My introduction to “relief” work was through Penny Meyer. She worked up a piece by Gary Dombrowski, grayscaling the piece and then washing in the colors. It is the piece she painted and used as a tutorial for this site. Gary posted a brief but descriptive post on his website at and at showing how he sculpted the piece. Gary has given me permission to post the write up. Thanks, Gary.

Gary writes:

The first step involved scanning the art and then reducing it to the actual size of the finished piece. I took a piece of acetate and traced (yes, I cheated) the painting. The acetate “tracing” was taped to a piece of white paper and traced again sing a piece of waxed paper. A fine point Sharpie worked fine for drawing on the waxy surface.


The tracing.
A mixture of Sculpey Firm and Sculpey III was mixed together and rolled into a ball. It was then placed on a piece of black floor tile and flattened by pressing down on it with another tile. The wax paper tracing was pressed down over this once the Sculpey was flattened to where the design fit. I then poked through the drawing with a pointed tool. The purpose of this is so an outline of the drawing is left so the forms can be sculpted.

After I finished poking through the entire drawing I slowly peeled the wax paper off. To my surprise the drawing transferred to the Sculpey in addition to the holes from the tool. I thought maybe the tool carried some of the ink though, I’m not really sure.

Ready for sculpting!

Now that things are moving a long I can post something new. The next project is my donation for the Artist Preservation Group. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a relief sculpture. The project was started after getting permission from Historical Artist Keith Rocco to reproduce one of his studies. The subject is a Confederate cavalry bugler.

Check out more of Keith’s work at
Here is another of Gary’s works. The pictures speak for themselves and add to our understanding of the process he uses to sculpt these beautiful reliefs. Again, Gary writes:

Though I was happy with the way the confederate relief came out, something was missing. The Artist Preservation Group (APG) show is being held this year in Fredericksburg VA. I thought a relief of the famed Irish Brigade could not be a better choice given the show venue. I’ve decide to do another relief and make this a second donation to the APG’s show and continued efforts towards Historic Preservation.

The techniques used to make this relief are the same as those used for the Confederate bugler. So if you’re trying to make a relief of your own refer to those other posts in those areas where I may have unintentionally skipped over. The photographs in the following image are intentionally dark so the steps can be more clearly seen.

The drawing is attached to the sculpting surface by rubbing it down while applying a little pressure. It will be enough to hold it in place while transferring the drawing to the Sculpey. The drawing is transferred by poking through to the sculpting surface using a pointed tool.
The tracing is slowly lifted from the sculpting surface revealing the drawing which is made up of as many or as few holes as one chooses to make.
The entire outside of the design is cut into with an X-Acto knife. Then a second and third pass is made slowly cutting away the excess material from the outside of the design.
The excess material can be used where additional relief is needed. There is a thin film of Vaseline between the tile and the Sculpey. Given that the excess material may be a bit softer than usual due to the Vaseline. This excess can be thrown away, I just chose to use it.

These photos show the early stages of sculpting. I started with the head to establish the character of the piece.

The completed relief. The bayonet was made mostly from plastic stock with the remainder being putty and a very small piece of brass wire. Castings of this piece will be available through The Artist Preservation Group.

Gary makes it look simple, but…

And check this one out:

Gary’s work can be purchased at Artist Preservation Group: .

2 thoughts on “Gary Dombrowski’s Confederate Bugler

    1. Rich, Thanks for the link to the Abraham Lincoln tutorial. I could not find it. I look forward to seeing what you are working on next.

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