It’s great to be back to the tributesinwood blog and I’ll start by saying that I got caught up in having a lot of fun enjoying my family and carving…and didn’t get around to telling you about it!
So, you’ll forgive me a bit if I take you back to a few Christmas carvings that I created for the grandchildren. Now, the little ones are really little and have no idea whatsoever as to what I just helped them unwrap and why some of the stuff gets parked on a shelf…but someday they’ll get it.
I really enjoyed making a number of Christmas Bell caricature carvings that ended up on my daughter’s and a few friends’ trees this year. It’s a real simple idea that starts off with some roughing out on a lathe…although you can do the roughing out by hand as well…the lathe just makes it easier to keep everything concentric.
Here’s a photo of the end result but you should take a few minutes and check out the Youtube video that I made to describe the steps in making this little ornament. Just search my name, Mark Sheridan, or the True North Caricature Carvers, which is something that I’ll describe to you in the next post. You’ll find four videos but two will be specific to this carving…one for carving the ornament and the other for painting the ornament. Watch them, give the carving a try and don’t be too critical of my video recording attempts. I’ll get better with time!
The second Christmas carving for the little family was this elf, below. The head of the elf was inspired by a drawing that I saw somewhere on the web. I sure would like to credit the artist…if I ever find the photo again that I looked at, I certainly will. The rest of the carving was just based on what I thought that Al, the Procurement Elf, would have planned for Ada, Henry and their parents.
First off…to the individual who plagiarized my last post and placed it on his own website…you did a poor job but nonetheless managed to reach a new low. I’ve reported this and will be monitoring the outcome.
Now back to it…
Once I had the body roughed in, it was time to start adding some detail. I decided on denim overalls cut high on the leg to show off her black and white saddle shoes. Some work with a knife and gouge followed up with some wood burning of clothing lines, stitches and deepening of wrinkles was all that was needed to get into painting. When you’re adding wrinkles, don’t leave things to guesswork…look at photos of similar poses or just look in the mirror as you pose for yourself and make sure that you’re getting the wrinkle lines going in the right directions.
The hat and it’s placement was next in line and I approached it as I normally have in the past…brim and crown carved separately and then glued together. The only difference in this carving is that the hat would not be sitting on the head of the figure. So, a few things…I gave some thought to measuring the head of the figure so that the hat would look the right size…I made the side of the brim flatter where it would be held by the hand and I made the other side that would be high in the air have a greater curl…finally, I had to carve out the inside of the crown because you’d be able to see up into the hat when it was positioned on the girl’s outstretched hand.
I painted things up using my normal technique of washes, or thin coats, of acrylic paint followed with some darkening of recesses and wrinkles and then dry brushing for wear on clothing. The final dry brushing placed a very light “fanning” of a light beige colour to catch the peaks of the knife marks and provide another dimension of depth to the painting. Everything was topped off with a light coat of satin urethane for protection.
As I started gluing things together, I added metal pins here and there for positioning and extra strength. A good example is where the figure’s “behind” meets the rolled blanket. A couple of short pieces of copper wire ensured that I had a secure footing for the small dabs of epoxy that I placed.
The bit for the horse’s mouth was fashioned from a safety pin after taking a look at how Lynn Doughty had created the bits that he had used for larger horse caricatures. I just snipped the ends of a safety pin, gave one end a ninety degree bend and epoxied them in place. The reins are leather and were sliced from an old wallet that I had laying around. I used a latex glue used for fabrics called “Tear Mender” to fold over and glue the rougher side of the leather.
There’s nothing terribly noteworthy about the small add-ons that I carved…a baseball and glove…other than the child’s lunchbox. For the first time, I transferred an image to a piece of wood. There are all kinds of how-to Youtube videos on this subject that use a variety of methods, maybe the most popular being the use of Mod-Podge. I didn’t have any on hand, so I used white glue with pretty good results.
