'Self Portrait' (Jade Acrylic Base - Phase 7) by Shane Wilson (carved musk oxen skull on jade base)

The first stop in Whitehorse was Sidrock, to pick up the jade base for Self Portrait.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade acrylic base, phase 7
Sid successfully drilled the hole into the jade, but the only suitable bit size was slightly smaller than the white plastic cup prepared for the acrylic stand, so he had the cup machined to reduce its external diameter, making for a precise fit.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade acrylic base, phase 7
The jade boulder was left in its original condition, apart from the hole and some leveling on the bottom surface.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade acrylic base, phase 7
The above pictures were taken in the preparation room at the Yukon Arts Centre, prior to the unveiling.

Note how the overall colour of the piece changes with different lighting, including the reflected light from the jade boulder.

(musk oxen horn bronze skull carving, musk oxen horn bronze skull sculpture)

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'Self Portrait, 2009' (Finished) by Shane Wilson (carved musk oxen skull on jade base)

LINKS: Self Portrait - Complete Work in Progress Video

'Self Portrait, 2009' by Shane Wilson

'Self Portrait, 2009' by Shane Wilson

'Self Portrait, 2009' by Shane Wilson

'Self Portrait, 2009' by Shane Wilson

'Self Portrait, 2009' by Shane Wilson

'Self Portrait, 2009' by Shane Wilson

'Self Portrait, 2009' by Shane Wilson

(musk oxen horn bronze skull carving, musk oxen horn bronze skull sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' - Photography Session with Gary Wildman

Following the completion of any sculpture, it is important to have it photographed professionally.

Gary Wildman photographed 'Rest and Sing' a number of years ago and I called upon him again to photograph both 'Gaia' and 'Self Portrait.'


Gary Wildman, Photographs 'Self Portrait'
Gary Wildman, Photographer, photographs 'Self Portrait'

Gary took the utmost care, spending hours getting the lighting and exposures just right, to perfectly capture the sculptures as digital images - not an easy thing to do!

He is a true professional and a joy to work with! Visit his website at
www.wildmanphotography.com .
(musk oxen horn bronze skull carving, musk oxen horn bronze skull sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Bronze Wolf Skull - Phase 11) by Shane Wilson

The final phase of the patination process involves the application of the nitrates and oxides, in this case: cupric nitrate, ferric nitrate, chromium oxide and yellow ferric oxide.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 11 (carved bronze skull)
These are applied while the bronze is heated with a propane torch.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 11 (carved bronze skull)
To fix the colour the surface is quenched with water, then reheated to remove the water.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 11 (carved bronze skull)
To finish the bronze sculpture is sprayed with two coats of lacquer and protected with two coats of Trewax, lightly buffed between coats.
(moose antler bronze skull carving, moose antler bronze skull sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Bronze Wolf Skull - Phase 10) by Shane Wilson

Next the surface of the bronze sculpture is rubbed with #1 steel wool and the rougher recesses are scrubbed with a natural bristle brush, exposing a deep steel gray.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 10 (carved bronze skull)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 10 (carved bronze skull)
(moose antler bronze skull carving, moose antler bronze skull sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Bronze Wolf Skull - Phase 9) by Shane Wilson

The next step is to rinse the bronze sculpture after about 30 seconds then heat the bronze surface slowly and evenly until hot and the colour begins to change.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 9 (carved bronze skull)
(moose antler bronze skull carving, moose antler bronze skull sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Bronze Wolf Skull - Phase 8) by Shane Wilson

The first step in the patination process is to determine the colour and texture of the desired look. A great book, which provides examples of patinas and their recipes, is Patinas for Silicon Bronze by Patrick Kipper.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 8 (carved bronze skull)
The patina I have chosen for the wolf skull is called 'Italian Marble'. The effect is a dark jade to emerald green over a black base coat. My intention is to reflect the colour of the jade base while retaining a dark undertone to pick up the dark tips of the musk oxen horns.

The first step to create this patina is to spray the surface with a solution of Birchwood Casey (gun blueing) diluted 50% with distilled water. This is applied with a spray bottle onto the cold bronze surface.

