WOODCARVING--WHERE TO START
by Chris Pye
|1. STARTING HERE
It's an old joke. Man asks: 'How to I get to Somewhere?' Other man replies: 'If I were, you, I wouldn't start from here...'
So. . . where does a woodcarving start? Not when you put chisel to wood.
"It starts with your idea"
And between your idea - or vision - and when you put chisel to wood is a vital 'preparation' stage: the process of gathering information, sifting, selecting; designing with the wood, the viewer and 'what you want to say' in mind.
Far more carvings fail because of the design or lack of preparation that in the sheer technical carving ability. (Think of crudely carved ethnic sculpture that is simply fabulous to look at.)
This design and preparation stage can take longer than the carving itself and is for me the most interesting part of a woodcarving.
It is what separates MY carving from SOMEONE ELSE'S, far more than technical skill.
After that it becomes even more interesting...
2. FEELING THE FORM
To the extent that you can 'see' or feel what is below the surface of your wood, to that extent will you easily and successfully carve your subject.
To the extent that you can't see it, that you don't know what you are carving - what it should look like - to this extent you are likely to carve away wood you need, or fail to get the subject to look as you want it to.
This is part of the preparation stage I have just mentioned above, but also a matter of 'looking into' the wood.
A good trick is to wave your hands over the surface of the block and pretend to feel your finished carving with your fingers.
Talk to yourself, about what you are feeling.
It looks like some Black Art, fluttering your fingers and mumbling quietly over the wood, and makes for an interesting spectator sport, but it really helps fix your vision into the wood.
3. SOFT TO HARD
It is easy to chop hard lines into your block with your sharp gouge or chisel, or the much overused V tool. It looks great and you feel you are definitely getting somewhere!
But you are limiting your options.
It is much more difficult to undo a hard, angled trench - to turn it into a soft valley - than to sharpen the bottom of a smooth hollow.
To begin with, keep loose. Make your lines and forms soft - out of focus. Then slowly focus your carving.
4. THE TOOL, THE TOOL
Saying: 'work with your carving tools', is a bit woolly, as is: 'the tools ARE the carving', and I find it hard to express the fundamental relationship between the gouge, the carver, and the act of carving, without resorting to words like 'interface' - so help me - but it's there, as many experienced carvers will know.
Cutting WITH the carving tools is essential for carving well. It feels something like going around a bend on your bicycle.
You have to go WITH the bike. You, the bend and the bike, create the act of 'going round the bend' .
I'm not sure this helps..........But think about it.
Reprinted with permission from:
Chris Pye: WOODCARVING - NEWSLETTER ----July 2003
Updated FEB 2017