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CD Review: Carving A Portrait in Relief, By Ian Norbury

Reviewed by Mike Bloomquist

Ian Norbury's instructional CD Carving a Portrait in Relief is his second production of this type. I'm a big Ian Norbury fan, so it was a privilege to review his first CD, "Carving Uncle Sam", here in the Woodcarver Online Magazine (WOM). It was also real tough to only give it a 4-Thumbs Up rating, but there were issues. Fortunately WOM Editor Matt Kelley reviewed it with me, and was there to balance me out with a 5-Thumber.

Reviewing Norbury's second CD is real easy. Everything he did right the first time is still done right, and he fixed all "issues" but one, so it gets 5-Thumbs Up! There, go out and buy it! What? Oh, sure! You're probably expecting a little more detail than that, huh? Well, OK.

First of all, this CD is read with a web browser such as Internet Explorer, Netscape, or Mozilla. When you open the CD icon on your computer, there's only one file named "start" at the top level of the CD. Double clicking it will launch it in your default browser on most computers. This means you don't have to be cursed with the "geek" gene and know that files ending in ".htm" are web based HTML files, and "index.htm" is the first page to start the fun. Then for the computer naive (who should count themselves "blessed" at times), there's a "readme" file that is easy to open and will lead you gently to the beginning. This file even has his son's email link so you can plead for help if nothing works. After launching the first page, there is an immediate link "How to use this CD" which gives you a very nice tutorial and assumes no prior web surfing experience. With the exception of the single "start" file, these features were all included in his first CD.


The carving instruction is broken into only 4 pages with the ability to jump to any of them from the "Start Now" page. You can also view the videos or the still shots in sequence. It's subtle, but this CD is much easier to navigate than the previous effort. It's also easier to return to a point where you left off during a previous carving session without knowing how to use your browser's bookmark feature. The video and image quality are top notch. There are no photos or videos where you wish for a little higher resolution so that you can make out some step detail. Their were a couple videos where Ian blocked his light source making the picture very dark, but after the cut was done you could see it well lighted again. The audio did not skimp on quality in favor of smaller file sizes. His voice was very plain and understandable, even over the cheap computer sound system I have.

In the preparation section Ian stresses photographs, then drawings, then a clay model. In making the clay model, he begins with a clay block identical in dimension to the wood block for the final project, and carves away from it. In past carving projects I've done the clay model step both ways: building it up by adding clay to some type of armature or carving clay away from a "blank". Watching this particular video clip it occurred to me that carving away the clay model was probably a better idea since the subtractive process is what you will be using on the wood, after all. This way you've had a dry run of taking material away, but with the benefit of being able to put it back if you do cut away too much.


The instructional part that follows is fairly typical. It's broken down into small enough details that there should be no gaps, even for those folks new to relief carving. Also, this CD does not limit you to doing Ian's granddaughter (as cute as she is), but will guide you to doing a likeness of someone from your own family. It's a good buy no matter who your intended victim - ummm, intended subject.

What's that? You want to know about the "issue" that didn't get addressed? Well, even though there is ample room left on the CD, Ian still has not included an introduction clip where you meet your instructor/artist face-to-face. Guess he's just camera shy. (Editor's note: This oversight is remedied in the next instructional CD.)

You can bet if I made one of these, I would get my mug in there no matter how many camera lenses we shattered doing it! Well Gang, keep them edges keen, the chips piled high, and be careful not to look directly at the image at the end of this article.

-Mike Bloomquist->

Editor's Note: Wood Carvers Supply Inc has announced that they have been granted the exclusive USA distribution rights for all of the Ian Norbury CDs. Now instead of ordering from the UK, these are available at the Wood Carvers Supply web site www.woodcarverssupply.com or by calling toll free 1-800-284-6229.

Mike Bloomquist is a carver and carving teacher, and a frequent contributor to WOM . He edits the on-line newletter for the Mohawk Valley Art & Woodcarving Association, and is also their current President.

You may visit Mike's web site, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving at http://www.borg.com/~bloomqum/index.htm or email him at bloomqum@borg.com.


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