The Lakeland Exit (in progress)

it happens like this …

Bears are a popular Nort’woods theme, and while I have several in mind for future work, this depiction of Mama Bear and Cubs comes first – and provides an opportunity to show how I cut these unique works, using a technique known as “window-cutting”, which has several advantages over more traditional methods for my purposes in this medium …    my Exacto Knives are pointed at the two areas (windows), about to be fitted – the sky, and the cooler handle, where I have cut those sections out of the sketch and aligned my chosen veneers underneath; note the blue tape, which holds the paper and veneer in place so that as I use the edge of the window to guide the knife, the veneer cannot slide out of position, which is crucial to the perfect fit of each piece with the others. Repeat 50 (+-) times to complete this phase of this labor intensive process!!!  When the cutting and fitting are complete, the Real Stress begins; all those fragile veneer parts have been taped together from the back side – and all that tape must be removed, CAREFULLY before the piece can be glued to its Masonite backing. A sheet of paper is sprayglued to the work’s face to hold it all together during the tape removelence phase, and a double shot of Cruzan Black Strap Rum over ice holds my nerves together, as the parts decide which adhesive they will obey.  After repair of any damage, the piece is glued to its  backing and the paper facing removed; my early works were often somewhat bumpy and wrinkled due to the use of inadequate hand-clamps, and while this often resulted in some cool near-3-D effects, I now use a vacuum-bag press which guarantees that the finished work will be tight and flat, and will also, (with its ability to apply over 2,000 pounds psi), make a permanent indentation of any and all stray splinters, chips or even tape segments that have been overlooked prior to pressing. Discovery of this error will require more Rum. So will a flawless pressing. Mood will vary accordingly. The veneers will also vary, in thickness and in their resistance to sandpaper – and since they are, at most, only as thick as 90# watercolor paper, extreme care must be taken to sand smooth, but not through. Once I’m satisfied with the sanding, any sections to be painted in transparent watercolor will be addressed while the wood is still bare. Sealer coats of shellac are then applied in thin layers as the pencil, ink, charcoal, pastels, oils, and/or crayon details and shadings are accomplished until, at long last, the work is ready for its final four coats of furniture-grade lacquer – then polished with three coats of furniture wax. The result is warm, touchable, durable, and easily maintained with a soft, dry cloth.

Now, back to the drawing board …


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