My task was to make a rather different wedding present. The young couple looked around what I rather laughingly call a gallery; my basement with 40 years of carvings on display along with some normal DIY junk. They chose to have two carved sitting figures – ‘portraits’ of themselves in walking gear. Portraits in that the body shapes will be theirs but not with faces. At the scale I am carving the head is about 3cm high whereas the real head is about 21cm, so a 1 to 7 ratio. 1 mm off say the nose on the carving would be the equivalent of 7 of an actual nose which would be very noticeable.

The wood is holly and is from the log I had had drying for some time. It has been cut so that I can get both carving out of one log

Before I got too enthusiastic about removing wood, I made a 3D model in Plasticine of both figures. My thoughts are that a Plasticine model should only be sufficient to solve the problem to hand. If another problem occurs then the model can be worked on again until that problem is solved. There is no point producing a beautiful model that no one is going to see especially if it does not solve problems.

The next stage was to transfer the measurements to the wood and start carving. There is a problem of ‘as soon as you carve, you have cut away the lines you are working to’. I carved in some baselines from which all others can be measured in the waste wood under the figures so that they will not affect the finished work.  Below is the male figure roughed out. The shape is there, and everything is in the right place but oversized.

I switched back to the female figure and got it to a ‘ just before carving the clothing’ stage.  I hope that you can see that the figure is almost down to size and the wood for the rucksack has been defined. I got the male to the same stage before I went any further with the female. This follows a good artist practice of keeping all the work to the same point in its development. Most painters do not start in one corner and finish that before they do anything to the rest of the painting.

Below is the male figure nearer to completion. The clothing has been defined, and a bit of movement has been put into the feet as if he was swinging his feet whilst sitting on something where they did not reach the ground. The groom’s rucksack is so different from mine that I had to seek advice from a local outdoors shop Mountain Wild in Hebden Bridge They have kindly explained the differences in construction and let me take photos and even compare a plasticine model of the side pocket with an actual. Sculptors have to get used to asking the strangest of questions.

Finally the figures were cleaned up and removed from the block. To make them more interesting, I have put movement into the feet and legs, varied the types of clothing especially the gaiters, and gone to town on the rucksacks as otherwise, the back view could look rather uninteresting.

If you are interested in wood carving you may want to look at the Lancashire and Cheshire Woodcarvers site 

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