From the Workshop – Part 8

Monday 9 July 2018

I haven't done a lot in the workshop recently, as everything has suddenly decided to start growing in the garden and both Mary and I have been working full-time to keep up. Even when the weather has been unpleasant there has been plenty to do in the greenhouse.

We haven't seen much of Will as he has become interested in athletics and has been here and there competing for his school. He did come over during the half term with his new 'friend', a puppy of indeterminate origin that he had had for only a few weeks. I think his interest in carving is still there but is having a bit of a rest, as he has developed a real passion for drawing. He has spent quite a bit of time since getting the puppy trying to draw it in various poses. He is actually very good – far better than I thought he would be. Drawing any animal on the move can be a nightmare – I found photographing them difficult enough. I think he will go back to carving, and any experience he has with drawing can do nothing but good. Considering that most of the carvers at the club say they can't draw at all, he should have a good grounding for the future.

It is well known that you cannot produce anything like an accurate drawing – or carving – of an animal if you don't have a reasonable knowledge of its anatomy. I think we have all seen some very 'imaginative' anatomy on carvings at some time.

Watching the dog

I didn't think that a boy of nine years old was ready for detailed anatomy lessons, so we just looked at his puppy while we could and made basic comparison with his puppy and ourselves.

Will wanted to know which bits went where, so we spent quite a bit of time crawling around on all fours to compare the positions of various joints on ourselves with those of his puppy. It was quite hilarious, as the puppy thought it was a great game and wanted to get involved very personally with all that we did. I am not suggesting that you should start crawling around the floor, but even just looking at your pets and how they move is a great help – Will and I certainly had a lot of fun. You could combine this with a series of photographs so that you end up with a library of different action pictures that could make some very attractive carvings or drawings. You could end up with some very lifelike reference material in poses that you will never find in any magazine or book. These can be even better if you give your dog his favourite toy to play with and just watch.

One style at a time

Mary and I took Will to a stately home not too far away. The gardens were well worth visiting and we had heard that there were some beautiful carvings inside.

Will and I couldn't believe the incredible detail in the oak carvings made hundreds of years ago, and I remembered something that Michael Painter once told me.

He said that we can do nothing in sculpture now that the Romans couldn't do centuries ago, and that the tools they used were not that different from those we use today. Will couldn't get over all the different styles of carving that there were and it crossed my mind that most of the carvers probably specialised in only one type of work, learning all the skills necessary to produce that alone. Learners like me try to carve human figures, animals, relief panels, lettering, birds and so on. I am not going to live long enough to master all the skills necessary for those, especially as it probably took the carvers who did that work a lifetime to perfect theirs.

Will said, with all the wisdom of a nine-year-old, that he would stick to relief until he gets it right.

If we are going to produce work of an acceptable standard we need to concentrate on one style of carving at a time and not keep chopping and changing. I suppose this is a bit like problem solving. Trying to solve several problems at once will mean that you solve none. Tackle them one at a time, and you have a chance of success!