In drywall taping a Level 5 finish is as good as it gets, an incredibly smooth finish reserved for high-end projects with harsh lighting conditions and glossy paint. Judged by that standard, Bernie Mitchell’s work would be a negative 10.
But then Mitchell's work is not intended to be smooth; it’s sculpture applied to the surface of drywall with taping knives, paint brushes, and non-standard tools such as spoons. What he creates with these tools (and his artistic vision) is incredible.
As you will see in the video below, he uses a very dry mix. According to a profile of Mitchell in JLC it consists of “standard drywall mud that’s first thinned with water, then firmed up with dry setting compound. There’s no hard-and-fast recipe, but the goal is a mud that’s wet enough to stick when slapped onto a wall but stiff enough to resist sagging as a thick mass. The admixture of setting compound prevents shrinkage and cracking during drying.”