You can see that the colour goes from a light copper to blue-black almost immediately.

(moose antler bronze skull carving, moose antler bronze skull sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Bronze Wolf Skull - Phase 7) by Shane Wilson

For this next phase, 'sandblasting', I searched Nanaimo for a business with a glass bead blaster. Red-D-Arc Welderentals has such a case and Wade Stannard, the proprietor, agreed to allow me its use.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase  (carved bronze skull)
Shane Wilson, Sculptor, glass bead blasting 'Self Portrait'. Photo by Bryan Peake

Glass beads take the place of sand in this process and create a finer finish.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 7 (carved bronze skull)
Photo by Bryan Peake

Due to the higher cost of the beads, the blasting is done in an enclosed container, so that the beads drop to the bottom of the case and are recycled.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 7 (carved bronze skull)
Photo by Bryan Peake

Once the bronze has been cleaned in this way, it is imperative that it not be touched by hand, since the transfer of oils will affect the uptake of the patina by the bronze.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 7 (carved bronze skull)
Photo by Bryan Peake

(moose antler bronze skull carving, moose antler bronze skull sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Bronze Wolf Skull - Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

The chasing process is complete. The bronze appears in its natural colour.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase  (carved bronze skull)
I used a variety of carbide, double fluted burrs and diamond burrs to remove irregularities in the surface and finish the 'carving' process.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase  (carved bronze skull)
The surface was sanded with various flap wheels mounted on the 1/2 HP Foredom Flexible Shaft Grinder.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase  (carved bronze skull)
The next step is to prepare the surface to receive the patina. This will involve sandblasting the bronze to remove oils and impurities that are residual from the casting and chasing processes.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase  (carved bronze skull)
Because the natural colouration of the bronze is similar to the musk oxen horn, with which it will be displayed, my plan is to apply a basic blue-black patina and then scrub it back to reveal the natural bronze highlights.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase  (carved bronze skull)
The blue-black colour will create magnificent shadows and bring out the three dimensionality of the sculpture.
(moose antler bronze skull carving, moose antler bronze skull sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Full Musk Oxen Horn - Final Phase) by Shane Wilson

The final phase of work on the musk ox horns is complete.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, carved musk oxen horn - final
The detailed carving on the right horn is finished and the horn sanded to about 320 grit with flap wheels mounted on the Foredom H Series grinder. It was also necessary to clean the horn with a damp cloth to remove residue from the stand making process.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, carved musk oxen horn - final
Compressed air was used to remove carving debris and dust from the recesses of the carved horn and bone, then a few coats of lacquer were applied (from a spray can).

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, carved musk oxen horn - final
The lacquer seals and protects the surface of the carving and enables the wonderful translucent properties of the musk ox horn.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, carved musk oxen horn - final
The last portion of this sculpture to be completed will be the bronze wolf skull, which needs to be chased and patinated.
(musk ox horn carving, musk ox horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Jade Acrylic Base - Phase 6) by Shane Wilson (carved musk oxen skull on jade base)

The acrylic stand is now complete, so I travelled to Vancouver today to pick it up and was absolutely thrilled with how it turned out.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade acrylic base, phase 6
Robert Spicer, Associated Plastics, with "Self Portrait" and the acrylic stand he created

Robert Spicer created the minimalist stand to be virtually invisible, while getting the job done positioning two heavy, irregular objects, fixed in space relative to each other. The effect of the bronze wolf skull appearing to float above the musk ox horns has been achieved.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade acrylic base, phase 6
Robert Spicer, adjusting the acrylic stand for the carved bronze and musk ox horn sculpture "Self Portrait"

Robert reports having extensive experience building displays for a variety of venues and museums, including the National Gallery in Ottawa, and says that this project was by far his most difficult project to date.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade acrylic base, phase 6
The cardboard template, seen at the top of the picture above, will now be marked and sent to Sidrock, where the nylon receiving cup will be inserted into the jade boulder base.

To see how the stand works, check out the video below, which I have included primarily for the benefit of the curatorial staff at the Yukon Art Centre Gallery, where the sculpture will reside as a permanent donation.


