Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Friday Tip - Finally!

At long last! I was pretty much snowed in at my mom's place last week over Christmas. It was all I could do to get out and feed the horses, never mind go home to get any real work done. Things are finally getting back to normal over here and so, better late than later, the awaited Friday Tip.

As you can see, the markings are well filled in. There is still more work to be done on making the white areas completely opaque, but I like to finish that up while I am doing the pinking in the thin skinned areas. The first step in mapping is to finish off all of the edges. I am doing a demo on a little grouping of cat tracks in the video. Paint in the direction of hair flow in little strokes as best you can. This will simulate the edging on patterns much better than tracing around the marking in a circle. Now is the time to put in the itty bitty edging that the larger brushes used for filling in the white can't get to.

Once the edges are nice and crisp and filled in, thin the paint a little and again painting in the direction of hair flow, overlap the white markings. Horses have different amounts of mapping in different areas, and some horses will have more pronounced mapping than others. Look at references to establish how much mapping you want to show. This part doesn't show up very well in the video... sorry. But it is just like painting the edging on, only now you get to color out of the lines. If any areas get too much paint on them, look sloppy, or you just don't like it, use your finger to gently wipe the paint off before it dries. You may have to re-do a spot several times before it is just right, but better to re-do than to have an eyesore.

With the second step complete, you will be left with a faint white border around your markings. You can go over it again to intensify, leave it as is, or do what I usually do and paint tiny hair-like lines in the mapped zones. Keep in mind that this will whiten the mapping up considerably, so start with a faint mapping basecoat for the best results!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Delays Delays Delays...

Chinook and Lucy have go in them in our unseasonably cold and snowy weather, but my car doesn't! It - and therefore I - have been in the shop all day today (just a dead alternator, no worries) and life is pretty busy right now, so there won't be a Friday Tip this week. But look for the mapping tip next week - I hope it proves to be worth the wait! :-D

Best wishes to everyone for a safe and happy holiday season.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Show 'n Tell

I did a little arty gift project today and it was so fun and refreshing! This is Lucy, the horse that lives next to Chinny. I took this picture a couple years ago and it has been one of my favorites ever since. The photo is deep inside a layered shadow box with mats and grasses. You can click on the picture for a bigger version. :-D

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Tip

I'm not quite far enough along yet to show how to do mapping this week like I had planned, but that actually leads me to a very important tip. Patience! I used to rush horses for shows, painting furiously right up until the deadline. But then those horses always needed fixing later causing unnecessary extra work, and frustrating work at that because they were already "done". When I made the choice to stop rushing things for the next show (there will always be more!), there was a dramatic increase in the quality of my work. So I encourage you to look closely at your painting habits. If you see rushing going on, make a conscious decision to slow down. You will be surprised at what you can do!

Even though I can't show you mapping today, I can at least share the latest steps on Anthem! In the first picture, you can see the final two coats of oils. In addition to detailing out the colored parts, I went completely over all of the cat tracks to make sure their color was all filled in. After that had dried thoroughly, I sprayed another coat of sealer and went back over the pattern (which is only slightly visible under the new paint) in gesso. This time, I went very slowly (this one layer took about 2 1/2 hours) and carefully around each spot and painted right up to the edge of the previous gesso layer with a small detail brush. It's important to get as close as possible so the previous covered gesso layer doesn't show, and not to go over to prevent pattern creep. (I'll touch on this in the mapping tip as well.) I also sketched in her facial markings now that I don't have to worry about painting over them.

And finally, to answer some questions in the comments from last week's tip:

1) The brush I was using was a #2 round. It could be anything that is a suitable size for the pattern though. As long as the brush has a reasonably good tip that will draw out a point, it is fine.
2) I do not thin gesso. It tends to weaken and not adhere well when it is thinned. To prevent brush strokes, only put as much paint on the brush as you can smooth out before it starts drying. With gesso, this really isn't much. Spread it all out evenly as you go and be vigilant looking for strokes and you shouldn't have any problems!
3) If you are painting in acrylics instead of oils, you do not need to seal in between layers. I use DullCote and ModelMaster Lusterless, but you can use whatever works for you!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday Sale!

I hope everyone is having a warm, happy and safe holiday season. Through the rest of December and through the 5th of the New Year, everything on the Chinook Studios website is on sale. The prices on many items are marked down by $60, so if you've had your eye on anything now is the time to grab it!

Fly By Wire, Have Blue and Sanskrit's runs are almost sold out and I won't be making any more after this. I still have plenty of Jasmines and Gus and John Henry are open editions for now.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Friday Tip

For this week's Friday Tip, I made a video of my process for getting the tobiano sabino markings started on Anthem. There is a normal speed bit at the beginning and again in the middle when I start adding cat tracks, but the rest is sped up. The whole process took just under an hour so take your time and look at your photos frequently, especially until you have a very good feel for a particular pattern. In this case, I used a couple of references and mostly freehanded the pattern, taking some general shape and location cues from my selected pictures. Always keep in mind that this is a basecoat - an idea for a pattern. You needn't stick to it if it doesn't work out!

