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Janel

Small Sculpture From Boxwood

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Thank you so much for sharing your journey! I'm very impressed by your eloquent description of the thought processes and considerations you are going through as the piece evolves. There's so much I can relate to, but being not even half as articulate as you are, it's a amazing to read your words, and thinking; hey! The same goes through my mind at times at my bench. Nuf about me!

 

Fantastic achievement already and given your skills it will be a jaw dropper by the time you're done. It's also very inspiring to watch you take hurdles the piece throws at you along the way. Tips breaking off asking for flexibility and adjustments etc.

 

Just goes to show the creational process is an ongoing conversation between you and the material. Covering all emotions, from shout outs, to a soft whispering. Thank you for letting us listen in :)

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Hi Deborah,

 

Thank you for your kind words. This stage of carving seems to be going on forever. I am looking at the calendar for my departure date in early April for my next show, and looking at my clock, and at how long it took the previous piece to be completed, and trying to hold back my anxiety that normally precedes this particular event. This is a commissioned piece, so I am ignoring show preparations until this is completed. I must trust a long held belief that things have a way of working out, but not by idly sitting by.

 

The work now is not taxing on my hands, only on my ability to sit for many hours. I had my first nine hour carving day yesterday, and I believe that there will be more of those ahead.

 

Now, on with the day!

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I have been watching the progression of this carving with great interest. It is obvious the effort you are putting into the composition. Everything flows and the details are amazing, especially the caps on the acorns. Very meticolous work and attention to every detail.

 

I know from my experience carving bark and trees that it is not just random carving that there truly is a rythmn and flow to these details. Is there a particular type of bark or tree you are working from or is this a free form? I like the bare wood protruding from the bark although I admit that the many round protrusions are a little disconcerting, that is why I ask about the type of tree. Carving leaves is always a challenge when it comes to undercutting and getting "lift". I would have thought the boxwood would have been a little more resilient for that effect.

 

It does appear that most of the carving is actually scraping away instead of chiipping away pieces. It truly must be rough on the hands and finger tips. I look forward to seeing more of the progress and congratulate you on the well spent efforts so far, it is looking fantastic!

 

Mark

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Hi Mark,

 

Thank you for your good thoughts, remarks and compliments.

 

Yes, I have been referring to some bark photos of pin oaks. All pin oaks are not the same, with age and size, but I had to choose something to work from. We have them all around here, but for some reason I did not think about overlooking the deep snow and severe cold for up close examination when starting this piece. I've got leaves to look at though. What I am keeping in mind with the bark photo sample is the way the bark looks stretched apart with long, intact vertical strips with stretch marks in various degrees and patterns. The long strips are just a bit cupped from edge to edge, and the stretch marks have depth. What I am carving is an abstraction, to keep the cutting relatively shallow. Once all of the strips and marks are complete, I will judge whether or not to add shallow, horizontal cracks that are also part of the photo sample.

 

I totally agree about all of the round protrusions. They are stronger than I imagine they would be when defined by the carved bark. When I removed the boxwood soft bark layer, the remarkable burly stemy bits were revealed. I then looked up pin oak burl and saw that those oaks do grow burls now and then. This particular piece of boxwood has offered a whole lot more than I had anticipated in the area of character. I will wait until closer to the end to decide whether or not to change any of the burly, rounded parts.

 

The leaf tips breaking concern, and the little bit experienced may be due to the location of the leaves relative to the position on the trunk of the boxwood. The leaves are in the outer zone of the wood which on this piece is not quite as dense and hard as the inner wood... I think. The tip that broke did so on the grain line, having very little support or strength. The top, left leaf is on a left/right horizontal orientation, and the tip there proved to be quite vulnerable with no cross grain to give it strength. I am leaving some connection underneath until closer to the end of carving, but I think that I cannot undercut the leaves so much that the tips are free completely.

 

There is a difference between this pin oak leaves carved in boxwood and the bur oak leaves of Oak Savanna Sentinel from the same boxwood. The rounded bur oak leaves, curling towards their backs are smooth and wonderful to hold. The pin oaks are pointy, even carved in this lower relief version. I will need to make some judgements about how sharp to leave the points and edges at the time of the final work on the leaf edges.

 

The larger chip-producing work ended last week and now with the detail work there is definitely a lot of scraping and cutting. This work is much easier on the hands and wrists. There is not as much constant pressure cutting now. The work is done mostly with a light tough, and quite sharp tools.

