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Creating Caricature Heads in Wood and on Paper:

A step-by-step guide for Designing and Carving heads and faces.

By Marv Kaisersatt

Reviewed by Matt Kelley


Right off the bat I have to give the usual disclosure - I have been a huge fan of Marv Kaisersatt for a long time and have taken several 5 days classes from him in the last two years. I had the opportunity to see the near final draft of this book about sixreen months ago, and have waited eagerly for publication since then.

For those who may not be familiar with Marv Kaisersatt, he is a retired junior high math teacher who lives in Faribault, MN. He began carving in 1976, taking classes from Ivan Whillock along the way. He began teaching caricature carving in 1985 and is a member of the Caricature Carvers of America. He specializes in carving multiple figure scenes from a single block of basswood, often drawing upon his youthful construction experience for subject matter. He was recently referred to as "the Norman Rockwell of the carving world." That characterization might embarrass Marv a touch, but serves to illustrate the high regard in which he is held by may carvers.

With that out of the way. let me begin by saying that Marv's book is unusual in a number of ways.

First, it has one of the longest title you'll see outside of a graduate mathematics dissertation : Creating Caricature Heads in Wood and on Paper: A step-by-step guide for Designing and Carving heads and faces.

Second, this self-published book only has color on the cover; the interior pages are black and white.

Third, the book is a hefty 138 pages long and spiral bound, so it lays flat on your bench.

Forth, this is not just a "how-to-carve" book; it is also a "how-to-design" book with a lot of neat stuff throw in for good measure.

Finally, the book is just plain FUN! That's right F-U-N. It is filled with useful quotations and nifty little comic graphics used to provide direction and tie things together. There is even a centerfold foldout! (Before anyone gets excited, it's not what you think and is at the BACK of the book!)

So let's get a bit more specific and look under the hood of this not-so-little publication.

Part 1 is sort of what you come to expect in a carving "how-to" book - forty-eight pages of instruction in Marv's method of carving a caricature head, You will likely, however, find more photos and instruction drawings then you have in any other book. The goal is to teach the methods, not particularly to turn out a copy of a Marv "go-by" carving.

Part 2 and beyond is where this books departs from the norm. Part 2 is Design I, forty-four pages all about the initial steps in doing your own design of a caricature head, covering head proportions, the profile and front face, and a review. Part 3 moves on to Design II - advance topics such as head movement.

The Appendix is the "Stuff at the Back of the Book" eighteen pages of goodies like the Pick-Yer-Nose profile generator and Make-A-Face expression generator. You'll also find other helpful topics such as a discussion of polymer clay heads, head mannequins, strops, a Marv-style bench carving ledge and bench-top carving arm.

So with all these goodies, for who is this book a good choice?

For who has had a class with Marv this is an excellent review.

For the experienced carver it provides insight into the methods of one of the finest caricature carvers in North America, and will allow you to make giant steps toward doing your own caricature design.

For the carver just starting off in caricature carving, it is perhaps best to heed the words of W. Somerset Maughn, who Marv quotes in his Introduction: "It's a great nuisance that knowledge can only be acquired by hard work."

There is, quite frankly, an almost daunting amount of information in the book. Be very clear on this - to learn everything within the pages will take a LOT of time and practice, but the rewards of working patiently through the book can be great. Besides, this is the most fun you'll have learning to carve from a book.

If you are at all interested in caricature carving, particularly in learning to better design caricature heads, this is an exceptional book that is not to be missed. There are very few "perfect" carving books but this comes close, . Creating Caricature Heads in Wood and on Paper earns four and one-half thumbs up.

Creating Caricature Heads in Wood and on Paper is available for about $24.95 plus shipping from most carving supply houses, including those that sponsor WOM.