Carving Process




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Bas-Relief Sculptures In Leather
 : The Carvings and Technique        

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Preliminary Sketch:
Starting with on-site sketches and photographs, RPK makes a preliminary drawing on paper, often refining it to a completed pen-and-ink composition, depending on the difficulty and detail required in the finished

Canvas Selection & Treatment:   
RPK carefully selects a steer hide whose natural character and grain are suited to the subject, much like a sculptor would choose a particular block of marble.
  Before the carving is begun, the leather is moistened with water. If an under-painting effect is desired, the leather is worked while it is very wet. The depth and angle of the carving allow a burnish to emerge as the natural oils are released from the leather. If this effect is not desired, the leather is worked when it is dryer.

The Sculpting:  
Using traditional tools of saddlery and implements of his own creation, he sculpts each square inch under dozens of forceful blows of a rawhide mallet. Ten square inches of relief takes hours of hard physical labor.

This technique of carving compresses the leather, allowing the sculpture to emerge. It is a precise art, for one incorrect cut can ruin an entire piece.  When the carving is finished it stands alone as a completed sculpture. 

Using variations of the encaustic process created by Robert Pace Kidd.  Perhaps the most unique of RPK's processes', encaustic is the process of mixing pigments with molten beeswax, is perhaps man's oldest formal method of easel and mural painting.

It was first perfected in ancient Greece. Noted examples of the technique survive today. Fayium burial portraits on wood and decorated Roman shields of leather are still brilliant after fifteen centuries.

A genuinely lost art in the Medieval and Renaissance periods, encaustic was revived through literary and laboratory research during the 18th and 19th centuries by artists searching for a medium that would permanently endure destructive conditions.  These artists found scant references in Greek history to a cold wax process. However, they were unable to reconstruct the technique and settled for hota-ax instead.

A student of art history, RPK became intrigued by the prospect of a cold wax process. Experimenting with a variety of waxes and oil pigments, he finally developed a workable cold wax medium that was highly compatible with the leather.

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Preservation Technique and Luminosity: 

Suspending fine-art pigments in a specially prepared wax, RPK  applies a succession of transparent glazes to the sculpture, creating the basic tones, shadows and deep shadows. 

Each glaze is worked separately back against the carving according to the direction and source of light, allowing the angle and depth of the relief to dictate how much character of the color will remain and where the leather's natural color will emerge as highlight.

In addition to the subtleties of color available with the technique, the wax medium has proved superior to most other media in that it repels those things that have traditionally destroyed works of art... dust, moisture, and pollutants. The wax effectively preserves the leather, sealing it from the ravages of time and ensuring each piece will survive for many centuries.

As with any experimental art form, research is ongoing. As the demands of subject matter dictate, new carving tools are created, and new colors are added to the palette.

Contact RPK direct with questions or orders!


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All Rights Reserved, Robert Pace Kidd and KrackaToa Partners
Copyright March 2003-2008