Monday, January 28, 2013

"Another Santa" painted

 Here he is painted up and ready to go. We are having a rainy day here so the color isn't completely true, yet you get the idea. I don't know if you have noticed but I have tried a different way to carve the facial features and this gives a less comical nose, in other words the nose is not as exaggerated as some of my earlier carvings. I have gotten good reaction from people on these new carvings so far. Actually (makes you believe me more) I have always had people tell me that they like that none of my carvings look the same as the previous carvings. I try to carve things slightly different each time to the point that I am not sure how well I could duplicate a carving if I were asked. This is good and bad, the good is that all carvings are unique in their own way. The bad is that if someone (and someone has) requested four carvings, then I will carve them and hope the person likes the results of each. AUUGH! I have a little Ray Barone in me and I quote "It's not that I don't have to worry for a year , it's that I have a whole year to worry!". Ain't it the truth, we shall see and so will the person who requested the carvings.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Another Santa

Yes another Santa is done being carved. I do carve other things but haven't lately because I have someone that wants these for his family members. With my latest Santa I tried to improve my style and technique in carving a beard. If you only carved one thing you should always push to improve on your style and technique.

But should you only carve one thing, well that is up to you. You know your wants and desires in carving and you must make that choice all on your own. It was told to me that the worry of carving only one thing would be that if you get bored with it will you just simply stop carving? That would be the tragedy, to stop all together.

I have no plans to stop carving but stop carving Santa ornaments I will soon. I don't want to be a one trick pony so to speak. Next on my list I will carve a civil war bust or two and then will move towards carving a full body character. Hopefully in the not so distant future I will carve one of my cartoon characters. Remember the Santa’s were to help me improve my carving of faces and while I have gotten better there is still room for improvement. In the end I want to be skilled and confident enough to take any of my illustrations transform them into a carving. Once I get to this stage watch out, it;s going to get interesting.

There is a lot about the carving process this old whittler still needs to learn. After all I have only been back at this since last April a year ago. Time and chips fly when you are having fun. Thanks to all of you who have followed along for some if not all this adventure, it's not over. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Awesome tool bag

If you are like me you visit various carving sites to learn old and new techniques to make you a better carver. While I was visiting  the "Woodbee Carver" I found something that just caught my eye. Darlene Folk makes custom tool bags, and these are bags that make a whole lot of sense.

On a side note, Bob Soderholm and I get together on a semi regular basis and carve together. He has been gracious enough to share his knowledge and experience with me as well as in giving advise on carving technique and even tool tips. One of his big issues with me is the way that I have transported my tools back and fourth during our carving days. Although my tools were secure and no metal was hitting metal, it wasn't the best way to package my tools.
Well I have purchased a bag from Darlene and I have to say it is wonderfully made and fits the tools perfectly. She is easy to work with (not sure if she would say the same, I had a lot of questions) and can match up a bag that fits your tools. This bag is two fold, it is a carrying bag but inside it has an attached tool roll to secure the tools. She can even embroider a logo on your bag if you have one.

For my bag I have a army patch of my grandfathers unit in WWI. He like many back then and now, volunteered to go and serve in the war. After his stint in the army he would return home to work the land. The patch is not from WWI, but it works none the less.
I will have it put on to remind me what side of the bag should face up when unrolling the roll to get to my tools. Pricing for the bag and the shipping is extremely fair. If you need  a tool roll you need to check her out and see if she can make one to match your needs, I bet she can. Contact Darlene at 419-490-6408 or email her at for info on what she can do for you.

Pilot Santa w/paint

I got the pilot Santa painted and with an added cut or two, I think he is now done. This one really shows of my efforts from my water color days. The biggest focus for me was making the goggles believable. To do this I did some research and down loaded a few pictures of goggles and tried to use the images I found as the foundation for the carving, it didn't end there. I have said in the past that you can have a great carving and it will change to an OK carving once the paint is added. The opposite is true as well if the right amount of effort is not put into the carving. Paint will not change a whittling into a sculpture. This was my concern with the goggles and the way they would come across painted as well as carved. If I don’t represent them well it will take away from the whole carving. On a side note, while looking at the old photographs of pilots I noticed that the goggles were very rarely placed neatly on their heads like in the movies. Instead they were just kind of tossed onto the cap, usually sitting crooked, ready to fall off.

