Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Tutorials


The WOOD BEE CARVER has used the concept of “proportions” as a way to envision the design of a carving project.  The RULE OF THREE has been the primary guide for facial features and body pose by dividing areas of consideration into three equal proportions.  Proportional measuring is a combination of “eye and brain” working together that will apply to any size of a carving project.  The photo below is a visual study guide for the male figure as an example to be applied to any male figure.




Rule of Thumb rules of applying known proportions will fit into the Rule of Three diagram in the photo.  Such Rule of Thumb rules have developed over years of comparative observations that are easily remembered and then applied during the design and carving process.

The length of the arm is an example.  The arm hanging at the side of the male body will end with the hands being in line with the crotch.  An arm that is bent uses the rule that the distance from shoulder to elbow equals the distance from elbow to the first row of knuckles of the hand.  The elbow is located slightly above the waist line of a male figure.

Legs have a similar proportional guideline in that the distance between the waist and the mid-knees is equal to the distance between mid-knees and bottom of feet. Knowing this proportional divide helps when designing a sitting figure in that the figure bends at the waist and the knees using the same proportional guideline for legs.

Hands also have proportional features to consider and understand.  There are four sections to the hand ~ wrist to first row of knuckles; first row of knuckles to second row of knuckles; second row of knuckles to third row of knuckles and third row of knuckles to end of fingers.

An exercise to figure out a proportional guide for hand and fingers is to place hand flat on table top.  Between wrist and first row of knuckles, use other hand and lay FOUR fingers across that area of the hand. Next, between first knuckles and second row of knuckles lay THREE fingers across that area. Next, between second rose of knuckles and third row of knuckles lay TWO fingers across that area. Finally, lay ONE finger across the area below the third row of knuckles and end of finger. So, there you have an approximate length between those divisions of the hand of 4 ~ 3 ~ 2 ~ 1 to mentally envision the proportions.

Of course, each finger is of a different length, so there is a slight adjustment to each individual finger.  In addition, the wrist and knuckles act like a hinge so that the hand has planes and angles.

Lay hand flat on table top again to notice the position of the thumb to the hand.  The second knuckle of the thumb is in line with the first row of knuckles of the hand.  End of thumb is in line with the second row of knuckles.

All this information guides the eye and mind to lay out the design for carving a hand in its various positions.

An exercise to visually see the Rule of Three for Facial Proportions is to stand in front of a mirror looking at your face.  Now take you right hand, open it up and place four fingers across your forehead.  The four fingers should indicate the first third division which is hairline to eyebrow.  Now place you left hand over your eyebrows and nose which is the second division of eyebrow to tip of nose. Next, move right hand down below the tip of nose to cover the mouth area which is the third division of tip of nose to bottom of chin.  This exercise shows the proportions of the length of the face is equal to three hands tall.  Now, place both open hands together at the edge of the little fingers and side of the palm.  Now raise the together hands up to vertically cover you face and this will demonstrate that the width of the face is two hands wide.

The area between the tip of nose and bottom of chin can be divided proportionately into thirds = nose to top line of upper lip is one third; top of upper lip to groove between bottom lip and chin is one third and from groove to bottom of chin is a third.  This means that the lips are in the top half of the middle third. It also means that between the nose and top of upper lip is the area where the mustache is located.  If it is a bushy mustache that droops down into the middle third, then the bottom lip will be up under the dropping mustache. An indention would be carved up under the mustache to suggest that there is a mouth up under the mustache.  It is a little funny to see a carving that did not apply this proportional rule for the mustache in which there is carved a bushy mustache with a bottom lip carved that is in position of where the chin should be as is often seen in some Santa carvings.  It gives the appearance that something is out of proportion and of course it is.  Proportions play a big role in making the design not stand out like a sore thumb.

Proportionally, the ears are located on the back half of the head. The top of ear is in line with the eyebrows and the bottom of ear is in line with the tip of the nose. The length of the face is three equal proportions and the width of the face is equal to two of those proportions or three thirds long proportionally and two thirds wide.  Knowing the width proportions help when laying out a face on a walking stick or cotton wood bark where the width is narrow.  Simply divide the available space in half which will give the proportion of one third of the two thirds of the width of a face.  Then add two equal thirds to the one third proportion to make the length of the face known.

Thinking proportionally will help the artist to become more observant in order to guide imagination to see a more correct form and shape so that there is an even flow to the design of the carving.  Imagination is what guides the carving process and if it can be imagined, it can be.




This entry was posted on Monday, March 15th, 2021 at 10:18 am and is filed under 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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