Introduction of Dramatic Shadows

In this online article we will be exploring how shadows can add an illusion of depth to your work.

Introduction of Dramatic Shadows
Undercutting Technique for Dramatic Shadows
Level Changes and Free Floating Elements for Dramatic Shadows
Dramatic Shadows Pattern Work

As your craft skills increase you will begin to branch out into different styles of wood carving. Where your early works tend to be shallow round over carvings, later carving work becomes more daring and dramatic. Learning to plan and use shadows created by the carving will add new dimensions to your work.

There are three simple ways to add shadowing. First is with the undercut that tucks the joint of two element beneath the foreground item. Second is to plan several small areas of your designs where one element of the pattern that lays in the highest level of the design is surrounded by an area that lies in the deepest area of carving. The third way to add shadowing is to completely free a small element from the background wood, making it free floating over the surface of the carving.

There are two simple barn scenes on your right. Both have about the same amount of pattern area, the same amount of detailing, both are carved to about the same depth into the wood, and both were carved by the same wood carver (me – snicker). Yet the basswood barn at the bottom gives an impression of being dramatically deeper into wood as compared to the barn carved in redwood. The reason for the change in the impression of depth is due to the inclusion of shadows in the planning stage of the basswood barn.

This pattern is available in our Landscape Pattern Package and in our new "Landscapes in Relief" book.

Looking at the redwood barn you can quickly see that this piece has been done using five levels through the carving; the background tree line, pine tree, the tree directly behind the barn, the barn, and the foreground tree. The finished effect gives a nice progression in the carving and identifies to the viewer which items overlap other items. However, since the carved edges of each area are simply rounded over there are no dramatic shadows that jump out to the viewer over other areas in the design. The carving has a very flat appearance to it. This style of carving is called Low Relief.

Low Relief carving is excellent for jewelry box lids and door fronts that need constant cleaning. There are no deep crevices to catch and hold the dust.

Please see our tutorial on Simplifying Your Pattern and Working With Levels for more information of working with levels in relief carving.

The second, basswood carved barn, contains several areas of dark shadowing. Note the roof line of the barn where it meets the mountains, the opening of the road bed directly in front of the barn, and the fence rail area. As with the redwood barn this carving is first created in levels; the skyline, the mountains, the barn and brush line, the fence line and road opening, and finally the road bed and grass. By using a few tricks of the craft extra emphasis can be added to specific areas creating an illusion of depth.
Shadows are used to emphasis certain areas in to carving and to lead the viewer through the scene from one area to the next. The basswood barn is a pattern that is nicely divided into two area … the area in front of the split rail fence and the area behind it. This is an excellent place for emphasis and so to create a dark shadow. The barn, obviously, is the focus point of the scene so it too will receive extra shadowing. Finally, since the opening in the road bed is the path that leads from the foreground area in front of the rail fence to the main focus, the barn, it also becomes important. This style of carving is called High Relief.