LINKS: Instructional Video for Installing Sculpture on Stand

NOTE: Podcasts will no longer be available on iTunes. All material has been moved to YouTube where clips can be viewed and downloaded.

(musk oxen horn bronze skull carving, musk oxen horn bronze skull sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Jade Acrylic Base - Phase 5) by Shane Wilson (carved musk oxen skull on jade base)

Associated Plastics forwarded these shots to establish the correct position of the bronze skull above the carved musk ox horns.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade acrylic base, phase 5
They nailed it this time!

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade acrylic base, phase 5
Once the acrylic has been cut and adhered to the column, it will be rounded over and polished.
(musk oxen horn bronze skull carving, musk oxen horn bronze skull sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Jade Acrylic Base - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson (carved musk oxen skull on jade base)

In this phase the design of the acrylic stand has been further worked to include the modifications we discussed last time.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade acrylic base, phase 4
You can see that the mount for the bronze skull has been modified to extend it out from the acrylic column and a device has been created to hold the skull in place from within.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade acrylic base, phase 4
Pins have been substituted for screws in the portion of the stand that clamps onto the musk oxen horns.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade acrylic base, phase 4
Also, the extension has been shortened to reposition the horns closer to the acrylic column.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade acrylic base, phase 4
The only modification remaining is to correctly position the bronze wolf skull over the musk oxen horns.
(musk oxen horn bronze skull carving, musk oxen horn bronze skull sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Jade Acrylic Base - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson (carved musk oxen skull on jade base)

Today was a travel day to Vancouver, B.C. Canada. My first stop was Associated Plastics to meet with Lloyd and Rob regarding the acrylic stand for the musk ox horn and bronze wolf skull sculpture, "Self Portrait."

They have done a fantastic job inventing a stand that has the strength necessary for supporting the entirety of the sculpture, while maintaining the pieces in their appropriate positions relative to each other.

Lloyd and Rob, Associated Plastics and Acrylic Pedestal
Lloyd and Rob from Associated Plastics in Vancouver, B.C. Canada

There were several modifications required, which they were happy to implement.

The part of the stand holding the musk oxen horns will be shortened to draw the horns closer to the main column, placing it under the bronze wolf skull.

The wolf skull mount will be modified to extend it over the horns below, while centering it over the division of the horns.

Finally the silver screws will be replaced with black pins and a black ring cap will be machined to sit atop the white cup which will be inset into the jade boulder to receive the column.


Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade base, phase 3
It is expected that the modifications will be completed over the next couple of weeks.
(musk oxen horn bronze skull carving, musk oxen horn bronze skull sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Jade Acrylic Base - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson

Self Portrait has been in Vancouver being fitted on an acrylic support column which will be mounted in the jade base.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade base, phase 2
The company creating the supporting column and attaching points is Associated Plastics. The concept is great so far, but some adjustments to the positioning of the musk oxen horns and bronze skull elements relative to each other will need to be made.

I am also wondering about the size of the acrylic column. It may be a little large for the sculpture.


Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade base, phase 2
I'll be traveling to Vancouver next week and will stop in to help determine the adjustments.
(musk oxen horn bronze skull carving, musk oxen horn bronze skull sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 15) by Shane Wilson


The front portion of the right musk oxen horn has been completely carved.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 15 (carved musk oxen horn)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 15 (carved musk oxen horn)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 15 (carved musk oxen horn)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 15 (carved musk oxen horn)
Now to finish the rear portion of the right musk oxen horn.
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 14) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, the front side of the right musk oxen horn has been further refined and is almost finished.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 14 (carved musk oxen horn)
I have used various sizes of the ball shaped burr in this phase, starting from the larger ball on a 3/32" shaft, working down to the smallest ball shape available on the same sized shaft.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 14 (carved musk oxen horn)
Remaining to be done are some touch up details, undercuts and the final sanding on the right musk oxen horn.
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 13) by Shane Wilson

