"Stoney faced" silence (except for the sound of chiselling, which, let's face it, is really noisy)

So. September. That time of year when all you can think about is how long and boring the winter nights are gonna be, and how wouldn't it be cool if you did something useful with your evenings now that there's no light to be had, instead of watching crap tv or something.

Cue the evening class! Evening classes are the shit. Let's face it - they're just the shit. This year, because I've somehow managed to deprive myself of classes for two or three years, I decided to treat myself to two. Monday evenings are a clay modeling course (additive), and Tuesday evenings are stone carving (not additive, the other one - negative).

Normally stone carving is the domain of serious, contemplative, quasi-religious fare, so I decided to ditch that and carve out a little cartoon character instead. I'm nearing the end of over 5 years work on the Peter Rabbit cartoon series, so thought it'd be nice to celebrate/honour it by doing my favourite character - Benjamin bunny.

Having never carved before, I'll admit to being a little worried I wasn't gonna cut it... so would have to resort to chiselling instead (sorry, couldn't resist).

There are 6 classes of 3 hours each, and the first class was spent getting used to the chisel and carving out a flat plane. Class 2 was spent on Benjamin.

I had modelled the original character in 3D several years earlier so knew the model well. I asked a colleague to pose him (thanks Ciarán), as quite frankly I suck at using our rigs. This pose was printed out from 4 different views on A4 pages and as fortune would have it, perfectly aligned to the size of the stone selected for me on the course. Pure fluke!

Class 1

Poor Benjamin is buried in there somewhere, bless his cotton socks...

Class 2

At the end of class 1, I'd gotten this far. Impressed? 3 hours of hammering away at a block of stone and this is where I was? Yeah... hard going. Hits your confidence a little too! At this stage it was all about getting rid of planes I knew I could safely remove. The top of his hat was buried somewhere along the top of the slope you see here, and I was fast approaching his nose being somewhere on a flat plane on the front.

Class 3

By the end of the next 3 hour session, I was getting a silhouette from one side done and starting on the front. At this stage things are getting a little hairy. You're starting to lose your precious drawings, and are now starting to wing it a bit, but desperately trying to scratch out little markers where possible to keep the idea in your head of what's what and where's where.

Class 4

This was getting scary now. All of my drawings had been carved through, and I was now sort of flying by the seat of my pants. I was trying to make markings where possible to remind myself of where stuff lay, and struggling to get to grips with it. It just wasn't working out for me. Worse still, I had gotten to the point where I knew the next class I was either gonna royally screw it up, or finally maybe get the hang of it a bit.

Class 5...  D-day

So today was D-day. I went in, skirted around things a bit, hit it a few smacks, chipped away a little, and then finally just started saying, "screw it, just go for it!". Turns out, midway through hacking away at a piece I wasn't sure I should be hacking away at, I had a bit of an epiphany. I made this 3d character on the computer. I've watched him for 5 years solid on my screen. Of course I can recreate him! I needed to get away from the careful markings and removal of "safe planes", and just make him. Just make him the way I know he is. It's just stone. If I go too far with something, I'll just make him slightly smaller. Who cares! So yeah, about an hour in this happened and then I basically just went at it, trusting myself to just carve away and do what felt right, and things sped up enormously! He's still far from finished, and I still struggle with the chisels, but today was a big day in feeling confident that it could be done. I just need practise. And I'm now fully aware of that, and no longer scared of making a mistake in the stone. It was a big enough moment to encourage me to try more of these in the future. They're doable, they absolutely are, it's just a case of practise.

I actually can't wait to get back to him now, and am looking forward to having another crack at it. The back of the stone has been kept on so far to help give some support, and to be honest, it looks like a bookend, which was kinda cool, but I'm gonna slice off the back of it and finish him in the round, just because that was my original idea and I still like the idea of working all the way around the model. We only have one class left, so I'm not gonna get it all done, To sort out this regrettable situation, I organised a skip and emptied out my shed (sorry spiders, but I need the space now), hopefully soon I'll get my hands on some chisels and a worktop and finish him off in there. We'll see!

Class 6

Well, today (14th Oct 2014) we went in for the last class, and I had a chance to knock the back off him and finish him a bit more "in the round" as it were. It felt good to see the back of him, but I was also surprised at how much was left to do. I managed to make good inroads, but he's still looking a little fat. Luckily for me, I've been told I can come in on Saturday for a few hours for free to work on him some more. Just as well, as all of the details need cleaning and tightening up.

Anyway, more images.

As I said, he's too squat, and still looking very fat, so I'm gonna have to work on him a lot more, and I'm not sure Saturday for a couple of hours is gonna cut it, so I'm going to buy a chisel, mallet and rasp and hopefully get him done over the coming weeks in my shed or something. Just have to get a worktop of some description sorted out...

So we had our last class and I didn't get it finished (Boo! Hiss! Down with this sort of thing!).
However, I got it close enough to post up a photo that will have to do until I get the tools to finish it myself. I'm off to Italy soon and will pick up some tools while over there as I'll be in Carrara on a stone carving course. (woot, woot!)