Monday, January 31, 2011

Wiz Part 3a - Sketching the Pattern

I have the first and second set of sketches done for my front and side view patterns. But there's a problem. Getting a photo of a 3-dimensional figure that prints like a 2-dimensional pattern is not easy. I'm not even sure it's possible. Photo distortion and perspective are working against you. I even tried photographing the bottom and top halves separately and making a composite in Photoshop - better, but still not right. Have a look at the sketches and you'll see what I mean. Here's pose #1 - the right arm is angled back, but appears straight up and down. The left arm is going to be a problem with the angle too. The material I end up cutting won't let me get what I want for the sleeve.

After this sketch sat on my desk for a while, I decided I wanted the right arm bent more and holding something. I also decided to try a female model to get more of a slight build, more appropriate for an elderly Wizard. Here's are the second set of sketches with a different model and new pose. Better, but look at the feet. For a 2D pattern, they need to be flat on the horizontal floor line, but perspective distorts that in the photo. Again, there will be sleeve problems. Also, if I use this side view, there won't be enough material to make the arm look right. The concept is good, and using the model will help as a reference to carve or get some measurements, but not to generate a 2D front/side set of patterns. I'm going to have to draw what I want and make adjustments that I know will give me an accurate pattern for cutting out my blank. I think a footprint and overhead view might help me too.

Since I'm going with a full beard and big mane of hair, and a robe without the big collar, I don't have to make the head separate. But considering the grain direction, I will probably carve the left hand separate and add it to the sleeve since some detail in the fingers is needed to grasp a staff. The same for the right hand, which will likely be holding a globe-like object (a marble or bead).

Wiz Part 2 - Choosing A Robe

More decisions. The inspiration sketch I chose works for the basic body stance and attitude I want. But the more I study wizards, I find some variations in the robe that cause me to stop and make some decisions. For extra inspiration, Google helps and I have collected a number of wizard outfits that I am considering. I am going to guess the final choices will be some composite version. Do I want wizard shoes to show, or will there be a pile of robe cloth at the base cover his feet? Some robes are very plain with a small amount of trim or decoration at the bottom of the sleeves and robe. Some are a combination of open robe over a tunic. Some, like my original sketch, have a huge collar which encircle the neck and head other lie flat across the shoulders. And there are variations on the sleeve, though most flare out, but some are generally looser than others. All choices to be made before any carving can begin. Then there's color to be considered, though blue or purple seem the right choice. Here are some Google Image Search results.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wiz Part 1 - Character Development

For my wizard carving, I decided to use as my inspiration a wizard from the "Drawing Wizards, Witches and Warlocks" book  shown at the right.
As it turns out, Tom Wolfe's book concentrates on just one wizard, so I might use it for some help carving the head and face, but otherwise that book won't help much on this project.

To make a front/side patterns, I dusted off our wooden anatomical model. It took a bit of "playing" with the doll to get is posed the way I want. The I took front/left/right photos and brought those into Photoshop. I want to make sure the scale is the same for all three shots. If I decide to size them down or up, I can apply the same proportion to all three. For Photoshop uses, I'll do this in one file on three layers and using opacity setting, make sure all three angle are the same size. To make sure this will work, make sure the photo resolution is the same for the three photos I took and the new file I will bring them into. I'll use 150 dpi. Next, I label the layers "front", "left" and "right". I decided to make the figure about 9.5" high. You can see in the photo on the left (front, left and right views) he is leaning back a little (about 8 degrees).

All I need from this is a good outline of the figure. I will be adding clothes and other physical details drawn by hand, drawn on a printed copies of each pose.

