3 Ways of Learning

   Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects, Tutorials


It has been said that there are three ways people learn, that is, they learn by observation, by reading and by touching the wet paint. The same can be said about learning to carve as it is beneficial to be observant, to read and to touch the carving knife to the wood to experience leaning to carve by carving.

In the mid 1980 the Wood Bee Carver wrote an article for Chip Chats about carving small three-inch-tall hillbilly figures called “Whittle Folk.”  The opening paragraph said: THE Wood Bee Carver’s philosophy is: “Would be carvers would be carvers if they would carve wood.” Inherent in this philosophy is the proven reality of the assumption that one learns by doing. The more one does, the more one learns. The mystery is in the way the creative subconscious Works through the experience of trial and error to a gradual improvement of skill and style. The hardest part of any carving project is getting started. Once begun, the creative juices flow, the Carver gets captured by the carving Muse and the project takes on life and expression. The Wood Bee Carver also believes from the school of experience that there is no correct way to do the Carving process. Each Carver is to develop one’s own approach, technique and style. The goal being not to be just a duplicator of someone else’s Style, but to learn from the experience of another. In other words, don’t be a student of a teacher, but a student of observation learning from many teachers. Teacher. in this sense, is the informal learning from fellow carvers and studying various styles and interpretations in carvings. This is part of the school of self-taught learning that comes from observation coupled with trial and error of self-experience. So, as the Wood Bee Carver offers descriptions, illustrations. it is to be received as one carver’s way of carving. Such is only a suggestion as a stepping stone to developing one’s own way, one’s own style and one’s own interpretation. If only one small insight is gained from this discussion, then it has added to the file of creative resources in any carver’s creative library of self-taught knowledge.

Thirty years later these words are still descriptive of learning that comes through the carving process.  Some carvers are in search of a quick and easy way to learn to be a first-rate carver from the very beginning of the process as if there was a quick fix.  There is no short cut to going through the process of observation, reading and touching the wet paint because one has to “experience” all these steps.  This “experience” is to develop a person’s imagination to begin to see within the creative studio of the inner mind the act of carving before actually guiding the carving knife to shape the wood.  One can try to use the video tutorial as a way to “copycat” what is viewed in the repeated replay of the visual steps in the video.  That is quick and easy but short circuits the path of imaginative observation and imaginative reading of the process in order to fix it in the inner mind of creativity.  It is better to “play” what is recorded on the inner mind of creativity than having to replay the video to copycat or duplicate what was seen but never learned.

The WOOD BEE CARVER encourages any carver to take the slower and lasting steps of developing one’s imagination to learn by observation, reading and touching in the trial and error experimenting of putting the carving knife to the wood to learn by and while carving.

The carving project that is the point of reference for observation, reading and touching the wet paint is a visual and verbal tutorial for carving miniature Santa ornaments.  These two-inch-tall Santa ornaments are carved in three quarter inch square by two-inch-tall blocks of both mahogany and basswood.  The Mahogany Santa ornaments are finished using Howard Feed-N-Wax and the basswood Santa ornaments are painted.

The two photographs below depict the front and side view of the progressive eight steps in carving a miniature Santa ornament.  Using the observation and reading this visual and written tutorial will prepare one for touching the wet paint in the actual carving process of learning by doing.

Follow the visual observation tutorial left to right while looking at the front view and side view.  The first illustration on the left shows the top portion of the two inches by three quarter inch block having its corners sliced away to begin shaping the top of the hat.  The second illustration shows the top knot shaped with a notch cut while the bottom of the hat is established with a notch cut all the way around while the head portion is narrowed to appear to going up into the hat. The third illustration notched the top of the hat band, the angle and planes of the face are refined with eye sockets scooped out with a slice and roll cut.  A slice and roll cut on either side of the front sides of the hat scoop out for the holly leaves.  The back of the hair is also shaped. The fourth illustration show the holly berries and leaves penciled in and notch cuts across each eye socket. The fifth illustration shows the berries outlined with a series of small notch cuts shaping each berry as a diamond shape and then the corners of the diamond shapes are sliced away to round the diamond shapes into a half round shape for each berry.  The holly leaves are outlined with notch cuts for each scallop shape of the leaves.  A slice and roll cut in made on either side of the nose to scoop out the area underneath the eye socket.  A notch cut underneath the nose under each side of the nostril for the bottom of the nose in the shape of a “V” while the side of the hair line is established with a stop cut and angled cut. The sixth illustration shows the refinement of the holly leaves and berries, scalloped slice and roll cuts to shape the hat band fringe and three cut triangular cuts for the inside corners of the eyes and on either side of the nose nostrils and the beginning of the smile line. The seventh illustration shows the eye receiving a notch cut at the bottom of the eye mound that forms the upper eye lid ridge and plane for the eye. The mustache and mouth and bottom lip are carved to basic shape and the top of the beard is beginning to take form.  The eighth illustration shows the completed eyes and the texturing of the mustache and beard as well as the hair.  This texturing is done with a slice and roll action of the knife blade being used as if it was an ice skate and as it skates forward the slice and roll action will create a curving trough or ditch in the shape of a series of “S” shaped lines giving the appearance of hair/beard texture.

As a further aid in the study of making eyes it is suggested that the reader also read the posting found in the BEE HIVE column on this blog by clicking on “WHITTLE FOLK TROLLS” which explains the Eye Study photo shown below.


The three photos below are posted as a review of the observation and reading stages. First photo covers illustrations 3, 4 and 5. Second photo covers illustrations 4, 5, and 6 while the third photo covers illustrations 7, 8, and 9.



The final two photographs begin with a comparison between an unpainted basswood Santa and a painted basswood Santa.  The second photo shows the knife used to carve miniature Santa ornaments in Mahogany wood and painted basswood.

To learn from observation and reading may require reviewing the visual and written descriptions before attempting the wet paint touching of the actual carving of a project but it is all necessary for this approach to learning to become internalized in imagination that will guide the actual carving process of learning by doing, over and over and over again.

Every carving project is a learning project and a practice exercise but with each carving project what was learned before applies to what is being learned in the next project.  The more one carves the more one learns and the better one becomes in observation, reading between the lines and touching the wet paint of experimenting whether one can and we can only if we do.  The goal is to learn the process and the method and not to duplicate the copycat look.  These Santa ornaments are only a learning tool, a beginning point of reference and an example of trying to carve an ornament that one sees in imagination.  “If it can be imagined it can be,” says the old carver.



This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 4th, 2018 at 1:51 pm and is filed under Carving Projects, Tutorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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