Basically, I printed an image of “Dudley Do-Right”, a 1960’s children’s cartoon, onto regular printer paper. Because their was text on the image, I printed it in its reverse image. After coating the wood with white glue, I squeegied the paper down. After everything was dry and a combination of peeling the paper back and adding a tiny bit of water to remove more paper, an image was left on the lunch box. A urethane finish took any cloudiness out of the transferred image.
I wanted the base to look like an old department store floor, so I went with black and light grey tiles. After marking the tiles with pencil, I burned the lines in place so that when I applied thin coats of paint, the alternating colours would not bleed into one another…the paint would only flow as far as the burned line. I then took grey and white and sprayed some droplets over the whole thing by running my finger along a flat brush just a couple of inches above the painted floor.
And after some gluing, that’s another very enjoyable project completed. I hope that you’ve enjoyed following along.
Now I was at the point that I needed to start making some decisions as to the positioning for the body of the girl rider. I wanted to get as much motion in this carving as possible, so I went with a body position that you would see in a rodeo rider on a bucking bronco!
I found some body proportions measurements for a young girl off of the web and put together a copper wire wound skeleton that I could build a clay model around. I soldered the hip and shoulder connections so that it would be nice and strong and allow me to bend things around to my liking without the worry of something breaking or not holding its shape.
Adding clay and building up the body outline is done a “pinch” at a time. With a bit of practice, you’ll find that you can build the body outline, position it and bend it around to its best position within an hour. Following that, a couple of quick photos front and side, sizing on the printer and printing out a template to transfer to basswood…and you’re ready for the bandsaw. The last photo, below, was taken after I spent a few minutes very roughly shaping the square-ish cutout from the bandsaw.
As I began trimming down the girl’s outfit to a denim overalls look, I started to worry a bit about the strength of the carving. In particular, I wanted her standing and leaning way back on the stirrups and off of the saddle…and there was no way that I was going to make the stirrups rigid enough and rigidly attached enough to her feet and to the horse for that to work. What I arrived at was the need to have her bottom off of the saddle but attached to something. So, I stole an idea from Lynn Doughty’s caricature horses ( thanks Lynn ) and added a rolled up blanket which would be just large enough for her bottom to rest on. The bottom of the blanket roll fits the contour of the horse’s back and the back of the saddle nice and tightly so that I can be sure that I’ll have a good glue joint.
Now for the stirrups and the positioning of the somewhat carved body. I’ll start by saying that I’ll not make the stirrups in two pieces ever again. I had it in my mind that I’d need to articulate the stirrup and the stirrup leather to fit the position of the legs. After too much work in making the separate parts, drilling the stirrup for a nail “hinge” and then gluing everything together…I realized that I would have been just as well off by making the two pieces in one straight piece. I did enjoy carving the stirrup leather, though, as it had an interested half twist to transition from the saddle to the stirrup. When the girl’s feet are glued to the now solid stirrups and her bottom is glued to the blanket…things should be pretty strong.
A bit of painting with acrylics followed by a satin urethane finish and we’re ready to add the final detail to the girl’s body! Slow but sure…stay with me!
I decided to paint the base in a way that it looks like it’s been around for a lot of years and has seen its share of use.
The wooden base started off with several thin, wash coats of ‘red barn’ which gives it a nice reddish-brown look. I hand painted the lettering with a fine brush and tried to keep the paint a bit translucent to make it look like the letters were fading. Later, I added small dry-brush scuffs of ‘burnt sienna’ and ‘raw sienna’ to show some dirt and wear everywhere on the box, including over top of the lettering. I mixed up a light beige colour using white, brown and a tiny bit of yellow and dry brushed some broader areas to make it look like the paint had worn down completely to the wooden structure.
For the two cylinders that support the horse, I painted them black with a few dry brush marks of ‘burnt sienna’ and then added some touches of silver to make it look like bare metal beneath. I added some aluminum metal tape with an adhesive backing to the bottom hinged cylinder ( simulated hinged! ) and then coated the two cylinders in a light wash of ‘Payne’s grey.’ This grey colour when put on lightly really makes things look like the real McCoy, especially when applied over the metal tape.