To start, get the horse mostly painted. I used oils, so before painting the gesso on, Anthem got a thorough spraying of sealer. Basically, just start! Have no fear about putting paint on, because it can always be taken off. I like to design my patterns from the neck back, but you can start anywhere you feel most comfortable. I also like to start small from inside the pattern and let it grow in a way that best fits the horse. On tobianos especially, be careful to keep the pattern from becoming too geometric. You can think of tobianos as being white with very large (or not...) colored spots, but avoid the trap of making those spots too circular or even in shape and size. Think in a general round spotted pattern way, and let the back and forth motion of the brush loosen things up a bit for you. Don't spend a lot of time finessing this part because you'll be painting right back over it. Just get the general shape in. If a particular area will only have small markings, like the head, don't bother sketching them in at this stage. Not only will it be wasted work, but sometimes the basecoat can be more of a hindrance than a help!

On to the cat tracks or ink spots. Put a bit of rubbing alcohol in a dish, and using a small paint brush, gently rub out the gesso wherever you would like to have a dark spot. Make these spots bigger than they will ultimately be, because going back with the white later will encroach on them. You can even take out a large area of white like I did on the left shoulder if you decide you don't like it.

Next week, pinto pattern details!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jasmine Winner!

And the winner is...

Jennifer Buxton!

Congratulations Jennifer! There were about 130 entries - wow! There was some overlap in ideas, so while there aren't actually 130 unique requests, there is plenty of material to keep the Friday Tip column going for a good long while. Woo-hoo! A lot of you want information on mapping white markings. I'll actually be covering that in my progress on Anthem so I'm glad I can get to the most requested topic right away. :-D

Friday, November 28, 2008


Continuing the avalanche of blog postings today... Here we have the very first painting stage happening on a Miss America resin by Sarah Rose. As you can see by the lack of a mane and tail, she is going to be getting a hair job after painting. I'll kind of be doing her in progress blogging by the seat of my pants more than usual because I haven't officially haired anything in probably 8 years. I've been practicing on some bodies, so I'm pretty sure it'll turn out nice, but it's a little scary! I'm planning on doing her in chestnut tobiano sabino with loads of cat tracks. I do these in a back and forth process which you'll get to see as she progresses.

Funny story - as soon as I got her she pretty much named herself Anthem. I often have music on when I am painting and today when I started her was no exception. No sooner did I put paint brush to resin did the song "Anthem" by Filo & Peri come on. I guess it was meant to be!

Jasmine Contest Reminder

Just a reminder with just a couple days to go! I am giving away one unpainted Jasmine (listening/ears back version) on Sunday, November 30. Entry is easy and you still have time! Think up some requests that I can use for the Friday Tip and submit them either through the comment section here (remember to include some form of contact information), email me at melanie (at) or click on the Email Tip button on the right. Each suggestion is a separate entry, so the more you submit, the better! Please keep the tip topics specific; things that can easily be covered in one blog post, or divvied up for a short series. You may submit as many entries as you wish until the deadline, November 30 12:01 AM. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Friday Tip

"For best results, squeeze tube from bottom."

It works for toothpaste and for paint too! Get the most out of your paint tubes by folding the bottom over as you go. A folded end will also make squeezing paint out easier. It just takes a second each time you use a tube, so get into the habit and it will easily become second nature. Make the folds crisp and as straight as you can. Squeeze the paint to the top of the tube, and continue rolling the end up on itself as you have room. Pliers help to squish any remaining paint up and create a good strong seal preventing paint from getting trapped. You can do it with the cap on or off, but I prefer off. If you leave the cap on, you can build up too much pressure inside the tube, and the next time the cap is removed, paint will come shooting out - a mess and a waste!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Tip

I am often asked how much drier is supposed to be used with oils. It's difficult to answer because "Oh, a few drops." just doesn't tell the story since the amount relates to how much paint and what colors. This is definitely one of those pictures being worth a thousand words sorts of answers. Ergo, you can click on the picture above for words that are loud and clear.

As you can see, I have my colors laid out on my lovely foil palette and I haven't mixed them up yet. Each of those dark splotches is a drop of cobalt drier. Mine comes in a squeeze bottle with a dropper lid, making it easy to get the right amount every time. To get a half drop, squeeze the bottle until the drop is about halfway out and touch the drop lightly to the paint. Just a bit will flow out. For these mixes, I used two and a half drops for the light mixes on either end, two drops in the second from the left and one drop each in the two dark mixes. Very light, very dark and metallic colors take longer to dry, so they benefit from a touch more drier. In this case, there wasn't enough dark paint to warrant any extra drier.

