My process is intuitive, allowing my subconscious to influence my choice of subject matter and the direction each relief takes. Forms may appear and disappear, be altered or replaced. I liken the process to sailing, since you cannot go from start to finish in a straight line, but must tack with the wind. I tack with light. Sometimes I end up where I intended, but often I get off course and find myself at sea, in new territory, and must decide whether to explore it or try to correct course to my original goal. Each relief is a journey of exploration.
I have studied and copied the work of many artists and their work inspires me. I usually start with a idea involving something that I have seen. Often I awake with a partly formed image coming out of my subconscious. I also work from life, from drawings, photographs, computer images or a combination. I begin with a tablet of a wet mix of porcelain clay and cellulose powder I have developed. It is more supple and lighter in color than clay. I incise a drawing on the tablet and begin carving and modeling the surface, concentrating on light values rather than sculptural form. If the relief is to be colored, I add watercolor which is taken up by the cellulose. You can see newly worked areas, as the clay contains grey mold which lightens when exposed to light and air for a few hours.
When I have roughed out the surface, I change the direction of the light falling on the tablet, usually by moving my custom made easel 90 degrees, or by turning the tablet: tacking with light.
I now see the relief in a different light and it looks completely different. I then rework and refine the entire surface, adjusting the lines, colors and surfaces, and continue this process of light change, surface change, until completed.
When the tablet is done, I box it in and pour on a thin layer of hydrocal plaster and cellulose. When it sets up, I remove the box, reinforce the back of the cast with clear liquid epoxy (and fiber glass mat for larger pieces) and let the clay tablet fall off the cast (the clay is reused). The cast forms an intaglio image of the positive tablet and much of the water color on the tablet transfers to the cast (technically a mono print). I can further carve, sand and water color the damp cast. When dried, I epoxy the front of the cast and glaze the surface with matte/gloss acrylic medium and water colored acrylic glazes. I then hang it up, see what works and what doesn’t, and continue on.
If I like the relief, I may make a latex or silicone mold for a limited edition in epoxy and acrylic. I make one or two copies at a time, more when they are exhibited, sold or given away. I often vary the colors of the editions. Each relief or edition bears my glyph “Rpy” and the year of production.