The carving entitled “Wingtip” is an illustration for a discussion about “Artistic Expressive Opinions” in the design motifs of the Whittle-Carving style of carving only with a knife. These Artistic Opinions are what guides the WOOD BEE CARVER having been discovered in the woodcarving journey of the past forty years of knife carving. That Journey continues to make discoveries and innovations are constantly being employed.
Woodcarving is a partnership between creative imagination guiding the skill of the carver while guiding the carving knife in a slicing action to shape a block of wood. Carving is a “learn by doing” activity and the more one carves the more opportunities for learning what each carving project can teach. This process contributes to allowing the “Design by Carving” activity to make discoveries in design as the wood is being shaped with each slice of the cutting edge. Some discoveries become the mental sign posts that are used time and again to guide the carving process while at the same time allowing the design to be open to innovations as the shape is taking a form of its own.
Using “Wingtip” as the model, the first Design Sign Post follows the mantra of “No Straight Lines,” unless absolutely necessary. A curving and snaking “S” shaped line is more pleasing to the observer’s eye than a straight telephone pole shape. If there is a row of telephone poles along the side of the road one is traveling along with intermittent trees also along the side of the road, the observer’s eyes see the shape of the forking tree limbs while overlook the straight telephone poles. A carving of a figure with the head slightly turned, arms bent, legs bent slightly and clothing and accessories following a relaxed posture is more pleasing than a carving of a figure that is like a soldier standing at attention like the Nutcracker soldier.
Study the four photographic views above of Wingtip character to notice the relaxed pose, the flair of his coat tails, the curvature of the tie, the turn of the head, the bend on one arm and hand holding a smoking pipe and the other hand resting on a crooked walking stick. In the first photo on the top left, look for the “S” shapes in the pose. For example, starting at the top of the hat follow the “S” shape as it snakes along the outline of the face to connect with the coat lapel that continues the “S” through the coat tail. Or follow the “S” beginning with the bent pipe coming out of the corner of the mouth through the first row of knuckles of the hand down along the crease of the coat sleeve. The curved walking stick/cane follows the “S” shape curvature. Carving a crooked stick is much easier that carving a straight stick and is more pleasing to the eye. Study the other three photographic views to discover how the “S” shape is incorporated in the overall design.
The series of photographs above are close up views of the face and hand holding the pipe of the caricature Wingtip. A caricature means exaggeration of reality and the nose of Wingtip is exaggerated. Study these close up views looking for a sense of movement in the facial features. The Rule of Three for facial features (hairline to eyebrow; eyebrow to tip of nose; tip of nose to bottom of chin) were followed in carving in the basic landmarks of the face. Study also how the mouth is carved around the pipe and how the hand wraps around the bowl of the pipe. Studying these close ups illustrates that one can learn through the visual tutorial of looking to see with imagination of what slicing cuts were used to accomplish the final details. Seeing is more than a casual look to go the next step of envisioning with the help of imagination to see the rest of the picture. That kind of seeing cannot be taught, it can only be learned by observation. As Yoga Berra once said, “you can observe a lot by watching,” so it is with “seeing a carving” with imagination of creative evaluation.
Do not overlook doing the little extra is another tip of the artistic opinion as illustrated in the two photos above. One is the red feather in the hat band of the hat adding a little whimsy and cocky class to a common hat. Notice also the small detail of the outer edge of the hat brim having been carved to a knife edge while keeping the rest of the hat brim as thick as possible to add strength to the cross grained area of the brim. The eye sees the narrow edge and not the thickness of the rest of the brim. The close up of the hand holding the crooked stick/cane reveals the wrinkle lines carved above and below the knuckles. Such wrinkles are a little extra that adds to the appearance of the hand. The illustrated carving gets its name from its shoes, “Wingtip” which illustrates that carving the wingtip detail is a small innovation that adds a little style and pizazz to what would otherwise be drab shoes. The little extra goes a long way is saying that the artist cares.
The series of photographs above illustrates the artist’s sign post of “carving first to the basic form” before adding the details. A foundation of the basic form is required in order to have a place for the details to fit in properly. Ninety-five percent of carving is carving to the basic form and five percent is carving the finishing details. Notice the shape of the hand holding the pipe is carved with a boxy form with the planes and angles of the hand wrapping about the bowl of the pipe. This boxy form of a hand is the foundation in which the individual fingers are carved. Notice the basic form of hand holding the stick/can with its planes and angles as well as noticing the planes and angles of the facial feature landmarks in preparation for receiving the detail features as the overall carving is refined. “Form follows function and Detail follows form,” is the carver’s guide to the carving process.
The final photos above illustrate the scimitar curved shape of the blade of the carving knife laid in the position where as much of the cutting edge is being used to facilitate the most efficient slicing action for a clean cut. The curved cutting edge allows for making efficient slicing cuts as the slicing action follows the curvature of the cutting edge. A straight cutting edge can only carve on the straight while the curved cutting edge can carve with a slice and roll action to create the “S” shaped surfaces and forms with soft wrinkles, flaring of clothing, waves in hair, and hollows of the surface when necessary.
The WOOD BEE CARVER, whose motto is, “Would be carvers would be carvers if they would carve wood,” is continuously learning with each carving project and each imagined project waiting to be carved. We learn by doing and the more we do the more we learn. As the Old Carver sez, “Keep carving and carving will keep you carving.”