I thought I'd run through some of the steps I take on a project like this, starting with a pic of a finished elepehant:
And before paint:
When planning a whittling, I like to think about what makes the subject unique, or what features I need to steer the viewer's imagination in the right direction. Since I don't 'do' reality, imagination is required when looking at my 'work'.
Thats an easy list to make when the subject is an elephant- trunk of course, big ears (African ears are large, Indian ears not so much), tree trunk legs, big round body & butt, and a ridiculoulsy small tail. That's a long list, covering the animal from tip to bottom. jSometimes you only get one thing.
Once I've thought about the features I want, I shoot for a full size sketch/pattern on whatever paper is nearby. This one was easy- Tom included a nice little line drawing in his book, an easy starting place. Had to think a little about what makes a Santa hat too- fur brim, ball on top, red color- easy stuff there too. The first pattern looked like this:
I started to think about grain direction and actually whittling this little guy, and it didn't ake long to realize the kink in the hat was going to be a nightmare. Grain had to go the long way along the trunk, making that hook in the hat tough or impossible to complete without breaking. NOTE: I use a knife only, which imposes restrictions on the work; using a dremel or similar power carver would have make the bent hat possible.
So before I even cut one out of wood I modified the pattern:
I used this pattern to trace one on wood and started whittling. I'm likely to make some changes after the first. That is one reason why I like to do repeats- the whittling evolves as I go, I love that process.
Once I've done the first, and made any changes, the next thing is a more durable pattern:
I use card stock, and include notes on the size blank I need for each. this pattern will hang out in the shop near the saw.
I actually made another change after this- the space between the front and back legs morphed from a U-shape to a single saw cut.
I can separate the legs with a few cuts that extend up into the belly.
There's a few things on my elephant that depart from reality. Elephants actually have quite a long bit of belly between the front & back legs- mine have none. I didn't put eyes on them either. I made up the transition from face to trunk, and varied it from one to the next. I found a couple I preferred, but can guarantee none of them are anatomically correct. I don't mind any of that- none if it detracts from creating the impression of an elephant.