This is probably the first time that I’ve just started carving heads not knowing what the project would end up looking like. Now that the heads are fairly complete, though, I’m starting to get some ideas.
Do you remember the old game show called “What’s My Line?” They’d introduce someone, say an airline pilot, and then contestants would try to guess who was actually the airline pilot amongst three people…the actual pilot and two imposters.
I was thinking about carving a bust for each of these heads…a Cowboy, a Sherlock-Holmes style Investigator and a Naval Officer of old. The busts would be situated on and behind a panel top with the words “What’s My Line” carved into the front. It would look like the original game show.
Well I had fun doing this carving as it was a bit of a departure from my other caricature carvings in that it was meant to resemble a specific person.
My friend, Pat, asked me to do a caricature of her husband, Al, ( also a friend!) doing what he enjoys…rocking on with his Fender guitar and amp. As it was a birthday surprise that he only received this past Friday and as he and Pat tend to follow what I’m doing on this blog, I had to wait to publicize things…so, here it is!
I started with a few photos that Pat sent me and downloaded a few additional photos of the Fender Stratocaster and amplifier that Al owns. Once again, I did the figure in clay and then used the clay figure as a model for the carving. The clay work was particularly helpful when modelling the face…I think that I would have gone through a lot of failed attempts if I had tried to do the initial resemblance in wood!
I actually started with the guitar and amp. The guitar is made from oak and I cut out the blank and added details based on a print-out that I made from a local music shop website…the nice part of doing this is that I was able to make the exact size that I wanted by reducing the print size to what I wanted and then just cut it out on the bandsaw. After some carving, some acrylic paint to simulate the wood grain and several coats of gloss urethane…pins, nails, metal tape and fine wire went into making up all of the details. The amp was made from basswood and includes some screws and metal tape. The amp screen was produced with a v-tool and several coats of alternating white and silver acrylic paint.
I did my typical carving of the head and hat separately using calipers that you see in the photo for measuring from the clay and then started into the body.
Once again, I kept the arms separate so that the grain direction of the wood was aligned as best as possible along the length of the arms. I had considered an additional joint at the one elbow but felt that the grain direction was pretty good and that glueing and pinning the “strumming” arm to the guitar would give it ample strength…plus, Al’s pretty careful with things!
The base is maple with a few lines that simulate floor planking. A few buttons ( decorative nails ) were added to what became a leather jacket and the Fender logos were painted on the guitar, amp and t-shirt.
I really enjoyed this project but the most enjoyment, by far, came from the smile on Al’s face!
“Friends in High Places” just seemed to be a more fitting name for the carving. I added a few dog toys for interest and then glued everything together. I’m still thinking about adding one or two pigeons and a nameplate for sure.
Wendell needed a rope seat to lean back against as he’s washing the windows, so I grabbed some household electrical copper wire to fashion the ropes.
I chucked up just two strands of copper wire into my battery operated electric drill and with the other ends of the wire wrapped around a nail that I drove into my work table, I slowly wound the wires into a rope. To make the knots that I needed, I just took an inch or so length of this wound wire and curled it into something that looked like a knot. These curled pieces were later just slipped over the “rope” and crimped and glued in place.
The hooks that were glued in place on the window sills are cotter pins that were cut in half.
Everything got a light sanding, a coat of primer, some acrylic paint and finished with satin urethane. I’m happy with the way that they turned out.
I think that I have the most fun with adding the little details to the carving. I’m just starting to epoxy the pieces together so I want to make sure that I add the smaller details before things are permanently in place and more difficult to reach easily.
The first thing I did before epoxying “Wendell’s” feet to the apartment ledge was to add shoelaces. The laces are just black 16 gauge wire that you can buy at any hardware store. With an awl, I poked some shoe lace holes into the shoes and made small “u” shaped pieces of wire and glued them in place with a little bit of CA glue ( “crazy glue” ). Left as black wire, they look great and look even better with one shoe tied ( just a loop on the wire ) and the other shoe untied.
I like the way that this turned out with the shoe lace dragging on the ledge. The other side of the shoe has the lace hanging down below the ledge.
The “tied” shoe lace is actually two separate loops of wire with a single larger hole in the centre of the lace where I glued both halves to the shoe.
I should mention that gluing ( with epoxy ) the feet to the ledge was a bit of an ordeal. I had to position the figure so that his upturned toes were against the window frame, his hand with the rag on it was in the right plane of the window both horizontally and vertically and that I had room for the arms and head when I attached the “ropes” to his swing seat. So, it took a bit of positioning. Once I had it where I wanted it, I drilled both the feet and the ledge and inserted an inch long nail ( with the heads removed ) into the feet and ledge and epoxied around them. The toes against the window frames also got a dab of CA glue. The final thing that will give some added strength to the figure is the seat suspended by “ropes”…that’s next.
So, how do you decorate a 1930’s era apartment? Well, I went with a wallpaper look above and below the chair rail.
First, I painted the background a peach colour. Below the chair rail, I tried something a bit different with stripes. Some years ago when I painted our dining room, I was talking with a professional painter and he was suggesting that I create a striped pattern by first painting the wall and then masking off stripes and painting the exposed surface with a urethane gloss. I thought this was a bit odd, but he had done this in several homes and really liked the effect. Although I didn’t follow his advice for our dining room, I did try this on the interior of this apartment.
