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.....