In this phase I have reworked the background again, so that it is uniform around and along the entire right musk oxen horn. This has been challenging due to the shape of the musk oxen horn, which is never uniform as it tapers to the point. I have begun shaping the end of the musk oxen horn, so that it appears to flow out of the design at the same level as the background.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 13 (carved musk oxen horn)
The design has also been further refined and shaped along the entire musk oxen horn.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 13 (carved musk oxen horn)
I have been finding that musk oxen horn tends to be very hard on tools, dulling burrs easily and clogging the bearings in the micro-motor grinders which I rely on heavily. I have sent two hand-pieces for repair so far and will likely need to send a third. These hand-pieces cost about $1000 each. To give some sense of the wear and tear of musk oxen horn vs moose or caribou antler, I generally send one hand-piece for repair (new bearings) every two or three years when carving moose or caribou antler. Why the difference? Perhaps it is the toughness of the hair-like material that makes up the musk oxen horn, tougher even than dall sheep horn.
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 12) by Shane Wilson

These two shots, taken at different angles, show further shaping and refining work on the right musk oxen horn.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 12 (carved musk oxen horn)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 12 (carved musk oxen horn)
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 11) by Shane Wilson

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 11 (carved musk oxen horn)
The entire surface of the right horn has been worked in this phase. The front, broad portion is nearing completion. The mid section is showing some progress but there is much more to be done.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 11 (carved musk oxen horn)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 11 (carved musk oxen horn)
The brown pencil crayon markings show where I will carve next. I use pencil crayon and not pencil, because the pencil crayon's waxy texture keeps it on the surface of the work, where it is easily carved away. The graphite in a pencil tends to find its way into nooks and crannies, potentially remaining to alter the final finish.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 11 (carved musk oxen horn)
(musk ox horn carving, musk ox horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 10) by Shane Wilson

I have worked the back surface of the horn in this phase. Not quite there yet ...

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 10 (carved musk oxen horn)
(horn carving, horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 9) by Shane Wilson

The upper portion of the rough area on the right musk oxen horn has been leveled slightly, to allow for better flow of the overall composition.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 9 (carved musk oxen horn)
The entire horn has been further carved and refined with attention paid to the composition of the right musk oxen horn just above the rough area. It needs to work from multiple angles and I am still trying to determine the best combination and form of the shapes, particularly the circular ones.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 9 (carved musk oxen horn)
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 8) by Shane Wilson

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 8 (carved musk oxen horn)
The composition of the upper portion of the horn needed some adjustment. The before shot (below) shows the portions to be removed, the after shot (above) shows those portions removed and further areas for consideration.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 8 (carved musk oxen horn)
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 7) by Shane Wilson

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 7 (carved musk oxen horn)
In this phase, I have concentrated on a preliminary shaping of the front, broad section of the right horn. The shapes are beginning to take on a life of their own! You may notice that the rough portions, above and below the carved portion, have been smoothed over and refined. The top edge has also been removed to simplify the overall line of the right horn.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 7 (carved musk oxen horn)
Below note that more shaping has taken place along the length of the horn, the red areas indicate places where the lower background is to be further refined.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 7 (carved musk oxen horn)
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

On the forward facing side of the right horn (below), I have begun to round over some of the shapes. There is still plenty of messiness and I'll need to make some more decisions about which elements to keep and which to remove.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 6 (carved musk oxen horn)
You can see below that the rear portion of the horn has been cleaned up and the lower level more clearly defined. I have yet to do any shaping and there are still some tricky passages that have yet to be resolved, especially the knotty bit, midway up on the right.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 6 (carved musk oxen horn)
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

Further fine tuning of the depth of the background and the positions of some of the shapes, relative to each other, has taken place. It is important to keep the lowest plane even throughout the carving to create the impression that the carved elements are actually on top of the horn itself.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 5 (carved musk oxen horn)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 5 (carved musk oxen horn)
Note that the marked areas are the next to be adjusted or carved away in the next phase.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 5 (carved musk oxen horn)
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, the design elements were carved to establish their position, relative to each other and to the background. Most shapes have been refined. A few of the shapes have been removed to allow for the surrounding shapes to 'breathe'. This serves to enhance the feeling of depth in the work. It is sometimes difficult to determine the optimum shape density in the design phase, so edits occur during the carving phases, when it possible to see the 3-D effect more clearly.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 4 (carved musk oxen horn)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 4 (carved musk oxen horn) Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 4 (carved musk oxen horn)

