INFORMING THE FUTURE
The left "X: of my three carved letters, early in the process when 2-d was becoming a relief carving.
It was early summer when I started this project with the carved letters... XXV
I ordered some basswood online and got out my tool sharpeners. I had been working in full round on a piece of hickory for a while, and it seemed fitting to work with wood. I planned to add silver touches to my finished letters. I found some examples of Illumination letterwork on the computer, and made my drawings freehand from those, changing things as seemed wise, considering that I would be carving them into a flat piece of wood!
The tools I sharpened for this project are some of the same ones I am using for decorating bowls for my current small business: Silk Purse Products.
Today I picked up a nice bunch of Black Walnut, well seasoned outdoors and waiting to be caressed into a form. One of the pieces has great knots on it which will both help and hinder the process. I wonder who is in that piece?
Person? Animal? Ghost?
And who knew that when I was a school kid and tried my first soap sculpture, making Pogo's Alligator friend, Albert out of a chunk of ivory soap, that I would be carving at 73?
The wonder of making something you have never made before is what sees me through the tough parts and the flops. Even if I didn't get Albert just right, I really wanted to get a second and third chance to do something like that, and do it better.
Carving is subractive. Oil painting is additive. Watercolor can be both. But with subtractive work, what you take away is gone, so you are very careful not to subtract anything that is crucial to the finished work. It goes from taking away big chunks that you really don't want (Albert was not going to need a square head, so those points could go for sure) to being a lot more choosy about what to lop off. In the final stages it was scraping more than carving. Just a shaving here and there, and a cleaning up of a groove.
It takes time, and while the time is being taken with slowly finding a shape in a piece of lumber, you think of a lot of things. And you wish for a lot of things...like more wood, and better tools, and more time.
I remember seeing old men whittling on a bench once. I wonder if I am just one of those kind of people, moving on with something that started long ago with a paring knife and soap...and finding it good in my dotage to keep carving and thinking. It's a very good way to spend time.