A word of warning - a little goes a long way! It is better to be cautious when using drier because too much can harm your paint. In any mix, too much may make the paint brittle and unstable. Worse yet, in lighter mixes, the drier can also turn the paint green or yellow! The amounts of drier I used here are plenty to get the paint to dry within 24 hours (much faster actually with this batch), and haven't caused me any problems.

Lastly for the curious, I have a couple more coats of paint to go on the new medallion, so you can expect "real" pictures of Daisy the Fjord soon!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Tip

When sculpting eyes, it is very helpful to sculpt the lids against a hard object. Beads work great for this task. Not only to they provide a good landmark, but you can sculpt the surrounding structures without marring the eye ball shape. Make sure to pick out an appropriate size as it is very easy to select a bead that is too large or too small. Practice will give you a feel for the size and how far in you need to push the bead. With firmer clays like my Chavant NSP Hard here it is easiest to carve out an eye socket to push the bead into.

If you can't find a good sized bead for your project, you can create your own eyeballs out of epoxy putty. Wait for them to cure, and pop in just like a bead.

Sneak Peek #3

Ok, one last little sneak peek! I pulled a master from her mold yesterday and everything looks great. Stay tuned for complete pictures!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Finished a Different Project

I've been pretty sick since Friday, so since I couldn't do much I decided to pick away at a necklace I've been working on for quite a while. It is finally finished! It's 12 interwoven strands of glass seed beads with lots of various Swarovski crystals, freshwater pearls and other beads. You can click on the picture above for a larger image, and here is a small closeup:

Sneak Peek #2

A sneakier peek than before! Don't worry, you can expect a more telling peek next time. ;-)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Tip

This week's Friday Tip comes courtesy of Tracy Eilers, who got sick of getting stabbed and scratched by her armature wires. I just always took the beatings as part and parcel of sculpting, but no more! To keep those pesky wire ends harmless, simply curl the ends of your extra wire into a loop. Now they'll behave, and you can nip off the end when you're sure of your measurements and can hide the wires completely in clay.

Sneak Peek

Looks like there's a new medallion in town. This is is all you get... for now!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Just a Reminder

Through November I'll be continuing to give away medallions, and there's still time to submit tip ideas for a chance to win an unpainted Jasmine resin. Lots of great tip submissions have been coming in, but I can never have too many! For full details, the Jasmine contest post is here.

The pumpkin contest is still cruising along with more to come, so keep your eyes open and be sure to spend some time perusing the old posts. There is getting to be quite a nice library of tips now! Some of the pumpkins are going to be buried pretty deep in the archives and I may or may not announce them when they pop up. I am trying to post them at different times of the day and night to give everyone a chance. And remember, even though there's a limit of one pumpkin per person, there is no limit to entries in the Jasmine contest and you can participate in both!

As for this pumpkin, the first person to post their email in the comments will win a $25.00 gift certificate good for anything, including auction purchases! The coupon does not expire and any unused portion will remain as credit towards any Chinook Studios purchase.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Tip

This week's tip - getting a natural feel to mottling using oils. There is a trick, and it's so easy you're going to want to plant your palm right on your forehead after you've tried it out!

To start, get the horse nearly painted - don't worry about the mottling 'till later. Shade the muzzle grey and leave it plain. Mix up a suitable pink color for your mottling in oil, and paint it on in dots. (You can also do this in acrylic, but be sure to seal the horse first.) Do not worry about the mottling being too dot-like at this point, just keep the paint thin and flat. When the pink is in, go back with your grey muzzle mix (or matched grey acrylic) and paint some more dots to help refine the pink pattern and break it up. Work from photos to get a realistic spotting pattern.

Once that is all dry, you are ready for the trick that blends the stark mottling right into the soft nose. Simply grab a little bit of grey on a soft brush and lightly blend it over all of the pinking. Voila! Instantly toned down and set in mottling. You may need to go back over the top of the wet grey paint with a little bit of pink to bring some parts out more (I did on Curly), or the grey glaze might be just the ticket.

Doing this tip made me realize I never got Curly's gallery up! So, I got that taken care of today as well. You can see him completely finished here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Just finished and up on Auction Barn now! If the link doesn't work for you the first time, try clicking it once more. There's some kind of glitch with AB links, but it will get you there.

Heads up! I think there's another pumpkin around here too...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Tip

At long last, the return of the Friday Tip, hooray! There are lots of ways you can display your files while you're painting or sculpting. Laptops are easy. You can display photos through several programs. I like Windows Explorer for the filmstrip feature, and I'll open files in Photoshop as necessary. You can work from photos saved on the laptop or on another computer if you have a network set up. I prefer to use my xBox 360 which is networked into my PC, but it will also display images from a CD or DVD. The following video shows how to navigate around (pardon the lame railing in the way) and display a slide show or manipulate individual pictures.

These are my personal methods and are just the beginning! There are photo frames that play back images from memory cards. I have not used one for painting, but I've seen them in action and they are very neat. There are lots of other options too. Look into what you can do with your technology!

And heads up! I think there might be another pumpkin floating around here somewhere!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Giveaway #2!

I hope like me you're having a lovely time this fall! Today has been fresh and invigorating and the colors are so inspiring. Perfect for introducing the next giveaway! It's simple - in the coming weeks I'll be putting pictures of pumpkins into some of the posts here on the blog. If you find one, be the first to post and claim the prize! Be sure to include an email address in your comment so that I can contact you. That's it! You don't pay anything - no shipping - just find the pumpkins. The prizes will be limited to one per person and will be varied, so watch for more goodies!

The giveaway... starts now! The first to post a comment will receive a John Henry medallion.

And don't forget, I'm still taking tip suggestions for the Jasmine giveaway. Details are here.

Sneaky Squirrel!

I heard a noise again! That familiar rustling sound that can only mean one thing... a squirrel! I had my doors open today, and this little guy decided it would be awesome to come in and treat himself. They do frequently come in and find me for food (or knock on the back door, I'm not even kidding), but I guess if it's already out there's no need to ask, eh? So Mr. Sneaky here found the Halloween stash and selected a tasty Baby Ruth. I'm sure he's very pleased with himself.

PS. That window in the corner there is the reason there have been no Friday Tips lately. But the construction is alllll done now, and we're on track for a new tip tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tahtib up for Auction

Tahtib is finally done! His auction is now here and will run until Monday. I just uploaded a full gallery of pics here - enjoy!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Win a Jasmine!

Yes, you heard right! I will be giving away one unpainted Jasmine, as well as other neat prizes through my favorite season - fall! Stay tuned for contests through October and November. On November 30, the Jasmine winner will be announced. Entry is easy - think up some requests that I can use for the Friday Tip and submit them either through the comment section here (remember to include some form of contact information), email me at melanie (at) or click on the Email Tip button on the right. Each suggestion is a separate entry, so the more you submit, the better! Please keep the tip topics specific; things that can easily be covered in one blog post, or divvied up for a short series. You may submit as many entries as you wish until the deadline, November 30 12:01 AM. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Getting there!

I've been picking away at "Tahtib" here (he has a name now, yay!) and finally got to where I could rough in his mane and tail. (I love that part.) I don't really have anything to add technique-wise for those of you following along, but thought I'd just share his recent picture. It has just been more of the same, and he still needs a bit more work before I can really get to the finishing. I am planning on starting his auction on October 15!

And a quick note about the missing Friday Tip! There is a bit of a construction project going on here right now. One whole wall is gone, and everything is kind of piled up and crazy. I'm planning on doing a video for the last installment on displaying references, so that's on hold until things are moved back!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mini Nahar Coming Right Along

At long last, an update on mini Nahar! At the time of the last post I was unsure if I would do any more pencil work. I stared and stared at his body for the longest time, and ultimately did wind up doing some work to pick out and form the dapples more in pastel pencil. That was then sealed and I continued with oils, this time in a slightly different manner than the other oil coats.

Before, I had applied thin basecoats of the area's primary color and then worked dapples in on top of that. This time, I kept colors to their own "zones" - in other words, no putting color on top of dapples or other whiter areas. I also didn't put too much pigment on because of the roaning effect I was planning to do on top. Too much paint would have caused a muddy mess, and there were a couple of areas that had to be wiped off and restarted despite my efforts to prevent a paint buildup. It's a tricky process for sure!

Working with very small frayed (for uneven application of the rosy grey pigments) and fine tipped brushes (for precision on the dapples), I followed the map laid out in the previous sessions. I carefully blended the edges of the dapples in slightly and intensified the white on some of them. This part was easy but time consuming and eye straining. The next part went faster, but was considerably more difficult!

Using stiff small rounds very sparingly loaded with paint, I stippled over the top of everything with white and then all of the different shades of grey in the appropriate places. This emphasized the roaning effect that was started with the unevenly applied paint, pencil work and short painting strokes. In this step I also carefully went over many of the dapples with the rose grey colors to introduce some more randomness and roaning throughout the coat. This process is very unpredictable, but that unpredictability is helpful when used sparingly and with a light touch.

Next, I went back over some of the dapples to re-emphasize the white or shape them out as needed. I finished up with some more back and forth work in any areas that needed it. I did not do any leg work in this session - it had all been done previously, and still needs finishing. For the next steps, I expect I'll be finishing the legs in the same way as the body and picking out details everywhere before I get to the mane and tail. 'Till next time, happy experimenting!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Studio Updates

Well, things have been galloping along at a dizzying pace in the studio for the past several weeks and I finally have updated pictures to share! I'm also very pleased that my new line, "Simply CMs" has done very well so far. In essence, Simply CMs are just that; simple customs on good, showable plastic bodies. These offerings may be painted only, or very moderately customized. The first two - a bay tobiano sabino Cleveland Bay and a bay old mold SM ASB - are sold, and I hope to have several more in the coming months. (Click the pictures for their galleries.)

It is my hope that these horses will help to fill some of those big holes in quality in the simple custom divisions, and provide collectors a more budget conscious choice at the same time. I'll be offering these customs on a flat price first come, first served basis and will continue to offer the more time intensive paint jobs on both resins and customized plastics via eBay or Auction Barn as usual.

If you'd like to see all of the current front and center projects, including the upcoming Vixen, Imp and Taboo family click here! I have made some headway on the Nahar grey experiment as well and I think he's turning out just smashing. Here is what he looks like as this point. More work is needed on his head, legs, mane and tail, as well as some minor fiddling on his body. For those following along, I will have an in depth post about the most recent layer soon!

And last but certainly not least, the painstaking process of roaning Deseoso is continuing. This photo shows the next stage of his basecoat. It is still all acrylic, and is now ready for pencil work. (Click for a large version.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Tip

With your photos and magazine clippings organized, you are all set and ready to flip to whatever page you need! There are several ways to display references, and depending on your painting area some will work better than others. I have a desk that is large enough to accommodate an entire binder, so I simply open the notebook up to the page I want and get to work. Marking a page to come back to later makes this system very simple! If you can find them there are also notebooks that open up like an easel. These are even more sturdy, but not completely necessary.

If you lack the space or just don't like that behemoth on your desk, you can take notebook pages out to display some other way. I strongly recommend you keep the paper inside of the protective sleeve; good references are worth their weight in gold! Make sure to somehow mark where the sheet was taken from so that it can be put back in the right place. Options for displaying sheets are pinning to a cork board (I used to do this when my space was situated for it, and it worked very well), propping them up on a typing easel or whatever is handy, or simply laying them on your desk.

For projects that are going to take a long time, like sculptures, it is helpful to take the needed references and put them into a small binder dedicated to that horse. Remember last week, I recommended using two sheets of paper (one for each side) in each plastic cover, and this is why. In cases like this, I always take out the one sheet of paper I need, and put it in a new sleeve in the small notebook. This keeps valuable references that might otherwise be removed in their place, and it also allows for a good bookmarking solution. When a page is removed, leave a note in its place - the notebook it was moved to and possibly a description of what was on the sheet should suffice. In the new notebook it is also a good idea to insert notes so that it is easy to put the pages back in the right places when the project is done.

Your references are valuable - keep them safe and organized and they will serve you well! Next week we'll talk about some cool high tech ways to display your references!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Tip

References are a key element in getting realistic results whether you are sculpting or painting. You can make the most of your clippings and articles by sorting them in organized binders. The photo above shows my core go-to set of binders that I keep right in the studio, but I have oodles more. The categories shown are a great starting point and you can always add as you see fit! The binders not shown are mostly breed and performance specific.

Some tips for setting up your binders:
  • Get good quality plastic sheets. Poor quality sheets tear easily and ultimately are more costly. The sheets I use now are heavy weight diamond clear produced by Avery and something similar by Xerox.
  • Be liberal with your use of dividers! You can also use templates to set up and print labels. The dividers won't be visible unless you put them in sheet protectors. Cut the sheet protector down the outside edge as far as necessary for the tab. Then tape the edges back up to secure it in place.
  • Set up a structure within each tab that is consistent and easy to follow. I start off each color section with foals, then adults. Within each section, I progress from light to dark and as much as possible put similar shades on each page.
  • Though you could tape pictures to each side of a piece of paper, use two sheets in each divider. It may seem wasteful at first, but you'll see why this is important in next week's installment.

Large pictures, like ones that come from calendars or coffee table books can be kept in binders with a little extra work. (Yes, I cut up many of my books! Nice as the books are, going through a library of unorganized photos became too much of a pain for my purposes.) These photos typically show great details and are often very interesting for a variety of reasons. First, if the photo itself comes out of the book in pieces, tape it up on the back or in places where the tape won't interfere with the horse. Then, cut a slit in the sheet protector just big enough to slip the photo in. Tape the photo down on the inside, and fold so that it fits in the binder. It is best if the slit is to the outside of the page so that the picture can be opened outside of the book, but it is always better to arrange the fold so that it interferes the least. In this case, the page opens to the inside of the binder.

