Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Carver's Rambling Continued

Everyone has been asking me how I carve, paint and create.  I will try to explain some of it here. If you have ANY questions about carving, creating, painting or coming up with ideas, just ask and I will try to answer them. Just remember, it is just my humble opinion, and you will find there are as many opinions as there ar carvers.

I have purchased several books on drawing animals, since I rarely carve animals and Noah's Ark has plenty of different kinds of animals.  I drew the side view of the lions first on tracing paper.  Once I had a pattern I liked, I used carbon paper to transfer it to the wood.   I carefully measure the top of the head around to the side I was going to draw the front view on.  I used the complete drawing from the book to determine the width.  How did I do that?  I used a set of dividers or calipers.  I don't have them with me or I would show you a photo of them. You usually find them in the technical drawing section of stores like Hobby Lobby.  I measure the width of the head and see how many widths of the head it would take to cover shoulder to shoulder.   You can do this from a real photo of an animal or person.  You can also measure the height of the head and then use that measurement to determine how tall the animal or person should be.

If your head is 1 inch tall and you can fit 3 head measurements into the total height of the body in the photo or drawing, you can make a 3 inch tall lion or a thirty foot lion and keep it in proportion.  The divider or caliper looks like the old compass many of us used to draw circles except it has points on both ends.  Sailors and cruisers use them to figure distances on charts.

I cut out the lioness blank and begin removing the extra wood.   In the above photo, I just used a mini circular saw type blade with my Ram power carver, (similar to a dremel).

The blade is see thru, even when running so you can see where you are cutting.   There is no reason to stress your hands removing the scrap wood by hand when you can quickly remove it this way.  Some will argue it is not carved by hand if you use power in any form.  To those people, I usually ask if they went to the forest and used their hand saw to fell the tree?  Did you carve your animal, person, or whatever from the log?  Most will say no, the tree was felled by a logger using a chain saw. It was cut into blocks using a saw mill and then a bandsaw.  These are all power tools so is there really many totally hand carved pieces out there? Remember, this is MY HUMBLE OPINION!   LOL.
This is what the front legs looks like before I removed the excess.  I drew the legs like she was walking. I could have drawn them in the straight together pose but to me that seemed too stiff.
As you can see, I have cut between the legs in this photo. I then use the saw blade from the side to remove the extra. I usually make a big X on the piece I want to remove because it is easy to get confused and cut the wrong piece off.
I use my Flexcut palm tools for these small animals.  This is the tip I used for it.   Here is the total set in their roll up bag. The tips fit into the handle.  I take this with me when I travel.
 I like the feel of the handle in my hands.  You can also get a wooden handle for more push.  I somethings use it with a rubber mallet to do larger pieces.   I have their larger chisels to do big items.   Some carvers use only the large chisels to do even Hitty sized dolls with. I say use the tool that fits the project.  You wouldn't use a whole tree to pick your teeth so why use a big chisel to carve a doll?
When I carve dolls, I always carve the face first, but with these animals, I carved the legs and body first.  I guess I was a bit scared of the facial features.

I like to see how the figures work with The Ark.  I want my figures to look good but also stand up to tiny hands walking them into The Ark. My Husband  built the Ark from my design.  He came up with the wooden hinges and latches on the top floor doors . He also came up with the pegs that as hinges.  
 I used my wire nippers to cut off the ips of toothpicks for the canine teeth of the lioness. I use a second cut, (flat on both sides) for the other teeth. I used a drill bit the same size as the toothpick, which was not easy to do in her small mouth.   Here is a photo of her with her teeth after being painted.
I chose to carve all of the animals before painting them and the Ark.

Here is a comparison of what a lamb looks like in the blank form. I used hardwood dowels for the legs because I felt they would be sturdier than basswood legs.  The lamb on the right has been carved and I used a tip to burn the swirls to give depth to the hair. I took a small  Cutzall  bur to add the "craters in the center of the curls.  
I started out with a base coat of half acrylic paint and  a waterbased varnish found near the paints. You can also use MinWax WATER BASED varnish found in home improvement stores.  I want just enough color to change the color but still show any wood grain thru, (although there is not much grain in basswood).
I used a beige on the face, grey on the horns and white on the fleece.   I let this dry thoroughly before adding a smidgen of true burgundy to about a dimesize amount of the water based varnish.  I dabbed it to the cheeks and then took a clean dry brush and blended it into the cheek area to get rid of hard lines.  I let them dry and went on to paint (stain) the Ark.
I used a Donna Dewberry brush on the Ark to simulate a wood grain. I believe she calls it a rake , due to how the tip looks like a garden rake with long tips.  
I used a dark brown paint and a moccasin brown for the other color. You can see it on my plastic lid palette. I use the plastic lids off raisons, oats, and also metal can lids. (My can opener doesn't leave a sharp edge on the lid).  I also used a sponge to smear the paint. (Isn't that a technical term? Smear?)

 I let the paint dry for just a bit and then used the damp sponge to smudge the paint. I think it resembles wooden sides on The Ark.

I started out by using a small liner brush to pint the whiter swirls and soon came up with cutting off the point of a long pin and using my beading pliers to bend a swirl in the metal and dipped it into the paint to make a swirl.  It worked perfectly!  I turned it into different directions to vary the swirls.  

I was pleased with the variation of color on the fleece. I also added lips to the female lamb.  I forgot to say that I used white mixed with a bit of grey for the base coat of the wool. I used a buckskin (beige) for the face and ears. I used a darker grey for the horns on the male .  Like people, I added a tiny dot of white paint to the eyes. It is called the spark of life.  It makes them appear more alive.  
In painting the lions, I used a dark brown for the base, I believe it was Earth brown.  I used the same rake brush to later paint on a lighter brown. Sometimes I will mix a tiny amount of the base color into white for fur or hair on a human.  

Here are the completed figures. I have  Noah's wife carved but not painted yet.  When I return from taking care of Mom, I will finish her and mail out the whole set to my clients Grandson.   I will add figures each year on the anniversary of his Birthday.  He also receives new figures each year before Christmas for his Nativity scene.  If you google European Nativity Scenes, you will see they are quite elaborate. 

Once again, if you have any questions, please post them here and I will try to answer them as soon as I can while taking care of Mom.  For those of you that know me, her arm is healing up quite nicely.  She was able to use a padded spoon to eat cereal this morning. It took a little longer than normal, but she was excited to get to eat cereal.  She gets her cast off next week. Yeah!