My next step is to get some tracing paper and start on some sketches of the robe. This is going to have a very large, thin collar. I'll have to work out how to do that. I think I might make the head and arms separate pieces, glued up after most of the carving is done. He'll also be holding some kind of wizardly staff in his left hand and I think I'm going to make his beard much longer than the one in the sketch.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's a Wizard, Harry

My daughter asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I told her I wanted some books that might help me learn to draw some aspect of human anatomy. I figure to better carve, I need to better understand and drawing might help with that. Also I want to be able to design my own characters and not be confined to copy work from patterns, not that there's anything wrong with doing that. I think I also mentioned that, at some point, I'd like to try some fantasy characters - gargoyles, wizards, dragons ... that sort of thing. So she got me a great book by artist Chris Hart called "Drawing Wizards, Witches and Warlocks". The book suits my purpose perfectly.
I like that the characters are dynamic - not just posing, hands at sides - another issue I want to tackle.

The book has been laying on my desk for a month now and yesterday, I took it out and started browsing through it for ideas. Yesterday, I was in a local bookstore browsing the woodworking books and I found Tom Wolfe's book "Carving Wizards". On sale! I took that as a sign. My next area of endeavor shall be a wizard. I want to use this as a project you can follow along with on this post and not just a before and after photo. I have a few interesting ideas for bring this character to life as a unique piece and using a couple different techniques for developing a form and creating a front/side pattern to work from. This should be interesting.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Gnome Gets Paint Job

Here is my little Gnome with a coat of paint.

I'm pretty happy with him.

200% More Fun

For the mast two months I have been spending much of my carving time on Christmas ornaments. Most of them small Santa and Elf carvings. I can honestly say that the notion of carving many similar items makes you a better carver, but that can really only be appreciated when you get away from it for a bit and then come back. I took a little break from carving faces by doing a few birds and some other abstract pieces. This weekend I was looking through some old WCI issues in search of a gnome to carve. Something I had wanted to do for a while, but put off with all the Santa requests. WCI Christmas 1998 (#5) had just what I was looking for. It's the gnome Lyle Kraus did based on Will Huygen's beautifully illustrated book on Gnomes. What made this project much more fun was it's scale. I scanned the plans from the magazine and scaled it up in Photoshop so it's about 10 1/2" tall. That's at least 200% larger than most of the Santa I carved. What a joy to work in the larger scale. All the details I struggled with on the small faces - eyes, ears, fingers... much easier to work on. I can really feel how much I've improved by making multiple and by studying tutorials.

I decided to work in my office since it's been quite cold in the shop, but the chips were flying everywhere and I had to keep grabbing the vacuum cleaner after every session. While cutting up some boxes ready for recycling, I hit on a solution. I took one end of the box, cut a three-fold end and left a tab on the bottom which fit perfectly in the waste can I was carving over. Bingo! The chips hit the backboard and drop right in the can. I love simple and free solutions.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Site of the Week- Bird Carver

Having stuck my toe into the world of bird carving, I have been interested in the many ways other carvers approach the topic. Of course, there are toms of carvers making realistic birds with great skill and way more patience than I have. The painting and woodburning detail on some of these birds is just astounding. But as I have stated before, I have a preference for the more stylized carvings including every style from folkish to sleek, natural wood variations. I came across a site with a gallery of beautiful birds by carver Rand Jack. Once at his site, scroll down to the green Gallery button. Sit back and click your way through some photos of absolutely gorgeous birds that show off some beautiful wood that Jack has obviously taken great care to select. He doesn't reveal much about his methods, and even states that email inquires on that subject will be screened out. But I can tell you getting a piece of curly maple to look the way his birds look is a lot of hard work. Maybe more work than burning and painting realistic birds. I might just have to take a crack at something like it to see for myself. To be even more impressed, you might have a look at his Native-American pieces or his stone carvings. The man's got some talent!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Every Bird Needs a Friend

My little shorebird got lonely, so I made another so he could have a friend. I tried a little different painting technique on this one. You can see they both have the legs finished using the blue/yellow epoxy. It's a great product. I'm sure I'll find lots of other uses for it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Shorebird finished - almost