LINKS: Work in Progress Video
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

I have begun to deepen the background on the right horn to match the depth on the left horn. This will enable the pattern to stand out in high relief, once it is carved.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 3 (carved musk oxen horn)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 3 (carved musk oxen horn)

LINKS: Work in Progress Video
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Left Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn, phase 5 (carved musk oxen horn)

In this phase, I have finished refining the left horn. There may seem to be little change from Phase 4, but the difference between the phases represents about 40 carving hours, primarily concentrated on the fine detail work, including the cleaning up of angles, lines and the smoothing of surfaces.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn, phase 5 (carved musk oxen horn)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn, phase 5 (carved musk oxen horn)

LINKS: Work in Progress Video
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Jade Acrylic Base - Phase 1) by Shane Wilson

The base for the sculpture will be a jade boulder. I visited a stone supplier in Whitehorse, called SidRock, when I was in town for the Yukon Seasons unveiling. He had a large assortment of boulders and we chose this one for the base.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade base, phase 1
A cardboard template (above) was prepared, which I have brought back to the studio to determine where the hole will be drilled for the stand, upon which I will mount the horns and bronze.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade base, phase 1
Sid McKeown (pictured above) will also level the bottom, so that it will sit flat.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, jade base, phase 1
It is a lovely, clear green colour in its natural state, so will need very little other work.
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Left Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn, phase 4 (carved musk oxen horn)

In this phase, I have continued to refine the shapes in relation to each other and to work the base level around the horn.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn, phase 4 (carved musk oxen horn)

LINKS: Work in Progress Video
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Left Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn, phase 3 (carved musk oxen horn)
Step 4

In this phase, several sequential pictures from the past two months illustrate progress as the depths of the background and abstract shapes are established and refined. It has been interesting to discover just how much material is available for carving within a musk oxen horn. The texture and colour of the horn changes from the upper, white, striated, surface, through the middle, clear, toffee-coloured section to the inner, dark and striated core.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn, phase 3
Step 3

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn, phase 3
Step 2

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn, phase 3
Step 1
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Bronze Wolf Skull - Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

The wax has been cast in bronze by 'In Bronze' based in Langley, B.C. The final grinding (chasing) and finishing (patina) have yet to be done. I'll complete the carving of the horns before going further on the skull, in order to ensure that the skull's design remains consistent with the overall design.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 5 (carved bronze skull)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 5 (carved bronze skull)

LINKS: Work in Progress Video

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'Self Portrait' (Bronze Wolf Skull - Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 4 (carved bronze skull)
I have completed roughing in the left and right sides of the wax wolf skull. Each side's design echos elements from the carving below it. The balance of the skull will remain uncarved, to remain consistent with the tips of the horns and to keep the focus of the whole on the carving itself.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 4 (carved bronze skull)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Bronze Wolf Skull - Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 3 (carved bronze skull)
In this phase a negative space has been created along the length of the nose and forehead to echo the space between the two horns. I have begun to add the abstract detail to the left side and experiment with negative space around these details. This type of wax is not ideal for carving, since it is very soft and somewhat sticky, however the main shapes and design elements can be roughed out easily enough. The final detail will be honed in the bronze itself, after casting.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 3 (carved bronze skull)
The manner in which the bronze wolf skull and muskoxen horns will be mounted together has been much on my mind. As a temporary measure, you can see that I am using pieces of styrofoam to position the skull. As for a permanent solution, it would be a shame to add a support element that distracts or obscures the carving. I think I like the idea of the skull floating (or appearing to float) above the carved horns. A clear acrylic pillar may be the best solution, allowing the skull and horns to be fixed together, while appearing as if one is floating above the other. The pillar could extend through the horns to a base, allowing the horns to float above the base as well.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 3 (carved bronze skull)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Bronze Wolf Skull - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 2 (carved bronze skull)
In this phase the wax skull has been reduced to clean the lines and remove excess material from the bottom of the skull. The nose and eyebrow portion have been textured along the nose to mimic the rough portion of the musk oxen horn.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 2 (carved bronze skull)
In the picture below, you can see some of the tools used to sculpt wax: dental pics, wax carving tools, scewdriver, butane torch, wax paper, heat pencil.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 2 (carved bronze skull)
(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Bronze Wolf Skull - Phase 1) by Shane Wilson

