Wrinkles, wrinkles, wrinkles: Ugh! We get wrinkles in our hands, our arms, our legs, our faces and our clothes. After we get these wrinkles we try everything in our power to get rid of them. Let's not do that in our carvings, let's put them in!
Today we will talk about those wrinkles in our clothes (we will tackle age wrinkles on some other day).
When we carve, we concentrate on the details of the figure: Expression, position, posture, and action. When we are done, we exclaim a masterpiece in completion. The finished product (those of us that are USA carvers) always seems to be smooth and precise. Some of us even resort to (Oh! No!) sandpaper! I maintain, that those of us that do this and ignore the natural tendency of things to distort and wrinkle, are missing an opportunity. An opportunity to express realism and interest. An opportunity to show character and style. We may like our carving, but the carvings don't seem to sell as well as we would like or the expression of excellence is not as free from our critical observers.
Have you ever wondered why Scandinavian carvings from Norway and Sweden are in such demand and seem to peak everyone's interest? If you look at them closely, you will see that there are no extended smooth surfaces. There are a lot of "flat planes" that go to make up the finished carving, but no smooth, "roundness" to the piece. These flat planes leave the impression of (of all things), wrinkles! The carvings are interesting and expressive.
I am not a "flat plane" carver, but I do use flat planes as well as grooves and notches in my carvings. I love the "character" and interest these cuts provide.
Now that we have the "why's", let's examine the "how's".
I will not try to teach all there is to know about carving wrinkles (creases and folds). There are hundreds of books that do a much better job than I could ever do. However, I will (in my most humble way) teach you the "nuts and bolts" of wrinkle (crease) carving.
As with most of these "Nuts and Bolts" short courses on the Internet, you will have to use your "minds eye" to "see" what I am telling you.
Let's examine a standing figure with arms and legs straight, clothed, and looking straight ahead. We will include both male and female in our discussion.
There are, basically, three wrinkle classes: draped, pulled, and crushed. The sharpness of the folds and wrinkles depend on the material itself and the form underneath. For our discussion, we will consider clothing of a relative light material and the form will be human.
There are four support surfaces on the human body: The shoulders, the hips, the elbows, and the knees. Clothing will fall from these surfaces and create small radiating (downward) creases or wrinkles. In other words, from the shoulders, chest and upper back (the shoulder support surfaces); from the hips to the upper flat surface of the buttocks (the hip support surface); from the area just above the elbows to the tip of the elbows (the elbow support surface); and from the area just above the knee to the knee (the knee support surface).
If it would make it more clear, draw a line on your figure from the nipples (excuse me!) around and across the shoulder blades; around the elbow, at the joint; from the widest part of the hips, all the way around; and around the knee joint. From these lines, wrinkles or creases will radiate downward (gravity you know!). These are "draped" creases or wrinkles. There is one exception to these static folds (creases, wrinkles) called "draped": On the female figure the creases will be a little deeper from the nipples down to the waist. I do not classify these as draped creases, but as a pulled crease that will be a little deeper than the normal draped crease and radiate from, approximately, the nipples to the waist or to the hips if there is no belt.
Your static figure will have a few creases (wrinkles) caused by crushing. Notably, a horizontal crease in front of the elbow, across the butt at the crotch, behind the knee, and at the shoe-top.
As you get more active with your figure, the creases deepen, increase in number, and you start generating, what I term, pulled creases. For example: If you put one foot forward, you will generate a vertical crease running from the crotch spiraling to just above the knee, a "pulled" crease. If you turn your arm into or away from your body, you will generate several creases from the shoulder, spiraling down in the direction of the turn, more pulled creases. If you bend your elbow, the crushed crease in front will deepen and "pulled" creases will emanate from the elbow itself. As you bend your knee, the same thing will happen as with the elbow.
Now let us produce a "finished" carving incorporating all the creases (wrinkles, folds, etc.,). Our figure will be standing, relaxed, with one leg forward and bent and one leg straight and supporting all the weight. One arm will be bent with a hand on the hip and the other arm will be relaxed at the side. He/she will be wearing a long sleeved shirt, long pants, and shoes.
The straight arm will have a small horizontal crease in front of the elbow and a couple of vertical creases from the elbow down. The bent arm will have two or three creases from the tip of the shoulder spiraling down to just above the front of the horizontal crease at the front of the elbow. These creases will deepen a little as they approach the horizontal crease. A couple others can run down from the horizontal crease to the cuff. Don't forget the horizontal crease across the butt at the crotch. When you cut this crease, cut a straight line and then cut away down towards the legs. The straight leg may have one or two creases running straight down from knee. No crease at the shoe-top. The bent leg will have deepened crease (horizontal) at the back of the knee and a couple of creases down from the knee to just a little above the horizontal crease at the shoe-top. A lady will be the same with the addition of the "pulled" creases below the breasts as previously described.
I use a knife for most of my cuts when doing creases or wrinkles, but I will use a "v" gouge or a deep "u" gouge depending on what type and weight of fabric I am trying to portray. When cutting these creases with a knife, make a "v" with two cuts and remove the chip. Make the cut relatively deep and closed.
What I have said is not meant to be cast in concrete, but only meant as a guide. As with everything else in art or expression, rules are meant to be broken and always will be. These words of wisdom are provided to you as a guide or starting point. To open you up to new and exciting experiences. What I want you to take away from all of this is an "awareness". Your best teacher will be to watch people as they move or rest. Watch what happens with the clothes we all wear. Look at yourself in the mirror. Use what you see, and I promise you will benefit greatly and enjoy your chosen art form to the fullest. Others will be just as excited about your work as you are.
Tip of the Day: When you have finished painting for the day, try applying a little Vaseline to your brushes to reshape. The Vaseline will help to preserve the hair and allow the brush to retain its' shape until the next time. Store your brushes vertically in a jar, glass, or can, with the tips,pointing up.
Keep Those Chips Flying!
Capital Woodcarvers Association Sacramento, California