Fundamentals of Figure Carving by Ian Norbury

By Ian Norbury

Thoughts for carving targeted anatomical constructions of the human shape.

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For all practical purposes it must be accepted that much of illc hair we see on real people is uncarvable. I say this with fear of being contradicted by great examples of the carver's skill which show me to be wrong, but these will be rare exceptions. Scale is also a factor. For example, to carve the short crinkly curls of an African on a 50mmI2" head is fairly straightforward because the scale reduces it to a homogenous texture which we can approximate (see Jazz Dancer, Ch. 11). However, on a half life-size head we are faced with a prodigious task - possible, perhaps, by a highly skilled and dedicated carver - but normally we Figure 93 Figure 96 Figure 98 The gouge on the left has been ground with the wings for~vardfor srnoorher cutting.

Thus in Fig 104c we appear to be looking down at the feet, and one foot is higher than the other. In the finished drawing Fig 106c we are looking directly at the front of the toes, and both feet are on the same level surface. Getting from one to the other is the problem. Assuming your photographs are the usual ones, about l j 0 x 100mm/6" x 4", have them enlarged on a photocopier to a more workable size, say about 300 x 200mm/12" x 8" (roughly A4). In the process of doing this, the sizes of the actual figures can be equalised.

The first stage in carving this is to isolate the rear group from the head and shape it into the basic shapes of the loops, Fig 96. The main part of the hair is also carved into the major bunches. This is tooled to a fairly smooth surface, then roughly sanded to eliminate the angular tool cuts. 11 gouge, heavy deep gouge lines are cut into the surface following the flow of the hair. The sweep of the loops is quite tricky but it is the flow of the cuts that is important. (Fig 97). Fade the cuts away as they reach the neck and temples.

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