Sculpture Challenge Day 5 – expressing emotion

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Stiller Designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong, playing with lighting and shadows front view
Finished mask, playing with lighting and shadows.

I am starting to hit the hurdle of how to express feelings and emotions in drawing and sculpture…..

The overall emotion that came out of day 5 was one of fizzing and buzzing and generally sparking an feeling really good. Try figuring out how to express that! The realisation that it would be so difficult almost made me want to rewrite the rules I had set for myself. I say almost, because it suddenly dawned on me that I have no one to answer to with this, it is all my own choice and the meanings will come from my own life experiences. So whatever comes out comes out. Other people will bring their own life experiences to the way they react to the pieces.

The sketches I came up with were even more wide ranging than for the other days as I had no clue when I started them how to express what I was feeling. It’s almost like I need to come up with a new language for this kind of thing, something that will take a little time to figure out I guess. Time that I am willing to put in. With each small sketch things tend to get a bit clearer in both my head and my hands and direct the next sketch until something clicks in my head. One sketch will always draw my eye more than the others and I know that that is the one to go with.

 

Stiller Designs sculpture challenge day 5 - sketches
Varied sketches trying to work out the emotion I was feeling. I chose to make the one in the bottom left corner.

 

The sketch showed me that the piece of wood needed to be slightly longer than the others, I had enough left so that was no problem. I again used the bandsaw to cut out the outline and to shape in the face of the mask a bit, removing excess timber so that the hand carving would be a lot easier.

 

Stiller Designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong, outline cut and excess wood removed using a bandsaw
Initial shaping is so much quicker on a bandsaw and helps to see the shape a lot quicker.

 

Once I had shaped the overall face area in by hand I placed in the eye sockets so that I could work around them rather than guess their placement. I felt that where the eyes are is very important in this mask and I knew that they could and would be finessed later.

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong,
Placing the eyes on early let me work around them.

 

 

I had the general shape locked in my head, especially the face, and I knew that the eye sockets would be large but the top half or hair was a little more fuzzy in my head. The first consideration was the different levels of the mask, should the face sit lower than the hair? Should the top of the hair sit forwards from the face? Lots to think about and then that drawn texture…… Had this have been a longer project I would have taken the time to make some test carvings to play with the texture. A few scribbles of lines is so difficult to bring into carving! I decided to just crack on and try things out on the actual piece.

I tried one way, just randomly carving a pattern in. I didn’t like it so I took a break to have a think about what to do, whether to carve it clean and start again or what. I came to the conclusion that I needed to start again so carved all the pattern off. When restarting I decided to draw the pattern on first this time. It still wasn’t quite right, but I was aware of my time limitations. Another break and another clean carve and restart, this time with a completely differently shaped gouge. Immediately it felt better. It’s not 100% what I wanted but I decided to go with it due to time constraints.

 

Stiller Designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong, first texture test
I tried one way with one gouge and free carving on the mask.

 

Stiller Designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong, second texture test
I tried another way drawing onto the wood first.

 

Stiller Designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong, third and final texture test
Then I tried a completely different gouge and was a lot happier with the result.

 

The eye sockets are once again an interesting part of this piece. On the drawing I had them drawn in as very large openings but wasn’t so sure as I was working so I scooped the large shapes in and left them alone while I carried on working. It gave me time to have a think. Working all around the piece gives me time to think on the bits I can’t immediately decide on. It only becomes a problem when moving on is restricted because the decision you are trying to make directly affects the next bit you want to work on.

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong, large eye sockets carved out
I scooped in the large eye sockets while I thought about what to do

 

On a whim I drew in smaller eyes within the larger sockets….I quite liked the effect so I hollowed them in to see what they might look like if they were permanently like that. The thinking here being that if I didn’t like them I was going to make the holes much larger to make them into the large sockets anyway so I had nothing to lose. It did create another dilemma as I then couldn’t decide what to do. Time to move on to another part of the mask and have a think.

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong,
Drawing in smaller eyes into the larger sockets.

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong, eyes drawn larger to check shape
I drew the eyes larger in the sockets to check the size and shape before committing to cutting the timber

 

Carving out the back of the mask is always a long process and to start with is, if I’m honest, really quite boring and hurts my hands. I remembered this time to use my, ugh can’t think of the right name but it’s similar to a dremel and is foot operated, and with the fantastic heads I have for it it eats timber like no one’s business. It made taking the timber away such a quick job I can’t believe I didn’t think of it earlier in the challenge! I do have a tendency to forget some of the things that might make my life easier. The nearer I got to the thickness I wanted, the more carefully I worked. I drilled a small hole through the middle of the inner eye to that I could tell the rough thickness from the back.

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong, back excess wood removed with a power tool
So much easier to remove the wood with a power tool!

 

Stiller Designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong, back carved clean by hand
Though it looks much better when it is then cleaned up by hand.

