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A Good Push

8 Oct

Pumped by the satisfaction of Ginormous Gnome being completed, it was odd I couldn’t push myself to start on the next Whale despite plans to do so and having all that energy to carve. Plus I had just given away yet another Whale, two pieces within a week, it’s reason enough to get back to producing Whales.

Citizens #188 right through to #193!

Instead there was a sudden burst for the Citizens of Gigglesville. Within a few days, six new Citizens came about! Which was kind of nice because this means I should be able to reach 200 in its population count sooner that I thought I would.

However, in the midst of this, I found myself planning yet another Ginormous Gnome as I have started the process for it. Should be interesting how this one will turn out after the trials and error from the last one.

Glued and clamped to have a big block

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The Ambitious Piece Completed

7 Oct
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He’s one good-looking gnome I must say!

I am so very pleased with my latest piece of carving. My best effort yet. This was an ambitious piece because of its height at almost 20cm to begin with and the unevenness of the glued pieces to tackle. The protruding excess was, well… excess.

But once it started taking shape, the height wasn’t the issue and eventually it got shorter. The completed Gnome now stands at 16cm (about 6.5 inches).

Soon after I painted it up, I would just sit at my little work station to admire it from all angles at every opportunity possible. I didn’t even bother to start on the next intended piece. No hurry as I bask in the satisfaction on a job well done for the time being.

Yes, I love my new Gnome!

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An Ambitious Piece, Part 3

4 Oct

I am at the tail-end to complete Ginormous Gnome. I’m satisfied with how the shape of the cap bob at the back turned out. I think it’s not necessary for it to be even more prominent because then I’d have to glue an add-on piece to it, like what I did for the nose and then tediously carve it down.

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Nose checked, gap in beard checked!

The nose which posed some challenges initially was resolved. Once I got over these issues, the rest was not that difficult – the body was effortless but the beard was time consuming to shape. However after shaping the beard, I was faced with a new predicament!

 

The front of the beard was looking so flat! Haish…

After all that effort to give the nose some prominence, the flat beard made all that hard work look wasted. So I decided to glue a piece and several add-ons to the beard part so that it does not appear so flat and square. Quite challenging to carve, shape and puff up that part but it was fun.

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The extra piece to puff up the beard

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The beard part resolved and putty all over to smoothen the surface

It’s good I am keeping track of what I am doing now because if I ever wanted to carve another Ginormous Gnome, I have this to refer to and would be better prepared. Sometimes what I envision in my mind does not quite come out right, so along the way, I have to adjust.

That being said, Ginormous is progressing at a good pace as I’m at it diligently almost every night. Soon I will be starting a new piece and it will most likely be another whale because recently, I gave one away.

At this point, I’m considering to paint Ginormous in the red and blue uniform like my other Gnomes rather than the Lavender of Gandalf. It should look good.

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Last step of putting gesso completed before the final paint job!

An Ambitious Piece, Part 2

30 Sep

Ginormous Gnome is coming along fine. The cap was challenging because I had to file it down in order to make the hole disappear; then I had to shape it – at the back especially, so that the little bob (at the back) looks natural. I think it’s coming along.

 

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Notice the gap on the beard? Needs to be patched up too

The next challenge was the nose as it’s rather flat. After much thought, I decided to glue a piece to give it a more prominent bulge. But the add-on that I split did not split well and I ended up with such an uneven piece, it made Ginormous looked like it had a pig nose. Ugh.

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Ginormous looking piggylicious with an oink of a nose!

So more effort was needed to shape the nose to make sure the add-on doesn’t look like an add-on. Glad to say, it worked out well and with some putty to smoothen out the surface, you can’t really tell that Ginormous had a nose job. I’m confident by the time paint is applied, all evidence of an add-on will not be visible.

Stay tuned, I’m almost done with this fella!

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An Ambitious Piece

23 Sep

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Two weeks ago, I started on a very ambitious and challenging piece of carving. Ambitious because of its size, measuring at almost 20cm tall before I even started. And challenging because the chunky piece is a combination of three Meranti pieces glued together and uneven in height at the top.

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I wanted to do another Gandalf-like Gnome because it’s been awhile since I last did a giant piece. I have been too focused on the Whales lately so much so, the Gnomes and Citizens of Gigglesville have been neglected. But I am unperturbed by the stalled population growth because I am sure when the mood hits, I can whip up some Citizens or Gnomes effortlessly.

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The biggest challenge now is to shape the cap of Ginormous Gnome and ensure that the gaping hole does not become a permanent feature on it. We’ll see how it will be as I progress.

Have Putty Will Do

13 Aug

This latest piece that I carved had some challenges. The sides were not even and riddled with holes and ‘craters’ because when I split the wood into two, I didn’t do a good job.

After carving out the whale shape, minimizing the craters, the holes were still there but there’s nothing that putty can’t fix. Having putty is essential to fix what carving can’t do smoothly.

img_4312You can’t even tell that prior to it looking like this, once upon a time there were holes. Whale #37 is looking mighty fine I might say and was okay once varnish was applied to coat the paint.

