As is the case with most of my carvings, my ideas change as I go along. It seems that once I see a portion of the carving, a new idea or, at least, a modification of the original idea comes along that appears to be a better fit for the final project. I’m not sure if that’s a common approach or not but it’s certainly what happens in my brain.
With this one, although I started off thinking that a grown woman would be a comical candidate for riding the mechanical horse, I ended up with the idea that a little girl in cowboy dress would be nicer. So, because I had started some time ago on a head and face of a woman, I cheated a bit and made that original head more girl-like. Basically, I kept the big eyes but rounded the face considerably for some “baby-fat”, reduced the depth of the eye sockets, shortened the chin and changed the hairdo from something fairly stylish to something with pigtails.
The pigtails were done separately, again to ensure that the grain of the wood was running along the length of the pigtail for strength. Of course, a couple of shallow ( maybe 3/16″ ) holes were drilled in to the head where the pigtails would eventually be glued.
The pigtails started out as worm-like shapes being cylindrical with some random waves or curves. My intent was to make the pigtails look like they were jostling around from the motion of the horse ride but not necessarily pinned back like she was riding a real horse in the breeze.
Once the cylindrical shapes were carved, I drew in a herring-bone pattern on the front and back and alternated between carving and using a wood-burning tool to create the valleys. I’m not sure if I have some kind of spatial orientation problem, but was it ever hard for me to imagine how one side of the herring-bone pigtail would mate with and look like the other side. I ended up carving the one side and then struggling with matching the pigtail pattern with pencil before carving the other side. I don’t know why this was so hard to picture…I guess I shouldn’t have always left it to Peggy to make our daughter Emily’s pigtails when she was a little girl.
A bit of wood burning followed to accent the hair on the head and in the pony tail. An interesting thing that I noted, as I went along, was that I had originally carved the hair on the head very flat and when I drilled the hole for the pigtails and attached them, they just didn’t look right. So, I went back and dished out the head hair around the pigtail so that it looked like the hair was being pulled up from the head rather than looking like it was a sharp 90 degree angle from the head to the root of the pigtail. That looked better. Oh, I also added a band-aid to her forehead by carving out some relief shallow relief from her forehead. I figured that her trick riding skills didn’t come without some failed practice sessions.
Painting was done in my normal fashion using acrylic paints followed with a light coat of satin finish urethane ( polyurethane ). White eyes and teeth were first added followed by flesh tones in several washes ( thin coats ). I reddened the flesh colour for around her cheeks, her forehead, tops of the ears and end of her nose as a bit of a sunburn. I used Payne’s grey as a very, very light wash under her eyes, beneath her chin and inside of her ears. Lynn Doughty suggests this method on his cowboys to indicate shadow and a bit of a five-o’clock shadow. I chanced using it on the little girl’s face to indicate shadow and it worked well as long as I kept it very thin and light. I used a combination of burnt sienna and orange in washes for her hair and eyebrows and then used basically the same colour for her freckles. I chanced using a very, very light wash of orange over her cheeks and forehead to indicate a little girl’s freckled complexion and it worked out pretty well.
And, then, the best part…I dug into one of my several boxes of broken things that I keep even though I know that I’ll never use them…and pulled out a broken guitar “b” or, second string, and made a set of braces for her beautifully forming teeth! Ha!
Lots of fun…