'Yukon Seasons' (Moose Skull - Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, centre phase 6 (carved moose antler and skull)

The skull is almost complete, except for the snow flakes, final clean-up and sanding. On the right side the pattern has become a dall sheep horn in thin relief. The left side remains unchanged, a combination of ice breaking up and water flowing over from the other side. The raven has been completely roughed out and needs only to be sharpened and sanded. The contrail flowing out from behind the raven proved distracting, ruining the visual flow between the antlers, and so has been removed.

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, centre phase 6 (carved moose antler and skull)
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'Yukon Seasons' (Moose Skull - Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, centre phase 5 (carved moose antler and skull)

After considerable thought and examination of the structure of the skull, I decided to fashion the bridge of the nose into a screen, penetrating the ice-fog shapes through the bone, instead of displaying them in relief. I think the effect is quite striking, as it allows the negative space within the skull to emerge through the openings, giving the whole a feeling of lightness and depth.

In this phase, I have also cleaned up the back of the two antlers, which had remained rough until now, and also further cleaned up the interior of the skull, refining some of the inner lines and lines along the nose.
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'Yukon Seasons' (Right Moose Antler - Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, right phase 6 (carved moose antler and skull)

The bear and fish have been further refined and await the final detailing.

The water is almost finished, with interesting patterns in the lower palm of the antler and around the lower border. I have added a whirlpool design to two of the lower tines and on the shaft of the antler. The area around the butt of the antler has been cleaned up but retains the original shapes to represent splashing water.


Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, right phase 6 (carved moose antler and skull)
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'Yukon Seasons' (Right Moose Antler - Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, right phase 5

In this phase, I have worked the upper portion of the right antler, further refining the planes and shapes. The eye and mouth regions of the two bears have been left to a later phase. My decision to make the border portion blocky and square may not work on the tines, which seem to give the appearance of being cut off. I'll leave them for the moment and see how they look when the whole right side has been worked for the second time.

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, right phase 5 (carved moose antler and skull)
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'Yukon Seasons' (Left Moose Antler - Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, left phase 6 (carved moose antler and skull)

The ice fog, represented by raised, random triangle shapes, has been carved into the right side of the border of the left antler and the wolf has been roughed in, in a rudimentary fashion.

I am not sure whether to carve a bit of the ice fog below the wolf, or leave that space blank.


Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, left phase 6 (carved moose antler and skull)

Ice fog is the same as normal fog, except composed of tiny ice crystals instead of water droplets. It generally forms around bodies of open water or settlements at temperatures of 40 degrees (C or F) or colder with no air movement.
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'Yukon Seasons' (Left Moose Antler - Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, left phase 5 (carved moose antler and skull)

A great deal of work has gone into this phase of the left antler. The moose, river ice and snowflakes have all been roughed in. The refining of the moose and the detailing of the snowflakes will be attended to in a later phase.

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, left phase 5 (carved moose antler and skull)

I have decided to carve the base of the antler, where it joins the skull, in a way which reflects the nature of ice, thus the overlapping geometric shapes. The base of the other side will be carved almost as is, to represent flowing water in a splashing effect, as over rocks in a stream.

The background of each antler will be carved to contrast with the major shapes represented on the antler. Thus the background carving on the tines of the left side will be rounded to contrast with the geometric emphasis of the ice and snow. Consequently, the right side tines will be carved more sharply to contrast with the smooth flowing lines of the water, land and sun.

Please do not despair about the blockiness or 'rivet-like' quality of the snowflakes. Each will be carved with a unique design or pattern, reflective of the absolutely unique character of every real-world snowflake!


Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, left phase 5 (carved moose antler and skull)
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'Yukon Seasons' (Moose Skull - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, centre phase 4 (carved moose antler and skull)

I have focused on the raven this time. In order to get the wing and tail feather structure right it was necessary to observe ravens soaring in the wild.
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'Yukon Seasons' (Left Moose Antler - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, left phase 4 (carved moose antler and skull)

Similar to the fourth phase for the right side, I have roughed out the main planes with both straight and tree shaped burrs of various sizes. I find it works well to define a plane on the side furthest from the viewer with a smaller straight burr, then remove the material toward that line with a tree burr and finish with the straight burr to clean up the line. I find that this process repeats itself throughout the roughing out process, using burrs of various sizes depending on the area being worked.
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'Yukon Seasons' (Right Moose Antler - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, right phase 4 (carved moose antler and skull)

I have roughed out the main planes with both straight and tree shaped burrs of various sizes. I find it works well to define a plane on the side furthest from the viewer with a smaller straight burr, then remove the material toward that line with a tree burr and finish with the straight burr to clean up the line. I find that this process repeats itself throughout the roughing out process, using burrs of various sizes depending on the area being worked.

One visitor to my studio commented that the carving looks to be almost completed. It would certainly be great if that were true, but the majority of time has yet to be spent on the details and finishing. The analogy I often use is that of the building of a structure. Once the shell is up, it appears the building is nearly completed. But that is deceiving, because the inside work always takes most of the time.
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'Yukon Seasons' (Moose Skull - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

I have begun to rough out the shapes on the skull. You can see the raven, as well as the snowflakes, water and ice patterns beginning to emerge. I am a little uncertain about the trail behind the raven. It is meant to be an indication of the wake behind the bird as it flies through the ice fog, but it looks a little more like an extension of the tail at this point. I'll pursue the design a little further before deciding on whether or not to remove it.

