Wood carving is probably one of, if not the, oldest forms of art known to humanity. It has spanned the globe and made itself a part of the history in every culture. Wood is available everywhere, it’s soft, and it’s cheap. It makes sense that it would be a common medium chosen by artists throughout time. It has been a part of African sculpture, Oceanic art, Native American art, Aboriginal art, Greek sculpture, and has even made its way into woodcarvings as part of our architecture and interior design. A popular trend in wood art and interior design now is the bear carving.
Wood carvings vary greatly depending on the type of carving being done, as well as the kind of wood being handled, and who the artist is. Some wood is harder than others, and there are a myriad of tools that can be used. Wood carvers use a variety of chisels and knives, and some wood artists even use chainsaws.
A wood carver begins by selecting a piece of wood to transform. It must be suitable in size and shape in order to fit the artist’s intended purpose for it. If a piece is going to be large, two blocks of wood may be pieced together before or after carving.
Carving is a long and meticulous process, and when it is finished, the carving is often stained in linseed or walnut oil and then varnished. This is to make sure it does not deteriorate, as wood is a quick to decay, being vulnerable as it is to insects, the elements, and fungus. A famous woodcarving is “Mary Magdalene” by Donatello. It was carved in 1455 and, because it has been well-preserved and cared for, it still stands today. Wood art can be just as lasting as works of stone or metal; they simply have to be cared for properly.