After evenly spacing some trimmed masking tape, I brushed on a matte urethane because I was afraid that a gloss would be too shiny. As is often the case when you apply urethane to an acrylic, the colour darkened and “richened.” The result is quite nice.
Above the chair rail, I used a wallpaper pattern that I found on the web. I just printed it off to the scale that I was looking to get and cut through the pattern with the point of a sharp blade. With that stencil, now, I was able to dry brush some burgundy colour through the stencil and onto the upper wall in a repeating pattern.
The overall look came out just right, I think. Notice that I added some brown staining here and there to set it off.
You can look back at an earlier posting of when I created the brickwork and the stonework for this carving…just look under “Themes” for “Missed A Spot” and scroll back to see the original wood version of what follows.
The painting was fun. I started with the stonework by initially carving in a stylized “S” onto the two keystones. I found a nice font on the web, flipped the image vertically and then printed it off on an ink-jet printer. With the letter now printed backwards, it was a simple matter to rub the back surface and leave a faint image directly on the wood. A sharp knife and a bit of wood burning then created the image into the wood. I suppose we could argue that the “S” is like the Sheraton chain, but I’m going with Sheridan.
The stone ledges and headers were initially painted a light grey and then were covered with multiple “washes” of a sand coloured beige, yellow ochre and light grey. I then finished them up with some age related “stains” of yellow ochre, burnt sienna and asphaltum in the corners and “dripping” down the edges.
The mortar between the bricks was painted first with a light grey. I then dabbed more than brushed on a brown/red combination followed by some grey and yellow ochre. The dabbing was effective in giving the bricks a mottled look…I was careful to dab the colours randomly.
Now the kicker: I remembered using an antiquing stain back ( way back ) when Peggy and I dabbled in ceramic painting. I’m not sure how to describe this but I’m sure that it still can be purchased at ceramic shops or hobby shops. It’s black, looks similar to a wood gel-type stain and has a slight solvent smell. With a bit on the end of an artists brush, I dabbed an area of several bricks with this black stain and then wiped it off with a paper towel. I used the same stain on the stonework, but in that case I painted the complete stone and then wiped off the stain.
Here are some pictures that show the “before” with just the acrylic paints and the “after” with the stain applied. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out and I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks with the urethane finish coat.
The braided rug where the three little dogs will sit came together pretty nicely.
It’s nothing more than a thin layer of basswood, maybe 3/16″, in which I made some spiral cuts with both a v-tool and followed up with a burning tool tip to clean things up a bit. The individual braided part was created using a burning tool tip. I guess you’d call it a herringbone pattern and it’s pretty simple to do but it takes a bit of time. If you make a rug like this, just remember to give yourself enough room between spirals as you’ll need the room for the burned-in pattern.
Once that was done, I used three alternating colours to paint the patterns. You don’t have to actually switch between colours…just paint one “braid” or block, skip two and then paint the next braid until you’re finished with that colour. The other two colours will follow the same pattern and eventually fill in all of the braids.
I actually used a three colour combination of blues, greens and reds. Just pick a dark, medium and light colour in each of the blue, green and red combinations and start painting. Water down your acrylic paint and you’ll find that the paint flows nicely over the braid that you’re painting and the burned line keeps it from flowing beyond that braid.
The final touch was to do some dry brushing with a light beige colour just to pick up the high points and add a little more interest. So, this was just using a fanning motion lightly over the carving with a large brush loaded with little and almost dry paint. I think that without the dry brushing, the rug would look a little too new and a bit plastic looking. I’ll add a urethane finish for the final touch a bit later.
I’m afraid that I’m old enough to remember twisting the valve on the hot water radiator in order to get some heat into my apartment. Although I could have carved the radiator from memory, I referred to a few pictures before I started.
The radiator started as a rectangular block of basswood. I scored the block with about 3/16″ deep saw cuts all around just using a handsaw and later I rounded the block on the top and bottom. This created the various segments to the radiator.
Following that, I rounded the front and back of each individual segment leaving a high point in the centre of each. With some scrap basswood, I made a couple of legs with claw style feet and glued them in place. Also with scrap basswood, I carved some pipes with a valve on one of the pipes. The valve handle is just a couple of washers glued to a brass nail.
I wanted to make the radiator look like it was made from brass that had tarnished over time, so I mixed a couple of colours… Copper Penny and Burnt Umber…and covered everything except the pipes. I then took the Copper Penny colour and dry brushed over the whole thing so the the high points would look more brass like and less tarnished. The pipes were just painted a beige colour with a little rusty brown around the joints.
I had completed a little valence for the window some time ago and painted it up and added some brass nails in the “upholstered” diamond panels. The two pieces look pretty good together.
Well, I guess that I’m on a bit of a roll having not done anything creative for some time. It’s actually Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, so I’m painting in between eating too much turkey and goodies…and napping…eating turkey makes you tired ( at least that’s the story that I’m going with ).
Here are the three little dogs in their new colours. Once the acrylic paint is cured a bit more, I’ll add a final urethane coating for sealing things up.
Here’s how they’ll look when they’re all together inspecting Wendell’s cleaning efforts. I should mention that the first little dog that Peggy and I had was a white Westie just like the one I’ve carved…his name was Angus MacGregor. Angus once had an altercation with a skunk and after I bathed him in tomato juice to get rid of the smell, he was pink for several months.