For my grandson’s 13th birthday, I carved this dragon. The pattern is from a book by Tom Wolfe.
On June 9th, 10th and 11th of 2017 I participated in the Tom Richmond Caricature Workshop held in the Pittsburgh area. I was the odd duck in the workshop because of my background, or lack of one, in art. For the last 40 years I have been a woodcarving hobbyist. I have no experience in drawing or sketching but really like the art of caricature and the humor it provides. The other students ranged from seasoned live caricature pros to professional cartoonists/comic book artists and animators.
I met Tom several years ago in Pittsburgh and watched him in action. I knew he had a lot to offer so when I saw on his blog, TomRichmond.com, that he would be hosting a workshop 8 miles from my house, it seemed like a sign to make the leap. When I contacted Tom to tell him of my interest and experience, he assured me I would benefit from the class and would not spoil it for the other students. Although I must have been a challenge for Tom, his encouragement and individual direction gave me confidence to improve as the workshop proceeded.
As Tom hoped in his opening remarks, I am now seeing faces in a new way. It remains to be seen if I can apply the vast amount of this new insight to my carvings. I’m excited to make this happen.
I’m also glad I had the opportunity to see the many aspects of Tom’s profession. I appreciate the skill and effort required to produce the art we see every day in political satire, advertising, graphic novels and comics.
Tom’s vast knowledge, skill, humor and willingness to share make him an invaluable asset to the industry. I would encourage caricature carvers, who are ready to expand their skills, to make an effort to attend Tom’s workshop. I still have many hours ahead to perfect the techniques from the class but I know it’s possible. I felt a lot of pressure during the drawing exercises, but that is what it takes if you’re serious about learning.
You can get a good sense of the workshop content by visiting Tom’s blog and clicking on the Workshop icon.
Here are the participants in the Pittsburgh workshop.
Here are some shots taken during an inking demonstration.
Tom explained the process to produce the artwork for a MAD Magazine feature.
Tom used a laptop and drawing pad to project his drawings while he described his techniques.
Last month I met an artist from a nearby Ohio town. When he learned I was a woodcarver, he asked if I had ever tried carving high-density urethane. I’ve carved the rubber centers in golf balls, the core of softballs and Potatowood but never urethane. I learned that this HDU is used for sign making and is designed to be durable enough for outdoor use. My new friend, a sign maker, uses power routers, Dremels, pneumatic tools and saws to shape the material on a larger scale than I work, but I was interested in trying to use regular woodcarving tools. I was told the material is very expensive so my friend keeps his larger scraps, just like me with my wood scraps except I seem to keep everything. He generously gave several pieces to me for experimental purposes. The scraps are 2 inches thick but can be laminated to increase that dimension.
I have two densities now. One is called Signfoam and at 15 pounds per cubic foot, it’s easier to use of the two. It’s white with a smoother surface when carved. The second type, from Jasper Products, is darker with a grainier rougher carved surface. At 18 pounds per cubic foot, it doesn’t appear to be as dense. I can’t explain the logical contradiction except that it is a different compound.
I prefer the 15 PCF foam but, in both densities, a slicing cut is required. I used a carving knife for most of the work. A gouge will work but only if it’s rotated to make a slicing cut. A V-tool is not very effective because it’s usual cutting method tends to crush the material and a slicing action is difficult. I had to resort to using a knife for making hair.
Here is a link to a vendor if you want to learn more. http://signfoam.com/carving.html
The first two examples are from the Signfoam.
This is an example from the Jasper Products foam. You should be able to see the rougher texture.
I still have some of both left so I may do some more experimenting. It is interesting but I’ll stick to Basswood for now.
Several people have offered painting tips on Facebook so I thought I would expand the tip about a holding device. A handle can be used to hold a small carving while carving and/or painting. Some have suggested carving a handle-shaped stick or some other form for ease in holding a carving. I found some cheap tool handles that were probably meant for files or replacement screwdriver handles. Flea markets and yard sales are good for these items. I cut the heads from drywall screws and other assorted self drilling screws. I made sure each one would fit in the pre-drilled handle hole and used epoxy glue to set a screw in each handle. If the hole is larger than needed, you will have to support the screw so it remains in line with the handle until the glue sets up. That’s not a big deal but it will be a better experience using the handle if you can easily screw it into the carving.
I happened to have a big chunk of pine, 3.5″ X 3.5″ X 21″ (90mm X 90mm X 533mm), that had seven holes conveniently drilled so I could use my handles. Each hole also had a pilot-hole in the bottom. This allows me to invert the handles for storage when they’re not in use.
I took a class with CCA member Tom Wolfe where painting was part of the instruction. Tom used the same concept but instead of a heavy chunk of pine, he had a short log with angled chainsaw cuts to form a rough dome shaped top. That allowed holes to be drilled at angles around the top. I don’t remember how many holes were in his base. If I have carvings that cause my base to tip, I add a clamp at the bottom to increase it’s size.
Don Mertz, a member of the Caricature Carvers of America, has a history of collaboration with the Helvie Knife company (HelvieKnives.com). Over the years they have produced a successful line of custom knives that suit Don’s whittlecarving style. Don’s work can be viewed at WoodBeeCarver.com. I own several of those knives but since the blade style was different than the one I use, I’ve delayed giving his a try. The other day I decided to see what I could or could not do. The pictures show the project I chose and the knives I used. They are in Don’s Signature series as numbers 2, 4 and 6. There are many more knife choices on the Helvie site. I did not succumb to the urge to grab my usual knife and a gouge or two because this was a whittlecarving challange.
I thought a reasonable challenge would be a project offered by Dave Stetson, also a CCA member. It was in the Summer issue 2015 of Woodcarving Illustrated magazine. Dave’s advice is to make no cuts that would leave flat surfaces or sharp shadows. In other words, a soft smooth appearance. I, like Dave, would normally use gouges to achieve that look. My results were not exactly like Dave’s, but then I have trouble matching his results using the tools he recommends. I’m still reasonably happy with my result. I’m not ready to toss my straight edge knives but I know I have more options if the circumstances need the Mertz touch.
I used a block of Basswood one and a half inches square (38mm) by 3 inches long (76mm). I used Johnson’s Feed n’ Wax as a finish on the raw wood.
This is supposed to be a hobbit. Most of the work was done with a knife. This guy was also inspired by the carvings of Don Mertz.
These guys preceded the Hobbit and Wizard. I figured if I could do these guys, I could do more detail.
These are pictures of my class projects from the Woodcarvers Roundup held in Lebanon, Tennessee, March 2016. Each of the five week-days was a different project with a new instructor. The projects were all done from basswood (linden) rough-outs. The instructors provided an assortment of their own designs so we could choose a project that suited our carving experience level. There were 60 students with 12 in each class. The instructor’s names are shown in the caption.
Sitting Santa by Gary Falin (CCA).
Witch by Mitch Cartledge (CCA).
Old Ernel by Chris Hammack (CCA).
Smiley by Rich Wetherbee (CCA).
Sleeping Santa by PJ Driscoll (CCA).