these barflys once they are out. They will only go on my regular website for sale to everyone after they have been available to the BTM members only for a year or so.  That's the program! Should be fun to carve and they will be all types of different subjects as you will see in the picture. 

All I need to sign them up is the following;
Address to ship to
Credit card number
Name on card
Expiration date on card
Authorization number on back of card
Zip code card is billed to 

That's it! They can send me the info at: 
Chris Hammack
PO box 2424
Stephenville, TX 76401

Or email me at my personal email.
Or call my cell. 254-485-0668

I hope this information serves you well and you are able to enjoy the menagerie that can only come from the talented mind of Chris Hammack.

Summer is ending and fall begins favorite time of the year.  No lawn mowing and more time to enjoy carving.  Carpe diem (and a knife too!)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Knife Notes...

Knives: Shipley WK-2 New Generation, Helvie - Hammack Detail,
Original Denny 1 7/8", Dunkle Detail
For the unknowing we Caricature Carvers enjoy a good much so that I believe the majority of our carving budget is spent on knives, yes even more than wood.  As such I thought now would be a good time to revisit the marketplace and post my observations.
As stated in previous posts our knife marketplace shifted considerably in the last 10 years due to the sale of Ron Wells, Denny, and Helvie knives to Mike Shipley(Wells, Denny) and Rich Smithson (Helvie).  This shake up did not affect other knife makers such as Dunkle who still remains in the family. 
With these changes came a measure of skepticism...would the new owners be able to maintain the quality and loyalty the previous owners had so enjoyed??  Here's my thoughts:

Dunkle - No change here, John Dunkle provides a wide variety of knife shapes with very colorful handles.  While John has worked hard to not endear himself to the caricature carving collective his knives do have an undeniable quality when it comes to use in detailing and knife maintenance.  These knives have a nice flat grind that enable an easy pull and limit the chance of curruption to the cutting edge as they are the easiest to strop to the point of being almost foolproof.  The downside to these blades is that they are ideal for triangle cuts and stop cuts however they lack versatilty when it comes to whittling and rolling cuts.  John's offerings have several shapes that are perfect for initial detail knives for those new to caricature carving and are easy to maintain.  The more experienced carvers tend to limit these knives in their collection due to lack of versatility and that these knives tend to be priced at the top of the market.

Drake - Gil Drake has worked hard to gain a greater foothold in the market with his distinct gouges and the beauty of his handles.  Gil's knives do add a beauty to the toolbox and the knives are of good quality, versatile, and they come in a variety of blade and handle knife shapes.  These knives tend to be priced at the upper end of the market.

Helvie - Rich Smithson worked closely with Ken Helvie when purchasing this knife brand and has put an extensive effort and investment into the caricature carving world by forming a close relationship with some of the leading carvers in the art form.  Rich has demonstrated his pyrography ability through the application of this art to what he call his "Signature Series" knives.  He has also held knife handle carving competitions that encourage caricature carving while raising money for charities.  Of note is the signature series and how Rich has worked with the carver he has partnered with to create a knife that the feature carver has designed.  Of note is my recent purchase of a Chris Hammack Detail knife.  This knife's blade shape and handle are of a traditional shape however the grind is quite unique in the fact that the rounded bevel runs down the center of the length of the leaving a very thin spine.  This makes the knife quite flexible and also enables it to easily accomplish either large or small rolling cuts.  If this is your desire this is a knife worth purchasing.  Please understand that this style of knife is not designed for great abuse and requires special care when maintaining the blade...all the work is worth it though.  My hats off to Chris for the design, and for Rich being willing to take the risk.  For our community we should take note of the series designs but also understand that each model varies based on the designer.

Shipley (OCCT)  - Mike procured first the Denny brand and then went on to procure the Wells brand as well.  For many a caricature carver this was a dark time as Mike had taken over two of the most revered knife brands and the workhorses of our art and skepticism was high.
So let's start with what I believe had the most loyal following...the Wells brand.  Ron had produces the ultimate workhorse in knives that came with the probably one of the best grinds out there topped off with it's distinctive walnut handles.  The handles were somewhat oversized but allowed for folks like me to custom carve them for a custom and most reliable fit.  The steel utilized was excellent but not highly polished as some others are today.  I have to admit the first time I used an original I was overwhelmed at the carving ability of the tool, so much so that I ensured I bought an extra to preserve that quality for me for a long time.  Mike has had his hands full with not only the takeover of a single knife company but having to absorb both.  At the time of this writing I have to say that I believe the Wells identity when it comes to knives has been lost.  Of note here is my recent purchase of an OCCT New Generation WK-2 which is advertised as having a flatter grind that would make for an easier pull.  I have to admit I read into that statement that this would be a knife that hearkened back to what Ron had created but sadly I do not find that to be the case.  The knife is of excellent quality however it did not turn out to be what I had hoped for...a knife that Ron would have made.  I think the identity was lost to the influence of the Denny purchase and I can only hope that somehow what was lost will be recovered.
On the flipside is the Denny style which Mike had procured first and worked tirelessly to ensure it maintained its heritage.  For us carvers seeing the copper rivets go by wayside (I believe to the cost of copper) was distressing but that was the limit of the concern shown.  The 1 7/8 detail knife (1-7SK) still offered today is my go-to knife and the one knife I would recommend for beginners to first place in their toolbox and keep for a lifetime.  These knives still have outstanding versatility with an improved grind.  They allow for easy modification to fit the carvers desire while maintaining the most reasonable price point (< $25).   Mike should be commended for his efforts here as these are tools worth recommending.

