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Relativity #1: Carving "Relativity" in Relief

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Blog entry by Phil32 posted 09-10-2018 06:14 PM 814 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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As my next woodcarving challenge, I’ve decided to do Escher’s “Relativity” – a lithograph he did in July 1953. The original graphic was close to 11 inches square:

But the basswood I planned to use was 12” x 15,” so I stretched the image to fit the wood. I tried stretching it wide. I tried stretching it tall:

I even considered adding a little to the original as I had done on this carving of “Print Gallery:”

Continuing with the tall stretch I traced the image on the wood. The first step in many relief carvings is to find the deepest part of the carving. In this case it appeared to be under the arch in the upper center:

That lump in the middle is one of the human figures, climbing the stairs from the basement. Next, I began carving the other deep places, usually under arches. I had to be careful to leave wood for objects that would appear in front of the arch or stairway.
If you study the design for a while you’ll see that the local “up” is not the same in all parts of the scene. That is, the vertical direction from the stair treads is left, right, toward the top, etc. Note that there are stairs on the underside of the main stairways! All with people ascending or descending.
Here I have started carving some of the steps. The strip left on top of the steps is the hand rail:

Why did Escher call this “Relativity?” Was he illustrating the weirdness of the space/time continuum? Or, was he showing us the difference between General Relativity and Special Relativity?
The carving continues, shaping each of the exposed stairs and the edges of the stairs underneath. The scenes in the alcoves along the edge will be incised into the background, and the lines brought out with gel stain.

This project started in April and here it is September.
All of the human figures wil be given more shape. The areas to be defined by incised details will be smoothed out before doing the incising. This is so the gel stain will wipe off cleanly from around the lines. This includes the balusters of the handrails.

All of this is being carved with hand tools, mostly fishtail gouges and a knife. My work area is the dining room table! My lovely wife prefers that I work in the house. More to come . . .

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!



7 comments so far

View Oldtool's profile

Oldtool

2785 posts in 2642 days


#1 posted 09-10-2018 09:39 PM

Your carvings are very nice, beautiful work & craftsmanship on your part. Looking at Escher’s original lithograph, it appears to me it would be difficult to find a starting point or determining where the deepest part of the scene is.
Keep up the good work and I’ll be looking to see how this comes out.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View Druid's profile

Druid

2122 posts in 3246 days


#2 posted 09-27-2018 02:16 AM

Nice to see Escher’s work is still being appreciated. I’m also looking forward to more of your work.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View Bill_Steele's profile (online now)

Bill_Steele

537 posts in 2183 days


#3 posted 01-29-2019 06:49 PM

Nice job on the carving Phil! This is a very interesting work of art. I suspect that the level of analysis required to reproduce this in a carving should give you a deeper understanding and appreciation for this work.

View Phil32's profile

Phil32

598 posts in 354 days


#4 posted 01-29-2019 07:14 PM

Thanks Bill_Steele. Yes, it takes a lot of study to convert Escher’s graphic designs into relief carvings, but it is satisfying when completed. This one has set idle for weeks now, even though it’s in the final stages.

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10669 posts in 4503 days


#5 posted 02-12-2019 12:25 AM

YES!!

Phil, you’re NO Amateur carver!! You are obviously a PRO!

Fantastic work… Thanks for showing “in progress” pics… Makes us appreciate the final result better!

Keep it up!

Thank you!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: http://www.WoodworkStuff.net ... My Small Gallery: https://www.ncwoodworker.net/forums/index.php

View Phil32's profile

Phil32

598 posts in 354 days


#6 posted 03-11-2019 12:35 AM

The carving phase is done. The piece has been sealed front and back. So now I have started to process of applying gel stain the selected parts of the relief carving. Here I have stained the stair risers on the right side and the arched alcove. The excess stain is wiped off and when dry I can scrape off any errors.

This staining process may continue for several weeks. Then a final finish of Poly will complete the project.

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View Phil32's profile

Phil32

598 posts in 354 days


#7 posted 04-05-2019 09:30 PM

Here are a couple of progress photos on staining. Most of the really dark areas are done. The remainder will be touched with gel stain and quickly wiped off to spread a variable tint to surrounding areas. The second photo shows the technique in one of the alcoves. Note that the stain stays mostly in the incised lines and lighter in the background.

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

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