So to paint the goggles I started by painting a watered down bit of red right in the center. I followed this up with taking a less but still watered down blue and painted it into the edge of the glass then worked it in towards the red. I took a mildly wet brush and washed out some of the color both red and blue. Finally I painted a few faint white lines to give the look of refraction on the glass. The strap of the goggles I painted in an army style green as a way to work in the Army Air Corp patch on the tassel. Finally the leather flight cap I painted a darker brown for the indents in the cap to make sure it would stand out more. All in all I was happy with the goggles. I wonder if the carving itself suffered because of my obsession with making the goggles the center of my attention. This by the way is a bad thing and I try not to get too wrapped up into any one feature of any carving that the rest suffers. I am hopeful that this was not the case with my latest efforts. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

pilot Santa

Well I should start from the beginning, I have somewhat changed the size of the carvings I do now. I used to carve from 1 ½” corner cuts but now am carving from 2” instead. The roughouts I buy are equal to a 2” corner cut as well. You wouldn't think that this would make that much difference but it does seem to give me just that extra bit of wood to add in better details. At one time I carved from 1” blocks and got some nice carvings from that not that I can see how now that I have carved larger pieces. I have to say also the first roughout in the larger size I totally messed up and partly because the larger size really felt awkward in my hand. One factor could relate to my tool upgrades. Back when I was carving with 1” square pieces I was mostly using X-acto knives. Even though many of my tools I have would work fine on 1” some of the tools would be too large to let me use them the way I have recently been taught.

So I have re-carved a design I had carved back last spring, the pilot Santa but this time on one of my larger size roughouts. There is a lot I am happy with but there is one area that stands out every time I look at this piece. More on that later for now here is the newly carved Santa pilot with a new and improved goggle design carved in. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Santa 3 of 3 painted

Well here it is 3 of 3 carved and painted. This one was another that the grain or the tool tried it’s best to get the best of me. Maybe it did, maybe it didn't  I had a time with the beard and after a lot of effort I think it came out fine, just fine. I have gotten a little creative with the eyes trying to see if I can play around with the direction the carving is looking.

When it comes to eye direction there seems to be a general consensus. Most people prefer them looking off to the side because it gives them character and looking straight ahead is usually considered a no-no. So with this carving I tried to paint the eyes where the person looking at it would have to decide what direction he is peering. I believe it is the way I carved the mouth but this is not my happiest Santa. Do you get the idea that he is at a house where a lump of coal is the present being placed under the tree. Due to the issue I had with the carving portion it almost has to narrow of a beard around the frown line of the face, but the people who have seen it up close seemed to respond positively towards him so must not be to extreme. Take a look and see what you think.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

2 of 3 Santa painted

So I have now painted and completed two of three Santa’s. This was a roughout I struggled with because it was not as deep as the other roughout. I was not as happy with this one at first and my wife really encouraged me to trudge on and finish the carving. One of the issues was that a portion of the cap chipped out and I had to make an artistic decision and rework the carving design. I like the finished product and once it was painted it really came together. The other was that I didn’t have a strong comfort zone on a shallower roughout. This was partly why I ordered it to challenge my carving abilities or the lack of, which ever the case may be.

