Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects

A SELF PORTRAITA SELF PORTRAITThe WOOD BEE CARVER has worn a black derby hat, bib overalls and a Colonel Sanders bow tie since 1976 whenever he participates in a woodcarving show.  The derby hat was purchased at a church rummage sale and has become frayed around the edges over the years.  That is what age will do to any of us but at any age we can still look the part.  Since I wear glasses the glasses were carved without the detail of the eyes showing through the lens.  This adds a bit of mystery appearance in the same way that sun glasses add to the mystery of a person’s face. In this self portrait figure the center of attention are the hands whittling while the eyes hidden behind the lens of the glasses are looking at the hands.

These two carvings were commission pieces, one as a gift to a friend and one as a gift to the commissioner of the carvings to himself.


These series of photographs show the progressive stages of carving a figure out of a one and half inch square by six inch tall block of basswood.  First the figure is carved to its basic form.

The progressive steps begin with carving the derby hat and carving the head to fit into the hat.  After the hat and head are carved to basic form then the rest of the wood is divided using the Rule of Three for Body Proportions: Shoulder to Waist is one third; Waist to Mid Knees is one third; and Mid Knees to Bottom of Feet is one third. The rest of the figure is carved to the basic form of two arms, two hands, trunk, two legs and two shoes.

Once the figure has a good foundation of its basic form then is when each part is carved in detail.  The head is divided using the Rule of Three of Facial Proportions to lay in the area for the eye brows,  glasses, nose, chin, ears, hair and beard.  All of which are refined with detail carving to bring the head to life with a face.

The two close up photographs of the hands show the progressive stage from hands carved to basic form and then carved in detail.  Before any details can be carved there must be a good foundation of the basic form in order for the detail to fit and look correct.  That is why carving is done in stages, one stage at a time without rushing too soon to the finished stage before its form is ready.


A self portrait is to show personality, personal traits as well as a true to life likeness of a person.  The WOOD BEE CARVER is primarily a knife carver and so each  figure is whittling on a piece of wood.  “The clothes make the man,” is a common saying that helps to describe a person.  A cowboy is known as a cowboy by the clothes worn as in the old song, “I can tell by your outfit that you are a cowboy.”  The WOOD BEE CARVER is known by the clothes he wears at woodcarving shows with his trademark black derby hat, bib overalls, Colonel Sanders bow tie and red bandanna coming out of a back pocket.  So whether it is a caricature carving or a realistic self portrait The WOOD BEE CARVER is easily recognized.

A self portrait is not an ego trip but rather is the face the artist is most familiar with seeing every day in a mirror.  The first stage in learning to carve facial features is to  study and become familiar with the human face.  The cheapest model is the one seen in a mirror, not for narcissism but for self study of being able to stare to study the details without making another uncomfortable by studying their features so intently.  To carve a self portrait is a challenge in learning to capture a likeness that is a close resemblance of oneself but always a work in process.

Like any other carving project a self portrait is a journey in learning that never reaches a final destination but is always traveling down the road of creative possibility and growing to improve the art of carving.  Which is another way of saying what The WOOD BEE CARVER has said so often, “Would be carvers would be carvers if they would carve wood.” The Journey continues!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 at 2:04 pm and is filed under Carving Projects. 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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