About 3 or 4 weeks ago I tried to carve this same lion. I began carving it on a Saturday morning and just before I started I told my wife that I would probably be sorry that I carved it. I haven’t gotten very good with eyes yet and if the eyes are not right then the carving will not be right either. Sure enough, after having carved for several hours I was not happy with it at all. However, I pressed on for some more time but after an hour or so I saw that there wasn’t any use in continuing. It just wasn’t right and I couldn’t correct it. I went out onto the patio outside of my shop and thought about it. I actually became very depressed over it and began to ask myself a lot of negative questions. I thought to myself why I was trying to teach myself how to carve at 61 years of age. How am I going to be able to learn if I have only the weekends? I thought of a hundred reasons why I should just quit and go back to my regular woodworking and just give up on carving all together. The more I thought the worse it got and I didn’t sleep very good that night. However, I got up early the next morning and went into the shop and picked out something a little more simple to carve but at least I didn’t talk myself in to quitting.
This past Saturday I thought that I would carve this lion again but this time finish it no matter how bad it was. I hadn’t forgotten about it and how much not being able to do it had upset me. During the week I looked at the pattern for a number of times and tried to figure out where I had gone wrong.
The pattern came from Lora S. Irish’s book 101 Artistic Relief Patterns for Woodcarvers, Woodburners, and Crafters. It’s one of my favorite carving books actually. I love most of the patterns that are in this book.
This is normally the way that I set up to do a relief carving. I go ahead and lay out all of my tools even though I know that on any given carving I won’t need more than a third of them. I use this rig that the carving is laying on for most relief carvings. When I’m not using it it just stands in the corner but when I use it I just clamp it to the bench top.
BTW, the large box with drawers in it is rivergirl’s tool box. It has been 95% complete for months now but she has been so kind and patient with me to allow me to pursue my woodcarving while I am driven so much to learn. There’s just a couple of details on it to complete and then the finish. There are a lot of boxes inside this main box so that rivergirl will have a place to put her tools and hair curlers. :) Thank you, rivergirl. I’ll never forget what you have done for me and I’ll get it to you pretty soon now. :)
I have a good work light that I can swing all around my carving and it’s very important because my eyes are not the best and they get worse as I grow older.
The picture above was taken a little while after I started. I have gouged out some of the background and have partially completed the eyes. I wanted to get those going as soon as I could so that if they turned out to be a disaster I could start over. The eyes are not all that good but much better than my first attempt so I chose to keep going.
I began raising up the lions hair on the left side and cleaning up the face a little.
I worked on the face some more and began carving the details into the lion’s nose.
I began shaping the left ear and roughing out the top patch of hair. You’re always seeing things that are not right so all through the carving you are jumping around to correct something or polish it up a bit.
Next I worked on the right hair and the right ear. Of course your always seeing stuff that is not right or not finished and need some more work even where you have gone over before so you jump around quite a lot. This may not be the most efficient way but it’s the way that I’m doing it right now. I would love to be able to take some lessons from a wonderful carver so that I could acquire some of the tricks of the trade.
After a little more clean up I thought that it was coming along but I still see things that are not quite right and need more polishing.
I then proceeded to put in some hair details with a small v-tool and a little more clean up and sanding of the the pencil marks on the flat frame.
This is the finished lion after a couple of coats of satin polyurethane. The only finishes that I have used in my carvings are tung oil or polyurethane. I’ll have to experiment with some other finishes.
Now, I say this carving is finished. To be honest it’s not. I still see many flaws in it and it has things on it that could have been cleaned up a little more or given a more polished look. You could probably work on it another day or so but I stopped here. I will carve this lion again because I’ve learned some things that I didn’t know before. There are some fundamental things that I will do differently on the next one but that is the nature of learning. I know that this is not a very good carving but I don’t think that it is terrible either. Most importantly, I did carve the lion instead of quitting and I will carve it again and the next one will be better.
-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau