Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Tip

When I was painting in college, I had to find some way to temporarily protect the old dorm issue desk. My search led me to something I still use to this day - contact paper! This stuff is great; it will stick to your table, but comes right off when you need it to, it's waterproof, easy to wipe clean, and it's cheap to replace when you need a new work surface! Not all contact papers are created equal however. Some don't stick well, and some allow solvents to seep through more easily than others. Some are just plain ugly. Try to find the least busy pattern you can, and experiment to find a paper that does the job well. Just follow these steps, and you'll be free to mess up your work surface as much as you like:

Peel off the backing enough to stick the end of the contact paper down on your table. (You can see here I have multiple layers of contact paper - this helps protect better against solvent drips and general wear and tear. Unless the bottom layer is damaged, you can simply apply the new paper on top of old bottom layer.) With one end pressed onto the table, peel off the rest of the backing.

With the backing gone, pull firmly and slowly lay the contact paper down on the table, as flat as you can. Do not pull too hard or the contact paper will stretch; pull just hard enough to prevent air pockets.

Smooth the paper down, working from the end already stuck to the table. Don't forget to give yourself extra for an overlap! Wrap the extra contact paper around the table and before you get to the corners...

Make a cut up to the edge of the table. The part that is on top of the table will wrap over the part that is under the table. Secure the bottom part first, then smooth the top flap down over the bottom to finish the job. And now you have a nice new paint-proof workspace!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Almost finished

So much happy news today! I finally was able to fix the connection to my external drive, so I'll be able to update the website with the new stuff fairly soon.

While I was trying to avoid pulling my hair out over my computer, I managed to get this guy almost done. He is a portrait of the late, great John Henry. I was saddened to hear of his passing, so I decided to do a tribute to the old man. The medallion is approximately 4 inches tall. I need to finish off the outside edges a bit, and after that he will go into production. I have plans to do some giveaways, so stay tuned for information on that!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Curly Con't

Progress on Curly slowly but surely marches along. This horse is one of the custom orders I took in my last lottery, and is a portrait of a wonderful appaloosa gelding. I'm very pleased with the progress on him so far, especially considering the difficulty of matching his almost white, but very roany color. These shots show the completion of the first pencil roaning stage. (Click on the photo below for a larger detail shot.)

In this stage the roaning is darker and not as subtle as it will eventually need to be. To achieve the look so far, he began with a roaned acrylic basecoat, and was then covered in pencilwork. The first four layers were various shades of brown, followed by a lot of white and then a 10% warm grey to finish and blend. The next step is to do a layer or two of powdered pigment. This will help to match his color more closely with the real Curly, and will soften things up a bit. More in progress pics to follow!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Tip

I'm still experiencing some massive computer problems over here, but the Friday Tip is finally ready! Liz Shaw asked how those larger scale horses can be handled during painting and sealing without breaking off body parts. A lot of handling has to do with what is comfortable for the individual, so take these ideas, and modify them to suit your style.

When starting the horse, it is usually best to hold its body to minimize the chances of breaking a leg. I prefer to work the color in starting from the head back, so I just move my hand down the body until I have no where to hold it but the legs.

When it comes to holding a horse by its legs, there are various factors to consider: the model's weight, whether there are wire reinforcements in the legs, and the size of the legs. Very fine legs like those on this Valor are more prone to snapping, especially considering that the horse is solid cast. Any time a horse like this needs to be held by the legs, it is best to grab as shown, and let the other legs rest on the table as much as possible. Notice in the photo that I have grasped my fingers around the far leg in an attempt to spread out the pressure. I am using my thumb gently not to brace, but to prevent the model from slipping and putting too much torque on my wrist.

When dealing with very lightweight horses (or a mule in this case!) with wire reinforcements, it is quite alright to hold by one leg - for as long as your hand can avoid cramping anyway! You can even hold at mid cannon or by just the hoof when you really need the room. In this photograph you can clearly see on the leg that is not being held the extent that painting can go down the leg when there is less concern about breakage.

This isn't exactly recommended, but if you're in a pinch and you really need another handle, a reinforced tail can do the trick. It is not wise to do this with an unreinforced tail, and even with wire, some part of the model should usually be resting on the table.

When dealing with mid-weight hollow cast horses, try to spend as much time resting a part of the model on your table as possible. In this photo, the front legs are conveniently close together, so I am able to use my index finger as a brace between the two for a very strong and safe hold.

Back to dealing with lightweight reinforced legs - again the forelegs are fairly close together for a nice handle. In this case however, bracing isn't as important as the legs are very sturdy and there is very little "pull" from the weight of the body.

To seal large horses, work on one end at a time. To spray the front, hold the back half, or the back legs if the model is strong enough. Wait for that to dry thoroughly, then grab the head or forelegs and finish spraying!

One final note: Sometimes horses come with air bubbles inside of their legs which weaken their structural integrity. Unfortunately the bubbles usually aren't noticeable... until after the piece breaks. Even the most careful handling can result in breakage, but always remember, breaks can be repaired!

Friday, January 11, 2008

No Friday Tip Today

I'm working on restoring my computer today, so I won't have time to do a tip. Check back for one next Friday though! If my dang eSATA driver gets installed before I throw my computer out the window I will post photos of the finished Mindy!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Friday Tip

For this Friday, I have a couple of related tips! When working on a roan there's a lot more to it than just white hairs and dark (whatever the body color is) hairs. Work in various shades of grey and go back and forth with your color tones. This will give a much less contrasty or stark, and therefore more realistic coat look. The photos below show some various stages of the process. In the first stage, the major white areas are blocked in. In the second stage, white is used to map in the hair direction and give a lot of hair texture. In the third stage, very light grey hairs are added to further lighten and roan the heavily roaned, but not solid areas. These light hairs are also used everywhere on the body, but are more sparse than the white hairs. But don't stop here! More roaning using progressively darker shades of grey and finally your coat color are needed for that super convincing roan.

Notice in the photos that while the large white areas were blocked in at the start, there are many more small white spots added in with the roaning. These spots are usually too small to block in. An added benefit to not planning them out to the last speck is that you are allowed the freedom to add small white areas as they feel appropriate as you are roaning. Part of a convincing sabino roan is the variation in roaning throughout the coat. There will be darker areas and light patches - always be on the lookout to create natural looking randomness!