 

With the back finished I had had enough time to think about the eyes. I decided to follow my drawing, but not as wide as I was worried that I would be able to see the inside of the sides through the eyes and I didn’t want that. But I had already carved the sockets in at full width so I thought that leaving a bevel to the opening would solve that problem. I also felt that if I didn’t make the eyes bigger I would forever look at the mask and wonder what it would have looked like. This seemed the better way to do it.

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong, eyes drawn larger to check shape
I drew the eyes larger in the sockets to check the size and shape before committing to cutting the timber

 

I am so very pleased that I made the eyes bigger as it just feels right, and I can always make another with large sockets and small eyes if I want to. In fact I think I will.

I really was not sure about this mask when I started it, I was worried that although I loved the drawing I would not be able to get the same feeling in the three dimensional piece. What I have made is not exactly how the drawing is, but I feel there is enough of it there to make it feel right.

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong, finished front view
Finished front view

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong, finished back view
Back view

 

Stiller Designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong, finished right side
Right side

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 5 - mask in jelutong, left side
Left side

 

 

This finished mask has sparked off a whole load of new ideas. I know I have said that every day but it’s true, and it’s wonderful and just so exciting. I need to spend some time getting all these designs drawn up so that even if I don’t have time to make them I have them all there when I need them.

This is the last piece in this 5 day challenge, I will be following up with a final letter looking at how the whole thing has gone and where I am going to move forwards from here.

First impressions are that it has been brilliant and I am so very glad that I took it on and actually completed it…

 

 

 

 

 

Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Sculpture, Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .

 

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Sculpture Challenge Day 4 – a simple joy

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 4 - mask in jelutong, finished front view
Day 4 – mask in Jelutong, front

I am not sure what it says about me that I am finding happy designs more difficult to come up with than any other kind of design….

Day four was a really lovely day, the overwhelming emotion was of joy and happiness and contentment. Boy is that difficult to draw and design! I am realising that I need a lot more practice at expressing emotions in drawing and sculpture, something that I do plan to do.

The design that I came up with turned out to be very simplistic and will rely mostly on the outer shape and the placing of the eyes and mouth.

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 4 mask sketches
Day 4 sketches…. just how do you show joy?

 

After yesterday’s dilemma with the mask/not mask thoughts, I did decide that I definitely wanted to have proper openings and I wanted to try to get a thinly carved mask today so keeping the design simple helped a lot.

I started the same as yesterday using the bandsaw to cut the outline and to remove quite a bit of the excess wood. That helps so much time wise. And I had forgotten how much I enjoy cutting things on the bandsaw, which is a bit of an odd thing to say but I do enjoy it.

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 4 - mask in jelutong, outline cut and excess wood removed on bandsaw
Outline cut out and excess wood removed on the bandsaw.

 

You can only take so much off with the bandsaw and you have to be careful. Power tools are really helpful as they quicken the process, but they can also be a massive problem if you end up taking off too much wood or in the wrong place. It is really difficult, if not impossible, to stick it back on again. Once I had got the overall shape carved out I sketched on the eyes and mouth to check the placement. Then I carved them in so that I could work around them.

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 4 - mask in jelutong, overall shape carved, eyes and mouth sketched in
Eyes and mouth sketched onto the overall shape.

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 4 - mask in jelutong, eyes and mouth placement carved in
Eyes and mouth carved into place.

 

I was a little worried that the mask was looking a bit egg shaped, so I went back and readjusted the outline on the bandsaw before I started to cut out the back. Cutting out the back takes quite a while, I spent a long time while I was working trying to decide how thin to take the whole mask. I thought that the side walls should be left thicker than around the mouth and eyes which needed to be thin enough so that they didn’t look chunky when I cut through to make the openings. Speaking of which I found that it was quite difficult to tell how thick the wood was and I resorted to drilling into the eye and mouth carvings so that as I carved the back away I would know when to slow down when I hit the drilled holes. Actually that worked really well and I think I got the mouth and eyes the same shape as I had drawn them in.

For such a simple design it took quite a bit of time, but I am pleased with him. There is something very strokeable about him and I like that the surface is not completely smooth.

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 4 - mask in jelutong, finished back view
Day 4 – mask in Jelutong, back view showing how thin the sides are

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 4 - mask in jelutong, finished left side
Day 4 mask in Jelutong, left side

 

stiller designs sculpture challenge day 4 - mask in jelutong, finished right side
Day 4 – mask in jelutong, right side

 

I know that I have said it every day but I have even more ideas floating around after today and I am so excited. So many choices going forward. I am making a note of them and I already know which series of work I will be making after this challenge is finished, which is brilliant. And I also know that I already have another three paths to take after that.

Tomorrow is the last day of my challenge and I am really looking forward to it. Let’s see what it brings….

 

 

 

 

Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Sculpture, Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .

 

Sculpture Challenge Day 1 and an apology

Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge Day 1, mask in Jelutong wood, front view
Day 1 mask in Jelutong, finished front view

The best laid plans and all that……

I must apologise for the delay in starting my Sculpture Challenge….I had something scheduled in on Monday that overran by 6 hours…..It kind of threw off the whole schedule of the day and sadly there was no time to make my sculpture challenge piece as I had work that needed to be completed and delivered. However, I did jot down a few sketches and came up with a couple of designs and I had a bit of a rethink about the whole challenge. Part of me thought I should just give up totally, after all I have missed my own deadlines and feel a little foolish. Part of me thought I should postpone it to another week, having missed the first day what is the point? But I decided that the same thing could well happen another week so it would be best to just get on with it this week. However, the biggest part of me said to just bump the whole thing by a day and get on with it…..

So here I am two days later ( I know, I know), and I have my first piece to share, which I am really pleased about. I also have a new plan for the challenge which should make it easier for me to complete it. Plan first…..I have discovered that trying to get through the day, figure out what to represent from the day, make it and write about it is just all too much, I don’t have the time. But I do have a solution for this which is how I have produced this first piece. At the end of the day I will sit and think about what I want to represent, make a few sketches and come up with a few potential designs. Then I will make the piece the next day. Writing about it and publishing the newsletter and blog post the following day (though earlier in the day!). So a new piece will appear each day, just under a more manageable schedule.

Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge Day 1, mask sketches and initial ideas
Sketches and designs, working out variations in shape and placement.

Monday was a bit of an odd day for me filled with an awful lot of intense emotion, huge amounts of worry followed by immense relief. Somewhere I got the idea of waves or ripples and calm….the way that the waves/ripples of worry faded away into the calm of relief.

Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge Day 1 - mask in jelutong wood, drawing out the approximate shape onto the squared piece of wood
Drawing the approximate shape onto the wood to make sure it looks roughly right.

I had picked out quite a few different sizes of wood to choose from but once I realised the time constraints I will be under I decided to restrict the size and depth of the piece of wood that I was using. I have enough to do all five pieces using the same size of wood, another worry gone or rather another decision gone.

Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge Day 1 - mask in jelutong wood, starting the waves/ripples
Starting to put in the waves/ripples, trying out different gouges.

Something that has always amused me, and I tend to forget all the time, is how difficult a simple sketch can be to make in three dimensions. I thought I had come up with a really simple design, as you can see in my sketches…..boy was I wrong! I think it’s a combination of the smallish size of the piece, the wood I’m using and the design. Jelutong does not hold a sharp edge very well, but I have managed to work around that though.

Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge Day 1 - mask in jelutong wood, putting the second eye in and using the waves/ripples to guide the outer shape
Putting the second eye in and using the waves/ripples to guide the outer shape

I roughed out the overall shape first, having left straight edges so that the block could be held in the vice. Then I worked in the ripples, experimenting with various gouges to see which ones had the shape and the cut that I wanted. It took a little while to work out something that I thought worked well.

I felt that one eye closed and one eye open would work the best, those are the only facial features that I felt were necessary.

Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge Day 1 - mask in jelutong wood, finished piece, back view
Day 1 finished mask, back view…. was a bit nerve racking hollowing that out!

Hollowing out the back was quite nerve racking, I was worried about cutting through to the front of the carving so I left it thicker than I would think would be ideal.

Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge Day 1 - mask in jelutong wood, finished piece, right hand view
Day 1 finished mask, right hand view

I am really, really pleased that I managed to finish this mask, i see it as being a sketch, a work in progress and it has given me a lot of ideas of further pieces to make. It really reminds me in both look and feel of a shell. I decided to not colour it in any way, to leave it plain this time and to not sand it in any way. I like the surface of the wood to have some life to it, sanding can seem to deaden the whole thing somehow. I think I will hang it above the carving bench, at least for now.

Stiller Designs Sculpture Challenge Day 1 - mask in jelutong wood, finished piece, left hand view
Day 1 finished mask, left hand view

This has all taken me a lot longer than I thought it would. I’m not sure if that’s due to all the general decisions I had to make regarding the challenge as a whole or if it’s just me getting my head around the piece. Whatever it was I am looking forward to what happens with the next sculpture.

I’d love to know what you think of this mask….

You can find the sculpture challenge day two here.

 

 

 

Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Sculpture, Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .

 

A carved wood George and Dragon for St George’s Day

Carved wood and silver gilded George and Dragon by Norbert Stiller, my dad
‘George and Dragon’ by Norbert Stiller (my dad) carved wood and silver gilded.

 

Just a little something to share as it is St George’s Day today.

My dad, Norbert Stiller, carved this as a part of his diploma when he was, I think, 16. He said that he had an argument with his tutor about it as he didn’t want to gild it but the tutor made him. I have no idea what wood was used.

It stands about 4 feet tall to the tip of the spear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .