The process is a traditional New Mexican way of creating a Santo or Bulto (3 dimensional carving) or a Retablo (2 dimensional painting). This process has been used for generations dating back to the 1700’s by the first Santeros (Saint Maker) in New Mexico. I honor these traditions by utilizing the methods used for generations to create my uniquely modern New Mexican Wood Sculptures.
Each piece starts out from a sketch or Idea. The sketch is then transferred to the wood, it is then blocked out so the carving can begin and with each chip the image begins to take form. After all the shaping is done the detail carving can start and is then completely sanded in preparation for the gesso.
The gesso creates a base for the pigments to adhere. Rabbit Hide Glue is soaked for about 24hrs at a ratio of about 8 to 1, 8 cups of water to 1 cup of rabbit hide glue. The mixture is then slowly boiled until a temperature of about 145°, once temperature is reached marble dust is then stirred in, continually stirring to create a smooth consistency I don't have a constant measure for the marble dust I just feel as I go. When the gesso is ready I paint it over the sculpture and try to get out any bubbles as I go. I then let the piece dry for about 24 to 48 hrs to let all of the moisture escape the wood. Once the gesso is dry it is sanded and gessoed again to fill in any imperfections.
I use a combination of natural and water color pigments. I prefer to make a few of my own colors because you just can't reproduce the color you get from the natural pigments from purchased water color. I prepare my brown using black walnut hulls. I boil the hulls reducing to a thick consistency. The liquid from the hulls is then dried for several days until all the water has evaporated. I gather the flakes for future use. To use I just reconstitute with water. I also use Yellow and Red Ochre that I combine with gum arabic as a binder. My deep red is a combination of cochineal beetle and gum arabic and water color. I grind the beetle with a mortar and pestle to a very fine powder before adding the binders. I purchase water color pigments for the other colors I use white, orange, etc... While I use water based pigments for the majority of my work I will use acrylic and gold leaf to achieve the look I am going for. The work is then sealed with a commercial varnish and given a final coat of bees wax.