If you stop to watch a sculptor work, you’ll probably find that you’re standing in the wrong place. You will get peppered with stone chips and he probably won’t show much sensitivity for your predicament, even if he is a nice guy and not like Michelangelo, who once threw a big wooden plank at Pope Julius for being nosy.
The word for what you have come to see—carving—surely seems like the wrong one. The sculptor is hammering a pointed chisel like a giant nail or a big iron pencil onto the block of stone and making little irregular chips or splinters fly out all over the place. All the carving you have ever seen was done with a knife. People carved the Sunday roast. They carved their sweetheart’s name on the birch tree. Even the whittler carved his figures in wood with his pocket-knife. Shouldn’t they have called sculpting chipping?
And now that you see the first tool in action—the pointed chisel—you have real doubts about it, however venerable. Is that really the best tool human ingenuity was able to come up with? Shouldn’t there be a faster and a more precise way to carve stone? The little chips like sharp moths that fly out of the block are very irregular. And once they are out, the surface of the marble is just as rough as before. The only sign of any method, any technique to the chipping, are the little parallel grooves or furrows the chisel leaves behind, so that the worked area looks like a ploughed field.