MAKING OF BOCEPHUS WOOD SCULPTURE
This project is to
commemorate a very dear
greyhound dog named
Bocephus. Since the clients
are also carvers I wanted
this to be especially well
done. Here is a
step-by-step log of how I
The photo on the left is one
of the reference photos of
the dog. On the right is the
drawing submitted for
A COMMISSIONED PIECE
These are the photos of the clay
maquette, (scale model), I made for
the carving. I could not even start to
cut out the wood blank until I knew how
the pose would look- and without the
dog to look at and no pose exactly the
way I wanted it- this was a necessary
I bought some good Italian clay and
used many reference photos of
Bocephus and other greyhounds to
make this model. The clients liked the
photos and gave the go-ahead for the
Just to make it interesting I thought to
raise up the left foreleg and create
open space under the right arm. This
will increase the level of difficulty
significantly. Oh well. Looks good.
This was the first update sent to the clients to show that there had been some progress. I am working with full sized carving gouges to work the
basswood blank down to something more like the maquette. I kept the two pieces side-by-side for the whole project and tried to make them match as
best I could.
In the next step I rounded a lot of the
areas to get closer to the final shape. I
kept a good centerline at all times to keep
everything in balance while also not losing
the essential gesture of the animal.
This next step took quite a bit of time and effort to get to. I switched to using palm gouges and a knife to work on the shaping and, ultimately
the details of the carving. At this point I didn't see the problem with the left rear leg- but I did by the next step. I have narrowed the shoulders
quite a bit now, and the face is starting to get some shape.
When I started to sand I discovered that there was a lot more refining needed with the general form. It was a challenge to try to make the sculpture
as close to the real dog as possible. Notice that the ears are a little more shaped, but I'm leaving them until last since they will be delicate when
done. I've wood burned just the eyes, mouth, nose and nails since this is a very short-haired dog and burning the fur would be distracting.
Notice the mess I've got on the cushion. After focusing on all of the dog shaping- the cushion looks like it has been well chewed by a dog.
The solution to the cushion problem came to me as I was using my micro-motor carver to smooth some of the hard-to-get-at places on the dog. I
used the cone-shaped ruby stone to texture the irregular wood fibers and simultaneously to smooth out the irregularities. Worked like a champ.
Bo now has a flokati rug up in doggy heaven. The ears are done and the dog is ready to be painted- the fun part.
This first coat of paint was not
very successful. The tan is too
yellow and the white is too blue.
I used raw Sienna, which looked
tan in the tube, but bright yellow
The eyes look wonky too- gotta
figure out how to do that. Too
much detail just looks cartoony.
I almost forgot the collar, but
remembered just before
painting and wood burned it on.
Ah- this is better. This is
raw umber applied after a
light sanding all over with
220 grit paper. I went
over the white with some
thicker white paint but it
just keeps sinking into
the wood. I like to keep
the layers of paint thin so
that the character of the
wood shows through. No
sense in making a wood
carving look like plastic.
Third layer of paint. I've
added more darks to the
shadowed areas, and more
pure white to the highlighted
areas. The eyes have been
painted black and look better
that way. Also went over the
nails, nose and mouth too,
The paint is still sinking into
the wood- now I wish I'd
broken my usual rules and
sealed the carving before
This may do it. The cushion is darker now, there are highlights in the eyes, the color is good on the brown, and the whites have finally built up to
be whiter. They could still use more lightening- next coat of paint. Then a sealer coat, epoxy in the eyes, and he will be done.
Thanks to a lot of good advice from friends and fellow carvers, and a little more effort, I am now very satisfied with the results of my labors.
I entered this carving at the Internationa Woodcarvers' Congress in Maquoketa, Iowa in 2010 where it received a
blue ribbon and a merit award. The customers were also well satisfied with the commisioned piece, so it was indeed
worth the effort I put into it.