I have given the skull portion of this sculpture much thought. The human skull does not seem to work with the overall design. I find it too large for the carved horns, overwhelming them. Experimenting with different skull possibilities, I believe I have found a skull which works much better with the carved horn, a wolf skull.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, bronze skull, phase 1 (carved bronze skull)
Not only are wolves and musk oxen found together on the tundra, the design of the skull works well with the architecture of the horns. The lines within the skull mimic the curve of the horns and the overall effect of the skull and horn set is an organic unity resembling a prehistoric bird, a pteradacyl-like creature.

So, while the original design intention remains, that of a self-portrait, a second layer of design complexity is added, that of the possibility that this creation is a creature unto itself. Perhaps this serendipity of design illustrates how one's life-work can take on a life of its own?

The image shows the skull in its wax form, prior to carving and casting. The next step is to carve the wax, so that the pattern reflects and amplifies the overall design of the carved antler. The skull is positioned facing right, or the future, considering possiblities yet to be ...

(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn, phase 2 (carved musk oxen horn)
I have roughed out the first portion of the design on the right horn. The depth of the carving has not yet been established, but the initial pattern is in evidence. I have used the NSK micromotor tool with a 3/32" rounded burr to outline the design and a 1/8" inverted cone to remove waste and create definition.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 2 (carved musk oxen horn)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 2 (carved musk oxen horn)
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Left Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 2) by Shane Wilson

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn, phase 2
I have roughed out the first portion of the design on the left horn. The depth of the carving has not yet been established, but the initial pattern is in evidence. I have used the NSK micromotor tool with a 3/32" rounded burr to outline the design and a 1/8" inverted cone to remove waste and create definition.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn, phase 2 (carved musk oxen horn)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn, phase 2 (carved musk oxen horn)
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Right Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 1) by Shane Wilson

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 1 (carved musk oxen horn)
The design on the right horn is more complicated and yet more unified than that on the left. It signals a consolidation of the self-identity and life-work of the individual.

This consolidation, and the working through of the accumulated dross of one's life, yields precious fruit, one's legacy.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 1 (carved musk oxen horn)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, right horn phase 1 (carved musk oxen horn)
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Left Musk Oxen Horn - Phase 1) by Shane Wilson

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn phase 1 (carved musk oxen horn)
The design on the left side represents the first half of life, up to middle age. In an abstract way, it will illustrate the formation of self and its tentative, creative efforts at identity and life-work. I have retained some of the original horn surface, serving to illustrate the dross we inevitably produce as we go along.

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn phase 1 (carved musk oxen horn)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, left horn phase 1 (carved musk oxen horn)
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)

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'Self Portrait' (Beginning) by Shane Wilson (musk oxen horns and bronze skull)

Self Portrait by Shane Wilson, in progress, start (carved musk oxen horn)
(musk oxen horn carving, musk oxen horn sculpture)(bronze carving, carved bronze sculpture)

The intention for this commission, is that I carve something of my own design from a set musk oxen horns and partial skull.

The horns come from Banks Island in the Northwest Territories. Musk Oxen were reintroduced on the island some years ago and have flourished, due in part to lack of natural predation. It is therefore necessary to cull the herd each year, to keep the size of the herd sustainable, and it is from this cull that these horns were taken.

After playing with a variety of ideas for this sculpture, I have settled on the notion of an abstract self-portrait, combining the musk ox horn with a bronze human skull. The horn lends itself to a life 'story', starting narrowly in the black on one side (birth), growing to a massive middle with a break (midlife), and narrowing again to black on the other side (death). The skull presides over its life story and remains, along with some of life's fruit, when the story is done.


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