DAVE STETSON ~ A Carving Friend

   Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Friends, CCA Related

Stetseon CarvingOld Man in ChairJovial Man

Dave Stetson,  carver, instructor and author,  is one of the founding members of the Caricature Carvers of America whose style of caricature carving bares his own signature of movement and animation.  Such a style does not happen without a lifelong pursuit of the art of imbuing life into a carving by continuous study, observation, experimentation and imagination.  Three of his carvings in the WOOD BEE CARVER’s collection will serve as a visual tutorial to begin seeing animation in the various angles of the pose and posture of a caricature figure.  By visually studying each carving in the series of photographs one can begin to see how to emulate similar animation in one’s own carvings. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Stetson CarvingStetson CarvingStetson CarvingStetson CarvingFacial FeaturesFacial FeaturesProfile ViewHair PatternAnglesStetson CarvingStudy AnglesBack View

Study each photo to look for the various ways Dave has intentionally planned to create movement in the posture, pose, and position of hands, feet and tilt of the head.  Study the pattern of wrinkles in the clothing, the swirl of the hair, the wrinkles in the face, the pull of the buttons on the shirt and the seams running down the sides of the trousers. Notice that the buttons on the shirt are carved in the shape of a diamond rather than a circle.  Sometimes carvers try to be “too accurate” rather than going for the “look and effect.”  Dave has created the “look and effect” that tells a story within a story that is within a story.  Such a story in any carving can only be discovered by taking it slow by observing the smallest feature hiding underneath the initial look.

Hands and WaistChest StudyBack ViewFeet StudyLeg StudyLeg StudyLeg StudyLeg StudyHair StudyHair StudyHair StudyChin Study

Old Man in Chair is another study of posture movement within the complicated folding of arms and crossing of legs all carved from one block of wood.

Old Man in ChairOld Man in ChairOld Man in ChairOld Man in ChairFacial StudyProfile ViewHair PatternProfille View

Old Man in a chair is poetry in relaxed motion with deep and precise knife blade cuts in the details of the head, face and hair that give an aged and weathered look to a happy facial expression.  The pose with legs crossed and arms and hands folded across the knee is simple and yet complicated to carve.  Just as complicated is to carve a seated figure on a chair all carved from one block of wood.

Jovial ManJovial ManJovial ManJovial ManJovial ManJovial ManJovial ManJovial Man

Here is another example of one of Dave’s signature carvings of a jovial man who is smiling with his whole body.  Notice the drapery hang of his clothes and the wrinkles caused by the bending of his posture.  Study the man’s facial features that all move in response to his laughing grin and smiling eyes.

Carving by JanelCarving by Stetson  Each of these carvings by Dave offers a lot of lessons for the eye and mind to see and to learn to become a guide for future carvings. Now in his own words Dave tells of his own journey and inspiration.  Laced throughout his comments are photos of carvings by Emil Janel  with the first two photos being one by Janel and the other by Stetson to compare Janel’s influence upon Dave.

I’ve had a number of carving heroes over the years, and they have all had influence on what I do.  Emil Janel, probably more than any other carver, has taught me to understand the importance of anatomy to get a believable natural exaggerated character.  We always (I always) want to show off whenever we can, and we usually think that more detail will be better…actually, Janel taught me that a really good piece can show more with less…learning what is necessary and what is too much, can make all the difference.  It’s more about the forms movement and gesture, than about the details.

Carving by JanelCarving by JanelCarving by JanelCarving by Janel

Also, don’t be afraid to make a bold cut to create form.  Study Janel’s work and you’ll notice how deep he went with his cuts in key areas such as the corner of the eye where it contacts the nose. This not only develops dramatic eyes, but a more pronounced nose shape.

Carving by JanelCarving buy JanelCarving by JanelEmil Janel

It’s really hard, in just a few words, to sum up what I’ve learned in studying Janel’s work.  His work, though it probably wouldn’t win a ribbon in today’s competitions, showed an amazing understanding of human form.  If only a fraction of his talents can somehow rub off onto my creations, I’ll feel blessed beyond imagination.

Carving by JanelCarving by JanelCarving by JanelCarving by Janel

Probably the hardest thing about trying to emulate the work of others is to not “copy” their work.  Using their technique and learning and understanding what they found to be important and using that knowledge to enhance your own work is what is really important.

 Carving by JanelCarving by JanelCarving by JanelCarving by Janel

Years ago, Peter Engler told me that he wanted to have some of my work in his gallery, but, he wanted me to develop a “style” that was my own.  He told me that when he looked at my work on a table, he was confused about just what my style was…cowboys? Santas? Sports figures? Whittled? Carved?…”where are you going with your work?”  “What do you want to say?”  “It’s time for you to settle into a ‘style’ that you’ll be known for.”  The more I thought about that, the more I realized that he was right.  In my efforts to not “copy” the work of others, I fell into the “rut of not being in a rut”.  Everything was in a different category.  I then decided to follow in the footsteps of Janel.  While not stepping on his footprints, I’m trying to follow the path that he started; carving contemporary figures of the folks that I come in contact with every day.  Few if any current carvers were doing that style, so that’s where I’m going unless or until something better comes along.  With God’s help (and the help of Janel) I’m on a journey…and it’s the journey that’s to be enjoyed, not the destination.

Be it in Dave’s carvings or in his words, he can teach us how to become better carvers by following his landmarks on the woodcarving journey.  Thanks Dave for offering up insights into better carving experiences.  Thank you Dave for your gifts to the woodcarving world.





This entry was posted on Saturday, March 9th, 2013 at 10:14 am and is filed under Carving Friends, CCA Related. 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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