Figureheads – part 3

Wow, a whole year has past since the last entry on this series, now that’s what I call ‘occasional’!

OK, so if you recall, I made a big thing about the importance of the jaw-line.  Well, now that I have finally taken some photos of the Brest Tiller, I can illustrate the point with the view of the face from under the neck.   The image also nicely illustrates the prominence of the nose, and, if you look very carefully, the curve of the forehead is just about visible too. dscf3772

















Figureheads – part 2

If you’re completely new to figure carving then you need to know that carving a bearded male with a hat on is the easiest type of face to carve, followed by androgonous (neither male nor female) followed by young male, and finally female – old is easier than young – beautiful female is the hardest of all – its all to do with a perfection of symmetry and no imperfections – lines, creases, sags, folds, wrinkles; all distract the viewer to some extent – you read the character of the face rather than its perfect structure.

The bearded male face, at its simplest, is really quick to carve as only the area around the eyes and the ridge of the nose are there to carve, the rest is hidden under beard, moustache and shaggy eyebrows – woodspirits and father Christmasses are a good way into this.

One thing to make sure you always do is to carve stroke for stroke each side of the face – it is really tempting to carve one side of the face and then try to replicate that on the other side but this approach never works as you will not remember what you did well enough to replicate your approach and the symmetry will suffer.  This applies to errors too.  If you make a mistake on the left side you have to deliberately make the same mistake on the right and then correct the left and then correct the right. Every cut on one side should be repeated on the other and that way the symmetry of the face will be maintained.


figurehead – how to carve, an occasional series

OK, so I think I will put together an occasional series on basic figurehead carving, a sort of how-to carve faces/heads/torso/limbs.  This will probably not be a carve-along, more likely thoughts and technicals about aspects of carving this most demanding of subjects, but we’ll see how things devolop over the coming months. We will, of course, begin with carving faces.

The Beginning

Before we begin, a sculptor working in three dimensions needs a different approach to any other art-form as far as patterns and plans are concerned.  A painter only needs a single view-point, but a carver needs to understand how the front-view, side-views and rear-view tie together, and this necessitates a top, and bottom view too.  Usually we hold much of this information in our head, or make a small maquette (model); lots of sketching and preliminary drawing is always a good idea, but best of all is a real model – either a living person, or something like a porcelain figurine or child’s toy.  None of the great artists would dream of working from their imagination!

If you are taking photographs of your subject, stand back and use a zoom – close up lenses distort the subject to get it all in – fish-eye lenses are an extreme example of this phenomena.

To carve a face, you will need a minimum of a front profile, top view and side-profile and outline of the underneath of the lower jaw. The human brain interprets a face, concentrating on expression not its three-dimensional shape. We tend to look at a face as a flat, rather than a round, object.  Look at the inside of a mask, you will interpret it as being the correct shape, even though it is reversed, dimensionally !  This interpretting process makes life very hard for a carver starting out on carving realistic faces, the face contains some very steep edges – the jaw bone is almost a v-shape (from below) with the point rounded off where the chin goes, not the rounded or curving shape you might be visualising.

Hopefully this quick sketch will help illustrate my meaning; as you can see the front and side profiles generate a jaw profile that is essentially the cut-off v-shape I was trying to describe