tributesinwood

Wood Carvings by Mark Sheridan

Archive for the tag “caricature carvings”

Adding Some Finer Detail

Now that I had the cowgirl form smoothed out with some “rough” detail, it was time to add in some finer detail.

I started with the boots and added in the heel and sole followed by some leather pattern at the front and top and a boot strap. I also added a more pronounced “v” shape to the front and back of the very top of the boot. None of this was done from my memory of what a cowboy boot looks like. I went to the computer and searched for “women’s cowboy boots” and selected one to model my carving after. Remember, also, to get the bottom of the sole right. Pick up one of your dress shoes from the closet and take a look at the bottom noting how the instep of the shoe curves differently from the outer side of the shoe. Once you carve the boot in a similar fashion, etch that onto a piece of paper and transfer the identical but opposite profile to the other boot. Now you have two boots of the same size!

My daughter, Emily, came up with the idea of some frill ( cowgirls surely use a better word than frill ) on the vest. So I marked where the frill would go, cut in a line to indicate the border between the frill and the vest and then used a gouge to make some random vertical cuts in the frill section to make it look like it was wavy rather than just hanging straight down. I could have used a v-tool, I suppose, to cut the individual frill but I used a knife instead. I eventually followed up with some undercutting with a gouge and will probably do a bit more later on to make the fringe look nice and thin. I think that it ended up looking kinda nice.

From there, I used a combination of some shallow knife cuts and a light use of a burning tool to add pockets, seams, folds in the scarf, belt line, etc.

At this point, I started to think about the exact placement of the arms. Of course, I had the clay model to refer to but I had to get the exact measurements for the arms to fit and look right against the banjo that she’d be playing.

So, I cut out a paper banjo to hold up to her…and, I hated it. No matter how I placed that darn banjo…I hated the way it blocked out her waist and the detail of the vest and frills. I had to go for something smaller…a ukulele! I cut out a paper ukulele…and, I hated it too. Whew! A fiddle then…and, bingo, the fiddle looked great to me and it only blocked out a bit of her scarf and shoulder.

So, back to the computer search to find a fiddle ( by the way, I learned that a violin and a fiddle are the exact same instrument ). I printed out the fiddle this time to the exact size that I wanted and cut that out as a pattern to bring to the bandsaw. After a bit a carving, it was ready to place under her chin temporarily with a dab from a hot glue gun.

I’ll note a couple of things. Because the fiddle will be eventually permanently glued to the head and arm as well as the hand, it represents a “structural” part of the carving to me…it has to be strong. For this reason, I made it from maple rather than basswood. Probably overkill, but that’s me. Also, note that I replaced a section of her right foot. I just didn’t like the way it originally turned out so I carefully cut out a chunk and even more carefully fitted and glued another piece of basswood in as a tight fit. Some carvers don’t like that sort of thing and view it as a bit of cheating some how. I think that it’s the only reasonable thing to do…if you don’t like something, why let the whole carving suffer when you can just make a quick change that you’ll never see?

Next step…create that arm holding the fiddle. I’m having fun with this carving.

Roughing and Detailing of the Body

Once I had the body cut out on the bandsaw, I began the roughing-in process. This is most often done with a knife but I also like to use a Foredom tool with a Typhoon bit to remove material quickly. A Foredom tool is like a Dremel tool with a flexible hand-held shaft and a Typhoon bit is a cutter that has many small carbide “pins” that cut away the wood. It leaves a very rough finish that you then follow-up with a knife to smooth things out and generally get the shape that you’re after. If you use this method, just be very careful as the cutter can do a lot of damage to you if it’s contacted. I wear gloves, heavy sleeves, a leather apron, safety glasses and a dust mask when roughing-in a carving in this fashion. You should too.

Note a couple of things in these photos…first, I always pencil in the centre lines and carve from one to the other…this ensures that I end up with rounded limbs and avoid just rounding off the square edges and thinking that it’s “round enough.” You’ll often see caricature carvings where arms, legs and bodies still have the squareness of the original bandsaw cut only because the carver didn’t picture the full centre lines and carve/round out between them. Second, as you can see in the third photo, I also keep pencilling in the joint markers ( in this case, ankle, knee and hip ) so that I maintain the right limb section lengths.

