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No doubt faces are the most difficult to carve. If the features are out of scale or distorted the face will take on the look of a primate or cartoon character. In the case of small carvings of human faces less seems to be better. A prime example of this the smiley face where a circle, two dots and a line will be perceived as a face. At this small of a scale all that is needed is the major features of a face, the viewers "minds eye" fills in the rest of the details to give the impression of a face. Before any carving is done you can see a face by only the profile, a dot for an eye and a line marking the brow. To begin locate the jaw line, a simple angled line from the chin to the ear.
click on photo for a larger view

click on photo for a larger view
Cut away the material below the jaw line to start shaping the neck. It's a good practice to have a mirror handy to look at yourself to maintain the proper proportion of a face.

At this stage of the carving we separate the neck from the jaw line and give the neck a rounding out. Also a few cuts are made at the edge of the chin to begin rounding it out. A carving such as a face is never done from one point to another, or systematically it's more of a random carving or locating of the features. Once the features are located and given a basic general shape all the elements are blended together in the final shaping.


click on photo for a larger view

click on photo for a larger view

From the jaw line we jump to the hairline. This is now marked out. If the ear shows in a carving of a profile the top of the ear will be at eye level and the ear lobe will be even with the bottom of the nose. In this case the hair covers the ear so we need not concern ourselves with the position of the ear.

Make a stop cut at the hairline and begin to round out the head. Keep rounding out the head until you reach the eyebrow. At the forehead round out the face until you reach the bridge of the nose. At the location of the jaw the face is flatter so stay closer to the hairline. You can see in the photo that the cuts are deeper at the forehead than at the jaw line.
click on photo for larger view

click on photo for larger view
Hollow out an eye socket and define an edge between the side of the nose and cheek. On a profile, the nose is at a lower level that the cheek, so starting at the forehead cut down the level of the nose, this will leave a slight step which is the cheek line.
The face is taking on a rounded shape at this point, the cheek being the highest point. Getting back to the nose shape in a nostril and cut away material under the nose to form an upper lip. Make a cut to define a line from the nose to the corner of the mouth.
click on photo for larger view

click on photo for larger view
Round out the cheek under the eye and at the nose. Cut a very slight hollow above the eye to define the brow and begin to trim down the nostril. The eye itself is a V shape inside the eye socket. By making the "V" inside the eye socket gives the face a natural look. Many carvers make the mistake of thinking the eyes are one object. But the eyes consist of the eye socket, the brow and finally the eyeball itself. When carving a face at this point the main details are set in place. Later as the face is refined all the aspects are blended. If anything is overlooked it becomes difficult to add it without back tracking all the way to the basic shape.
The cheek is the very last part of the face to work. Its one and only feature is the cheekbone. The cheekbone defines the final character of the face depending on where its placed and how much you make it stand out. In the case of very small carvings such as this one feature are slightly over emphasized to capture light and shadow giving the face depth and character. Now that a face has appeared from the flat surface where we started you can now touch it up round it out and blend all the features. There is no cutting at this stage everything is done by scraping the surface with the blade edge. It takes only a chip or a micro cut to totally change the face so you don't want to make any big changes.
click on photo for larger view

click on photo for larger view
Finally the hair, I am not going into the hair with a step by step explanation because it is just a matter of a series of gouges cut at random. In this photo you are looking at the carving ultra close through a 100 X macro lens and you can see an eyeball.
Backing away from the piece I can see areas that need further attention. A little more work on the cheekbone to blend it in and the line from the nose to the mouth is on to much of an angle. All in all, it's not to bad and proportion is correct. Remember this is only one section of the total stern carving on a ship. When the entire ship is viewed normally the carvings become part of the whole and look as if there is endless detail in them.
click on photo for larger view

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