How To Do Original Wood Carving

A tutorial... Caril Chasens

I don't believe that everybody should necessarily be doing original work. All through history, copying has been a big part of all human cultures. the fuel for originality is the personal motivation, the drive to complete a particular piece, and those who are not driven toward original work should feel free to let it go. We can respect honest copying.

I admit that I am struggling to write about this topic. I have always done original work - it is completely natural for me - and I have never had to begin doing it.

Certainly one can start doing original work at any stage of career, even at the very beginning. Nothing will ever be of more value than the habit and experience of doing your own problem solving, and one learns that by solving one's own problems. Expect to work constantly at solving problems, and to keep coming back to a problem when stumped.

Expect ideas to turn up where interest and energy are highest. The source of ideas is the caring, interest, passion that spring from the core of oneself. To create, don't go looking for ideas. Look passionately, and find ideas in yourself where your own response is most intense. Sometimes, you may find the idea in the wood when you first look for it. If that doesn't happen, to start - or restart, when stuck - make some kind of decision or mark on the wood, and go with it. Ideas come in working with something, much more than in working with nothing. If the wood doesn't tell you much, make a decision or two about the composition, to begin working from.

Design for your own skill level. A simple design can be a wonderful thing in a beautiful piece of wood.

If you start out doing original work, be cautious in comparing what you do to the copied work of other beginners. Remember that in these cases the planning and design may be the work of an expert. If you take on original work later in career, I can't tell you how to make the transition. I do suggest that you be aware of all factors in comparing your original work to your own copied work. I am not suggesting that you will necessarily work to a lower quality. If motivation is strong enough, you may work to a higher quality. Do remember that the process of original design and decision making takes time.

If one hopes to create realistic-looking representations, it can really help to learn to draw. There are lots of books on the subject. A basic clue to drawing is that most people constantly see some very strange optical illusions without being aware of it. For instance, if you look at your fist with both eyes, you are seeing something that can't be drawn, because the width of the parts you see (wrap- around view) add up to more than the width of the whole. Also, your brain is likely to insist that angles and relative lengths are what you know them to be, rather than what they actually are from the angle you are seeing from. Test it by holding up sticks in front of your view to measure the lengths and angles. To learn to see for drawing may take work. An alternative or supplementary technique is to model in modeling clay. Another alternative is to create abstract shapes or beautiful useful objects.

If your piece contains wood that you judge, for any reason, to be unsound or damaged, then it may be a good idea to remove it as soon as possible. Otherwise, ones mind will probably include it in the composition, the sense of what looks right in the piece. Removing it later can be extremely disappointing. This could be particularly important for a beginner.

Woodcarving and sculpture tutorials

Sculpture in Wood, Caril Chasens