Thursday, April 28, 2011

"a Hunter's cane" --carving the leaves and deer

After transferring my design to the basswood, I started carving by using a #11 veiner to outline the leaves and deer. I then remove the background using a #3 and use different knives to start shaping and undercutting. I use #9s and #11s to add some shape to the leaves. At this point, I am only leaving the central stem of the leaf and will either burn the other veins or possibly use a burnishing tool.

I use a blue stone and a ruby bit to sand out some of the areas in the leaves. I start the same process of carving on the deer, since it is a key element to the design and I want it to look point in continuing until/unless I get it! I usually carve with a detail knife I made and then use the flex shaft to make smooth shapes and transistions. I'm trying to define the shapes and levels of the different parts of the deer...trying to give the illusion of depth. A lot of carving is about creating shadows, to fool the eye with what you see and what you imagine you see. It's kinda cool the effects carvers can get in really shallow carvings....look at a coin and the details an engraver can get in such a flat area! The carvings so far on this cane are less than 1/4" in depth, but still create the illusion being deeper.

A tool that made a tremendous difference in the appearance of my carvings is the flex shaft tool and those bristle sanding disks! You can see the difference between the top carving and the others after I used the disk to soften the carved portions. These disks really seem to make wrinkles and folds more life-like by smoothing out some of carved areas. I really love the effect it gives.

I have the deer pretty much as I want it at this point, although I will probably refine it further after I have had a chance to stare at it for a few more days. I am starting the same process with the fish that will be on the rear of the cane.

I steamed and bent a piece of birch and glued it on the end of the handle as a butt plate. I didn't like the look of the veins showing where I cut the antler off. I had considered using some copper sheeting, but the birch tied in better with what the customer was wanting.

Thanks for looking! More to come!

Monday, April 25, 2011

"a Hunter's cane" --design

I have been exchanging emails for several months with a lady regarding a cane design for her father. Her father has hunted extensively and has strong connections to Minnesota and Colorado. I had some ideas for a design and we refined those ideas over several months. The lady wanted to use wood from Minnesota and Colorado for the cane and for it to have hunting themes and connections to places important to her father. This is to be a gift to her father from her and her brothers for this Father's Day.

I like try and create a connection for people to the canes I make for them... I want the person giving it and the person recieving it to all feel a connection to what I have created, to have it represent something important to them, to visually represent their ideas, and be an investment of their time and thought as well as mine. I had several thoughts that will make this a special cane. The design itself is loosely based on the state quarters for Minnesota and Colorado, showing mounatins and lakes for the respective states. The deer represents hunting and the walleye is for fishing. The oak leaves are traditional designs found on gunstocks and remind you of the leaves of autumn, a season for hunting. I wanted to use an antler for a really dramatic handle and then I had a great idea! This antler came from her father's property in Colorado and they sent a piece of aspen they cut for the shaft. They also sent a small piece of birch from a favorite hunting cabin in Minnesota. When their father holds this cane, when they all look at this cane, they will each feel that connection to each other, the connection to places and things they all love, and they will know that each of them played a part in the design and creation of this cane.

This is the actual sketch that I drew as a template. I used basswood from Minnesota for the carved portion and I wrapped paper around it to get the actual size of the area that I would have for my design. It helps me to do it like this because I can then wrap my drawing around the cane to get a better idea of how it will actually look when carved. It can be challenging to get your elements large enough to be recognizable and stll make sense when wrapped around the cylindrical shaft of a cane.... you only see certain portions of the design when you are looking at the has to be rotated in your hand to see the whole thing! So that is the reason the fish is divided.