Next week, tips on how to display your references!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Tip

Another quick tip for today since it has been so busy over here! I will have much to share in a little while. Have you ever started on your second coat, and realized too late that your brushes are taking more paint OFF than they are putting on? If brushes are still a bit wet from cleaning, there is a very good chance they will strip paint off. Do yourself a favor and get in the practice of setting aside your brushes after cleaning. Leave them alone for a day, even if you aren't planning on doing any more painting; you just never know when the mood will strike to do something extra. If your drying brushes are separated from those that are ready to go, you don't have anything to worry about!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Tip

Sorry about the silence last week! Things are really busy in the studio right now, and that doesn't leave much time for the internet unfortunately. This week's tip is going to be quick, but it will help tremendously if you are having problems with wire getting in the way in your armatures. When making a bend in wire, do not grasp it with the pliers and turn as shown first in the video. This creates a very loose bend, more like an arc. This is bulky and not very good to use as a base for a nice crisp joint! And it's also not very helpful when it comes to evaluating your measurements. Instead, grasp the wire and use your fingers to flatten the wire against the pliers as shown in the second bend in the video. Ta-da! A nice crisp bend that won't poke out of the clay, and an easy landmark to measure!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Tip

Today's Friday Tip is less a "tip" than an explanation of my painting process thus far on this guy. Hopefully you can take some new painting techniques back to your table!

First, as I mentioned in his intro post I began with a new color formula for rose grey by mixing a bay and then altering it a bit. At the time I had hoped that it would turn out less pink with more layers than the first couple basecoats showed, and that is in fact what happened. Trust your paint mixes! Or at least give them a chance... The worst that can happen is you have to strip it off.

So, after two basecoat color blocking layers, I used some charcoal pencil. (That update in this post.) This layer ultimately got completely obliterated by the oils that went on next, but it did help me with mapping in the details so it was not a waste of time. I would either use my white Derwent pencil or some other sort of white pencil next time however, just to try to preserve some of that work as it would make the next layer a bit easier to paint.

After the pencil stage I worked on a very detailed oil coat, which is what you see here. It still needs a second coat using this same technique, but I'm going to work on the legs and head a bit more before I get to that. This part took quite a while - probably a 4 hour sitting, and I was only able to do this one side. (The second side is now caught up, painted in its own session.) Here's an outline of the process I used for this coat:
  1. Scrub a small amount of white on over the head and top portion of the neck. This makes the rest of the paint blend in more easily.
  2. Using a frayed old brush, dab a tiny bit of dark rose mix on the cheek and poll. A little goes a very long way! Best to add too little and put on some more later.
  3. Using a fresh dry brush (I used one of the stiffer frayed Monarch rounds in my collection) lightly stipple blend and stoke the color into a hair-like direction.
  4. Add a touch of grey around the appropriate areas of the face and blend. This part doesn't have to be perfect; just looking for a quality basecoat to go back and detail later. I did do a bit of detailing on the eyelids and nostrils in this step, but you don't have to.
  5. Using a springy, small round and starting at the head, begin brushing white in short strokes in the direction of the hair flow. Make sure there isn't so much paint that it leaves ridges. We're looking for a visual texture, not an actual texture. The brush you select for this is very important. Too soft and with little spring, it will just mush the paint around. (I made that mistake on side two and have some fixing up to do over there...)
  6. Keep going with the little white brush adding roany areas where the white and "grey" is mixing, and adding in dapples where appropriate.
  7. Once the top section of the neck is finished, repeat the whole process for the lower section of the neck, then the shoulder, belly, barrel, and hindquarter, working in sections that are most comfortable for you size-wise. The sections are important for 2 reasons: 1) It takes a long time so if the whole horse is covered, by the time you start painting the last section, the paint will be a little too tacky to work with effectively and 2) It keeps your fingers out of the paint... :-P
In each section, use a base of the dark rose grey mix, and then add in one of the lighter mixes or some black, depending on what the reference photo(s) calls for. In the larger sections of white and color I went back and forth with white and the colored mixes using a clean stiff round brush to get a variegated color with some hair-like roughness. (Again, the horse itself is smooth, it just looks hair-like because of the way the colors are intermixing.) I think I am going to go ahead and pick some of the dappling and roany areas out with pencil before continuing with the next oil coat. More photos to come! Anyway, that's the process so far. Good luck in your painting endeavors! Oh, and I remembered to put up a photo for the tip on prepping a few weeks ago. :-D

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday Tip

Carol says:
Hey, I have another idea for a tip: maybe you can write a little bit about how you get the white color on your pieces to not be a bright white. They always have a very natural look, and I know I've found it difficult to paint a natural white (like on a blanket appy or pinto) color without it looking too yellow. For instance, do you add a tiny bit of body color into the white to tone it down?

Getting white right can be tricky. Not only does it have to be painted on carefully, but there's also the shade to worry about! Depending on the project, I'll use one (or more) of about 4 shades of white (not including whatever I'm using for pinking and shading). Two of the four (unbleached titanium and soft white) I don't typically use straight, but they are excellent for whipping up custom white shades on the fly.

For sparkling clean show whites, I use a mixture of equal parts titanium white, pearlescent white and gesso. The gesso helps with coverage and gives a tiny bit of leeway for careful sanding if needed. (Of course, it's best to just stick with thin paint and avoid lumpies to begin with, but sometimes things happen...)

