From time to time I set aside the microchisels, scrapers and polishing materials that I use for my more meticuluos work and just pick up a knife and go at the wood in a more informal, direct approach. I think of it in terms of sketching- to learn a subject's form or figure out a composition. The works have a more whittled appearance, in western terms.
This is a piece I did recently in plum wood from a local tree. I was carved with just a few blades. I finished it by rubbing vigorously in a tub of rice bran; the bran has a slight polishing effect, and the traces of oil deepen the color of the wood. It's 7 cm high, so a life-size representation of a cicada.
The knives I use for this sort of work are of two designs; one western and one Japanese: The western one is German made and sold under the brand Two Cherries. It's held with a fist grip and can be used in both push and pull directions as it has a double bevel. I'm right-handed, so when pushing the blade, I use my left thumb against the back of the blade as a fulcrum and to control it better. When pulling, my right thumb is on the sculpture and I draw the knife towards it. This is a great knife for roughing out and removing larger amounts of wood.
The second is a typical Japanese carving knife sold by Michihamono. It has a single bevel and is held with a grip similar, but not identical, to how one would hold a pencil. It is utilized with only push cuts and is fantastic for later-stage carving, to refine the form and create a smoother surface, by gently shaving away the facets left by earlier stages.