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Thursday, 15 December 2016

'Starman', a portrait of David Bowie carved in wood


It's strange, the route that leads into some projects. 

I had signed up to have a stall at the St Werburghs Community Centre Christmas fair in Bristol and planned to sell wooden stars. I've always liked these stars, made from locally-grown larch timber, so decided to make a few and see if they appealed to other people too. 



After making quite a few of the larch stars, I cut a couple from some oak that was lying around in the studio. The largest one, the same size as the largest stars shown on the table, is about 18cm (7") across. It seemed to need a carving on it and the star shape made me think of the song 'Starman'.

I like to test myself by carving portraits. They aren't easy. Carving a face can be tricky enough, particularly in relief. All the elements of a face carved in relief need to work together without having the same distances between them as in a face seen in full three dimensions: the tip of the nose doesn't come out as much as in a real face, for example.

To successfully make it look like a well-known person is even tougher.

A day was spent before the fair carving to get the piece looking roughly right, then more work was done during the fair itself, in quiet moments between talking to visitors.



I left the portrait with the tool cuts still visible. Sanding carvings of faces can sometimes make them look lifeless and 'plasticky' and hopefully this finish keeps some vitality in the appearance of the carving. 

The star sat in front of me at my workbench for a few days after the fair, being taken down and worked on again as the changing light showed areas that needed reworking. I'm happy with it now.