The shaft was turned from the aspen and has finally dried out enough to be usable, I used small pieces of the birch for the spacer between the shaft and carved portion and I also steamed and bent a piece to be glued on as a butt plate on the handle. I will post additional pictures as I get some more completed. Thanks for looking!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Traditional Dancer"

                                                                                                                                                                      Here is my completed powwow-dancer, a Traditional style dancer. Most carvings I see of Native Americans always have a stoic expression, so I wanted to try something with a smile, an expression of happiness. Dancing has a spiritual aspect but also is a lot of fun for spectators and the dancers. The costumes, the various styles, the movements, and sounds all seemed fascinating as a subject for a carving. I hope I have captured some of the spirit and pageantry of the dance.

He stands 13 inches tall and about 7 inches wide and is carved from basswood. He is decorated with acrylic paint, brass nails, wire brads, and various separately carved attachments and feathers. You can find additional pictures here:

Pretty much every technique in carving, painting, and decoration on this carving is something that I learned from Lynn Doughty. Some of the beading is based on several of his recent Native American carvings and even the base is based on his methods. I hope I have shown some measure of originality, but there is no escaping the influence Lynn has had on many carvers by generously sharing his methods and thoughts on design. Thanks for looking!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pow-wow Dancer ---painting in progress

I have been painting on this guy for about a week and still haven't got him finished! There are a lot of little details and it just seems to take a while. I hate not to be carving, but I really don't mind the painting that much, at least not like some carvers do! It can really add to a good carving, depending on the subject or style of the carving and I learned to draw and paint a long time before I started carving. I use different painting techniques, but I'll describe part of the process I used on this one. After carving and burning, I dip the carving in a bucket of water and then start painting with thinned artist acrylic paints. The damp wood gives you an idea of how the piece will look with a finish applied, can keep paint from bleeding into unwanted areas, and also aids in the blending of a more washed-out water color effect.... I like the wood to show through in certain areas. Too much paint or finish can give it a plastic look.

I mixed brown, yellow, and red and thinned it for the flesh color, using thinned brown paint to create shadows. I watered down some black to give his scalp a "5 o'clock" shadow where his head is shaved. The warpaint and eyes were all painted after it had dried out, because I wasn't trying to blend any large areas, such as the skin and the pants. All of the bead-work areas were first painted with gesso, to make the colors brighter, before painting first with white and then painting different sections other colors. I am trying to paint all the areas that I won't be able to reach when I add some of the attachments like the shield and the fan in the back. It is easier to complete some sections without all those delicate pieces stuck on! If I have any mistakes, I either paint over them or carve it away and repaint. When I have it as I like it, I put a heavy coat of fresh polyurethane over the entire piece and let it soak in for a few minutes. I remove any excess with a paper towel. I don't want a heavy shiny coat sitting on top of the wood, so I wipe off what hasn't soaked in. This protects the carving with a durable finish and really makes the colors vibrant. I buy the smallest cans of satin polyurethane so that it is always fresh and thin, which absorbs better into the wood rather than sitting on top.

I'll be painting and finishing all the attachments separately before attaching them with either wood glue or CA glue. I hope to finish him this weekend and have the finished project posted soon. Thanks for looking!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pow-wow Dancer - burning the details

I used to do woodburning with a single temperature pen, similar to a soldering iron, that I purchased at a hobby store. I had some success with it and you can create some nice stuff with it, but that is probably due more to the talent of the user than the quality of the tool! Pyrographis technology has improved since then and after a lot of reading, I decided to spend $130 on a variable temperature unit with a replaceable tip pen. Wow! Tremendous difference, like going from crayons to pen and ink! The details and effects you can get with just a few tips is pretty amazing.

On some pieces, I use it for a lot of shading and other purposes. But for caricatures, I use it to outline areas to prevent paint from bleeding and also as a "hot" knife. I can burn fine lines and patterns like the beaded areas and the veins on the feathers with more detail and definition than I can with gouges or knives.

Even though they will be painted over, you will still see the subtle patterns beneath the paint. I need to finish up a few details, like straps and such, and may add some ermine tails and a medicine bag, before I start putting the paint on.

Hopefully, I can get started painting him this weekend! Thanks for looking!