As a first set of projects with which to learn my woodcarving tools, I made a series of enso relief carvings into small slabs of wood. I used my Dremel rotary tools to make the reliefs, shaping them after brush-stroked circles brushed onto the wood. The wood is scrap pine, stained with a redwood lacquer, then carved out.
I made six or seven of these pieces, and gave most of them away as Winter Solstice gifts, keeping only this one, which I thought was the best of the set, and my favorite. This one is currently hanging on the wall in a corner of my kitchen. The first one I made I gave to the friend who encouraged me to start working with wood, and working in three dimensions rather than continuing to work in two.
Consider them practice pieces, sketches for later woodwork sculpture, small little practice pieces that develop skills and might lead towards something more like actual art. I don't view these as finished, accomplished carvings; rather, something to work out technique and learn from doing, on the way to making something more substantial.
I made these enso carvings starting in November, working out in the garage while the weather was still warm, and worked into December, to finish them before mailing them off as gifts. I have a few more wood pieces prepared on my basement workbench now, it being too cold to work in the garage. I really need to get a table saw, which will make sizing the wood blocks much easier. At the moment I have borrowed a friend's scroll saw, which is fine for cutting smaller pieces, but limited to that; although it might be interesting at some point to play with the scroll saw's ability to cut curved shapes. I still have to figure out how to deal with the sawdust; although I saw a woodworking article in a magazine that suggested using an ordinary box fan with a furnace filter strapped to it, to suck up the sawdust. So that might work. I cannot wait until spring to continue working, I need to work right now. One of my Dremel tools is rechargeable and cordless, so I plan to take it along on my next roadtrip, and do some carvings along the way. Driftwood or found scraps as materials.
This evening I made a drawing of a bonsai tree. I did it from memory, from the bonsai room at the Conservatory in St. Paul, MN.
I'm thinking about what forms and patterns I might trace or stencil onto woodblocks to carve out.
I was thinking earlier this week about what images I might like to make, such as bamboo stems and leaves on a longer piece of wood. I've been choosing my scrapwood for interesting knots and patterns, things already in the wood that suggest what to do with it. Each piece of wood gives you a sense of what to do with it, if you spend time holding and looking at the wood.
Then suddenly I had the realization that I am developing skills separately that are eventually going to converge. I've been learning how to draw. I've been learning how to work in wood, both relief and more three-dimensional sculpting.
It occurred to me, therefore, that what I'm teaching myself to do, eventually, is to take up woodblock printing. Perhaps even woodcut illustration. I now have the tools in hand, and am learning the skills, to do relief carving that could lead to woodblock printing. I'll need to look into hand-press inks and wood type. I might try carving type into a woodblock at some point, too. I've done handset type before, but I haven't carved type into a block of wood. That might be an interesting challenge.
Meanwhile, still learning these new skills, still developing craft and technique, still only beginning to get better at each.