Classic Bark Green Man Wood Carving

By Kathy Overcash, Excerpt from Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine Spring 2019

There’s something meditative and primal about carving a face peering out through leaves. When you’re walking in the forest, the trees seem so alive around you. That’s the inspiration for my green man in cottonwood bark. Working with bark has its ups and downs. In many cases, it’s easier to carve because it’s softer than basswood and you don’t need to worry as much about the grain direction. On the other hand, it cracks and crumbles easily, and as the bark grows, it picks up rocks and other abrasives that wreak havoc on your tools. But it’s my preferred carving medium because of its rich, vibrant color.

To remove the excess bark, I use an inexpensive gouge because this stage is hard on tools. Work to create a 45° angle in the center for the face. Switch to a 1″ (25mm) #5 gouge to refine the angle.

For the step-by-step tutorial by Kathy, get your copy of Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine Spring 2019 or check out our subscription offers.

Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine

Woodcarving Illustrated Spring 2019 Magazine

Let the idiosyncrasies of wood guide your hand – its spirit will show you the way! Inside the Woodcarving Illustrated Summer 2019 Issue, there are 11 projects to connect you with the spirit of the wood with an intricate green man and wood spirit to a baby chickadee, pig caricature, and a peaceful panda. Discover the latest tool reviews including the new-to-the-market Pegas Scroll Band Saw and expert advice from master carvers, Mark Akers, Frank Napoli, Desiree Hajny, Mike Allen, and more!

Inside Woodcarving Illustrated Spring 2019 Magazine

Editor’s Note, John Atwood

This month we offer you detailed instructions for creating two of woodcarving’s classic characters: The Wood Spirit and the Green Man, mysterious men of the woods who share many qualities but have some interesting distinctions. The concept of the Wood Spirit dates back to the Middle Ages when many people believed that the forests they lived in and near were protected by these mystics. Carving the wood spirit’s face into a section of a felled tree was considered to be a way of honoring the spirit and of conferring good luck on the people who did so. The reason they’re so common on walking sticks is because such implements, it was thought, served as protection when traveling through perilous woods. The Green Man, however, while also a “spirit,” is less a guardian of the woods and more a creature of them. As such, he is not so much a face hidden in foliage but one made of leaves, twigs, branches, and vines. His spirit offers not protection or luck but renewal and rebirth, a powerful representation of the regenerative force of nature. In any case, both the Wood Spirit and Green Man should be carved from cottonwood—preferably found cottonwood. As Harold Enlow says in his Carving Faces Workbook, “I consider carvings like this in ordinary wood [to be] wizards; a similar carving in found wood transforms into a wood spirit.” 

Wood Carving a Fish - Step 03

Wood Spirit in Cottonwood

This 24-year-old is taking the wood carving world by storm. Alec LaCasse has been carving since age 12 and teaching about carving the human face since age 16. Alec’s forest guardian step-by-step tutorial is the perfect intro to carving the human face.

Wood Carving a Fish - Step 04

Frank Napoli Spotlight

This carver gets his inspiration from daydreams, PBS Shows, and Dr. Seuss. Find out Frank Napoli’s creative process in his Q&A with our team and see how to make his most recent caricature carving “I Prefer Brie” in the pages of Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine Summer 2019.

Wood Carving a Fish - Step 04

Northern Shoveler Hen Walking Stick

Finding a straight shank that can be cut from a tree with a block of wood at one end is always special: it lets you carve a walking stick with one-piece decorative head. Follow along as Paul Purnell walks you through his tutorial on power carving this realistic lovely hen walking stick in Woodcarving Illustrated Summer 2019 Magazine.

Wood Carving a Fish - Step 03

Chip Carved Combs

Rather than outsourcing certain elements of production, this husband-and-wife team originates their patterns, harvests wood, carves it with handmade tools, and finishes each piece using a proprietary blend of beeswax and distilled herbs. Meet Roman and Olga Repikova and get the pattern for their stylish wood combs in Woodcarving Illustrated Summer 2019 Magazine.


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