Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects

Wood carving is always a partnership of imagination, skilled experience, challenge and whimsey to create an interpretation of a chosen subject.  It is the combined work of the head, heart and hands of the artist to create a fresh, contemporary and alive inanimate subject of art.

The artist carver utilizes the best attempt at the present given time to put personality into the subject being carved by using a current understanding that is open to learn as the subject speaks a new understanding during the process of bringing the carving to life.  Every carving project is a learning in the process of doing and a practice that makes progress.


Carving an Old-World Santa began as a block of basswood nine inches tall, three inches wide and two inches deep. Imagination begins the process of utilizing a basic understanding and mental image of an old-world Santa from previous study of visual images. The image of the Santa is imagined within the block of wood along with the mental image seeing the negative space that needs to be removed to expose the basic form of the subject.

Sequence of process ~ begins with Imagination -> carve basic form –> follow proportional landmarks -> design by carving –> “S” Rule guides the shaping –> complimented by imagination –> challenges leads to innovations discoveries –> Detailing the basic form is final carving step followed by coloration of artist oil paint thinned with boiled linseed oil.

The Wood Bee Carver chooses to carve from a block by removing the excess wood in the carving to form stage using only knives.  This is the method of choice which becomes a “design by carving” in that while wood is being removed and the shapes that remain begin to form the appropriate shapes.  These “basic form” shapes will continue to be whittled down to proportional size as the design come into focus with each consecutive slice. The head portion within the block is carved first because the head and face are always the “center of attention” and with the head carved to basic form the rest of the body can be carved using the “center of attention” head as point of reference.



The basic form like a foggy silhouette imagines the subject wearing a hooded outer robe over a long tunic; subject holding a pipe in one hand and a walking staff in the other; a large travel bag is draped over one shoulder; and subject has long hair and full mustache and beard. Imagination is also seeing the pose, position of hands, drapery and folds of clothing will utilize the “S” Rule that will create a sense of movement by giving highpoints for the eye of the viewer to follow the serpentine movement of the overview of the subject. Notice the flare of the clothing and the flow and shape of the hair and beard that follow the “S” Rule. The walking staff also has serpentine curves for the eye to follow that is more appealing that a straight staff with no definition. Why the “S” Rule ~ No straight lines unless absolutely necessary for the design. (eye goes around the straight utility pole and does not stop to see it, but will follow the snaking line of tree branches.)

Look at the photos again to follow the “S” form as the face is turned slightly to the right snaking down the pipe stem to the right hand that is resting on the strap of the travel bag that is beside the curve of the robe as it flares outward above the right shoe.  And then look for other examples of the “S” snaking in other areas of the figure that moves with emotion and aesthetic appeal.



While carving this interpretation of an Old World Santa some wisdom thoughts about the carving journey spoke to this carver’s inner self. “Woodcarving is the journey more than the destination,” is a way of describing the carving experience.  The journey is the entire process including the initial creative idea, the research, the physical activity of shaping the wood with a sharp knife guided by a sharp imagination and applying the appropriate surface finish. The destination is the completed project while the journey is the fun part of the process.  Adding to this description is another statement that says “every carving project is a learning experience” that makes discoveries during the journey as creative imagination partners with the activity of carving to guide the path to making an inspiring discovery. Thus, “the more one carves the better one carves” with each learning journey.


The “S” RULE visual tutorials:



This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 27th, 2023 at 9:48 am 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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