Friday, 21 November 2014

Wood Carving Ideas

Has my brain fallen asleep?

Is it still in there?

It was alive last night, with ideas never before conceived by mortal man!

So why now, when I’ve got wood in my hand...... sensible now, can I not think of a single thing?! My mind is blank!

It is a dilemma faced by every artist, in all formats.

So how does anyone get anything done? There must be a method to get those creative juices flowing?

Every persons mind works differently, therefore, one must experiment to find their ‘flow’. Alternatively, if you’re like me and you get stuck in ruts easily, you must switch tactics constantly and keep your mind fresh and active.

I have compiled a list of methods I use to get my creative juices flowing, where I go to find ideas, or simply how to get enough inspiration to come up with new ideas.

Remember, these methods work for me and may not work for you, but hopefully you can use some of these methods, or at least use them to point you in the right direction to find your own path.

· First off is an obvious one. Step away! Concentrating on one thing does not open your mind to new possibilities. You will get angry and begin hating your project. So just step away, go for a walk, watch TV, start a new project or practice techniques and just keep a notepad nearby. Ideas disappear from your mind just as suddenly as they can appear, so don’t miss those fleeting thoughts!

· Following on from the previous point, and what I touched on in the introduction. Keep a notepad on you! Ideas are very common at bed time and as much as you think you’ll remember it in the morning, you won’t! I knew a musician once who kept equipment set up ready to go, and often woke in the night, ran to his spare room and wrote down ideas and recorded rough riffs ready to revisit at a more convenient time.

· The internet. The internet is VAST! But don’t just look at pictures upon pictures of wood carvings. Open the box, get out and think out there! Not only will you find the same old, over copied carvings, but you will end up seeing master carver’s best works of art and doubt your own abilities and deflate your ego. Look at other forms of wood work, paintings, pictures, anything that takes your fancy! Let it inspire you, look for patterns and shapes in the most unlikely of places, contemplate how they can be worked into your designs.

· Again, let us touch on the previous point. Often with carvings we need to keep detail low or simple due to wood type, time constraints or maybe you’re just looking for a more stylized look for your piece. Look no further than tattoos. Especially that of older tattoos. Tattooists run into the same problems as wood carvers, in the sense that more detail can often become messy, blend together or just be too difficult to do, and so they create bolder designs, more elaborate shapes with less detail. Some of their floral designs are beautiful, and so easy to recreate and re-form to fit your work. I once used a lizard design, as I was whittling very soft, rotten wood, the wood would never have taken any detail, so this turned out great as a design!

· Doodle. It doesn't matter if you can draw or not. Just put pencil to paper and begin scribbling lines, curves, swirls, wherever the pencil wants to go. As soon as you see a couple of lines begin to look slightly pleasing on the eye, erase the rest of the scribble and begin refining that section. Once you have one pattern, or part of a pattern, things tend to get a little easier. You have a base and a motif, so your random scribbles will begin taking more purposeful routes, eventually creating pictures and patterns that you never would have come up with just sitting there in your arm chair!

· If you have a specific piece of wood or furniture to work on, don’t plan everything on paper! Draw straight onto the wood where possible. As I’m sure you’re aware, all wood has very different markings and shapes. Even basswood can, at times, have defects, which can look great if you work it in with the design. Often I have taken plans to a project and found that the design just looks weird on the wood, or the grain just won’t support what I had planned and I have to alter it. This was exactly what happened with this guitar.


Plans changed constantly before settling on this design. The reason I include this within this article, is because the wood can often influence what you carve. Working together with the grain, defects and colourations, the wood can almost tell you what to carve into it, taking away the stress of staring at a blank page and having no idea what to do.

I hope some of these ideas will help some of you, and as I said at the start. No single method creates ideas and inspiration. You must mix and match, try one, one day, try multiple methods at once on another day.

Your mind is unique and your designs and creations unlike anyone else’s. Do what works best for you to get the results you’re looking for.

Please add your own methods in the comments box below for everyone to read and try.

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