Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects

What  a fictional and mythical character like Gandalf  of “Lord of the Rings”  looks  like can only be determined by the imagination of interpretation.  There can be a verbal description that dresses up the readers imagination of an image. An artist can draw and paint an artistic interpretation as well as a cartoonist can give another visual description. An actor playing the part of a character certainly puts a flesh and blood interpretation with an audible and visual signature on the look and sound of the character. A wood carver can offer another creative interpretation as the action of the cutting tool sculpts another interpretation.

Such is the case with this carving of Gandalf, who comes to life in the Hobbit books, the movie version with actor Ian McKellum and the artist’s  interpretation of cartoonist Tom Richmond. Tom Richmond gave permission to use his drawing of Gandalf for this carving project. He is a cartoonist for MAD Magazine and his blog at: http://www.tomrichmond.com/blog/      offers a wealth of creative information in the art of caricature.

The carving project of Gandalf began by carving a bust version comparing with Tom Richmond’s permission given drawing of Gandalf. The bust version was a learning exercise to guide in the carving of a full figured Gandalf. Every carving project is a learning experience to be a stepping stone for the next carving project. It is helpful to carve a second version of a project having learned from carving the first version. “The more one carves the better one carves,”  is a rule of carving that is proven with every new carving.

The bust of Gandalf demonstrates the carving of the hat, head, face, beard and mustache which are the central features of any carving.  The first two photographs are of the first version of Gandalf as a study  bust while the last two are of the second version of the bust on the full figured Gandalf.


Designing the full figure of Gandalf required choosing what he would be holding in each hand as well as the posture of his pose. In one hand he is holding the twisted root staff and in the other hand a lantern.





Notice in the front view the enlongated “S” flowing line that begins with the point of his hat, travels down his slightly turned face, following the flow of mustache and beard and continues the path of the flow of his robe. Notice also how part of his beard wraps around the walking staff and the robe wraps around the lower portion of the walking staff. These are subtle designs that give a sense of movement as well as an overall athestic appearance.

The full figure is  carved out of a six inch tall by an inch and half square block of basswood and finished with artist oil paint and boiled linseed oil. Carving was done with a knife in the Whittle-Carving style of various slicing knife cuts using a scimitar blade shape.

The next series of photographs shows the versatility of the scimitar blade as it slices in tight areas and can come into the cut from various angles.




The next series of eight photographs shows the three cut triangle chip cut to form the eye mound in preparation for carving in the eye lids and eye ball. (For a tutorial on carving the eye, go to Cool Links  and click on Face  Eye Study.)





The next four photographs show the three cut triangle chip cut at the juncture of the nose nostril, smile line and top of mouth mound.



The final four photographs are a study of facial features in the close up views of the face.



So what does Gandalf look like? It is like the story of a little boy drawing a picture and when teacher asked what he was drawing he said, “A picture of God.”   The teacher said, “nobody knows what God looks like.”   To which the boy said, “They will now!”

With tongue in cheek it can be said, “Now we know what Gandalf looks like.”   (Only in this carver’s interpretation.)

This entry was posted on Sunday, May 15th, 2011 at 2:01 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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