So you pick out a piece and look at it in more detail. I often find there are a number of different forms in the same piece, depending on which way you look at it. Sometimes the potential that you spotted in the orchard is not as good as you first thought and something else emerges on the reverse; or the dynamic changes if you just flip it.
The I start to uncover the wood without trying to cut into it too much. They vary in states of decay, sometimes the bark flakes off. There are often a lot of woodlice and beetles still living under the bark; it amazes me how the manage to live in such small places. If the piece is fresher you have to carefully cut it away without damaging the wood underneath.
The best way I can describe the next step is that you ‘commune’ with the wood decide what animal it is and what needs cutting, chipping and shaping to bring it out. There is a definite sense of an animal hybrid, or the mythological chimera, in some of these. Sometimes it changes as you work on it, or it just remains undefined content with its own appearance and personality. For instance is Porcus Malus below a pig, salmon or another dragon?
The reason why I try not to cut into it too much is that there two different kinds of grain. By taking off the bark and it’s underlayer, like a watermark that is darker, it too has a grain that sometimes matches or differs from the wood grain underneath. You can see with the close-up below how the dark bark mark follows the flow of the grain.
Uncovering it is no mean feat, you have to slice and lift in a way that doesn’t scar the wood. This is Draco Malus Two going through its reveal.
You can use the darker bark layer to contrast against the lighter grain of the wood. like with Draco Malus Five below, I left the bark at one end and gradually cut through the layers along the course of its body to the nose, where I had to cut expose grain of the wood to bring the animal out of the piece. See the progression below:
On other occasions, I had to cut heavily and take it all back to the grain of the wood. Below Polypus Malus is a perfect example, here it is in its earlier stages:
But because I had to cut the wave of the tentacles from straight branches I couldn’t keep the bark patterning.
Once varnished the grain of the wood surfaces nicely. Below is Cornix Malus in an earlier stage:
And here it is finished:
My intent is to tease the form from the wood without imposing my vision on it too much, I’m trying to let the wood speak for itself, so as to speak.