Student woodcarver’s diary: geometric patterns and an acanthus leaf

Two weeks ago we published a blog post following the progress of first year Woodcarving & Gilding student Paul Flanagan as he started on his BA course.

We’re delighted that Paul has settled into the course really well and is making great progress. He has been keeping a detailed course diary on his Instagram account @paulflanaganartist, ¬†which he has kindly allowed us to share with you.

So setting off where we ended last time (at the end of week 1), here are the highlights from weeks 2 & 3 of the first year on BA (Hons) Historic Carving: Woodcarving & Gilding!

Week 2

The week started with the Woodcarving module and this week, the students were introduced to chip carving. After testing out their tools by carving basic shapes, the students graduated onto carving a geometric flower and a geometric pyramid pattern.



Continuing with chip carving, students drew a geometric pattern and after marking out the lines on a practise board, used a fishtail gouge to scoop up to the lines.

After this practice run, it was time to carve into lime wood – great work!

Following a tool sharpening session using a Japanese water stone, the Basic Joinery module continued from last week with a focus on dove-tail joints. This involves precision measuring and cutting, and works out well in the end!


Week 3

A new week – a new woodcarving project, and today, the students started to carve an acanthus leaf. The acanthus leaf is one of the oldest and most used motifs in architectural carving. Students started by making a scale drawing of the motif from a mold and transferring it onto a piece of wood. Using a V tool, they roughed out the basic outline and then removed the outside waste wood with a gouge, leaving the basic shape.

Getting closer to the edge of the drawing takes time and a steady hand, especially in those tight, curved areas. The students use a flat chisel for best results. Then they start to model the acanthus leaf, developing the depth and shape in more detail.

During the next two days, the Drawing module gets underway with the Art School’s superb Drawing Studio Manager and Tutor, Diane Magee. As a key part of the carving process, developing accurate drawing skills is absolutely crucial to the success of the woodcarvers – but don’t worry, they’re in good hands!

Their first drawing exercise is designed to encourage the students to think in different ways and focus on the shapes and perspectives they can see. Instead of using a pencil, they used a twig and ink to make the lines!

The next subject in the drawing class posed more challenges – in Paul’s case the subject was a horse’s head.

The exercise teaches the students to make an initial diagnosis of the subject they are drawing so they know what challenges the piece will bring. Paul says “The exercise was a challenge but I think I learned a lot, mostly that horses are really hard to draw!”

The next two weeks will see the students developing their acanthus leaf carvings and more drawing workshops. Follow Paul’s activities in weeks 4 & 5 here.

Photos courtesy of Paul Flanagan


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