Friday, 21 December 2012

Mick Doohan, my first in-the-round carving.

This was my first fully in-the-round 3D carving, as opposed to the relief carvings I had done up until this point.

This is Mick Doohan on a '91 Honda NSR500 in classic Rothmans colours which is, in my humble opinion, one of the best paint jobs ever seen on a race bike. Mick had to climb over the front of the bike to get as much weight over the front as possible to help it steer as the Honda at the time was well known for wanting to go in a straight line. The Suzuki 500 and especially the Yamaha 500 were know for their handling but the Honda was the fastest but just didn't want to handle. This shaped the way Mick rode and produced that iconic style of his, having to muscle his bike into doing what he wanted it to do.

This was my first attempt at a realistic figure and didn't work too well. This is where I first came across all the considerations of carving in the round and the pitfalls and complications of juggling all the elements together. It is tough, but it is also so rewarding. As it was carved in pine wood, there isn't a great deal of detail but in my defence I never knew how it was going to end up or how far I could go with it. I was pleased at the time though. The painting of it with acrylic paint hid a lot of the shortcomings of the carving.

Most people who saw it at the time had no idea it was carved in wood or that I had even made it! They thought it was a cast object and that I'd bought it.

You don't have to look too hard to see how rough around the edges it is. After this, I used Lime for the next bikes and it made such a difference. This pictures below are of the next bike carving I did, Eddie Lawson on the Cagiva C591 carved in Lime and you can see how much tidier and crisper the carving is, especially in the out of the way places.

These pictures illustrate the different riding styles of Eddie and Mick.


 This was carved in Pine wood, which I think isn't good wood to carve with. It doesn't hold detail very well, it is very hard to get tight straight lines as the different qualities of the dark and light grain of the wood makes it hard to cut accurately.

 The darker element of the wood is very hard and the grain can change direction around it so you can be carving a line and all of a sudden, what was going with the grain suddenly changes and becomes against the grain and so the wood tears. You then have to recut the wood to get rid of the tear. This can cause problems especially if you are doing a relief carving as you'll have to go over a lot of the carving again to get an even depth over the surface, and the more you recarve to even off the surface, the more opportunities the wood has to misbehave and change direction on you again.

  This may not be too important unless you are doing a piece where accuracy and clean surfaces are important. If you're going to paint it, it may be possible to use filler to hid some of the inconsistencies.

You can see how simple the carving of the Mick Doohan is and how the painting of it hid how simple it is. You can compare it to the Eddie Lawson pictures above and see how much better Lime is for details and crispness. It is also a much nicer looking wood and could be left unpainted and oiled whereas the Pine Mick Doohan carving doesn't really work without the paint. The great Rothmans paint scheme definitely helps raise the finished look of it as well.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Tiger Bed

This was my first piece of furniture, the Tiger Bed. Carved in Pine, which isn't very good wood to carve with, and constructed in a style not too dissimilar to beds found in ancient Egypt.

The layout is much simpler than the Lion bed (see right hand menu). It was painted mainly with woodstains but I used oil paint for the nose and teeth.

Here are some pictures during the later stages of construction. These pictures are before the bed had been waxed.

 Here is the finished bed in the bedroom along with a chest of drawers that accompanied it.

This is the accompanying chest of drawers, again constructed and relief-carved in Pine.

The Tiger, prior to being captured!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Chris Boardman Lotus Type 108: the carving

Although there aren't too many elements to this particular bicycle, it's the delicacy of the carving that made it trickier than I'd anticipated.I hadn't carved anything that was as fragile all over as this before. There is always a brief period as I begin a carving where, because working to individual commissions I usually haven't carved the subject before, I have to figure out how to deconstruct the block down to the subject matter in a way that safeguards all the details and fragile elements I've planned without getting too lost or making fatal mistakes.
  It dawned on me very soon after starting this carving that it was going to get very fragile very quickly and would be impossible to sand smooth unless I approached it systematically. The answer was to carve it from the top down so the bottom of the block was nice and thick and supported the delicate carving as it unfolded. The carving would have to be sanded smooth with details already finished before much of the lower parts had got going.
  This isn't how I'd usually finish a piece as sometimes I'd make a breakthrough with a detail or with a particular element on a carving which would take the carving to a level I hadn't thought I could achieve. Now the whole carving would need to come up to that level in order to not let the breakthrough show up the rest as being not so well developed. I try to make sure that all of the carving works at the same level. A consistent level of finish throughout a piece helps it to stand in it's own space, hold a consistent reality within itself and work as a sculpture.
        I couldn't do that with this piece as by the time the carving has finally revealed itself, it was too delicate to change anything.

Here is the beginning. The block of Pear wood with the technical drawing on the side and the basic outline cut. Pear is lovely wood to carve, much like Lime in that it can hold fine details and has an even grain and isn't too prone to fracturing or crumbling. It is also quite creamy; that's the best way I can think to describe it. It's harder than Lime but there is a very satisfying feel to cutting through it, it behaves well and looks beautiful when it's just been cut.

