So where do I get ideas to carve? Everywhere. When a thought comes into my head to carve something I head for the WWW. Plenty of carving sites have plans or patterns, some for sale and some are free. Sometimes I just search images. Save them, print them, heck, trace them off the puter screen.
So now I have an notion to whittle something, and I've done some research, and maybe refined the pic in my mind, it's time to get the idea out of my head onto paper or wood. What size should it be? What size wood do I have? I cut a square block to start from, and if it is small enough I trace the outline onto a piece of paper several times next to each other.
Here's the sketch for another pen, a bee. So far my pens have been about 7" long, I start with blocks of Yellow Cedar (all the YC I have is about 1-1/4" square) I thought the first sketch on the left was a little too long, so I made the blank barely longer than the pen insert I use and am hoping not to expose the drill hole when I whittle. The sketch is only to establish proportions and shapes/relations, a lot of the design work for me will be done 'under the knife'. I like the last sketch on the right, I'll cut that out and tape it in a spiral notebook I keep most or all my ideas in. I can see one modification I'll make when I whittle- the wings will probably have to be shortened to make the pen more comfortable to hold.
I read some great advice on the The Whittlers Porch: Carve a little bit every day, even if you only sharpen a pencil. both the Porch and Wood Carving Illustrated are great resources for inspiration and answers. If you join the forums section at WCI you'll have access to tons of pics of other peoples work.
So long for now- pick up a knife, let the chips fly. Bflobif