The most important part of the whole carving process is..... drum role............. the sandpaper!
Yes I know, its does not sound super exciting when you write it down or read it BUT, once you put that sandpaper to the stone itself, and apply a little bit of elbow grease the true and completely natural beauty of the stone emerges, whenever I find the animals form and then sand I feel like I am on some sort of Archeology adventure, out on a new dig uncovering something truly magnificent, I am always blown away by the colours and patterns that come out of the stone once a little bit of sanding is done, I have yet to grow bored of it and hope I never do!
“...as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold - everywhere the glint of gold. For the moment - an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by - I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, 'Can you see anything?' it was all I could do to get out the words, 'Yes, wonderful things.”
― Howard Carter, The Tomb of Tutankhamen
In the photo below you can see that the right side has been sanded with the first sandpaper stage (there are 3-4) and the left side sits untouched.
I do all of my sanding in water, it gives the dust somewhere to go, it keeps my workspace clean, and I get to see the stones natural beauty emerge as I work, which I find very motivating to complete the piece.
Although I pre shape my rocks I spend a lot of time looking and accessing and even wetting the stone to get a good idea of what shape truly does lie inside of the rock itself before I cut the animal out of the stone it is hiding in. As you can see in the picture below each stone is very different from the next.