This is going
to be a painful review on a couple levels. First
this carving book, after months of anticipation,
turned out to be an extreme disappointment. Second the author
is one of my favorites and this latest is going to get the lowest
rating of any book I've reviewed here. A few issues back, you
might recall, we reviewed Ians Carving
Classic Females Faces in Wood. I pointed out that
he had covered this subject in his previous book, Fundamentals of Figure Carving,
but Faces was a wonderful
expansion on the the former work. Carving
Classic Females Figures in Wood is just the opposite and
has far less than what is covered in Fundamentals.
First of all the book is misleading title. Of the two projects
presented the figures have no arms below mid biceps, they are
missing legs from just above the knee, and have no heads.
The title should instead be Carving
Classic Females Torsos
in Wood . The first project being a torso would be
a fine first figure project and applauded, but then the second
project should have been a complete figure with discussions. Also
unlike the earlier book on carving female faces which had four
different models for four different projects with a wonderful
mix of races and ages, this book only has one model and two poses/projects.
Not to belabor a previous point, but since only the torsos are
carved, the difference between the two poses is not nearly as
dramatic. Finally, and this was a criticism of the earlier
book as well, there is no discussion of clay models. The
more I carve and meet successful carvers, the more I'm convinced
that clay modeling is one of the best tools for woodcarvers who
are doing there own original patterns and projects and/or stretching
This book was not totally devoid of good points. Although he begs off of the benefits of anatomical research into the female figure, Ian does supply a good suggestion for a reference book. Several anatomical diagram are placed in the first project to illustrate certain carving steps. I would have appreciated many more of these in the second project. The discussions of reference photos and making patterns from them is very complete. There are plenty of reference photos of the model for both projects. Enough to do a full carving (with arms, legs, and heads) of either if you choose. The photography throughout the book is very good, especially during the how-to sequences, and is all in color. The color option is especially appreciated when he uses limewood for the first project and walnut for the second. The beauty and differences of both woods are brought out much more clearly in color.
A brief tour of the contents:
About the Author
Introduction by the author
Chapter 1: Taking Photographs and Making
Chapter 2: Carving a Limewood Torso
Chapter 3: Carving a Walnut Torso
My gut feeling was
to rate this book two and a half thumbs, but after re-reading
what has been said in this review so far, I realize most of my
complaints have been a result of comparing this to earlier books
of Ian Norbury, especially Fundamentals
of Figure Carving. If this were the only book I had
ever seen of Ian's I would say that it was a fairly good woodcarving
book. Not great, but still useful. So I will give
it a three thumb rating. However, if you can lay hands on
a copy of Ian Norbury's Fundamentals
book (ISBN 0-941936-26-0) buy it instead. Even with black
and white photography it gets four and a half thumbs out of five.
Keep on Carvin'
Female Figures can be found online at Fox Chapel Books
of Woodcarving can be found online at Martin J Donnely
Antique Tools and Books http://www.mjdtools.com/books/125851.htm
or cambium books at
Mike Bloomquist is a carver and carving teacher, and a regular contributor to WOM.
You may visit Mike's web site, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving HERE or email him at m.bloomquistATverizonDOTnet.