Typically I work in a series, using the cabinet form. I like having interior spaces to provide a place to present information (reveal the “inside story”) and to add an element of surprise. Each series has a theme ranging from simple word play to addressing a dire situation like animal exploitation, GMO foods, sweatshops, etc.
Ideas come easily to me, but they usually simmer awhile before becoming artwork. Typically, I begin with an issue (like deteriorating health) and then imagine a clever way to convey information about it. For example in "Kitschen Folk," I picked common food icons -- Betty Crocker, Uncle Ben, Mrs. Butterworth, Chef Boyardi, Aunt Jemima -- to address cancer, heart disease, diebeties, stroke, and obesity.
When I’m ready to make a piece, I begin by doing a simple drawing from the front. I may also do some quick studies (like the head and feet of a rat for "You Dirty Rat!"), if I feel the need.
Once I know what the form will look like, I break it down into geometric shapes. Each of these shapes will then become a box, and when assembled together, will become the finished piece. (This is the plan for making the boxes that comprise "Sheepish," from the "Humanimals" series.)
Each box is constructed primarily from 3/4 and 5/4 planks of basswood, sometimes using birch-faced plywood when joining the boxes to one another. To determine how much wood I need, I break down each box into its componant parts -- left, right, top, bottom, back, front. It becomes a complicated giant puzzle, as shown here with the plan for "Night Owl" from the "Humanimals" series.
Now that I know exactly how I will build each box, I create a "shopping list" of the rough cut pieces. But before rough cutting each of these, I run the planks of wood through the joiner and the surfacer. (This makes them fit together better.) I make each box separately: head, chest/torso, legs, and feet. And I usually wait to put on the doors after all the boxes are joined to one another.
After the basic boxes are made they are ready to assemble into one cabinet form/figure. I do this with great care using many many clamps. (I hope to add a picture of this soon.) I usually start by gluing the torso box to the legs box, leaving off the head and the feet boxes, because I prefer to carve them before they are attached to the body -- it's easier!
Next I add layers of wood to create areas that stick out -- like a nose, cheeks, elbows, wrinkles in clothing, etc. At this point the piece looks very robot-like. Now the surface is ready to carve, using primarily pneumatic grinders with a variety of bits. (I hope to add a picture of me carving with these tools soon.)
The exterior is then primed and painted, using acrylic paints. My color palette is typically a rainbow spectrum of muted tones. I usually apply many layers of paint to achieve a textured surface. This creates a rich complex effect. I usually carry the surface design around the edges of the boxes and into the interior spaces, where it will merge with a collage.
Once the surface is painted, I draw on it with a variety of materials: pencils, markers, crayons, etc. I like a layered surface that is as interesting close-up as it is from far away. And I like to finish the surface with hatch marks using a regular #2 pencil.
The exterior surface is then given a couple coats of varnish, mostly with a satin finish, but sometimes using a high gloss for special effects (lips, scales, etc.)
Collaging the interior spaces is last, typically using paper and Modge Podge, but sometimes using felt or paint. I often use the interior spaces to present information and images about a particular issue. For example, in the “humanimals” series, information and images of animal exploitation are presented in the interior spaces (pork factory farming, vivisection, diminishing natural habitats, etc.)