Now some of you might be asking yourself what knives should a caricature carver stay away from.  For me that is easy and it is strictly due to their design.  I would not recommend a carver try and use a Flextool or Murphy (bench) knife for this style of carving.  These knives have a heavy spine and do not produce the quality of cut needed for this style.  This does not mean that they do not have their place in the carving world but rather they do not have a design that I could recommend for caricature carving.

So that's my latest perception and opinion.  It would be worthwhile to hear your thoughts on the subject

Fall is approaching fast...grab a block of wood,a sharp knife, a beverage and a seat on the lawn while you still can and carve something!!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Chainsaw carvings, a spacious lodge, and a delicious lunch


If you happen to be traveling on Interstate 80 through the Land of Lincoln a noteworthy stop for a Woodcarver would be Starved Rock State Park.  Along with a historic tale comes an enormous lodge and hotel that has a nice restaurant.  The attraction for woodcarvers is the collection of Chainsaw carvings on the property.  As trees die in the park they commission different carvers to create carvings.  The skills demonstrated by the carvers seems to cover a broad range as some are of outstanding quality while others are of a more simplistic early carver quality (a place we all started from).  You can expect to spend maybe an hour looking at carvings spread out across the property but the it is a worthy stop for a traveler.  My only disparaging remarks would be that amidst the carvings sit some "castings" (ugh), that and the stain that is applied is like a heavy redwood stain one would apply to a picnic table.
So if you happen to be in the area take a look as some of the compositions are excellent.
   It's a beautiful summer day, are you carving????

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A sense of community in Western NY...

John Petkovsky doing it right.
ROADTRIP!!  Me and my cohorts decided to take a quick trip to the Buffalo area and visit our neighboring clubs carving show.  The yearly spring show held by the Southtowns Woodcarvers at the Elma Senior Center and is just one of the ways this club contributes to the carving hobby.  The members set up tables to display their carving prowess and just enjoy the sense of community carving shows provide. 

As I like to stress to folks in the hobby (and especially here on the blog) you need to nourish your talent through carving, study, and interaction with fellow artists (not necessarily carvers).  You can see some of the joy of the hobby in the photo for this article where a member not only displays but also carves...this incites interaction and for the carver it is a comfortable environment to carve in as many members were doing at this show.  With these demonstrations visitors get to see carving in action, gain an understanding of what is needed to enter into this form of artwork, and also find out how one would begin carving. 

You probably noticed I used the word "community" multiple times in this post.  This is for a good reason...carvers are some of the friendliest hobbyists out there.  In the Caricature Carving world this is especially true and is evident where this style of carving has a major presence (Charlotte NC show,  Renegade Woodcarvers Roundup) as the socialization usually keeps going well into the night.  As most of us in the hobby know our memberships are aging and we need to do our best to encourage others entering this hobby.  The local shows are one way to do it and Southtowns did a great job of it.  Heck I even won a carving in the raffle drawing for my collection!

So what can you do?  Its as as simple as picking up a book, practice your drawing skills,  examine and sharpen your tools, watch an instructional video,  work on that carving,  visit a show, go to an Art museum or gallery, examine the statues in your local city or town, or just talk about carving with your friends.  These type of things can only improve your abilities and increase your enjoyment. 

In today's modern world of new technology your ability to have a conversation with a fellow carver has become much simpler with "free long distance" and texting.  An example of this, was that my friend Mark Akers gave me an update on Helvie Knives' Rich Smithson's fund raiser.  Thanks to Mark I (and now you) now know that Rich is raffling off a set of his signature knives with each of the Signature artists carving a blade cover for their particular knife all placed in a handsome case.  The benefits of the raffle will be going to a charity for battered women (I believe the drawing for this raffle will be mid-summer) however for those interested I would contact Rich directly (via his website).  An example of the artists included in this series are Mark Akers, Chris Hammack, Tom Brown, Don Mertz, Gerald Sears and many more.