 

Today was a five steps forward and five steps back day. In the last couple of days I completed the bark around the bottom and moved upwards and began on a connected middle area, then moved on to the top area above it. This area of frustration happens to be to the right of the frog's back foot, on the stem that sticks out. On the Oak Savanna Sentinel, I carved a texture layer whereever the bark had "fallen off". On this piece, because of the uncarved surface of the burly parts, and the particular approach to this bark texture, there are very few ares for this under bark texture to appear. Where ever it appears, it does not quite feel right, so I spend too much time trying to get it minimized and suitable, and to have it make sense with the precedents set by the burly parts and bark textures. So today, I tried to have an area of more of that under bark texture, and it was terrible, at least to me. In such a close proximity to the frog and its right foot, what ever is next to it should not be commanding of attention, and this result was. I tried changing it by reducing the length of the texture areas, and finally took most of it away. It might have been okay, but I really was uncomfortable with it. Now it is gone. When I look at that area now, it really was not a very large area, but I spent quite a lot of time on it to make it look like it belongs to the rest of the piece.

 

This piece is taking longer than the earlier one, I think because of the acorns and openings under the stems and acorns. Using what the wood has to offer is a choice that I have made many times when carving. Doing so adds a unique character to the overall piece. With this piece it adds a great deal of that character, and has added to the time as well while solving each of the burly parts as they were revealed.

 

To meet the clients wish to have a comparable piece to the earlier piece, well, if this one makes it all the way to the end, this may exceed "comparable". It is very exciting to see each stage develop.

 

Thank you again Mark. I appreciate having an opportunity to write about the things that you mentioned.

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Janel,

I agree about the character of the wood. This piece does have some really wonderful protrusions and points that could not have been better placed if planned.

 

I carve a lot of oak leaves and frequently run into the problem with the points and the undercutting. Sometimes I feel like it is an unfirtunate compromise I have to make to achieve a balance. Of course basswood is not the strongest wood and at some point I will order some linden wood to see what can be done in that material. Bark carving is such a fascinating experience to me. I often try to make the animal secondary to the wood focusing the attention on the so called secondary elements.

 

I totally understand the battle with small problem areas. A days work yields a thimble of chips with little visible difference but it is part of the deal you make. Sometimes you have to feel your way through instead of designing or planning...not always the easiest on the brain or nerves.

 

You already know that this piece will exceed the last, it is your nature to push, to try for more and to go just a little farther with each new work. That is what makes each piece exciting, keeps you carving and keeps your clients enthralled by your work. Looking forward to the next photo.

 

Mark

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507k.jpg 507o_w.jpg

 

On the left is before bark texture, and on the right is what it looks like as of last evening. I am very pleased to be carving toes on the frog today! The "background" has taken quite a lot of time. I am eager to move forward with the frog, its eyes, the leaves' surfaces and edges, and the final rounds of touching up details. Lots to do yet.

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photo-3_2.jpg 507p.jpg

 

The frog has progressed in the past two days. I am working cautiously, and am enjoying watching it emerge from the nebulous form.

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Dear Janel,

 

This is the kind of creation/carving wich I so very like :) !!!

 

Its amazing to see how You discover this story out of a raw piece of boxwood.

I like your statement about the conversation with the carving, the tools, also yourself,

while You are into the process to bring a new wonderful composition to the

visible reality.

This is an amazing adventure.......once more......

 

Thank You for sharing the photos and also your thougts about .

 

I wish You much power and patient for the processes to make it complete !!!

 

Cornel

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The tasks now are careful refinement of details, edges, and intersections. The lenses now have their pupils and irises, and are in the solvent gassing off period while the final details are being attended to, which as with everything else, takes lots of time. The days at the studio are long, netting nine hours of bench time. I could be driving to Chicago from here every day that I am at the bench, or flying from LA to Hawaii, for the amount of time spent sitting still while my hands and eyes attend to their work.

 

I am pleased to feel closer to the completion of this piece, but have no guess as to which day it will be, but I think there is a good chance of it concluding within the week. My apologies for not adding a photo, the work days end quite late and the changes now are subtle. I have slept and am back at the studio.

 

On with the day!

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507r_1.jpg

 

This shot is of the last stage of carving where I go around, and around, and around, and around, looking for all of the little bits that need tweaking, irregular edges shaped up, bits and nerds removed, sanding with toothpick sanders, or shaving bits with rounded sharp edged tools . . . anything that will do what is needed to clean up the detail. I did that again all day today, and now I believe that the removal of material is done.

 

I hope to be able to set the eyes tomorrow. The next day I will apply the oil and spend hours checking each overlap, crevice and recess for excess oil so that a gummy buildup will not be left anywhere. Photos will be taken later in the week, which I will share with you.

 

The carving of this piece has been quite a journey for me. I have had a great deal of time to think during these months, and I continue to learn from what I have been doing.

 

More later,

 

Janel

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Aaah,... but then you have the end grain quite different from real oak...I mean, the end grain of the carving... Box is not the same as oak...

 

Just kidding

 

It is a great work I my opinion.

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