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Carving the Classic Female Face from Wood

By Ian Norbury

Reviewed by Mike Bloomquist


"Oh no!," you say to yourself! Here comes Mike with another Ian Norbury review. Well yeah, so what? Settle down and listen up anyway! This one will be just as good for you as the rest were. This is especially true if you plan on carving female faces any time in your chip making, band-aid filled future. Several years ago a copy of Ian's book, Fundamentals of Figure Carving, saved my life in regards to a commission I was in the middle of. This commission involved a female nude, my first nude. I know, I know, commissioned piece - first nude - bad, bad combination. Thanks in a large part to Ian's book this project had a very happy ending. Anyway, being very familiar with the chapters from that book on carving a female face and carving a female figure, I expected that Ian's latest, Carving the Classic Female Face from Wood might be just an excerpt from that book with embellishments. Oh was I ever wrr . .wrrrr . . .wrrro . . . did I ever have a misconception. A rough estimate would be that only 15% of the new book is material repeated from Figure Carving, but even that is somehow presented in an improved way.

There are four model/projects in this book, and the word "classic" in the title might be expected to refer only to their beauty, which is extremely classical. If the phrase "Classic Female Face" conjures visions of Greek/Roman goddesses, then this book holds a nice surprise since there are projects here with a wonderful mix of races and ages. In the first project chapter Ian demonstrates the carving of a beautiful European-Caucasian model. This is not very surprising and you should recognize her from the books cover. After that Ian follows with a chapter featuring a Afro-Caribbean model, then an African lady from the Samburu tribe, and finally a young girl who looks vaguely familiar (Your grand daughter Ian?). So the title underestimates the diverse contents of the book.

There are other positive features of the book worth noting. The first chapter has the largest number of steps and finest detail of instruction. In the later projects Ian uses this project as a base and doesn't belabor steps already covered there. In later chapters he only illustrates areas unique to that project. In fact, in Chapter 5 there are no steps, only a pattern and two photos of the completed carving. Finally, Ian very often includes metal, glass and/or gems in his work or uses contrasting pieces of wood. He includes both elements in this book. In the second project, Nathaly wears a ribbon in her hair formed by a strip of patina metal. In the third project, the Samburu women wears jewelry of light colored wood which contrast nicely with the walnut she was carved from.

A brief tour with highlights:

About the Author
A short project description by the author
Chapter 1: Introduction to carving the Female Face

Chapter 2: Taking Photographs and Producing Drawings

Chapter 3: Carving a Classic European Woman's Face

Chapter 4: Carving a Classic Afro-Caribbean Woman's Face

Chapter 5: Carving a Samburu Girl

Chapter 6: Carving a Girl's Face



The only negative criticism I have for this book is that Ian does not discuss or suggest a version of the carving in clay or Plastelina (non-hardening, petroleum based clay) before laying gouge to wood. He normally works extensively with photographic references, so this might not be considered an omission except that he does use the clay model technique, together with photographic reference, in is his instructional CD "Carving a Portrait in Relief". Having said that, I'll award Carving the Classic Female Face from Wood Four Thumbs Up.

So, while I wrap up this review I'm thinking to myself, "This was such a great expansion of his female portrait chapter of Fundamentals of Figure Carving, wouldn't it be great if it was just the first book of a series". Guess What! Ian is way ahead of me. Soon to be released by Fox/Chapel, Carving the Classic Female Figure in Wood by Ian Norbury (see link below). I doubt you need me to review this one before you buy it but I will anyway! So, until it's available, keep them edges keen, the chips piled high, and, yes I do read carving books by other authors, but I only bother you with the better ones, so . . . .

Keep on Carvin'
-Mike Bloomquist->

Fox Chapel Books http://foxchapel.powerwebbook.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=1215

Mike Bloomquist is a carver and carving teacher, and a frequent contributor to WOM.

You may visit Mike's web site, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving HERE or email him at m.bloomquistATverizonDOTnet.