Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Tutorials

Skull Study        Skull Study

Every carving project is a learning experience of learning about the subject being carved as well as the creative process to do the actual carving.  Carving a skull out of a basswood egg contains several lessons for carving the human face.  Wait a minute, the skull is bone and how does carving a skull teach about the human face which is muscle and skin?  The lesson is that the skull is the foundation and form which molds and shapes the muscle and skin to cover the bone skull.

Carving a representation of the skull is a lesson in and of itself to learn the basic form of what is behind the detail of the muscles and skin of the face.  Most important is to learn the form of the bone structure of the skull so as to not carve “flat” faces.  Studying the various views of a skull model will show the shape, angles and planes of the facial structure.   The eyebrow bone structure forms the protective area for the soft tissue of the eyes to fit in the eye sockets.  The horse shoe curvatures of the chin bone and jaw bone as well as the dental curve are very prominent on the skull as a foundation and form for the flesh covering of the mouth, lips, smile line and chin.  Studying the cheek bone (zygomatic bone) of the skull and the area underneath helps to understand the hollow of the cheek as well as the side of the mouth when covered with flesh. (click on photos to enlarge.)

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The shape and form of the skull fits within the overall shape of a basswood egg with the small part of the egg being the location for the dental curve and the larger part of the egg being the location of the top of the skull.

The first step is to draw a vertical center line down the front and back of the egg with the larger end of the egg being the top.  The second step is to draw two horizontal lines dividing the length of the egg into three proportions.  Next, draw a vertical center line down each side of the egg stopping at the second horizontal line.  The vertical center lines helps to keep a balance of symmetry during the carving to form stage.  The space between the horizontal lines indicates the space between the eyebrow bone structure and the bottom of the nose and cheek bones. The smaller end of the egg or the bottom third of the egg is the location for the dental curve and jaw bone.

Illustration # 1 (below) shows the basswood egg with lines drawn as in B to be compared with A and C and D.  A represents the completed carved skull while C the skull is beginning to be shaped and D is the progress of carving to basic form.

Illustration # 2 (below) shows the side view while Illustration # 3 shows the back view. Illustration # 4 shows the three progressive stages of the carving process for beginning shaping, progressive shaping and completed carving of skull.

The skull was shaped with a knife using “slice and roll” cuts for the basic shaping.  Whenever an opening was required either a notch cut of two slicing angle cuts that meet at the bottom of the first cut to form a ditch or trough was used for a stair step opening and a three cut triangular cut was used to create a hole for the continuation of shaping a larger opening.  The “how to” part is simply try to do it and learn by doing.  Continue to refer to the “skull model” photos to guide the carving design of a skull. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

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After carving one skull it is encouraged to carve another because what is learned in carving the first one will guide in the carving of the second skull.  The end result of this carving exercise is a carved skull that has taught the carver to see “under the skin” the foundation for the human face.  The skull becomes a teacher of learning to carve faces to basic form with a good foundation before ever attempting to carve the details of the face.  All carving is ninety five percent carving to basic form and only five percent the final detail carving.  Let the skull teach how to carve faces that look like faces.






This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 at 1:08 pm 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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