A “Monochrome” finish is a one color or natural finish that is illustrated in this photograph of four Whittle Folk Spuds. What the natural finish does is force the viewer to take a closer look at the carved features of a sculpture. A natural finish shows off the detail of the carving cuts and the overall design of the sculpture. A “Polychrome” finish is many colors that creates another kind of aesthetic beauty.
The difference can be described in the example of photography. Polychrome is color photography while monochrome is black and white photography. Each creates its own criteria for emphasis and effect. Sometimes a monochrome or black and white photograph will tell a better story than polychrome or colored photograph and vice versa. When a carving is completed the carver must choose whether to finish it with color paints or stains or to finish the carving in a natural finish. Either one is appropriate and yet color seems to be preferred more often than natural finishing of a carving.
Here are two examples for comparison between monochrome or natural finish and polychrome or painted finish. The first reaction is to be drawn to the colored finish in that most people like color. Upon further investigation the natural finished carvings stand on their own. A second look at the painted carving examples there is a slight hint that the coloring has masked some of the carved details.
Any carving should stand on its own for its own merit so it is not really fair to compare natural and colored because each is telling a story in another language. A carver must chose what language the carving is to speak keeping in mind that variety is still the spice of life. Adding a little spice to one’s carvings adds to the aesthetic appeal.
Even though painted carvings are very popular one should also experiment with using a natural finish from time to time to make another artistic statement. What follows is a photographic journey of carving subjects that have received a monochrome or natural finish. Each carving stands on its own merits as the carved details of the overall carving add the color to the carving.
Cowpoke Slim has received a one color or monochrome finish of Raw Sienna artist oil paint mixed with boiled linseed oil. That combination allows for just enough contrast of the basswood to show off the carved texture and detailing. The play of light and shadows caused by the hard lines carved with a knife allow for each section of the carving to stand out by contributing to the overall look of this cowboy carving.
Doyle’s Cousin was a Pete LeClair class project. This bottle stopper head was fastened to a flat basswood base. It is finished with the monochrome finish of Raw Sienna oil paint and boiled linseed oil which highlight the carved details that create the light and shadows of the overall carving. A wood burner was used to texture the cap’s checker board plaid lines and to darken the pupil of the eyes. The iris of the eyes was carved with hash cuts like the spokes of wheel to give the texture effect of coloring to the iris. With a natural finish it is the carved facets, textures and hard lines of the carving tool that do the coloring without color.
This cowboy is a Keith Morrill one day class project to learn his style of carving a cowboy caricature. It is a simple and straight forward pose and yet with a little extra carving cuts movement can be added. A natural finish requires a closer look at the carved textures and detailing.
This is a Floyd Rhadigan rough out class project that shows off his wonderful design for movement. Any angle this carving is viewed tells another story. It lends itself to the flair of carving flowing sculptured lines. A natural finish of the monochrome color of Raw Sienna and Boiled Linseed Oil compliments the overall design and sculptured effect in the carving process. Wood burning was added to the pupils of the eyes, buttons and belt buckle to add a little contrast.
Each of these carvings could have been painted many colors. A natural finish speaks for itself and has complimented each of these carvings.
To paint or not to paint is the question that can only be answered by the carver who has enough confidence to go either way.
Don’t overlook a natural finish. Rather look it over naturally for its own benefit and effect of creating an artistic statement.