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A Delightful Discovery, Part 2

11 Jul

It is when one travels that one finds treasures and delightful discoveries. Besides the Hasegawa EggPlane that I found, I found a couple more things.

Discovery # 1: a Waldo book entitled ‘The Totally Essential Travel Collection’. Yes, I am fond of Waldo and this book totally has me absorbed looking for him whenever I need a breather from staring at my monitor for too long in the office.

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Discovery #2: paint brushes from Michaels. I was like a kid in a candy store browsing the aisles looking longingly at all the art supplies. In the end, I opted for value, variety and quantity, and picked up these two packs of brushes which will come in super handy to use after the carving process.

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With such delightful discoveries, it’s no surprise that I started carving a new piece last night so that I can use the brushes. As for Waldo, staring at the monitor is now not so tedious. Life is good!

The Final Stops

21 Jun

It’s a chilly morning (how else would the weather be?) and this time, we were fortunate to find a good street parking spot and we didn’t have to walk too far.

Today we explored Chihuly Garden & Glass situated to the left of Space Needle. Now I have been to many galleries and museums all over the world and nothing moved me—maybe except for Monet—but this one totally blew my mind!

The glass sculptures were simply amazing. The pictures I took of the exhibits are an injustice to their actual beauty, precision and effort. Even the cafe decor was totally awesome. Highly recommended for anyone planning to visit Seattle, this is a must-see destination not just for art lovers but everyone.

Next stop: MoPop or the Museum of Pop Culture, right of the Space Needle. Our CityPass also covered our entrance to these two attractions.

It was very cool to see all those movie props and costumes on display. There was also music tribute to various musicians and groups, like Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Totally fun indoor sights today and the weather was nicer by noon when we came out.

We met up with M1’s friend over dessert which turned into lunch because we got hungry. After the goodbyes, two final quick stops to buy some stuff and by 2.45pm, we were leaving the city.

We thought we made it out in good time but traffic was heavy, not just heading towards the city but outbound as well. It took us an hour to clear the crawl. We arrived back in Corvallis slightly after nine.

Fresh Supply, Part 2

23 May
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The various stages of carving a Whale

With so much Meranti wood, every evening I am kept busy! When the sun is up, I would be playing golf (especially this week) but when the sun goes down, I would be carving.

The process is simple, find two Meranti blocks that are about the same size to Elmer-glue together. Then clamp it down with the work bench for a day or so before carving. And although there’s a fixed set of measurements and angles to ensure every piece is standardised, there are still some variations. After all, it’s wood that I am dealing with and the carvings are all hand-made.

The chipping, carving and initial shaping does not take long. This is the fun but dusty and messy part. If I stay focused, I usually get one piece done a night depending on what time I start. It is after the carving that the process takes longer and sometimes tedious too because every step of the way requires time or even have to be repeated.

Details on the eyes and tail take time. The eyes are usually marked, carved out first before drilling to ensure it’s perfectly round and even. For the tail, it’s the curves and corners that I have to work on. Then the sanding and filing to shape the overall curves.

Putty work is next to patch ugly holes and the piece is then left to dry, taking time because this curing process cannot be hurried. When the piece is ready—usually a couple of hours or more depending on how much is applied—more sanding and filing, creating more dust and mess. Sometimes this step needs to be repeated if the patch work is insufficient to even out the holes properly.

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Putty work: before and after comparison

But when all patch work are completed, a coat of white gesso is applied and the piece is left to dry again for another day. The next step – more sanding to smoothen the surface before a second coat of gesso. By now it’s the fourth or fifth day from the first cut.

Once I am satisfied with the surface, on goes the acrylic paint, two coats over two days. Of all the colors I have, the new Glitter Blue color is most problematic because it requires more than two coats, several coats in fact to be even.

The last process is the gloss varnish, also two coats, before the final touches are added – the felt cloth on the base, the date and my signature and voila! The piece is finally complete.

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Before and after of the final touches with felt base, date and my signature!

With the fresh supply, I find myself repeating this routine every other night with several pieces overlapping each other in various stages of the process. Tedious, repetitive but enjoyable.

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Working on four pieces in various stages simultaneously

Fresh Supply

21 May

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I am in wood heaven! Two weeks ago, I received two boxes of freshly cut Meranti wood to continue with my carving. And carving I have been doing.

I realize now that carving Whales do not hurt my left wrist compared to Gnomes. It is the size – Gnomes are smaller than Whales, and how I grip the wood tightly (when carving a Gnome) causing a strain to the wrist. Add in the many angles of a Gnome, that’s why the tender area of the wrist would flare up if pressure and the repetitive action is applied constantly.

I have stopped carving Gnomes and Citizens of Gigglesville for the time being and just focusing on Whales which are much easier to handle. Anyway, the Gnomes and Citizens are decorative, cute and fun but the Whales are more than that, they are useful – being a smart phone holder.

The best part, I can still play golf without pain and the Whale population has been growing steadily. Yay.