For more natural whites, my base formula is a little more complicated. I don't actually have the amounts written down anywhere, but instead add colors a little at a time until it looks right. The main parts are the white mix above and unbleached titanium. To that I add soft white and then a little bit of burnt umber and iridescent gold.

These formulas will get you well on your way to a variety of realistic whites. Don't stop here though! Use them as a good starting point, and then modify to suit the needs of each particular horse when needed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More Mini Nahar

Here's the next stage of the process, this time a new coat in oils. You can click on this pic for a much larger version. There's a dramatic difference now! I still need to do this to the other side, and then he'll need another coat plus legs, head and hair. I'm not sure yet if I'm going to work any more pencil in; only time will tell!

More Experimenting

At the time I posted this fellow last, I thought I might do another coat of oils before doing some pencil work. I decided instead to just jump into the pencil detailing, as it would help with mapping out the color better. So, here he is with some charcoal pencil dappling and roaning around the softer areas. I'm not so sure I like the charcoal pencil, but it got the job done ok. I'll have to see if I can find some that work better and give it another shot before I give them up for my (still favorite) Derwent drawing pencils or try something else. Today I will definitely be doing another layer of oils though, and with the help of the more precisely mapped in colors, it should really start coming together. (I hope!)

And here's another project that is doing a time-share with the mini Nahar. He only has a (really weird looking) basecoat of acrylic on right now, but ultimately he will be a varnish appaloosa. You can't see it in these pictures, but it is roany in kind of a loose way which will help when it comes to adding more precise "hairing" in pencil later. For some reason I always wanted to paint this horse as an appy, but I was afraid to because I just wasn't sure how well that would go over. I was incredibly happy when he was submitted to my painting lottery with this color choice! I'll be using a technique similar to what I did with American Graffiti and will take lots of pictures along the way!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Friday Tip

My pre-mixed supplies were getting a little low, so it was officially paint mixing day over here. As a time and paint saver, I fix up batches of my most used colors. A rinsed out Liquitex bottle holds enough for months worth of horses, and the best part is you can squeeze out just enough paint for your project!

I also like to label my bottles not only on top for easy grabbing, but with the actual paint formula on the side. I know these formulas really well so I tend not to put the actual amounts on the label, only the component colors. When it's time to remix, I just squirt paint into the bottle and mix it up. I shake the bottle with an extra lid so that I can compare the fresh color with the old batch which is still in the old lid.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I haven't painted a rose grey in a loooong time. I used to paint them with a sort of generic "rose grey" formula that I would tweak a bit for different shades, and while it worked fine, it didn't allow for all the different variations in color tint on the body, let alone between horses. My painting has changed a lot since then, so I have decided it's time to tackle the color again. I'll be doing a little chronicle of my painting journey with this one not only to keep notes for myself, but to share here and hopefully inspire as well. Let's get started!

The reference I am working from has a subtle color range from raw sienna and naples yellow areas to deeper reddish brown smudges. Instead of making the "rose grey" color, I mixed up a similar shade of bay and altered it to suit the rosy shift. Right now I think it looks a little too pink, but I'm hoping that further layers will help deepen and bring out the individual colors. So far I have been basecoating in oils, just working on blocking in the color zones. The picture above shows two layers, and I may do a third more detailed layer before moving on to step 2 of my plan.

The next stage will involve mapping in the dappling with either white charcoal, pastel pencil or my trusty Derwent drawing pencil. I would like to try charcoal first since I haven't tried it before and I have hopes that it will do this sort of work better than the drawing pencil. I may do some powdered pigment at that time as well. From there, I may finish the horse off in oils using a similar technique to the palomino pinto Tango I did a couple years ago, but only time will tell!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Tip

Well, my photos for this Friday tip seem to have disappeared. :-( But the good news is we really don't need them this time. I'll try to remember to take them again and pretty this entry up the next time I do prepping. Updated! :-D

Since I have never been able to find Ajax (the cleaner most people use for prepping) I use Comet instead. I think they're pretty much the same thing. The easiest way to scrub up a horse is to make a paste of the Comet powder and keep that up in one corner of the sink (or a bowl if you don't have enough room). Then wet the horse down a bit, and start scrubbing the Comet paste all over with a tooth brush. Get into every nook and cranny. The paste is green, so that makes it very easy to see where it has and hasn't been. When done, rinse very well with warm water to get rid of any remaining bleachy film. Set the horse aside for several hours at least (I prefer overnight) so that it can dry thoroughly before priming. And that's really all there is to it! It's a simple step in prepping, so don't skimp here just to get started faster. You'll be thankful you did it in the long run! :-)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Tip

Well here we are at the last week of the eye painting tutorial series! This week we're covering the pupil, the third eyelid, and specular highlights. So, watch the video and check below for details!