The coin return was painted a dark grey, scuffed up with some ‘burnt sienna’ and dabbed with a few spots of silver. Once again, a very light coat of ‘Payne’s grey’ was used over everything.
All of the above got a coat of satin finish urethane. I still use the method that Lynn Doughty has demonstrated and wipe the urethane off before it dries with a single ply kitchen wipe. This gives the urethane a nice dull look rather than too shiny an appearance. The trick is to find a lower quality paper towel that isn’t too “fluffy” as all of that extra fluff that you pay for in a softer towel will come off on the drying urethane and make a mess.
The pony was painted predominantly with ‘raw sienna’ and I lightened and darkened it with browns and yellows. I used washes throughout this process to build light coats on top of dark coats. The effect lightened the pony’s coat on the top and darkened it toward the bottom and in recesses beneath the head, legs, etc. I added a bit of off white for markings and just above the hooves and for the teeth. Again, I showed a number of worn areas by dry brushing “scuffs”of beige here and there. The mane and tail are black with some dark grey highlights. Some final dry brushing with a light beige finished it up. Once dry, I added some satin finish urethane but did not wipe it off this time so that it would have more of a shiny finish as you’d expect from a riding horse.
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!
When I carved the female head for my last carving of the cowgirl with the fiddle, I had actually carved a second female head at the same time. I didn’t really have a plan for either of the heads, I just wanted to take on the challenge of carving something other than a male caricature.
So, that left me with a second female head and I enjoyed doing the cowgirl figure so much, I decided to come up with another little scene…and, what I’m picturing is a grown young woman wanna-be-cowgirl practicing her trick riding on an old store front mechanical riding pony! With that, here’s the start to the scene with the little pony well underway.
You all know by now how much I enjoy the artwork of Lynn Doughty, so I collected a few pictures of his caricatures of horses along with some photos of mechanical ponies from the web and came up with a bit of a pattern. As you can see, I went to the trouble of ensuring that the strongest orientation of the grain was along each leg and I used a Forstner bit to fit individual legs and glue them in place. To be clear, the round, flat bottomed bit allowed me to make a perfect semi-circle where the legs with the same semi-circle pattern cut on the bandsaw would fit tightly. Again, just click on the photos, below, to make them bigger for viewing.
After everything dried, I used a Foredom tool with a Typhoon bit to quickly remove the edges and get the rough form of the mechanical pony. Remember, if you do this…be careful…wear leather gloves, a leather apron, heavy sleeves, safety glasses and a dust mask…and work over a vacuum system.
With a bit of carving using mostly a knife but also small gouges, I added the detail that I wanted with the facial features, leg profiles and saddle…and, I only broke one ear off a single time during the whole process!
Then came the mechanical parts with a wooden base that would house the motor ( I didn’t carve a motor!), a baseplate with a coin box and the pylons that make the horse rock back and forth.
Placed all together, it’s starting to look like something…
I won’t go into a lot of detail in regard to painting, but I’ll post some photos of the various sections of the carving showing the painting.
I use latex acrylic paints that you can buy at any store that sells art related items. I probably have something like thirty or forty small bottles of a variety of colours and spend some amount of time mixing various colours together to get the tone that I’m looking to achieve for a particular part of the carving.
In general, I try my best to apply “washes”, or very thin coats of paint. Too thick an application, like directly from the container, would hide all of the detail work that you carve and certainly obliterate the wood burning. A good example in this carving is the blue jeans that the little gal is wearing. You’ll notice that the several wash coats that I applied provided ample colour but never was thick enough to hide the stitching that I had burned with the wood burning tool.
Where there are wrinkles in clothing, I add a bit of a darker tone in the valleys of the folds and wrinkles to provide a darker contrast. This makes the carving look more realistic ( take a look at the folds in your own clothing and you’ll see the darker tones ) and it also makes the wrinkles and folds look deeper. I follow Lynn Doughty’s advice and keep away from using black to darken colours…I always use a darker tone of the same colour and avoid greying-out that colour with black.
