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? 


1 comment:

  1. Good blog there buddy! Waiting to see what you post next! Keep it coming. Hope to see you soon!