I. Sculpting Wood
I use either Tupelo wood or Basswood. On most birds, I begin with a clay model of my piece and allow that to define the final work that I will produce. The reason that use a clay model first is because it is easier to add and remove clay than wood. If you make a mistake with clay, you just put some back on. If you mess up with wood — well you have just created an expensive log for your fireplace.
From the clay, I create a pattern for my carving. When carving, I prefer to only use a knife. Sometimes I have to use a grinder, but I will rely upon my simple knife, or a chisel, for as long as I can. Why? Because it is possible to remove too much wood with the high powered grinders. With a knife, I can remove small pieces and then I can stop and interpret my work, thus creating a beautiful sculpture.
After carving, and sanding, using from 120 through 600 grit, I burn intricate detail into my pieces. I use burning tool where I burn one line at a time. Notice the carved and burned tail of the Coopers Hawk.
After burning the entire bird, I paint it with oil paint. Why oil paint? Because acrylics at their heart are plastic and appear to be plastic on the bird. Oil paint on the other hand is easier to blend and looks softer. With oil paint, I put the paint on and then take it off, almost staining the wood, slowly building it up through layers of paint. The finished pintail drake was painted with oil paints and you can see the detail in the speculum area (the very colorful part of a duck’s wing).
II. The Art of Bronze
Clay is what I start with for the art of bronze casting, as well. The process of creating the bronze Red Tailed Hawk, started with a clay hawk.￼
After completing the clay, it was then taken to a foundry for the bronzing process. Here they make a rubber mold of the clay, demold the clay once it is hardened, and pour hot wax inside of the hardened rubber mold.￼ Once the wax is molded then the actual bronzing occurs where they pour the hot molten bronze in a centuries old tradition known as “the lost wax method.” Once the bronze is completed, patina is added to give certain colors, highlights and depth. ￼