Because I wanted the head to rest at a bit of an angle and tight to the shoulders, I used the same graphite method of fitting as I did with the hat brim/crown and head carving. In this case, I knew that I didn’t have the shoulders in the final carved state but that I could go ahead and approximate what the shoulder would look like. By alternating between putting graphite on the shoulder and transferring those graphite marks to the underside of the hair ( and removing those marks ) and then doing the opposite…graphite on the underside of the hair and removing those marks left on the shoulder, I eventually got the head situated down and to the side. You’ll also see that I started to carve in a knot and scarf that would help hide the neck…and look nice, too.

With some carving, now with a knife and several sized gouges, I took away all of the roughened wood from the Typhoon process and started to get the shape that I wanted in the sculpture. In doing this, I took some measurements from the clay model that I had made as well as the paper patterns that I had developed and used those to make things fairly true to my original idea of sizings and shape. I didn’t try to absolutely replicate the clay model, but I did use it to refer to the general body position that I wanted.

Remember when you’re at this stage of your carving, be mindful of the direction of the grain and keep your tools extremely sharp so that your cuts will be accurate and crisp. Because the sculpture is becoming curved in different directions, the grain can fool you and all of a sudden you are cutting against the grain and wood is beginning to split rather than cleanly cut away.

And here’s where I am at this point…

Carving cleaned up with a knife and ready for detailing

A Bit of Sculpting

I’ve mentioned in the past that I have a group of people who meet monthly on the Zoom conferencing platform to talk about caricature carving. We call ourselves the True North Caricature Carvers ( TNCC ) …our farthest northern member is in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada and our least farthest northern member is in Brisbane, Australia! So, don’t read too much into the name…all are welcome!

Since I’m planning on using this little project to emphasize some of the things that we’ve been talking about, I’ve decided to do a clay sculpture as part of this project. I guess that you could argue that this particular carving is a bit static in it’s pose and wouldn’t necessarily need a starter-sculpture, but the sculpting is helpful when you could benefit from having a three dimensional model to carve against.

I started off by twining a couple pieces of copper wire together with my battery operated drill to make up the spine and legs as these two elements will need the greatest strength. I don’t know why but it’s somehow fun. The arms are simply one strand of copper. I used an anatomy guide that I found on Pinterest for the dimensions and soldered the copper in a couple of places so that the model would be nice and rigid. The copper came from a scrap box where I had some household copper wire leftover from a project…so, I didn’t have to cash a bond to afford the current price of copper wire!

I use a latex/water based clay to model the carving. The pro’s are i) it’s inexpensive, ii) easy to use, and iii) you can use it with your bare hands and clean everything up with water. The biggest con is that it dries, shrinks and cracks to pieces. The way around it is to drape some wet paper towels over the sculpture at the end of the day and cover it under a plastic grocery bag to retain the moisture/humidity. Once you’ve used it to make your wood carving, you can just let it dry and break away the clay and keep the copper form for your next similar pose.

The value of the clay sculpture is captured somewhat in these next photos. The first photo looked a bit static to me, so by just grabbing the clay and twisting and bending it a bit, it sort of came to life.

Then it was just a matter of smoothing things out with a wet paint brush and adding some detail. I didn’t go overboard with the detail but added just enough to give me an idea of what I wanted to do with the carving.

By taking a few photos of the front and side views and, after a few attempts, I was able to print these off at the size that matched the clay sculpture. I cut these paper templates out and transferred them to the basswood block that I would use and cut everything out on the bandsaw. The things that I liked least about the clay sculpture were the boots so I intentionally made them a little bigger on the paper template so I’d have more wood to play with. Also, note that I could have left the arms on as they’ll be well supported eventually by the banjo but I decided to attach them later to, again, give the TNCC another element of carving to talk about.

And that’s where I am with this project and that’s where we’ll leave things for now!…

Pickin’ and a-grinnin’

Well, we’ve been pretty busy with a whole lot of things…but the best pastime has been visiting and watching my little granddaughter grow. The less interesting items have included finally getting around to clearing out our basement of thirty years of collection and putting a fresh coat of paint on the house interior.

But, now it’s time to get to some caricature carving…so, here goes…

Some time ago, I carved a little female caricature head and have spent a fair amount of time just looking at her and trying to guess what she might become. It turns out…she’s a cowgirl and she can play a banjo!…or, at least, she’s going to learn real soon.

