by Stephen H. Prescott
In my opinion, the main reason woodcarving is not considered true art by some is because most of us copy patterns and subjects from other carvers. Much of our carving work would be like entering a store bought paint-by-numbers painting in an art show. Art must be original, not copies.
I am often asked how I develop a pattern for an original carving. They all begin as rough sketches or doodles of an idea. There is very little detail, just a lot of possible ideas. Not all ideas will be used but if I don’t write it down it will be lost.
I use various models to work out patterns from these sketches. The first model is a 12”, 1/6 scale, Male Action Figure that I got on Ebay. It has 35 to 40 articulated joints which allows for many different poses. It’s fairly expensive for a model ($60-$200) dependent on the options.
I also use moveable paper manikins that I made in 8”, 10” and 12” sizes. These are in caricature proportions rather than realistic. If you want to make your own, Lynn Doughty has a video on his blog, on how he makes his paper manikins. (For photos click HERE.)
Once I have the pattern worked out, I draw/transfer the pattern to quarter inch grid paper. I draw the front and side view next to each other to make sure that both sides match. If it’s a pattern that I plan to make multiples of, I use a felt tip pen to draw the pattern on clear plastic or cardboard. The pattern is then transferred to the block of wood. I cut out the pattern on the band saw. I cut on the outside of the lines to leave plenty of wood to play with. Don’t be concerned about every little detail on the cut out. I prefer to have the freedom to modify carvings from the same pattern.
I hope this helps you develop your own patterns. If you need more info or have a comment you can contact me at:
Editors Note — Steve Prescott is a long time carver and instructor, and a founding member of the Caricature Carvers of America.