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, centre phase 3 (carved moose antler and skull)

What you can't see in this shot are the wonderful holes emerging in the design in the thin sections along the side of the skull. I am going to play with these a little more and show you the results next time I update this section of the sculpture.
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'Yukon Seasons' (Right Moose Antler - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, right phase 3 (carved moose antler and skull)

I decided to leave the cuts that I had planned for the water falling behind the 'fall' bear until the carving proceeded a little further. It may be that the three sections of falling water will look best carved in relief. If not, then it will be appropriate to remove the planned sections at that time. The key with carving is don't take it off until you're sure.
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'Yukon Seasons' (Left Moose Antler - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, left phase 3 (carved moose antler and skull)

This phase saw the removal of the antler forming the negative spaces. In addition to a counterweight, an assistant helped steady the work, while I removed the material using a scroll saw. As in other carvings, the scroll saw blade used was multidirectional. It is important to ensure that you have many blades, since they break rather frequently. With the counterweight system bearing most of the weight, and with an assistant helping to steady the work, I went through far fewer blades than usual. But they do wear out and break after a few cuts.
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'Yukon Seasons' (Moose Skull - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson

This section of the sculpture has changed the most from the original plan. This is due in large part to the fact that the migratory bird motif entering from one side and the salmon swimming up on the other side, was not going to work. The scale was wrong and the strength of the base section of the antlers needed to be preserved, due to the fact that the finished sculpture will be mounted by those sections.

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, centre phase 2 (carved moose antler and skull)

What I have done instead is to carry the themes of ice floes from the left, and water from the right, down onto and across the skull. A raven, representing all four seasons, is situated, flying along the top of the skull, between the antlers. The ice fog and snow motifs are set down the centre of the skull, in the 'air' along the path of the raven. On the right side of the skull, two curly patterns further represent spring as emerging plant life (fern: fiddle-heads).
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'Yukon Seasons' (Right Moose Antler - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson

Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, right phase 2 (carved moose antler and skull)

On the right side, the design elements have been extended from within the composition out onto the border. In some places, the lines will match exactly, whereas in other places the lines are a little out of sink, as if a long object were viewed, partly submerged in water. I will maintain an edge between the border and the composition, in order to entice the viewer around to the proper perpendicular angle for viewing, as if to get a better look through a window at the scene.

The background elements in the composition will be cut out in an outline pattern, suggesting mountains, a lake, the river up which the salmon swim, and even some of the salmon in the river itself. This approach allows me to include a great deal of information about the two scenes of summer and fall as background, while allowing the bulk of the relief work to be used within the figurative elements. Otherwise, if the mountains and the river were done as objects with mass, thereby consuming more of the depth of the antler for greater relief treatment, the figures would have less depth of material available, appearing flatter against a solid background, and not as interesting.
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'Yukon Seasons' (Left Moose Antler - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson

Well over 150 hours has been spent on this phase. Once the drawings were transferred to the antler, it was necessary to create the remainder of the design in such a way that the animals received maximum exposure for relief work and still looked reasonable from all angles.

Part of the challenge with this piece has been to create a design that is pleasing from the front, as the work will most likely be viewed initially from this angle. If you note from the initial pic of the whole, the antlers are tilted in towards the centre. This means that it was necessary to incorporate the borders of each antler into the overall design, so that the eye is drawn into the composition and the viewer moves unconsciously into a position to see each antler from its most advantageous angle. Otherwise, the relief work, which is intended primarily to be viewed from the perpendicular, will seem flat, distorted and poorly executed.


Yukon Seasons by Shane Wilson, in progress, left phase 2 (carved moose antler and skull)

On the left side border, I have chosen to represent the predominant atmospheric conditions during winter in the Yukon, snow and ice fog. These create the impression of a frame around the central composition, enticing the viewer to move into a better position to see the relief work from the proper angle. These two design elements, snow and ice fog, are represented by geometric shapes, hexagons and triangles, and will be carved in shallow relief and of different sizes to represent depth of field, as if the viewer was in the midst of a snow fall or peering through ice fog on a -40 degree day.

The trees at the top of the antler are either stripped of leaves (deciduous) or burdened with snow (coniferous). They are meant to appear at various distances from the viewer - and the ground, composed of negative space, is meant to be covered with snow. In the winter, there is normally less snow beneath the trees, so I have chosen to ground each tree by creating the image of an ovoid depression (in nature, a negative space) as a positive space, relief element. (How true, in art, that often to achieve a realistic effect, "you must 'lie' in order to tell the 'truth'"!)

The moose and the wolf are surrounded by the continuation of negative space, the continued representation of snow on the ground. The back right leg of the moose, seems to disappear behind the wolf because it is in the deep snow. In fact, wolves are able to hunt moose in the winter when the moose are slowed breaking through the crust into deep snow. The wolves, with their large paws and lighter bodies, remain above the crust, retaining superior maneuverability. The lower border of the winter scene is a positive representation of snow on the ground. Note, the paw of the wolf barely sinking into the skiff of powdered snow above the crust.

The segue into spring occurs below this line, with the bank of a river. The rotting blocks of ice that normally line the banks of a river in the spring are represented by the angular edge. The negative space below this represents open water, which always seems to appear along the banks of both rivers and lakes. The larger geometric shapes below the open water, represent the large blocks of ice that race downstream, colliding with each other in their chaotic race for the sea, and which often form the ice jams which cause flooding in riverside communities throughout Yukon and Alaska.

As a final element of spring, I had intended to morph the ice flows into migratory birds, however, the design just didn't work when applied to the antler. Instead, I have created an abstract Sandhill Crane within the ice flow itself. The wings and tail project over the border of the antler, while the neck and head extend along the shaft of the antler that attaches to the skull. The Sandhill Cranes are my favorite migratory bird, as they pass over my home in Faro each spring (and fall) by the tens of thousands.
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