Rich Smithson of HELVIE KNIVES has invited the Signature Series Knife carvers to carve a caricature carving holding a Signature Series knife. This is the WOOD BEE CARVER’s carving that is a “selfie” using the DRAGON II Signature Series Knife as a cane.
The carving began as a basswood block measuring nine inches tall, three inches wide and two inches deep. The knives used to sculpt the basic form of the subject were four Signature Series Knives designed by the WOOD BEE CARVER and made by HELVIE KNIVES. The three sculpting or roughing out knives were the SIDE KICK, SIDE KICK II and SIDE KICK III along with the DRAGON II knife used for intricate sculpting. The final detail carving was done with the DRAGON II and the VIPER III Signature Series Knives.
The first step in the sculpting (roughing out the form) is to carve a dowel shape that will incorporate the hat and head of the figure. The second step is to indicate the base with notches cut in the four corners at the bottom of the block about three eighths from bottom and connect the corner notches with a notch cut horizontally between the corner notches. Once head section and the base are shaped the Rule of Three for body proportions is employed in order to lay out the major landmarks to guide the sculpting of the body proportions. Body Proportions in the Rule of Three are shoulders to waist; waist to mid knees; mid knees to bottom of feet. Horizontal lines are drawn at the waist and knee areas since the shoulders have already been established in carving the dowel for head and the top of base area indicates the bottom of the feet. Within these proportion guidelines the arms and hands are drawn. The DRAGON II knife with its pistol shaped handle will serve as a cane held by the right hand. The knife is held against the right side of the block to aid in knowing where to draw the right hand. Caricature carving means an exaggeration of features and in this case the hands are exaggerated in order to be able to hold onto the knife handle. The size of the right hand determines the size of the left which has the index finger (exaggerated for emphasis) pointing to the Signature Series Knife. Compare the two photos above which show the hands drawn and the hands carved.
When the basic form of the figure is sculpted in the roughing out state, the next step is to begin shaping the top of the hat. A center line is drawn across the top of the dowel shape to indicate the direction the face will be looking slightly to its right. The outer dimension of the dowel indicates the outer circumference of the hat brim. A pencil line is drawn around the outer edge of the dowel about three eights to half inch down from top to indicate the top of the hat brim. Using the DRAGON II knife a slice and roll cut follows the pencil line around the brim. This slice and roll cut begins to shape the top of the brim and the crown of the hat at the same time as it goes around and around while keeping an eye of the center line in order to keep either sides of the center line equal to maintain the roundness of the crown. As this process continues the width of the top of the brim as it goes around the crown and the center line will keep a balance in the look of roundness proportions. The three photos above illustrated the center line and the slice and roll positions of the knife as it goes around the top of the hat.
Once the top of the hat is carved to its basic form, the wood below the hat is carved so that the head will fit into the hat. Once the form of the head is shaped to appropriate size the details of the facial features are carved in detail. The first photo above right shows the two knives used for the detail carving of face as well as the rest of the entire figure. On the left of the figure is the DRAGON II and the right side of figure is the VIPER III to indicate the knives used for the final detail carving. The second photo shows the completed figure in the pose of holding the DRAGON II knife as a cane.
The two photos above are posted together to compare the front of the hat brim. In the photo on the left the edge of the brim shows a flat edge while the brim in the photo on the right shows the brim’s edge that has been carved to a narrow knife edge. This illustrates how the weakness of the cross grain of the brim of the hat remains as thick as possible and yet is brought to a knife edge at its outer circumference. The eye sees the knife edge rather than the thickness of the hat brim. In other words, the hat brim appears to be thinner than it actually is because the edge has been narrowed.
Note also while studying the two photos above that the glasses are carved without attempting to carve the eyes behind the glasses. This is the artist’s interpretation that allows imagination to assume that there are eyes behind the lens of the glasses as well as giving permission to the artist to interpret the final appearance without having to have everything perfect to reality. Sometimes “less is more” and the “suggestion” fills in for what is missing. Carving, like all art, is based upon interpretation and the tickling of imagination and sometimes the tricking of imagination since imagination will fill in the blanks of seeing more than what is seen in the scene.
The “selfie” of the WOOD BEE CARVER holding the Signature Series Knife DRAGON II is in the permanent collection of HELVIE KNIVES along with other Signature Series carvers’ carvings. To visit their website, click on HELVIE KNIVES to view the Signature Series Knives that can be ordered from that website or by calling 765-675-8811.