I have been having a lot of correspondence with people regarding whether one should leave a carving natural or apply colour to it.
If you read my Woodturning blogs, you will know this subject crops up a lot among turners. Every craft and art subject has its pet topics, so we carvers are no different.
I was watching a history programme the other night and it was looking at architecture with the usual wonderful shots of ancient temples and buildings and I smiled – due to my having mentioned exactly the same thing before myself – how our view of what is ‘classical’ is somewhat skewed. It is skewed due to us basing a lot of what we think on what we now see of the remaining buildings or sculptures. I was intrigued to see how the temples were originally often brightly coloured in places. Time has effectively sand-blasted the buildings clean and all we see is the "classical" clean stone look.
The modern chemical analysis of the buildings show the colour pigments and what the building would have looked like with a fair degree of accuracy. Our idea of "classical" clean stone of ancient architecture is wrong in part, so where does that leave us?
Well, it leaves us with our own opinions on what we like and don"t like and there is no problem with that. Just remember that the ancient world was a lot more colourful than many people think and one cannot say this or that is "classical" when referencing or justifying a given stance on a clean look other than what one sees now is what one prefers. It is a shame more timber carvings and woodwork have not survived as I suspect that colour would have been applied to many things wooden too.
Having said all this, a clean wood or stone look can be exquisite and preferable at times, but don"t be locked into a mind-set using false comparisons and references. Decide what you like and go for it, irrespective of what others say. You are the arbiter of your own likes and dislikes and let everyone else have their own thoughts. After all, you are the one making something so your rules apply.