Let me say I appreciate all who read this blog because it is one way for me to give back to the community but also because if you are reading this I get the satisfaction of knowing someone is taking the time to enjoy this art form.

Enjoy (and of course...Carve Something!!!)


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A better ambassador...not likely

Something not seen very often...a full figure from one the best...Pete LeClair.  This figure was on display by Pete at this years Charlotte Woodcarvers show.  While the piece seems simple it is very well executed and the there is a lot we can learn from top to bottom. 
If you have never met Pete, well lets just say he has an abundance of character like the figures he carves.  I have met Pete on several occasions and have taken a class with him as well.  A better ambassador for woodcarving could not be found and us Caricature carvers can only benefit from his efforts.  A perfect example of this was the Charlotte show where everyone was a friend and he spent an abundance of his time sharing with everyone he met.  He spent the better part of two days just answering questions and giving demonstrations to anyone who passed by.  He could have ignored those around him, but that would not be Pete...he has a passion for carving that is infectious and you would be lucky to spend some time with the man and his work.  A more giving carver you will be hard pressed to find and that is why I admire the man...he truly advances the art.
Thanks Pete for all you do, we appreciate it!
Now why aren't you carving something? 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A moment of pride...

A second story for me coming out of the Charlotte show was the fact that one of the carvers I have been encouraging decided to come with me to the show. The young man has talent and being his mentor I wanted him to see that as well. My conditions for brining to the show was that he must bring some carvings to the competition and that he must participate in Tom Wolfe's whittling competition on both days. The purpose behind me stating these conditions to assist him in advancing his abilities.

Now as I have stated before I am not necessarily a prolific carver but rather one who likes to take his time, so whittling competitions will always be a challenge for me. At the end of the first day's whittling contest I finished just about mid-pack, but my friend...well...he done beat me! He did well on the second day as well however I made sure I worked a little harder than he did so as not to be beaten a second time. It was a good experience for him as he got to see what people value when judging caricature carvings (e.g. clean cuts with no shredded wheat). He was flexing his hand a lot over the next day or so but I assured him the ache was only temporary and would not last.  (The competition was to carve anything from a 2"x2"x6" block of wood in 1 hour and 30 minutes)

For those who wonder about entering a whittling competition, the experience forces a carver to carve more instinctly with bolder cuts. The lessons learned are carried over to your everyday carving which usually results in higher quality carvings in a much shorter time.

As far as the show competition goes, I had him enter his pieces in the Novice class as he has not been carving nor competing for that long...not only did he take Best of Caricature(Novice), but he also took Best of Novice! I was delighted to tell him he would took home $75 in prize money...not too shabby.

All-in-all it was a good experience for him and a little reward for me seeing one I encouraged do so well.   BTW...I cannot say enough about my fellow carvers and how welcoming they are to folks who are new to the art form,  it makes me proud to be a part of this art form.

It's a beautiful weekend...get carvin!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On the flip side...

Business Card Holder - M. Cartledge
...well if you are known for Hillbillies, this would be your business card holder.  It's a good one by Mitchell Cartledge.  I saw my good friend at the Charlotte show (BTW....excellent show, excellent people, excellent hosts) and this was on his display table.  The man can downright carve just about anything.  His style when examined is simplistic however it is executed with precision and Mitch constantly is pushing the envelope to improve his range and methods. 
  Having said all that, this is a cool rendition.  What will yours look like?

It's cold and it's snowing (here) so why aren't you carving?  There ain't no excuse...carve something!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New office needed some character...

A. Filetti - Business card holder
New office.

With changing jobs came a new office that I needed to make my own.  I remembered in the past when I had the pleasure of carving with the renown Mr. Kaisersatt we were fortunate to be able to visit his carving lair.  I have always looked at Marv with great respect for his level of creativity, but when I saw his apartment it was interesting to see the types of things he has carved over the years which included an outstanding tape dispenser caricature.  So with my new office I decided I needed a business card holder and the picture to the left is my rendition. 

To create this carving I simply took a picture of myself in the pose for reference, the took a block of wood and outlined what I thought would be his front profile and cut it out on my bandsaw.  Once cut I just started whittling.  It is finished with acrylics, boiled linseed oil, and wax. 

The greatest challenge with the carving of this figure was of course the hands, however I just used my own as a model.

Simple carving and fun to carve.

Another year has come and gone,  and it's still a great day to be carving...what will you carve on today??