The saddle had to be finished first, with the detailing underneath complete before the stalk could be thinned down. So far the profile has been refined and the rear wheel has been somewhat thinned but not too much yet, as force has still to be applied higher up and it would break low down on the wheel if it was too thin.

Here, the saddle has nearly been finished and the handlebars have been approximately picked out. The rear wheel is also much slimmer as less force will be acting through it from work above. Also beginning to thin the front wheel.

Now the saddle has been pretty much finished so the saddle stalk can be thinned out and the body/chassis of the bike can be refined and sanded. The back wheel can proceed further as less force will act through it and the front wheel retains enough thickness to hold the carving together. Starting to come together and the beginnings of how it will look are starting to appear.

You may notice the little tongue of wood connecting the pedal to the back of the front wheel. This is to protect the pedal from breaking off while it's being worked on. You'll notice more of these on other carving-in-progress photographs on this blog. These little tongues don't come off until the last possible moment when you have pretty much finished the carving and have only to finish carving the edge of the pedal before final sanding and oiling.

Here you can see, top left, the edge of the veneered lettering which also had to be applied before finishing. You can see how unfinished the front wheel still is in this picture.
 And so, to the finished carving....The Lotus Sport Type 108 ridden by Chris Boardman to win the individual pursuit Gold Medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Finished with Danish oil and inlaid with Maple veneer. Mounted on a Sycamore base. 31cm in length.

I think you can see now what I mean by delicate.

So there you have it. Ridiculously delicate, will actually break if leaned over too far but delicate pieces like this are definitely carvable if you carefully think through a safe way to proceed. If it is possible in 3 dimensions, then it should be possible to carve it.  

Friday, 21 September 2012

Carving Carl Fogarty

Here are some of the photos of Carl Fogarty's carving from the beginning. You can compare them to the Aaron Slight carving by clicking "carving in progress" on the right hand menu.

I start with a technical drawing taken from photos of the bike. Castrol Honda were kind enough to allow me to photograph their bikes at the press launch and test days and get up close and personal with these extraordinary race bikes. The sound alone of these bikes, ticking over, warming up is amazing. V4 engines are simply the best sound in bike racing in my humble opinion and at the time these were at the cutting edge of V4 race engines on earth. Spine tingling!

 Anyway, I digress. Here is Carl making his very first appearance as a Honda WSB rider. In his hand is my 1 metre measuring stick, which I also used alongside the bikes to make sure that everything on the bikes and the riders is in relative proportion. Carl was distracted that day (hence no smile) by the foul weather scuppering the chance of getting his first ride in anger on the bike and by the constant attentions of the press. This was at the height of "Foggymania", and Carl was the hottest property in bike racing (Mick Doohan had already consolidated his dominance in GP's). Carl had just switched from the all conquering Ducati squad to take on the more temperamental but exquisite Honda RC45. The pressure to do well on the Honda was enormous but it was chucking it down with rain so it wasn't worth the risk going out just to circulate slowly. But Carl wanted to get going!

Asking him to stand around with a stick in his hand wasn't high on his list of things to do that day. He was, though, a gentleman and didn't refuse although I'm not sure he understood my somewhat vague explanation as to why I'd asked him to do it.

Here is one of my reference photos to help get good relative proportions for the bike and rider. Photos like this are very valuable in getting foot length, ankle and wrist thickness', waist and forearm measurements relative to the bike. This is vital for the visual accuracy of the piece.

So from these photos would come the technical drawing which you can see drawn onto the side of the  lime block. That is the Aaron Slight carving in the early stages in the background. On it, you can see how the various elements, wheel and swing arm, exhausts have been whittled down only provisionally. It's vital to make as much space as possible between all the components and the figure but not to cut them so close to final size as to leave the surface vulnerable to tool damage as you dig out all the little spaces in between.

In these photos, you can see that the bike is very well developed in comparison to the figure as I need to know exactly where the handlebars and footrests are in order to locate exactly where the feet and hands are. That way, I can then whittle down the limbs and make space to carry on.

So gradually all the waste wood around the limbs can be removed and the figure begins to come into focus.

This is the last of the development photos. From this point, the figure was finished and all the veneers were applied. It was then sanded smooth with wet and dry paper and finally oiled with Danish oil. Which takes us to the finished carving.....

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

London Olympics

With the Olympics taking place here in London at the moment, I thought this might be a suitable piece to show you, what with the success of the GB team and Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France. This is a commission of the Lotus bicycle that Chris Boardman used to win Gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

 I thought when I started the carving that it wouldn't be too difficult as there weren't too many elements to it but I hadn't carved anything so delicate before and didn't realise that the delicacy was to be the overriding consideration in making the piece. Caved from a single piece of Pear wood and inlaid with Maple, 31cm in length.