I have noticed that I have carved one or two that when I looked back I almost liked them better before the paint was applied. I have also had a few that I really liked but then the paint was applied and it really came together.  The finished painted piece was even better than the carving by itself. Maybe it’s just me but I love the process and watching a carving change as I go through the stages. I try to keep images of both carved and then painted carving. Even though I have a standard way I paint the Santa ornaments each one seems to still have their own unique look once the paint and wood come together. The only variance with my application is how thick or thin I apply the color. For my own personal preference, I prefer the wood grain showing through the paint if ever so slightly.  AS for ornament today, I think it really came into its own once the paint was applied. Hope you think so too.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Santa carving 3rd of 3

As you may know I had a month off from carving so I decided to carve three roughouts to get back into form. I have shown two of the three so today I am posting the third of the three. This one came out well I guess although I had a few spots in the carving where I either didn't pay attention to the grain enough or just tried to take out to big of a piece and had to rework a section. Still in all I am happy with the end result.

In Wood Carving Magazine issue 34 in Susan Alexander’s “Let’s Talk Carving” she talks about taking a three day class with Neil Cox. In this class she learned the term, “making an artistic decision” when it comes to the carving you are working on and making a mistake. It is a good read and reminds us all that we all no matter what level of carving make mistakes at times and at that moment we can either pitch the wood or “make an artistic decision” and modify what we perceived as our next step in the carving.  It is easy to think that these “professional carvers” don’t make mistakes and honestly the mistakes I might make and the mistakes they might make are probably different in many ways. We all get a piece of wood that one side the grain gets persnickety no matter what level of carver. It is learning to overcome the grain or a mistake that makes us a stronger carver in the end. Bottom line is when an issue comes up, just keep carving and to quote a very over used phrase, “let the chips fall where they may”.

Don’t stop carving, just strop. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

1 down 2 to go

Well I have gotten a few carvings done and have also painted them up as well. This time I changed my system a bit and got a few carved and once all the carving was done I began to paint. Usually I carve one, paint it and move on. Since I knew I had the three roughouts I just decided to carve them all three in a row before moving on. This was all in an effort to undo the cobwebs from not carving for over a month. I think it worked out well for me and for the carvings.

The only difference while painting was I broke it down into sections, I started by painting the caps I would paint one then modify the color and paint the next. This also gave me opportunity to experiment with the colors and see an instant difference from one to the other. After that I moved onto the face and lastly I painted the eyes. I always paint the white of the eyes first before I paint anything on the face but for whatever reason always I always have the finishing touches to the eyes as my last bit to paint. So here is the first of three carved and painted. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

only as good as your carving tools

Ain't it the truth, your tools can have great impact on your carvings. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t mean the amount of tools you have to work from, no, I mean the shape of your tools. I have been carving the last few nights in a row and don’t remember how many hours my tools had logged before the holidays and the long break from carving. My tools began to let me know by tearing instead of cutting the wood. Breaking pieces off instead of trimming down the wood. Now I was working from a roughout and on one side the grain seemed to be working against me in regards to the carving. I still believe the tools were a factor as well. So last night instead of carving I got out the strop and my tools. The next time I carve I hope to see a vast improvement on my cuts, we shall see. I have never really mastered using a stone and am not in position right now to purchase a sharpening system so hopefully I will get back on schedule with the strop every hour or so. This makes a major difference in the edge of the blade.

In regard to the carving I think it came out quite nice even though I had some issues in the beginning. I am hopeful that I will work in some time to paint in the next few days. I will share the results if I do. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

I'm back

 Back at it that is. Since Thanksgiving at least one or more members of our family had been under the weather. My wife and I both ended up with bronchitis, tis the season. Everyone is feeling better and back to the old schedule and once again I am carving. I ordered some roughouts from Mark Akers, thought this would help me dust off the cob webs. Mark has a fast turnaround from order to delivery which makes it nice for a carver in waiting. I had carved one of his previously and was happy with the result so thought I would give it another try, you know make sure it wasn't a fluke or something.

I like the way the first one came out, or I guess I should say the second one. The one thing I do different from other carvers is I don’t always carve the tongue in the mouth. Just for me I don’t always like the way it looks, I mean when someone talks you don’t see their tongue with every syllable do you? I mean if Santa is saying “ho ho ho” you don’t see the tongue then do you? So I am not a conformist even in the carving world, big surprise.

Hope everyone had a great Holiday Season and have had numerous opportunities to relax and carve.