As I anticipated, this shorebird project went pretty quickly, though some extra time was taken to experiment with a few ideas. I used a #3 gouge to give the impression of feathers on the body and then a #5 micro gouge working from the neck up to the beak to indicate smaller feathers. I used a combination of paint colors to get a nice rich grey-brown color for the body and the belly is white with a few drops of yellow ochre. For the eyes, I carved them out a little and made them a slight dome shape and then painted them by hand. After the paint dried I sanded the body lightly with some 240 paper to expose raw wood and give the coloring a slight dappled look. It also rendered the whole bird such that it appears older than it is. The photo shows wire legs which are not as they will be when I'm finished adding some epoxy and a coat of paint. The base is just a piece of pine I chose for it's thickness and availability and I experimented a little with the disk sander to give the base a faceted look. I gave it a wash of thinned black and then some yellow ochre while the black was still wet, just to take the edge off the pure black color. I could have used a coat of ebony stain for a similar effect. The whole carving gets a coat of matte finish. Finally the eyes get a drop of clear epoxy so they shine and stand out a little. My choice to go with a stylized look gave me a lot of latitude and by painting it in a number of different color combinations and changing the beak shape and length, the same pattern could easily yield a number of different birds.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Two New Tools and a Shorebird

This year's Christmas list was weighted heavy with carving items and other tools. Santa came through and added to my stash of woodworking goodies. Two are mentioned in this post, since I have found them most useful for my current project, a shorebird.

Living on Long Island gives me access to a wide variety of beaches and coastal marshes. Although I don't get to the be as often as I'd like, I do prefer the more natural areas that favor and protect wildlife. Shorebirds are among my favorites and it's always a thrill to see them running about in their natural surroundings. So I thought maybe I'd try carving a few. After searching around online and taking out a few books from the library, I decided I prefer the smaller birds and especially the ones with very long beaks. I also decided o do a more stylized version of some of my favorites, but keeping fairly close to actual form and proportions. I'm just not interested in trying to burn in every feather with scientific precision.

I am carving this from basswood with a piece of dowel I formed for the beak. The legs will be made from coat hanger and wrapped with some yellow/blue epoxy and painted. That will give me the strength I need and allow me to form the kneecaps. I haven't decided on a base yet.

The new tools? Well, one is a 3" Flexcut draw knife, helpful in rounding out the corners after I roughed it on the bandsaw. After further shaping the body with a shallow gouge and a utility knife, I took the body over to my new favorite tools, a Ryobi combo sander station. The belt allowed me to get the body to the shape you see here in minutes! Next, I'll use a bench knife to add texture to the body and some definition under the wings. To get a stylized "feather" look, I plan to paint the body, sand off some of the paint for a weathered look. Should be a quick and fun project.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Paint Changes Everything

A while back, I had a post about ways to resize an existing carving (Make it Bigger - part 1). I never showed how the finished versions turned out. The largest one turned out to be a gift for my son, who attends Siena College. I got the idea to make this kind of a mascot gnome. A paint job using Siena colors did the job. The trickiest part was hand-painting the Siena logo. I'm pretty happy with the outcome. I think he was pleased too.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Site of the Week: Inspiration

It's been a while... Happy New Year. I had a very hectic holiday, including a New Years Eve wedding, all compounded y a serious snowstorm and a persistent cold. I haven't done a whole lot of carving in the past two weeks, but I hope to get back on schedule soon. I did want to post a Site of the Week at very least. This one is called The Iowa Woodcarver. It is not my intent to review the work of the carver, but rather the site itself, as it might help us carvers in some way. I found the site to be layed out well and packed with lots of great photos of this Iowa Woodcarver's work. I have to point out, the only flaw I found was that we don't really know who he is. I guess he wants to stay anonymous!

What I found truly inspiring about this site was the photos of his shop. He describes it as a small corner of a basement and nothing fancy. I don't think a well-organized, highly functioning workspace needs to be any fancier than this. His tools are organized, his adequate stock of carving wood is well-organized, he has plenty of  well-lighted work surface, a dedicated sharpening station, a place to hang works in progress, and a well-organized cabinet for his pencils and paints. Wow! I think this is perhaps and ideal setup. And, from the looks of these photos, he even has someone to clean up all the chips he is obviously making!

Nice going anonymous Iowa Woodcarver!