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Carving Cypress Knees

By Carole Jean Boyd
Photography by Jack A. Williams

Reviewed by Mike Bloomquist


This is a first book for Carole Boyd, but you have probably seen her work and a little of her writing before, like maybe in Carving Found Wood by Vic Hood and Jack A. Williams.  I know I have seen her work there and several other places as well.  It doesn't take long to recognize her work because she has "a style".  Cypress Knees CoverThey're recognizable for the same reason you can pick out a Pete LeClair face, an Ian Norbury figure, a Desiree Hajny animal, a Native American bust by Jeff Phares, or a Pete Ortel caricature.  They have "a style".  So there I was, sitting at the computer, breaking open this book for the very first time, opened it up randomly, and from over my shoulder came, "Wow, nice eyes! How did they paint them!?".  This was simultaneous with it vanishing from my hands.  Seems that Yvonne, my decorative painter wife <Matt refers to her as the long suffering Mrs. Bloomquist>, REALLY likes Carole Jean's painting technique, and especially the eyes.  When I finally got the book back, I had to agree with her.  The style Carole Jean Boyd carvings have are equal parts fantastic carving technique and fantastic painting technique, and I think she communicates both very well in this book.

The Highlights:

Rapid fire... There's a wonderful  19 page gallery of  her work, as well as some of her students.  Floyd Rhadigan is in there... Man!  She must really know how to teach <said with an extreme grin>.  If there's nothing there that inspires you, then you have my sympathy.  There's several pages of excellent painting techniques that uses acrylics AND oil colors.  Each project leads off with a list of tools, and a list of colors.  Just like carving cottonwood bark is "different", so are cypress knees.  The author discusses these differences and the carving techniques she has found work best with the medium.  And , finally, there's that Jack Williams photography.  Throughout several books we haven't seen him shoot a mediocre step-by-step yet.

A brief tour:

About the Authors


Chapter One: Cypress Trees and Knees

Chapter Two: Carving Basics

Chapter Three: Design and Composition

Chapter Four: Gallery

Chapter Five: Carving a Knee Spirit

Chapter Six: Carving Father Christmas

Chapter Seven: Carving an Elf

Resource Directory

Nit Picks:

A couple minor ones here.  First, two thirds of the carving techniques section is actually painting techniques, but, like it was noted in the outline, there's plenty of good carving technique in the step-by-steps.  Second, there's something wrong with the elve's ears.  They look something like the fake rubber elf ears people wear at Christmas.  Maybe they need to be tapered into the skull more.  I won't dwell on it though because I've carved a few of the elven variety ears and they aren't easy.  Heck, human ears aren't easy.

four thumbsIn the past I have cautioned you about books that have a very specialied woodcarving subject.  As focused as this book is on cypress knees, the majority of carving and painting techniques are readily  applied to basswood or white pine.  I would highly recommend it for your library even if you've never laid eyes on a cypress knee, but might try just one.  If they don't do anything for you, the book is still a very good reference, and I think it deserves four thumbs...  if they're still available... the thumbs I mean.  Matt says I've been depleating his supply... of thumbs that is.

This 4-thumb level for Fox/Chapel books is a bit repetitive I realize, but it can't be helped.  With the exception of one book we discussed earlier, this publisher has a very strong track record publishing woodcarving books lately.  Tell ya what... in a future issue we'll give you a short list of woodcarving books you should not put on your wish list and why.  There will actually be some Fox/Chapel books there, honest.

So fellow woodcarvers, keep them edges keen, the chips piled high, and only buy the good stuff <no matter what it is.

Keep on Carvin'
-Mike Bloomquist->

Mike's mugMike Bloomquist is a carver and carving teacher, and a regular contributor to WOM.

He and the "long suffering" Mrs. Bloomquist live in the Mohawk Valley in New York state.

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