Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Project 3: Snakebit

For this project, I wanted to really challenge myself.  A snake seemed appropriate, being so small and breakable.  It started off a little rough.  I got quite frustrated while trying to get the shape right.  In my consternation, I cut myself big-time.  Don't worry - I'm fine, still carving, etc., though may have a little scar.  

I know it's pretty gory, and I debated putting this photo up, but decided that I must.  As I carve, I become more and more convinced of the importance of process - its intrinsic value and also its relationship to the grand scheme.  I'm not about to leave out the painful or sad part of the story.  It's important - Brave New World's "a gramme is better than a damn!" seems to me an apt criticism of the sterilization and sequestration of pain.  

And how interesting it is that the snake (that poor, accused creature) has so far caused my largest wound!  I love him anyway.

The knife that was involved with this scandal was my large, curve-edged knife: good for long, rounding cuts.  I found the knife invaluable for this project - cutting against the grain for the snake's twists, the curved blade made the strokes easier, allowing me to proceed faster and with more detail.  I think that it is also quite pretty.  It has a certain draw or elegance.  At the start of a project, it is always the knife that I want to reach for first, despite it not being the knife for preliminary cutting.  It is the only blade that I have to sharpen in portions (the curvature is enough so that one type of sharpening stroke will not cover it.)  

The beautiful culprit

After cleaning myself up, I decided to draw an outline for the general shape of the snake.  In this photo, you can see half of the drawn portion; the other half I have started to carve off.  It served as a nice guide, but I eventually found it to be a nuisance and wanted to follow my own model.  The progression follows in the next 3 photos:

Starting to remove the outline.

Pre-curvature snake (blocky.)

Post-curvature snake (rounded,) almost ready to be sanded.

By far the most difficult aspect of the snake turned out to be capturing his posture.  I kept finding myself thinking that he looked posed, rigid, or blocky.  He always needed more of this, more of that.  After quite a bit of thinking, attempting, and bungling, I think I finally achieved something that doesn't look too forced.  I was perhaps hoping for something with larger curves, but am mainly happy that I didn't break his tail, etc.  Here is the finished product:

It was also a challenge deciding exactly what texture I wanted on him.  I was used to a smooth surface, but decided that I wanted scales.  Here is a detail of what I came up with:

The snake is made of butternut - a darker, more splinter-y wood.  It is generally more fitful than basswood or tupelo, but has a lively color spectrum.  All together, he took me 7-8 hours.  His underside is sanded smooth and I modeled his head after a copperhead snake.