I'll post photos shortly, describing all the stages of the carving from a block through to the end.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Carl Fogarty

This is a carving of Carl Fogarty, in Lime, the companion piece of the Aaron Slight carving. Carl, for those viewers among you not familiar with him,is a legend of World Superbike racing, winning 4 World Superbike Championships as well as 3 other world championships and also held the Isle of Man outright lap record for years. I think this commission was due in no small part as a celebration of Carl riding for the team.

 Here they are, together.

You can see the difference in body positioning, as I've written about on a previous post. You may also notice the different shaped brake levers on the handle bars of the two bikes. No much of a difference admittedly but the team would notice these things (Aaron had mangled his little fingers in a crash years before so used a shorter lever so his little fingers wouldn't get snagged on it). When I'm carving identical bikes, these little details do help the sense of achievement and completion when they're handed over.

One detail I was particularly proud of was a shark with spiky teeth, wearing sunglasses,veneered onto the back of Carl's crash helmet. Difficult to see clearly in this photo, but the shark is only about 6-7mm high.

I will post some of the early stages of the Carl Fogarty carving soon.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Leopard desk

Just a quick post. This is one of the accompanying pieces to the Lion bed. The desk isn't finished in these pictures. It was changed after this so that the leopards were painted and carved on the inside as well. The surface depth of the desktop was increased by around 40cm and then the drawers had the eyes and nose of a leopard carved and painted on them quite large so that it looked like a leopard was looking through a letterbox at you. Only a thin slice of the face was portrayed. I don't, unfortunately, have photos of the finished desk.

The desk lived in London initially but I believe it may have ended up in Colorado along with the Lion bed. Carved in Lime.

In the background is another piece, the chest of drawers, also part of the set. I didn't get to decide how it was illustrated or finished and felt it didn't match the rest of the furniture. It has Savannah scenes carved on the front and sides. I think it needed colour or greater depth to work alongside the bed and desk (as well as shelves with golden eagles at each end and a bedside cabinet with meercats on the front). Not one of my favourite pieces.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

More early works

Here are a couple more of my early pieces. The bowl was a commission. It was the first time I'd used veneers, to add a bit of interest to the surface. I'd recently been to Barcelona at the time and was inspired by Gaudi's mosaics.

The grooves around the edge were determined by following the grain of the wood. The veneers followed the grooves. This can be seen more clearly underneath.

The bowl was carved in lime wood and inlaid with various veneers, finished in walnut oil. Approximately 50cm in length.

   The backgammon board followed soon after as I'd wanted to explore veneering some more. There is a much clearer influence from Gaudi in this piece, the central divide having been taken from his chimney designs, the edges were influenced by his balconies and the mosaics again informed the way the veneers were applied.

The board was carved from a piece of Sycamore with a variety of veneers, most notably the yew inlaid in the playing surface.
 It's approximately 55cm in length and finished in Danish oil. It went to Germany. There is also a little curvy box to keep the counters and dice in. I'll post pictures of it soon.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Early days of carving

I first began carving after mentioning to someone that I'd studied sculptor and photography at art college. They were after a series of carvings so I said I would have a go at them. I bought a book on woodcarving,got hold of the chisels the book recommended and got started. The first carvings I did were relief carvings, wall mounted work. Here are some of my first pieces. The dove and the St George were part of that first series, based on 12 words which it was left up to me to interpret.They were among the last of that series and I'd gained some experience of carving by the time I came to do these two.

St. George and the Dragon, from a painting in Gondar, Ethiopia. Carved in Lime wood, approximately 50 cm in height and painted in acrylics.

Dove, carved in Lime wood, approximately 50 cm wide, painted in oils.

King David, taken from a detail of an Ethiopian painting, carved in Lime wood, approximately 10 cm high, painted in acrylics. This went first to the foothills of Kilimanjaro. I think it's in Addis Ababa now.

Taken from paintings on the ceiling of a church in Gondar,Ethiopia. Carved in Lime wood, approximately 10 cm high, painted in acrylics. Now in West Virginia. The Byzantine influence is clear in some of these pieces but with a sweet twist with the Ethiopian style.

More angels from the ceiling of Debre Birhan Selassie Church in Gondar Ethiopia. Carved in Lime wood, approximately 10 cm high,painted in acrylics. These went to a gallery in Amsterdam. From there, who knows...

This wall carving was a commission for a lady who, after many years and nearly giving up hope, finally had the child she so wanted. Her daughter was called Grace for that reason. I carved this Sycamore leaf in Sycamore wood as it suited the colour of an autumn leaf, as she only had her daughter  in the autumn of her fertile years. Now in Dorset, I think.  Lettering painted with gold metallic paint. Approximately 35-40 cm wide.

St Mark, taken from an Ethiopian painting, carved in Lime wood, painted in acrylics. Approximately 30 cm high. Now in Dulwich, south London.

More early work to follow..........