Lynn Doughty has a real neat way of adding a hat and I used that method once again. It starts with basically cutting away the head where the brim of the hat will rest, drawing in the side and plan view of the hat and then taking that pattern to the bandsaw.

What follows is shaping the brim and crown and using a piece of graphite to etch one side of two mating surfaces such that an impression is left of all of the “high spots” that need to be removed in order to get a tight mating surface. The dowel that you see is handy in that the two surfaces are always placed back in the exact same spot as you continue to transfer the graphite high spots to the adjoining surface. Without using the dowel, you’d be chasing the high spots all over the place as the two mating surfaces keep landing in different spots. It’s a quick and brilliant method of getting a nice tight seam, and, in the case of hats, leaves the impression that the hat surrounds the head rather than just sits on top of it. Thanks Lynn!

I start with the hat brim. After I’ve cut out the plan view, I tack the pieces back together with a bit of carpenter glue so that I can cut the side view with a flat surface to run along the bandsaw table. Once it’s cut out and I break away the previously tacked pieces of wood, I begin gouging out the top of the brim and I also shape the underside. Notice that the grain of the wood is running front to back.

Using the “graphite transfer” and locating-dowel-method, I slowly carve away the high spots until the head sits nicely within the brim of the hat. The crown is cut with the grain preferably running top to bottom ( I find it easier to carve this way. ) With the dowel now drilled up through the brim and into the crown…the head, brim and crown are all aligned and will stay that way while you graphite the top of the brim and let the high spots transfer to the bottom of the crown. Now, just cut away the high spots marked on the bottom of the crown until you are happy with the fit.

Add in a little band around the crown, use a nail brush and hand soap to scrub away all the left over graphite and then sit this part of our little gal aside while we consider the body posture.

Might be Finished

I’m never quite sure when I’m finished a carving. I can always think of something extra to add and, in this case, it’s probably going to be a little dog. But for now, I’m going to call this one complete enough to put into a cabinet and move on to some serious gardening.

A friend gave me a piece of bloodwood. I’d never heard of it either. It’s a South American wood, very red in colour and when it’s cut on a power saw it has a very nice odour…something like coconut butter. I used a dust mask but could still smell the fragrance of the wood. Oh…and it’s hard as nails…I would imagine if you were making something substantial from bloodwood, you’d need to buy some new saw blades and router bits after the project was complete.

I used the bloodwood for the base and carved/chiseled/ground/dynamited a few lines in it to represent cobblestone. I then added a little flower bed at the back made from basswood ( which felt like carving butter after carving the bloodwood ) and included a brickwork wall. I added a couple of evergreen bushes and it all ended up looking like a nice backdrop.

I drilled a hole through the lamp post and inserted a brass tube. A couple of screws and washers on the end covered in epoxy made nice little end spindles. Of course, a couple of little blue birds needed to be added to this bar. I also used some light metal sheet to make straps at the end of the accordion.

Before everything was epoxied in place, everything got a light coat of satin urethane.

So, now it’s on to the gardening!

A Straw Hat and Some Painting

Well, I continue to dabble with a number of projects around the house during our “social distancing” period. I’m not sure if it’s the amount of news we’re watching that consumes our days or just the fact that I have too many projects to play with…but, it seems that I’m not focusing on one thing to any great degree lately.

I did do a bit of carving and painting on my romantic couple scene, though. I decided on a wooden bench with cement support legs and cut that out on the bandsaw as one piece. With a very fine v-tool, I engraved grain marks into the wooden slacks of the bench that will look pretty nice once I paint the bench. I probably did a lot of work for nothing as the two figures will be sitting on much of the grain that I carved…but, I’ll know it’s there! Here’s a photo of just the centre section engraved so that you can see how I went about progressing with it.

I carved and painted the little guy to look a bit ragged but not too ragged. The girl on the other hand was finished with sandpaper to make her smooth and delicate and then painted with bright, clean colours. The little guy has been left with all of the angularity of the knife cuts with wrinkles cut into place…and then painted with a bit of off-colour spots and dry brushed highlighting to make him look just a wee bit dusty.

