Monday, January 31, 2011

Carving Thunderbolt----Head finished!

I got the head finished and glued on this weekend! It turned out ok…ears may be a bit long?
You may notice that the ears are slightly darker…...they were soaked with the thin CA glue after carving, to strengthen this delicate area. Pretty sturdy now. Carving is “subtractive-sculpture” in that you take away wood to create. And a lot of what you “see” is what is also the negative spaces created. The shadows that are created give depth and create illusions of bone, nostrils, and facial planes.
         I drilled a 1/8” hole in the bottom of the head, positioned it at the angle I wanted, and then glued it up using a piece of old inner-tube as a clamp. And here is the piece after the glue line has been carved and sanded. You can barely see it in certain areas now, but the edge if the blanket and normally the mane are used to disguise it usually. It will be completely invisibile after applying gesso and paint. I felt like the mane didn’t quite come down far enough to the saddle, so I carved and added an additional piece to the mane at the bottom…..I’m still looking at it and will probably re-carve or re-move that piece.
      Here is how it is looking over-all…should be getting the tail on next. I have a lot completed, but there remains quite a bit…....the base, the mechanism for movement, the hat, paint, and finish. And whatever else I decide to change, remove, or add! But I am enjoying the process, despite my protests!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Carving "Thunderbolt" -Saddle completed and starting the head

Finished the simple details on the saddle and have the horn stuck in place temporarily. It may need to be cut down a bit more. I would normally do the stirrups, but you can’t see many saddle details when the rider is mounted.

I used a stoning technique on the cowboy’s chaps to try and give the effect of angora or goat-skin chaps….may need to do it a bit heavier. “Stoning” is a process of using a dremel or other rotary tool with an abrasive wheel or cylinder and using just the edge to create a more realistic fur or hair look by making little squiggles and overlapping groups of hair. I use a process that I was shown, where you deliberately bend the shaft of the burr, so that it wobbles randomly at a slow speed, and creates more randomness in the hair. Takes a little practice, but looks good.

I have cut out my blank for the head a little over-sized and with the neck a little long, so they can be adjusted as necessary. I think I will do more of a flowing mane. You can see some of the starting cuts used to rough out the basic planes and shapes. I use a utility knife for a lot of this.

I like the sharp and slightly flexible blades of this knife and it is really surprising what you can do with it, after a little practice. You have some advantages when using multiple pieces of wood for a carving, in addition to strength. It makes it very easy to modify your design for the best look. I can leave the head straight as shown above, or I can turn it slightly to make the carving more interesting. With the head turned it looks like the rider may be trying to turn him, or the horse is trying to reach back and bite the little fellow! You might give me more points for technical difficulty, if I carved it from a single block of wood, but I feel that you actually have more creative freedom when you are not limited by the physical constraints of the grain and sometimes even the size of the wood. I am more concerned about the appearance and the strength and longevity of the piece, than the methods.

Thanks for looking

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Carving "Thunderbolt" :Finishing up the legs and muscles

He’s starting to look like a horse now, with the muscle groups indicated. I spent quite a bit of time getting the spacing better between the legs and defining the groups of muscles around the legs. A technique I like is to carve the lines and then to sand them so that you get a flowing muscle look instead of something defined by a line cut into the surface. I like to use my veiners for this and then carve or sand the edges back up to the center. Here are a few pictures.

When carving different things, it is sometimes helpful to have a model or something to “go by” as an example. I sometimes do clay or other types of models to work out my designs and I metioned before about researching and gathering pictures. But it can also be helpful to have a 3 dimensional example. I have a small plastic horse that I have used before in other carvings, just a toy, but with enough realistic features to really be quite helpful. You can find quite realistic toys of all sorts of animals that can be very helpful in carving.

When I completed the muscles, I started blocking out the saddle. It is very important to my design to have movement in the legs of the rider, so it is more critical to get him seated properly before working much on the saddle. You will not really see many details of the saddle when he is riding and I probably won’t even carve stirrups. Real bronc busters don’t use stirrups! I had to carve quite a bit away on the sides to get his legs to swinging. You can see the dowel in the picture above that will attach him to the saddle. Here is a picture of how he is sitting so far.

Now that I have him sitting properly, I can finish the saddle and blankets and such, before worrying about attaching the head. Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Carving "Thunderbolt" - carving the horse

I found some images for mechanical horses and blowing one up to full 8×10 size appears to be proportioned correctly for my carving. I am using Lynn Doughty’s carving technique for horses. Basically the horse is made of several separate pieces of wood so that the grain can be properly oriented to strengthen delicate areas. And it also makes certain areas easier to carve! The grain in this piece is running from front to back because the legs are extended rather than being in a standing posistion. The body is actually two separate pieces with dowels joing the planed surface of the boards. This allows you to cut the profiles with legs in different positions. And it makes it much easier to carve the insides of the legs and hooves when you are carving them as separate sides. The legs and particularly the hooves are very delicate, because the grain is quite short in that area. I will complete carving the legs before gluing the two pieces together to finish carving the body and saddle. The body and the head will be separate pieces with the grain running vertically, but the techniques used for painting and finishing will hide any joint lines, plus basswood doesn’t have very distinctive grain patterns anyway. More to come!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Carving "Thunderbolt"

I have had an interest in automata (A self-operating machine or mechanism) since making a limberjack machine a few years ago. I have wanted to create a machine that incorporated caricatures that I carved and that would be fun to look at, an animated toy of sorts. A well-known carver I admire, Lynn Doughty, suggests that you should strive to make your work stand out, to attract attention, and draw people in. So, I felt a carving that moved would be something different, something that makes you want to look closer. Adina Huckins’ jointed dolls also influenced this carving as did Wanda Sowry and her wonderful creations! So the idea that keeps rising up is a little boy dressed up as a cowboy, riding one of the old mechanical horses that used to be found in front of stores for the kids to ride. A crank would be turned to give the little boy his ride on old “Thunderbolt”. So I figured I’d blog the process a little bit.

I completed the head several months ago and have spent the time trying to figure out how to do the joints.

I have decided (at least at this date) to use dowel and pin joints. The little groove on the ends allows 360 degree rotation when held in place with a simple pin. I’ll probably restrict the movement to less than that, but this design allows me to get the arm and head placement exactly at the angle that looks best. The waist and legs are simple joints that will allow movement back and forth, as the horse moves.

Here is the progress on the cowboy so far. I am starting the process of carving the horse, so I can get him seated properly in the saddle. I’ll post some pictures of that process next time.

Thanks for looking!