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Carving Realistic Wrinkles and Folds

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image Fred Zavadil creates amazing flowing fabric in his award-winning carving "The Archer."

Create accurate details by studying how clothing relates to anatomy

Whether you carve realistic figures or caricatures, it is important to understand how the underlying anatomy affects material. The clothing must convey the figure's movement or pose. Accurate detailing of the material's wrinkles and folds can be challenging, but the end result is worth the effort.

The best way to carve realistic-looking fabric is to start with a clay model. Most carvers use photos and other reference material, but this technique has limitations. The carver may focus on the clothing folds and carve into the body parts beneath the fabric. The resulting carving may have great detail, but overall look slightly off.

You can avoid the pitfalls of getting caught up in the fabric details by beginning with a clay model that focuses on the anatomy of the figure. This approach takes discipline as you must learn to work on two separate stages of clay modeling.

See issue #47 for the complete article.

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Comments (14 posted):

Ed Redwine on 05/13/2009 22:36:03
This is a great help for those of us who struggle with getting the drapery right on our carvings. Just studying the tutorial brings many things to light that actually, when you think about them, is just common sense. I think this will help all gain a more realistic approach to treating folds and wrinkles. Thanks to WCI and others for putting this together.
Donna_T on 05/17/2009 08:38:50
The article was a great help for those of us who want to make people and fabric look more realistic with "flow" lines. I'd like to see another article that actually shows a step by step..what kind and size of tool is used (v? gouge? veiner?); how is the gouge mark finished (are the edges rounded and how and how much); how to make one wrinkle line fit into another; how do you sand, treat, or burnish the lines to make them more realistic; how to treat a horizontal crease that takes place over a perpendicular crease, etc. I know that carvings are more pleasing when they have the folds and drape that fabric has in real life, but getting it right is still tough. I don't do many realistic or caricature people carvings, but when I do, I want them to look real. I'm currently working on an Uncle Sam who is standing at attention, and I don't want him to look like he's standing stiff and straight--just wrinkled and straight! Donna T
pallin on 05/17/2009 10:29:00
I've always been amazed by the folds and wrinkles in classic sculpture, and I'm still intimidated by doing it in my carvings.
TreeWizard on 05/18/2009 12:25:07
I think the article was a good start but it didn't do what it advertised. It showed how to add material to a figure to get folds in clothing, it didn't show the tools used to take away the wood to show those same folds. Maybe I'm just thick but to someone like me who has only been carving for a little over a year the big issue is seeing what to take away and how to do it without ruining the rest of the carving. How do I draw the drapes into the fabric and how do I carve it away so that it still looks like fabric and not a fisher in a piece of stone.
Baldy on 05/18/2009 15:07:45
The Archer clip that was shown from Fred's carving is to me the ultimate in draping. While it may not be practical to try to do that much detail in the beginning, it would be nice to know the procedure to get started. 1st what gouges or V-tool to start, 2nd-how much sanding is done, 3rd-how to get the transition between different foulds where they join or there is a juncture. 4th-how do you layout the folds? There is much to be said about all of this and one article may not be enough so why not a series with an ongoing project to take us from a pattern to the finished project? Dick
Shannon on 05/18/2009 16:33:43
We are planning to do a follow up article where Fred and Mary-Ann show tools and wood - the intention of this article is to get you thinking about how the fabric interacts with the anatomy beneath it... It is a huge topic - and one that lots of folks have trouble with. I'm hoping to have a follow up article showing actual carving techniques in the spring. If you guys know Mary-Ann and Fred - feel free to prod them along. :)
Claude on 05/18/2009 16:35:48
I agree with the comments about needing some "how to" step-by-steps. If you get the right author, showing typical tools used, and how, etc., I'd by the book! Claude
doris on 05/19/2009 00:57:14
hmm, i dont think the problem is that to know which tools used ,,,but the problem you describe is that you nt understand the shapes. when you do understand them, you know what cuts to make, the tools used, well often you can use almost everyone to get the wood removed... there is one neat trick you can do, to learn,,, make a clay model of what you want carve, say folds bend over an arm is what you desire... then get color plastilin, different color than the clay say its red, and carefullly cover your claymodel with that color plastilin, and add more and more until you have a blobby big "roughed out" arm...now, comes the exercise : use a carving tool you think is good, and carve the color plastilin away. carve so long until all is removed again. and, if you cut red plastilin is all right what you do, if you cut white clay, you made a mistake. in the latter case, put it back on, and go on... this way you learn to see how the folds on arm will be freed from the roughted out blobby arm...
mpounders on 05/19/2009 01:48:08
I agree with Doris...clay models have helped me a lot and I like her idea for practicing on cutting the rough clay away. I'll have to try that myself. I personally seem to get better results on flowing areas with power tools and sanding. It is probably my inexperience with chisels and knives, but I seem to have better luck with certain details, especially getting an over-all flow using power. I will go back and add details or sharpen things up with hand tools. For example, the inside of nostrils always look very nasty, until I manicure them with a diamond bit! Mike P
Ashbys on 07/06/2009 16:23:43
Since , the article sparked this question, Wouldn't a manakin with draped cloth work better for realism . To see the drape lines as they lay on the torso ? I do understand the difference of a set sturcture to make and to copy. I need to read the article . Oh and Thanks FRED !
Nomad on 04/02/2012 15:30:21
Does anyone recall if there was a follow-up article and if so, which issue?
GinnytooU on 04/04/2012 08:30:30
I found this on youtube. Might be os some help. How to Draw Clothing Wrinkles & Folds (Shirt Sleeves) - YouTube. Ginny
Nomad on 04/04/2012 16:38:53
I found this on youtube. Might be os some help. How to Draw Clothing Wrinkles & Folds (Shirt Sleeves) - YouTube. Ginny Nice link Ginny! Thanks for posting it!
Dan S on 04/04/2012 21:29:17
have a look at the book "Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery" it's my favorite book on the subect. It's intended for drawing but the information translates to carving quite well. Dan
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Mary-Ann Jack-Bleach
Mary-Ann Jack-Bleach is an award-winning woodcarver, teacher, and judge. Contact Mary-Ann at mableach@execulink.com more