But the real fun was when I decided he needed a hat. So I made a nice straw hat for him in my usual way with the crown and brim as separate pieces for strength ( thanks to Lynn Doughty for this tip ). After carving it up and glueing the two pieces together, I used a wood burning tool to make a spiral wound weave and then painted the whole thing with a combination of whites, beiges and a honeycomb colour. Of course, the top of the little guy’s head needed to be lopped off to accommodate the hat. Looks pretty nice, I think…

So, here’s how everything is looking so far…

Take care of yourselves, everyone…regardless from where you’re reading this post, we’re all in this together.

Lots of Projects

Thank goodness that I have lots of projects to keep me occupied. Like most communities around the world, those of us who can stay indoors are doing just that. We’ve been out to walk Rosie and pick up a few groceries but other than that, we’ve been trying to help out the situation by staying pretty much to ourselves. I hope that all is well at your homes.

I’ve done a bit of lathe turning since my last post on tributesinwood.com Some friends that I’ve been carving with have been giving me little scraps of some nice exotic woods that are just big enough to turn into Christmas tree ornaments. I’ve been enjoying that. The pickle ornament isn’t exactly exotic wood…but, certainly out of the ordinary!

I’ve also been making some progress on my little romantic scene. A street lamp and an accordion has been added to the scene along with a set of oversized shoes for the romantic fella.

My intent all along was to try to make the gal very delicate and her fella kinda rough around the edges. So, I spent a lot of time getting her hands and feet carved quite dainty and then I sanded and smoothed away all of the knife marks. This is the first time that I’ve intentionally sanded away the gouge and knife marks on one of my caricatures. I’m hoping that the contrast between her smooth features and the rougher features of the fella come across well in the final carving.

Here’s how she’s looking all painted up. The painting was pretty straight forward although I added just a bit of silver to her blouse to make it sparkle a bit and I used alternating washes of flesh colour and yellow ochre on her legs to make it look like she’s wearing nylons.

A Valentine

I’ve been busy with a million things but did get some time to start a caricature of a boyfriend for our little gal. She’s been patiently waiting and it seems that Valentine’s Day might be the right occasion for a formal introduction.

This little fellow will be a bit geeky when finished, so I started with a facial expression that was a bit distant and a wide-open mouth singing a love song at the top of his lungs. I stuck that head in what became a clay figure that would accommodate an old fashioned accordion. I thought an accordion would be the least likely instrument that even a love-struck boy would bring with him on a date…

There’s not a lot of detail in the clay figure, just enough to give me a sense of the right posture and a bit of an image to trace onto paper and bring to the bandsaw. After some bandsaw work and some roughing-in with a Foredom and knife, I set the two figures together to get a sense of positioning.

I’ll add shoes later, but needed this rough image to determine the orientation of the hands and the space that I needed to fit the accordion. After adding a bit of detail…including a bow-tie, of course…here’s how it’s coming along.

A Female Caricature

I finally got around to trying to carve a female caricature. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to try but have never got around to it until now.

I’ve always thought that a male caricature carving would be easier than trying to do a female caricature. A man’s face just seems to me to lend itself more to a caricature…you can really exaggerate the size of the nose and ears, you can give him really baggy eyes and lots of wrinkles and the face will still look great when it’s finished.

Now, if you do similarly exaggerated features for a woman’ face, well, you really start worrying about whether or not you’ll even be able to tell that it’s a woman.

So, off I went with the challenge to carve a pretty caricature…big eyes, nice bright smile and tiny nose.

I liked her so much that I thought that she needed a dainty little stance to go with the pretty face. Sitting with one knee over the other and her hands neatly placed together, she started to take shape.

As I went, I started to sand things smooth and remove the knife marks. I thought that this might make her look even more dainty. I’m not sure what the setting will be just yet but I’m thinking about something that pairs her up with a beau who she’s fond of but who is not quite as attractive as her…

The Completed Basset

A few Christmas carvings along with eating all kinds of Christmas goodies got in the way of completing my latest Basset in a Basket! But here it is all finished.

Finishing included a variety of washes of different tones of brown on the darker sections of the little hound along with a slightly off-white for the remainder. The basket also has a number of tones but predominantly yellow-ochre and shades of almost a butterscotch colour.

Everything was topped off with a light coat of satin urethane that was mostly wiped away before it set.

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