Posted by: woodbeecarver   in CCA Related, Tutorials

JESSE of the animated movie Toy Story series is an animated cartoon character.  Carving  JESSE as a caricature of a cartoon character is a reversal of what is commonly understood about caricatures.  A caricature is an exaggeration of realism that sometimes appears to be almost a cartoon interpretation of the real thing.  Caricatures and cartoons are separate forms of art and interpretations while having similar characteristics.  Caricature carvers often will study cartoon drawing as reference for exaggerating a realistic human face and figure.  Sometimes a caricature carving will tell a cartoon like story in its visual appearance.  That said, a caricature is still a caricature and a cartoon is still a cartoon standing on their own merits.

A caricature carving is intentionally designed and carved to be a caricature  in order to emulate a humorous visual story.  A caricature is never a carving that has turned out bad, thus making it a caricature as is so often said by an amateur carver who says, “If this carving does not turn out to be a realistic cowboy at least it can be a caricature cowboy.”  A bad carving does not make a caricature even though a poorly designed and carved caricature can become a bad carving.

A caricature is determined by either its style or theme.  Andy Anderson, Emil Janel and Harold Enlow wrote the book, so to speak , on a style in  caricature carvings inspiring carvers to learn a style of caricature carving.   But within that style of caricature carving there developed the theme of caricature carving which has branched out into many other styles of caricature carving.   Some caricature carvings are very exaggerated while others are very subtle in their caricaturization, thus remaining true to the theme more than the style of certain types of caricature carving.

  The Caricature Carvers  of America  came into existence in 1990  for the purpose of advancing Caricature Carving as a unique art form and to encourage through its members’ seminars, projects, books and competitions a greater appreciation for caricature carving while inspiring other carvers to learn to carve caricatures.

The JESSE CARICATURE carving that is the subject of this posting becomes a learning guide through the process of a cartoon character idea becoming an interpretation for a carved caricature that shares some of the same look alike features of the original Jesse.  Jesse’s story  can guide any carver in any  carving subject that will be chosen to exaggerate the original.

What  the subject looks like is the first step in the planning process.  One handy resource is the search box on the computer be it Google, Bing, Yahoo or any of the other search engines.  Simply type in the search box the subject, in this case “Jesse of Toy Story Images”  (always add the word “Images”  to the search).  Among the many sites that come up will be one that has four to six thumbnail photos of the image requested.  Clicking on that site will bring up many, many more thumbnail images from which to pick and choose the ones that will aid in the research for suitable images.  Some of the images can be saved in the computer picture file for future reference and study keeping in mind the copyright  use of such images.

Studying those images as well as any from books, magazines or memory is the next step in the process as the carver studies in the studio of the sub conscious how to turn those images into a caricature carving.  The point is not to copy an image as if the carver was a copy machine.   Rather the point is to incorporate some aspects of the various images into a design of the imagination to be the guide for opening up the block of wood.  During the carving process of shaping the wood into the basic form of the imagined design there will be subtle design changes resulting in an even better design than first envisioned.  No short cuts in this study, research and imagination process since this step is what guides and inspires the carver through  the roughing out stage.


The carving begins as a twelve inch tall by two inches by three inches block of basswood depicted in the photograph at the left with its base outlined with knife notch cuts and a Helvie knife leaning up against it.  The next two photographs show the front and back view of the basic form of Jesse being carved.  The photograph of the right is the completed carving painted and another Helvie knife leaning against the carving.  The knives in the pictures are to indicate that this was a carving in the Whittle-Carving style.

It was during the carving to basic form within the block of wood that a common experience once again made itself known.  Even though the WOOD BEE CARVER  has been carving for almost forty years, yet in almost every carving project there comes the point of experiencing  an“agony” that says “this carving will not turn out;  it is a mess;  how are you going to rescue anything from this?”  and other word feelings to that effect.   Having such feelings occurring so often caused me to coin the instructional phrase, “Woodcarving is Agony and Ecstasy, but Ecstasy always follows the Agony.”  It is in this “Agony” stage that the carver’s sub conscious creative side begins to work on the carving process to guide the carver into the next stage of “Ecstasy” in which the carving really begins to take shape and often a better shape than ever thought possible.

Next to having a good mental image in mind to guide the carving process, is carving to the basic form of that mental  image.  Basic form is the silhouette image, the form without detail and the overall outline as a bulky mass.  The basic form is necessary in order to lay a good foundation into which the details can be carved.  Carving details in too soon will distort the form and ruin the carving.  Carving to form is ninety five per cent of the carving process with the last five per cent being the carving in of the details.  Carving to form is like baking a cake and carving detail is putting the icing on the cake.  Putting icing on a half baked cake is the same as carving details before the proper form is established. 

The next series of photographs will show areas of the carved to form subject that are carved to their own basic form.  Photographs that follow will show those same areas with  detailed carving finishing up those areas.
















The four photographs above show four views of the completed and painted carving of Jesse.  The coloring motif and design of her outfit were determined by studying the original images of the animated cartoon character of Jesse.  Instead of yarn hair, the caricature Jesse has hair carved to look like human hair.  Instead of a cartoon drawn face, the caricature Jesse has a carved caricature female face.  The pose of caricature Jesse carries through the visual trail of a curving and elongated “S” shape.  The casual left thumb hooked into the belt line of her jeans portrays a relaxed cowgirl.   The next series of photographs will be close ups of the face and hair treatment of Jesse.






The embroidery design of the shirt and cuffs were wood burned.  Painting was done with artist oil paints and boiled linseed oil except for the white areas. The white of the chaps and shirt as well as the white of the eyes is acrylic paint applied before the base coat.   A base coat of raw sienna color mixed with boiled linseed oil was the base coat put on over the entire carving.  The other colors were thinned with boiled linseed oil and put on top of the still wet base coat.  The face and hands received only the base coat color to indicated that this is a wood carving with no attempt to do flesh coloring.  A coat of  Deft, a brushing lacquer, is applied after the paint has dried after a couple of days.

Little things mean a lot especially in a carving project.  The steer head carved into the belt buckle is a small thing and yet it stands out like a cherry on the top of an ice cream sundae.  In any carving the first thing the eye sees is the face.  That is why in a caricature carving the head and face will be exaggerated in size with more attention given to the carved details of the face.  Next, the eyes of the viewer will follow any curving, snaking and “S” shape lines to see where they will take the viewer.  Color plays a role as does the overall all pose of the posture of the figure.  And finally the eyes will discover the little things  like undercutting where two divergent areas meet to create a shadow like the separation of the shirt from the jeans at the belt line, the separation of the wrist from the cuff and that little detail of a steer head on the belt buckle.

Caricature carving like cartooning is an interpretation to tell a story of humor, irony, amusement and art appreciation with a style of its own. 

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 28th, 2011 at 4:35 pm and is filed under CCA Related, Tutorials. 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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