I have been carving out a number of human figures for various projects in the past and thought I should make a little page for these to be showcased.
First of all I should point out that my Dad is a bit eccentric (like me – although I like to think I’m a bit more watered down) and he contacted me to ask for me to carve out a figure for his new boat Desert Island Discs (aka D.I.D). This boat I was originally told would be a raft, made from lolly sticks and various bits that Dad had found knocking around. He had been inspired by the film Castaway starring Tom Hanks. He then went on to give me a scale of drawing of how his hairy man should look. It’s interesting to note that Dad was insistent that even though he had been castaway for many years he would still have his shorts in one piece. He also wanted his arm to be elevated so he would be holding the raft’s rudder.
This is the drawing I was given.
I then began to make a plasticine model of the figure, making sure he was to the exact scale had given me in his drawing. I then grabbed a piece of silver birch I had left over from a recent commission for a frog and then roughed out a figure.
This is a photo of the wooden figure next to the plasticine Marquette.
Lots of whittling and shaping later I was left with this figure, with shorts and flip flops. I think Dad originally wanted red shorts but decided upon a more realistic colour for a castaway. Perhaps they were red once when he originally landed on the island, but they weren’t any more! The ageing on the birch had also given the figure a nice suntan too. By this point he was missing hair and I pondered for a few days how to achieve this successfully. I could have just painted a Barnet on but thought this was too easy and would make his hair look too neat.
Eventually I decided upon making the hair from a Walnut offcut we had knocking around. This was then dremmeled to fit the head and using a burr to give the hair a bit of definition. The same was then done with a beard, although in hindsight I probably should have made his beard much longer.
Not satisfied with just giving Dad his figure I then decided to add a couple of props to go with him. First of all was his good companion Wilson. This was made from a rubber ball that I had got from a Christmas cracker a few years ago. I cut off the top and scooped out the insides a little. After a spray of black paint his head was then stuffed with broom bristles and then given a top coat.
This was one of those projects that started out as something else but then progressed to something else. I whittled this while at the Christmas Market and then took it home to finish it off and paint it. It was originally going to be an angel for my nan for Christmas but as I didn’t sell the other larger angel I decided to give her the larger angel instead. This is how it looked after the Christmas market had finished. As you can see very angel like.
I then decided a few days later to change this into something a bit more realistic. I then began work on removing the lower part of her gown and then began to shape the legs and the feet. By this point I had decided to turn it into a self portrait. This holds more meaning for me than most people. I haven’t been able to see my nan for over a year (currently battling agoraphobia) and felt that me making a little figure of myself would let her know that I was always thinking of her and that my little figure will represent this.
I also decided to give me something to hold rather than looking like I was praying and so began work on making a spade. Originally this was going to be a fork but this turned out to be too challenging and so stuck with a spade. The spade was made from an old garden cane and a piece of tin.
The figure was painted and then mounted to a base. This was then given a couple of carrot tops to add a bit of interest to the base. Although like most self portraits this isn’t a true representation as I haven’t had much luck with carrots.
After I had finished the above portrait of myself I immediately remembered I had created a portrait of my Dad when I was 10 or 11 years old. This “model” was made entirely from balsa wood and he was full of pins as he was hastily put together. It depicted my Dad in a pose while he flew one of his control line models (my Dad is a big model aircraft fan) and I can remember one leg being shorter than the other (and to compenstate for this he was standing on a mound of wood). Unfortunately (thankfully) I don’t have any pictures of this model as I think one of my parents many cats broke it, (it was made from balsa wood after all) so you will just have to use your imagination. Anyway, fast forward to the present day and I decided to have another stab at this as Dad still teased me to this day about it.
I started off by making a plasticine model into the figure and pose I wanted to use. I had to do a bit of research on how flyers positioned themselves while they flew these models. I came across some vintage footage my granddad had filmed (also an aero modeller) in the 60s of a fellow flying his models and decided to use this to create the correct pose.
The original figure I seemed to remember had a red jumper on, but upon painting this figure I concluded that this didn’t look anything like my dad (I have never known my Dad to wear anything red in all his life) and so decided to change the colours of his clothing from the original.
The model (known as the Aceteam) was made from a left over tea light foil case which was then painted. I would have preferred to have made it from wood but this needed to be light enough to allow the figure to hold the plane aloft without weight being an issue.
The finished Figure plus model aircraft, know as the “Aceteam”, with a photo of my dad at the end taken in 2010.