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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’ .