If you have an interest in carving and are a visual learner, study sticks are sure to be right up your alley. Fox Chapel Publishing teamed up with renowned woodcarving expert Harold Enlow to release a series of study sticks and companion guides to teach the craft of carving. Each concentrates on a particular style or feature for focused learning, including the Wood Spirit, Santa, Female Face and Cowboy.
Harold Enlow is a founding member of the Caricature Carvers of America, which was established in 1990 to promote the art of caricature carving, and a member of the National Wood Carvers’ Association, the Ozark Whittlers and Wood Carvers, and several other carving groups around the country. He has written 12 woodcarving books and teaches 30-35 seminars each year.
Enlow’s carving style is fun and whimsical with plenty of expressive looks and poses that always tell a story.
Examples include Ozark Flossing, a barefoot fellow wearing overalls with a furry critter popping out of his rugged stovepipe hat, as he takes a piece of string between his toes and seems to laugh through imperfect teeth as if maybe it tickles a bit.
The Fisherman depicts a gentleman who appears to have fallen on hard times, as his once-nice dress shoes are now exposing his toes and his yellow tie, holey pants and button-down shirt are crumpled and patched. His stubbly beard frames a satisfied look on his face as he chews on a cigar stump, and his “fishing pole” holds a hot dog that’s perhaps fresh off the campfire.
Finally, this close-up of The Cowboy shows how Enlow’s attention to fine details makes his carvings so intriguing. The slightly askew bandana, the bent cigarette hanging precariously out of the side of his mouth, the ruddy complexion and steely gaze all combine to create a gruff looking character with attitude straight out of a Western movie. Enlow adds so many fun details into his carvings that one can discover something new and amusing with each fresh look.
What You Get
Each Master Carver Study Stick Kit from Harold Enlow includes a 12" highly detailed resin study stick and a 32-page booklet complete with step-by-step color photographs. Everything comes packaged in a sturdy cardboard tube, which you can use to store your stick and booklet together when not in use.
The modest 5" x 7" size of the booklet may fool you, but it packs in a lot of info by including anywhere from 30-40 steps per kit. Enlow tells which tool he uses for each step (but advises you can use what you have on hand) and guides the reader precisely with each and every cut needed to create the carving. The study stick itself shows the progression through several stages to completion. The full-color photographs are clear, crisp and up close so you can see exactly what he is doing in each cut.
Wood spirits are popular carving subjects, and, according to Enlow, one of the easiest to carve. “A wood spirit is really just an ugly old man carved with wild hair and a beard,” he said. “The more ugly you make the face, the more people will like him.”
Enlow prefers to carve wood spirits in found wood because he feels that the coarse nature of the wood really emphasizes the feelings of the wood spirit. “I consider carvings like this in ordinary wood wizards; a similar carving in found wood transforms into a wood spirit.”
Santa is one of the best-loved and most popular carving subjects. Enlow’s Santa is a mixture of realistic features with a few exaggerated features that pay homage to the classic poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”
Most of the facial features that make this Santa look kind and jolly can be adapted to other carvings where you may want to illustrate those feelings.
A tip for carving Santa’s eyes: Carve his right eye – the left eye as you look at it – first. That way you can see the eye to match it as you carve Santa’s left eye.
Cowboy caricatures have a long history in America, dating back to the classic work of Andy Anderson, who is credited as one of the earliest American caricature carvers. Even today, broken-down cowboys find their way into almost every carving competition.
As with most caricatures, the success of the carving depends on a blend of realistic and exaggerated features. Most good caricature artists know how to create a realistic face in order to do a good caricature, and it doesn’t take much to turn a realistic carving into a caricature. On this cowboy, the ears are a little oversized and the teeth are slightly larger than normal. Both of these features give the carving a fun and happy look.
According to Enlow, a beautiful woman’s face intimidates many carvers. But as he instructs, the overall bone and muscle structure is the same for all women, young and old, attractive or not. “Gravity, age and a little bit of genetics are all it takes to turn a beautiful woman’s face into a less attractive one,” he says. If you learn to carve a beautiful woman’s face, it’s simple to thin the lips, add a few wrinkles, or reduce some of the thickness of the cheeks to age the woman or tone down her beauty.
A tip for carving delicate features: Clean up your carving. Make many small cuts rather than a few large cuts.
Carving Faces Workbook is an additional, companion resource from Harold Enlow that will help take your carving skills up a notch (pardon the pun). This informative manual includes quality photographs with instructions on carving faces with life and expression. That includes guidelines and tips for carving the female face, a cowboy face, a Native American face, and a Santa face, along with facial features like eyes, lips, nose, hair and ears. He also offers instruction for how to craft variations such as curly hair, bulbous noses, sleepy eyes and more.
Enlow breaks the book into two sections: Carving Facial Features and Carving Complete Faces. By mastering the basic building blocks of any face in the first half of the book, you’ll be ready to move onto the second half and be well on your way to transforming plain sticks of wood into engaging characters.
A few words on wisdom from Enlow include his advice to carve a lot.
- “You can’t expect to carve once a year and accomplish anything. Pick up a piece of wood and a knife every day or two and keep after it.”
- “When you make a caricature carving, make it look like someone you’d never pick up hitchhiking.”
- “There is usually one eye length between your eyebrows as well as your eyes, unless you are a werewolf, which has just one eyebrow that runs all the way across.”
Are you ready to get started? Pick up one or more carving study sticks at your local Woodcraft store, or shop online at woodcraft.com. You will soon be creating unique and expressive caricatures that each tell a story you’re proud to share.
We hope you’ll be inspired!