Easy carvings,,no thought
Again,, so many things swirling in my head. A thought here,, a quote there. Random in appearance but are all parts of a puzzle. They show up for a reason. To me anyway.
I watch the tutorials Doris does so well. I remember posts and questions from other sites. I see and hear about frustrations new carvers have. Quotes such as ” An apprentice tries to remember all his master told him… a Master just practices his craft”. I remember snippets from books,, one in particular Drawing on the Right side of the brain. Examples given there that I believe apply to carving. My recent additions to “Tryptich” and the apparently off handed comment I made about not having to think when I carve.
Ahh,, it all came together and here is the story as I see it.
Do you want to make carving easier? Do you want to make better carvings? If you said yes… then it’s simple. Stop thinking about them.
If you watch Doris you will ( should) realize that she isn’t thinking about carving a mouth or an eye. What then is she doing to have it come out so well? NOT THINKING ABOUT AN EYE OR A MOUTH.
No,, she has her references and in a sense is simply COPYING them. She’s a human Xerox machine. A living duplicator. She’s not trying to carve what she THINKS a mouth looks like. She’s making a copy of the one she is looking at. A Xerox machine doesn’t produce what it thinks the document is. It has no “thoughts” about it, it simply copies what it SEES. It knows how to print on a page,, just give it something to copy. Same for a carver. The basics of carving are learned very quickly, but getting your mind out of the way is what takes practice. There are no “magical” cuts.. no Voodoo here. It’s simply copying what you see, into the block of wood. Don’t think about it,,the mouth or eye isn’t what you think it is,, it is simply what you see. And what you see is translated into the wood, not your thoughts. You have to give the Xerox machine something to copy. You can’t tell it to just make something up without some reference point can you?
Why would you try and carve that way?
You might have seen faces all your life,, but when it comes to carving one,, you’re lost . Gee,,, haven’t you looked at them long enough to “know ‘ what they look like? Basically,,, NO.
Everyone says for example a womans face is like a mans,,,only softer. Great,, what does that tell you? Nothing. Its absurd. Some post their work and say,, “I can’t carve a womans face,, where did I go wrong?” Well,, where is your reference? People give suggestions on what to do based on their thoughts about a woman. I’m thinking Selma Hyak.. you’re thinking Cathy Bates. Everyone gives suggestions and you have a carving designed by a committee. Everyone’s opinion,, but nothing close to the truth. If you have a reference it’s easy then to say,, ‘Well the eyes should be like this,,the mouth doesn’t look like the picture because it’s not deep enough,,the lips aren’t full enough etc.”
It’s like trying to shoot a gun or an arrow. Hey,, you shot alright,, but at what? How do you know how close you came? How do you know what adjustments to make without a target? Everyone just guesses. And wonders why they miss. C’mon,, at least give yourself a target to shoot for! How will anyone know with any degree of certainty to tell you what to do? You want to do a “generic” face? Generic will end up being a mess. A waste of time which tells you nothing. It’s the same as shooting in the dark without a target no less. You have no point of reference to what you are trying to carve. Mouths..eyes,, faces male and female come in all shapes and sizes. Ever watch the late night TV shows and they ask people on the street to guess at someone’s photo and it’s all blanked out except for the eyes ,, mouth,,,etc. Sometimes it turns out not to be a man but a woman..and vice versa. Nobody has a clue and they fool you. That is what people are trying to carve,,, bits and pieces of nothing in particular. And don’t be surprised if that’s what you end up with.
Why carve that way? What have you learned? Nothing. You didn’t teach your eyes to see,, you didn’t teach your hands to carve. You’re shooting in the dark. Without a target. What do you expect to accomplish?
Back to Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Look at the examples of drawings by children. They draw what they know. If they are drawing a car,, they know it has 4 wheels,, and regardless of the perspective ( usually from the side) you’ll see what? Yup,, 4 wheels. They drew what they know about a car. Same for a table…4 legs. Now you know you don’t see all four at the same time. But they are there. We as adult carvers do the same thing. We carve what we know,,not what we see. A great exercise in the book,, as well as one taught in drawing classes is a Pure Contour Drawing. Basically you have to look at a subject,put your hand and pencil on a pad,, and not looking at the pad,, draw the contour of the subject you’re looking at. Try it ,, it’s hard. You want to look,, you think you need to think about what it is you’re drawing,, you think you need to “think” about what it is your hands are doing. You don’t. Once you let go,, and just look.. and let your hands do what your eyes tell them,, it’s surprising just how accurate you can do a pure contour drawing without looking at what you are drawing, ,, and have it come out recogizeable.
That can be carving. I don’t carve,, I watch my hands carve something. They carve what my eyes see. That’s how I’ve watched brand new carvers fresh off the street carve incredible things in the shops I’ve been in. It’s not a matter of years. It’s a matter of seeing.. and carving what you see. Nothing else.
Our thoughts get in the way.
Practice is not the answer. Never was,, never will be.
What should be practiced is not thinking.Just seeing. But that’s what we’re taught all along isn’t it. So it’s our natural condition to do just that.THINK ABOUT WHAT YOUR DOING. Wrong..didn’t your parents ask you… What were you thinking? Didn’t you think about what you were doing?..Do I have to think for you? It’s how we are raised and taught. But unfortunately this way of going about it,, using your thoughts is like putting some filter,, or additional colored glasses on that Xerox machine. It colors and distorts what it is it’s looking at and trying to copy. It’s “thoughts” or filters etc. get in the way. Those are your thoughts ABOUT a carving. Filters or special effect lenses.
Now you can take measuring to an extreme and you will have a mechanical looking carving. In some cases measuring is fine. But in some , if not most cases, measuring isn’t feasible. So what do you do? You relate one thing to another. Just like it’s taught in Drawing on the Right side of the Brain.
This corner of the eye is lower than the center… so make your block of wood look like that. The eyebrow is hign here and drops away to meet the upper eye lid,, so make your block of wood do that.
From your first moments with a chisel you learned how to gouge out a groove. One side is high,, the center is low,, and the other side is high. That’s the making of an eye. The moves a beginner makes is no different than the ones I, or Doris makes. We take off wood the same as everyone else. So where is the difference in our outcomes? We’re not thinking about everything our master told us… we’re not thinking about that,, we’re simply carving what we see. We’re focusing on our craft.
I’ve had the opportunity to work in full time carving shops. Every time not one of the carvers seemed to be paying attention to what they were carving. It was organized chaos. We talked about everything under the sun as we were carving stuff for mansions, billionairs, churches etc. without a thought about what we were carving. And it all came out great. It was mindless. We carved the forms,, the details fall inside the forms,, we were carving machines. Human duplicators. Human Xerox machines.
Now to many of you it may seem this takes the mystery , the allure out of carving. It doesn’t. Are you unhappy with good carvings? We weren’t. That’s how they happen. You might think ,, well that’s not “artsy” enough for me. Fine,, go produce your art. You might think this is uninspired. How so? Haven’t all the great artists past and present in a sense “copied” from nature,, a still life,, a human form,, a landscape? Yes they did. And they did it well enough to hang in museums today.
Many let the wood “talk ‘ to them , and go from there. I’m not addressing this type of carving. Sometimes it works, and works well if you’re lucky,, and sometimes the wood talks back to the viewer as well,,, saying ” throw me in the nearest fire pit,,,please” Put me out of my misery. Art to is in the eye of the beholder. But for the most part,, I’m talking to those who want to produce some recognizable piece of work. Not abstract. That’s another topic.
Do your carvings qualify?
If not,, why not?
Aren’t you too carving what you see instead of what you know?
Didn’t the great painters go out in the country to be able to paint a landscape? Didn’t they see one before and just paint what they know about one? Didn’t they use live models to copy the human form? Or did they just draw and paint what they thought a woman looks like,, a man,, only softer? How about doing a still life? What did they do ,, and how did they do it.? Did they buy or find a pattern? Did they buy a roughout? No,, they learned to see.
That’s what I learned and took me from a one year hobbyist to a full time carver. That is what Doris learned to do. I have to say it but it doesn’t come from a book.,,, another class,, another tool,,NOTHING! You need to learn to see,, and not think about what it is you’re carving. It works… just look around you . People with little potential to do good work. And look what they have done. Why? They don’t look at things the same way you do,,and they don’t even THINK ABOUT IT.
Of course I have more to say,,, later,, let meTHINK about it….LOL,,,LOL,.,,this is too much fun!