Saturday, January 7, 2012

Finishing the Figure

In this post, I finish carving the figure for my “Cooling His Heels” scene.  We’ll discuss how I finished the body and overcame some problems that arose as I carved it, as well as how I finished the head of my cowboy.

As you can see, I have carved the shoulder area to a rough shape.  Take note of how the shoulders are slightly forward.  This is due to the fact than when one supports his body weight with his arms in a reclined position such as the position that my caricature will be in, the shoulders are pushed forward.  I want this fellow to look relaxed, but also have the correct posture for the position that he will be assuming.  You can also see that I have roughed out the bandana and drilled a hole that will accept the neck post of the guy’s head.

Two problems arose as I carved the arms.  Here’s a photograph of the first.

This is something that happens often when carving attachments.  Sometimes you may misjudge the depth that the dowel should be when joining the pieces together.  This is exactly what happened in this case.  The dowel went too deep and poked out through the other side when I carved down to the level of the shoulder.  If this ever happens, don’t panic.  Just keep on carving as if it wasn’t there.  You’ll see as the carving is finished, and especially when the figure is painted, that this dowel head will disappear completely.  The next photo shows the second and related problem that I ran into as I carved the other arm.

The cause of this hole was the same one that gave rise to the dowel showing through on the opposite shoulder.  Here, however, the hole is exposed and not filled by the dowel.  What do you do when you are faced with a dilemma such as this big, gaping hole?  Do you throw it out and carve another?  Of course not.  For now, I will simply not worry about it and continue carving the arms until they are fully detailed.  Once the arm is completely carved, I’ll show you the best solution.

I decided to put the body aside for a while and work on carving the head for my figure.  I wanted to catch the proper expression on this cowpoke’s face, one that would show the pleasure that he would be feeling soaking his aching feet in a cool stream on a warm, sunny afternoon.  I decided to carve the eyes closed, and to add some interest, I carved a lock of hair sweeping down over one eye.  Here’s a look at how the face turned out.

The photograph above shows the test fit of the head to the body.  I have started detailing the bandana at this point and have the body and arms almost complete.  You can see that the head sits up too high, giving the figure a giraffe neck.  I’ll carve away material from the neck area as well as the bandana until the head sets down at the proper position.  You can also see in this picture where the end of the dowel has been carved away as part of the shoulder.  Now, the only thing that makes it noticeable is the fact that it is a different color than the rest of the body.  This will completely disappear once he gets his colors.

Here is a picture of the other shoulder, the one that has the hole where a hole shouldn’t be.  You can see that I have gone ahead and carved in the folds in the sleeves and this is what I was left with.  So, what do you do to cover a mistake as big as this one?  Well, they don’t make wood putty for nothin’!  Using a little wood filler, I squeeze out a bit onto my finger and press it into the hole and smooth it into the crease of the sleeve.

Once the filler sets up and is completely dry, I simply sand it down smooth.  When you make this kind of repair using wood filler, you do have to realize that the filler will not accept paint the same as the rest of the wood.  When you paint with thin washes of acrylics like I do, you have to take this into account when you apply the colors.  Since this repair is in the bottom of a fold of clothing, it shouldn’t be too hard to disguise.  Once the figure is complete, you will be hard pressed to find the repair.  Just wait and see.

The following are a few photographs of the completed figure.  I have added some accent lines with my wood burner as well as division lines that will help to separate different colors when I paint, without bleeding into each other. 

With my figure complete, it’s time to move onto the landscape that this fellow will go into.  In the next post, I’ll walk you through my decision making process as well as fill you in on the mechanics of completing the landscape.

I hope that you are enjoying your journey along with me on this project.  Sometimes I feel like I’m making every possible mistake with this one, but maybe it’s meant to be that way so that you will know what to do when you are faced with similar challenges.  Please leave me a comment, or drop me an email.  I would love to know if you have any questions or other ideas of how better to solve carving problems.  Thank you for following along, and for all the support that you give to The Old Stump.

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