An additional of a small amount of white to shoulders, elbows and knees make things look nicely worn. In this case, I wanted her clothes to look pretty crisp so I just added the whitening to the jeans wherever you’d expect her designer jeans to be worn! Once everything is painted, I added some light dusting / dry brushing using a beige to add another dimension to the painting. A light, clear, satin urethane was used as a final finish.
Just click on the photos, below, to expand them.
So, she’s complete! It was a fun carving project and I appreciate you following along with me.
I used a wood burning tool with a razor sharp tip to add in some detail prior to painting.
The burning process is a really good way to get nice crisp lines and boundaries in your painting. As an example, I basically cross-hatched in some very fine squares to represent beading on this gal’s leather vest. Later, you’ll see how this cross-hatching basically made small valleys or boundaries for the painting process. Now just a drop of paint in any one of the tiny squares will flow no further than the boundary that was burned, making a nice crisp final painted pattern.
Similarly, a burned line around the belt loops, hat design and boot designs prevents the paint from bleeding from one section of the carving into the next.
Finally, the burning tool is great for adding detail lines representing seams and stitching. If you keep the paint thinned, the dark marking will show through the colour nicely for some added interest. With some very minimal burning, you can really enhance the painting process.
As usual, just click on the photo, below, to make it larger for viewing.
Much of the fiddle was finished on the previous step, but I did add some final touches.
The little gear/mechanism handles for tuning were made from household copper wire. I just curled the end of the copper wire over on itself and flattened those ends into a bit of a pancake shape. A very small gap would remain in the centre of the handle but, once I put some black paint on them, the little gap was filled. The other straight end of the copper wire got cemented with expoxy into four drilled holes in the head of the fiddle. The downside of cementing them in place is that our little gal will have to live with whatever tuning the original string arrangement produces!
Because the fiddle was carved from a piece of Maple, I started the painting by staining the wood with a Red Mahogany oil stain. I then followed up with red, orange and yellow acrylic paint to get the right colouring and shading that I was after. The fretboard and the backboard were painted black. It was all finished up with a couple of coats of gloss urethane to give it a shine.
The strings ended up being wire. I had considered a number of suggestions but I felt that fine wire was the way to go. I took some braided speaker wire and unwound four very fine wires. I twisted the four separate wires at both ends of the length that I needed, and epoxied one end into a hole drilled into the head of the fiddle. I cemented that with epoxy and spread the wires evenly across the fretboard by making small knife cuts into the end of the fret board and cementing the wires within those grooves.
I made a small channel into the backboard of the fiddle and cemented the opposite twisted end of wire strands into that channel. By stretching the wires reasonably and clamping them while the epoxy dried, it ended up being a nice, tight fit. A bit of black paint over the epoxied pieces finished up the fiddle.
I started by calling up some images on the computer and choosing a boot style that I thought would look nice on this carving. Some very minimal carving gave me the basic shape that I wanted and I carved in a bit of relief followed by some wood burning to show the upper boot from the lower boot leather as well as an indication of some boot straps. I basically used a ruler to make sure that I had the left and right boots the same height and width. Remember that the inside and outside of your footprint is different…take a look at the bottom of one of your dress shoes and copy that pattern for the bottoms of your boots. Making a pencil “etching” pattern of the bottom of one of the shoes, cutting it out from the paper and flipping it over to draw on to the other foot is a good way of ensuring that the boots are going to be the same size.
I drew up a little decorative pattern for the upper boot and cut that to make a paper pattern. Again, flipping it over and redrawing the pattern onto the boot created a uniform pattern completely around the boot. With a bit of initial wood burning followed by some slight and shallow carving around the wood burning, produced an elevated “leather” pattern. Some burned “stitches” and some very slight addition of creases in the leather completed the detail for the boots.