  • Add in the corpora nigra on the top of the pupil. They are little blobby finger-like things. They stand out on some horses more than others. There are none (or very minimal) bits on the bottom of the pupil, so just tidy up the line.
  • The rotation part of the video is not *quite* accurate, since I had my pupil separate from the iris. In reality, the whole of the eye will try to stay level when the horse puts its head up and down. There is a limit to how level with the ground the pupil will remain, but for horses in normal up halter pose type headsets to those on the bit, plan to paint the pupil fairly level. In other words, the pupil does not always stay anchored in a straight line from corner to corner of the eye. You can see an example of how this works by looking into a mirror and moving your head side to side. Notice how the whole round parts of your eyes stay in one spot while your head moves around them!
  • AVOID adding specular highlights (those white dots) to your eyes. They are necessary in flat work to indicate shape and shinyness, but when used on a sculpture the lighting will naturally create these highlights. Adding them in can cause the real highlights and your painted on highlights to compete which looks unnatural.
  • Many horses show their third eyelids - some more than others. Very carefully paint in a cream base coat in the corner of the eye. Do not make this very large or it will look like... an eyesore. Add in a touch of pink in the very corner, and then line the back rim with brown. You can also shade the brown into the cream portion if you like.

And that's it! Good luck painting beautiful eyes!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New Stuff!

Well, here is one of the reasons I haven't done much blogging other than the Friday Tips lately! Jasmine now comes in two versions - the original listening ears Jasmine, and the perky new ears forward Jasmine. I have also been busy making preparations for a special Breyerfest sale. Since I am not attending this year, I thought I'd offer up a kind of virtual Artisan's Gallery. Everything on the website is marked down, so take a swing by my "table!"

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Heard a Noise...

...and this is what I found when I went to investigate! Not my chocolate! Turns out it was the usual suspect around here - a friendly neighborhood squirrel. Oh, it's my fault, I feed them. They have learned that it's safe to sneak in and beg for food when they can find an open door. This is not the first time one has just made itself at home, and with his consolation prize scrap of bread, I'm sure it won't be the last. (And you see, this is not totally off topic - you can see sculptures in progress in the background!)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Tip

Welcome back! This week we are covering the iris. Again, most of the comments are in the video, so I'll just recap and add a few details below. Sorry about some of the longer breaks in this one. There's a lot of switching around of tools and color swatches going on in the background!
  • First, cover the iris with a light colored basecoat. Leave room around the edges for a black rim. Do NOT leave a rim around the whole iris - the eyelids are covering up that rimmed portion. Think of the iris as a brown (or whatever color the eye is) circle nested inside of a black circle.
  • Add in darker shadings on the top portion of the eye to add depth. You can also make stripes and blotches in the lower portion of the eye.
  • Do a bit of shading, and then pop in a quick pupil to check on how the colors are blending and to see how the darker pupil affects the overall color of the eye.
  • Continue with shading until you are happy. Do not worry if you cover up your pupil, it will go back in later. Eyes can be stripey and blotchy so don't overblend. At the same time, try not to make anything in the eye too hard edged.
I should note here that even though I only used one light and dark shade in the demo I'll use however many colors the eye I'm painting needs, and there's always some sort of metallic paint in the mix. Sometimes eyes look great with only 2 or three creatively blended shades, others require a whole palette. This is a very quick mockup as well. (And I have no idea what I'm doing with flatwork! 8-o ) Take your time on eyes. Do very thin washes and let each layer dry before moving on. I will frequently spend an entire day making two eyeballs "just right". You don't HAVE to take that sort of time to get really nice eyes, but do be patient and work in many layers. Eyes are a very important part of how people will feel about a paint job as a whole! Next week, details on the pupil!
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Friday, July 4, 2008

Friday Tip

Happy 4th of July! Today's eye tip deals with achieving a realistic look to the sclera (eyewhite). Most of the comments are in the video itself, so I will just quickly recap and add a couple extra tidbits here:

  • The eyewhite should be a creamy white color instead of stark white. Soft white works really well for most eyes. Unbleached titanium is also a good color for slightly darker eyes. (Both are Liquitex acrylics.)
  • Before painting on the black iris base as shown last week, paint in some delicate veining. You can start with burnt sienna, and modify it as needed to suit the eye color.
  • When dry, paint the black iris base on.
  • When dry, add a color bleed if desired. Thin the paint to a watery consistency and allow it to run onto the sclera. Repeat until you achieve the desired darkness. Splotchyness is good - don't try to smooth this out or blend it too much.
  • When dry, touch up the iris base again. Next week, tips on painting the iris!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Tip

This Friday will start off a month long series of tips on painting eyes. Eyewhites can be tricky and cause problems for a lot of people. One thing that will make your task infinitely easier is to paint the eyewhite first, and the rest of the eye on top. Painting the white first allows for more precision which is so important in eyes, it creates a nice base on which to paint the iris, etc., and is better suited to layered effects (which we'll get to next week). Below is a quick demo video that shows how easy it is to get sharp, crisp edges to your eyes with minimal fuss.