Carving a Nose

as with the previous tutorials, i will try to present a basic approach, which can be applied to carve any nose… we begin with

STEP 1 getting reference material

you might think noses all look same, but that is not so. there are wide noses, noses with thin bridges, noses which are crooked ( maybe they were broken ?) noses with nose tips going up, some have nose tip going down, some noses almost hang off the face completely, even though in generality they sit on the face about half… and, a nose on a given person also not always looks the same ! it changes with expression ! just think of someone showing disgust, the nose wings go up and sometimes creases appear over the bridge of nose, or when doing a big smile the nose wings are pulled wider apart and go up too … so, expressions change the basic shape of a nose ! … so, you see, even with an object that seems so fixed, we do need reference material to carve it well :

in this tutorial i decided to again put emphasis on my statement, that women are not harder to carve than men, and so i choose a female nose. and a wonderful example is the sensuous portrait bust of constanza bonarelli, carved by bernini. as i want show you how to carve her nose only, my reference consists of different views of the nose only of that bust, but i recommend you to look this beautiful bust…. (please click images to for a larger view)


do choose now your own reference material too, best is, if you can get different views from one person or statue, and you need at least a front view and a side view of the nose, or views very similar to those, since we need to see for example how wide the nose wings are compared to the length of the nose (we read that off the front view foto) and we need to see how far on the face the nose sits (that does the side view tell us)… bottom views would be nice, since we could see the shape of the nostril openings, but they are hard to get, ,,, i will discuss in the following how we use the fotos to gather the information we need for carving…

again, i decide to use the fotos only as guideline, and not carve an exact copy. i will try however to find out which things are important, and get them as close to the reference fotos i can. and this is how it should be done in my opinion, to obtain a good result…

now that we have the reference material, we need study it to learn the forms we want carve. first, as a technical remark, note that i have scaled all fotos so that the nose has on each the same height. you can do this with your fotos too, it will simplify the measuring later, but you can omit this step if you want. it is just for convenience later…

ok, lets study the forms : her nose fits into a triangular wedge form, the bridge of nose is angled well back and not straight, but with a gentle curve down from the brow line to its deepest point and then from there in a slightly curved line towards the tip of nose. there is a slight bump in this line (see side view) and the small valley separating this bum from the fleshy roundish art of the nose tip is where her nasal bone ends. there we see also in front view a slight depression of the bridge of nose… her nose wings are well rounded and well separated from the rest of nose. … go ahead, and study your reference material in the same way, find what is essential for the nose you see on your fotos, you will learn the forms from that, and carving the nose will become thereby easier… as i said, it tremendously helps when you try to draw the nose from your fotos too, or parts you want understand better, or even make a quick clay or plastilin model of it … do everything you can to know your subject before taking up a chisel.

now we are ready for beginning to carve the nose ….

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. markyundt
    Jun 17, 2009 @ 16:37:23

    Again Doris,,absolutely beautifully done. The carving as well as the photo’s and tutorial. Seeing inside your mind as you work,, your thoughts,, is like being inside my own mind as I follow you along. But little of this internal dialog actually goes on directly. It’s not ” a # 5 makes this cut,, a # 8 makes that” As you say,, the tools used don’t really matter. By instinct you know that a fat tool doesn’t fit into the nostrils. But your large chisel not only roughed out the piece,, it finished it as well. You just make lighter cuts . You did the whole piece with few tools.
    But the story behind your thoughts you have to put into words is the true dialog. And correct me if I’m wrong,,but its more of “I see roundness in the photo,,I see flatness in my carving.. I see depth in the photo,,I see shallow in my carving” You’re aware only of relationships of the photo to your carving. And the goal is to bring them into harmony. You see a nostril hole this shape,, you only carve that shape into your block.Nothing to think about. Just make the same shaped hole.The nose appears by itself.
    Easy carving,,no thoughts.


    • dorisfiebig
      Jun 17, 2009 @ 21:03:02

      thank you, mark… that is right, only little is coming to the surface of the tutorial from all what makes me do this or that… i tried to give a glimpse at that … oh, yes, that is exactely what i tried to describe in the refining part, i only look at the reference, and try to see how this “hill” really is : is ist steep, and uniformly so on each direction ? or is it steeper in that direction but less so in that direction ? …and looking this way at the reference, i then look at the carving if i see that shape already. if not, maybe the northside of the hill is not steep enough i see, so my next action is to make it steeper. or as you said, the shape of nostrils from various views, i just try to match them. first it succeeds maybe only from side view, say, but then i can see what is wrong from front view, and i make the changes accordingly…it sounds complicated when i try to describe the procedure, but it really goes automatically, withouth thought, just looking, comparing, doing what the carving requires…


      • markyundt
        Jun 18, 2009 @ 04:57:19

        Without thought!
        It’s like trying to read some instruction manuals.All the words needed to describe putting tab A into slot B. Once you try it and see it happen,, it all makes sense. Just takes a lot of words to describe. It’s an experience. Doing it gives you that experience and confidence.
        What I think is most important with a tutorial isn’t so much following your “recipe” as you don’t really provided one. That’s good! People want to follow in anothers footsteps thinking they will learn. That gets you nowhere and teaches you nothing.But that is how we are usually taught and that is what some might expect in a carving tutorial. What is valuable here is you are teaching others what to look for. To see what you see. Not follow a step by step instruction manual on how to assemble a nose,mouth etc. That doesn’t teach you how to carve. Carving is learning how to see.


  2. paige lillard
    Apr 04, 2011 @ 19:58:20

    I was looking for pictures on the carving process. Id like to know whats in the book before I buy it.


  3. dorisfiebig
    Apr 04, 2011 @ 20:10:56

    hi paige, i am not sure i understand what you are saying (english is not my native language),,, but as the tutorial has about 30 pictures, i think, you can really get an idea how you can approach the task “carving a nose”… we don’t sell carving books, all tutorials we offer are free for the interested readers. hope you found here what you are looking for.


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