Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects



Art in its various expressions including wood sculpture always uses imaginative interpretation to present the subject of interest.  This carving of Conan is such an interpretation girded with written descriptions and artistic pictures to aid the imagination of the carver to create.  This is the story of the carving of this interpretation of Conan the Barbarian.



Conan the Barbarian is a fictional sword and sorcery hero who was created by Robert W. Howard in 1932 for a series of fantasy stories published in a pulp fiction magazine Weird Tales. The character continued to grow in books, comics, movies and television and video games.  Being a mythical-fantasy figure his appearance is limited only as far as imaginative interpretation can describe him.  His muscular frame amplifies his sword wielding strength and the wearing of a loincloth creates an aura of barbaric nature.  The mane of his long black hair signals a nobility of strength and respect. His loyal fans fill in the rest with his motives of character and commanding leadership. As described in Wikipedia:  Despite his brutish appearance, Conan uses his brains as well as his brawn. He is a highly skilled warrior, possibly without peer with a sword, but his travels have given him vast experience in other trades, especially as a thief or pirate. He’s also a talented commander, tactician, and strategist, as well as a born leader. In addition, Conan has advanced knowledge of languages and codes and is able to recognize, or even decipher, certain ancient or secret signs and writings.



Conan is standing on a hill top base encrusted with skulls that help to tell the story of Conan which means that in the imagination for planning the carving the skulls needed to be also carved to fit the scene.  This meant a suitable size of the block of basswood was needed to facilitate the base.  To emphasize the muscular stature of Conan the figure would be carved a little larger than life for heroic effect while still keeping the scale of a six inch tall figure.  A three inch square by seven and half inches tall basswood block was chosen which would make the base an inch and half tall and Conan with be six inches tall in his muscular frame.



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 the 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.  Since the wood would be removed on either side of the head above the shoulders it was decided to use that wood as the area to carve skulls that would be later implanted in the base. The size of the skull would be just a little smaller than the size of Conan’s head to maintain perspective.  The Rule of Three for facial proportions was also applied to the skulls because underneath facial feature is the structure of the skull.  The proportional division for the skull are Top of Skull to Eyebrow Ridge is one third; Eyebrow Ridge to Below Nose is second third; Below Nose to Bottom of Chin Bone is the final third, for this Rule of Three for a skull.  The photos above are showing skulls being carved on the top four corners of the basswood block.  The photos below shows a skull carved in the corner of the base in the first photo and in the second photo the skulls carved on the back corner behind where Conan’s legs will be.


The next series of photos will show the progress where the little skulls have been removed and the basic form of the head is carved allowing for guidelines for the body to be drawn and then carved to basic form. Follow the photos to see the progress development of the basic form taking on definition towards finished details.









The next six photos show the implanting of skulls into the base.  This was accomplished by dishing out an indentation using knife cuts and small #5 gouge and gluing into place using epoxy glue.




The first three photos below are of a close up of upper torso and face of Conan with final details carved.  The fourth photo is the entire carving receiving the base coat of artist oil paint Raw Sienna thinned with boiled linseed oils.  The skin tone will remain the base coat coloring to amplify the grain of the wood. Additional colors will be applied on top of the base coat while it is still wet.  The hair of Conan will receive Black artist oil paint thinned with boiled linseed oil, the loincloth and leggings Brown artist oil paint, skulls will receive mixture of White and Brown paint and the base with Black and Brown paint all thinned with boiled linseed oil.  Deft lacquer will be applied as the final finish.



The final four photos are of the upper torso and facial features of Conan the Barbarian.



The myth, the legend, the story and the fantasy lives.





This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 5th, 2022 at 9:24 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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