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Don’t go against the Grain

I have recently taken up wood carving in a big way.

Translating a set of sculptures made with plaster into the medium of wood is a challenge. By doubling the size even more so.

The originals were twelve to eighteen inches high, by  three inches wide.  The cedar I am using is eight feet tall by six inches wide.

Patiently I have narrowed my tools down.  A drill, pry-bar, a one inch chisel and rubber mallet, a three eighths inch round gouge.  So far this short combination of tools is working fine.

Patiently I have tried to remember bits of advise given to me over the years by my father who was a master at carving wood.  But I find remembering to be very hard work. Somehow, it is easier to just muddle along.

One thing I do remember is his advice to always work with the grain and not across it.  As the wood I am using has knots, the grain runs every which way.  That makes the whole project so much more interesting.

Picasso offered this advice to Francoise Gilot as quoted in her book, Life with Picasso pg.51

You know, we need one tool to do one thing, and we should limit ourselves to that one tool.  In that way the hand trains itself.  It becomes supple and skillful, and that single tool brings with it a sense of measure that is reflected harmoniously in everything we do.

The Chinese thought that for a watercolour or a wash drawing you use a single brush.  In that way everything you do takes on the same proportion.

Harmony is created in the work as a result of the proportion, and in a much more obvious fashion than if you had used brushes of different sizes.

Then, too, forcing yourself to use restricted means is the sort of restraint that liberates invention.  It obliges you to make a kind of progress that you can’t even imagine in advance.

These are the finished sculptures in plaster, when complete I will give an update on the reconfigured ones in cedar.  The ones in cedar do have their own personality, it is difficult to imagine doing a fascimile from one material to another. Fish to fowl?

About geri binks


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