Monday, December 28, 2009

Head's Up!

There's a snowman on the loose... Better find him before he melts! The faux patina copper Bill necklace has been taken already so the winner's pick of the pewter, blue and red are still available. Happy Hunting!

If you find a snowman, 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 snowman. Prizes are limited to one per person.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Friday Tip and Treasure Hunt!

Happy Holidays! Today's Friday Tip is a quick one so I can get back to the family and eating festivities. But like small packages containing some of the best presents, hopefully you'll find this short tip to be very sweet.

When casting it always seems like there is a bit of resin leftover. Oftentimes, it's enough to entirely fill a small medallion or two. So, every time you pour a larger mold always prep some small molds and have them ready to receive the extra resin. No waste, and more resins - it's a win-win! And don't worry if a mold doesn't get filled up all the way. More can be poured on top and it will adhere as though it were all poured at once.

And one last thing for now - it's time to kick off the treasure hunt giveaways! Starting today and randomly throughout the week I will be putting this snowman into posts:

If you find a snowman, 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 snowman. Prizes are limited to one per person. Be the first to claim him and take your pick of one of these Bill medallion necklaces. Each is painted in acrylic and pearl-ex metallic powder and mounted on a sterling silver bail and chain and can either be worn or used as a decoration.

Good luck, and may the new year bring happiness, good health and prosperity to everyone!

Faux patina copper with matte sealer. There is a bit more copper peeking through in the highlights than what is shown in pictures.

Faux pewter with gloss sealer. Metallic shine and black shadings to make the sculpture pop.

Stippled and glazed orange and red tones with satin gloss.

Stippled and glazed blues with satin gloss.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Tip

Yes, that's right, an actual tip on a Friday! :-D I still haven't had time to draw out the next hair growth chart, but here's a great tip in the meantime. I like to cut up my sheets of sandpaper so that they're easier to use. Every once in a while I do a whole sandpaper cutting spree so that I have plenty to work with whenever I need it.

Storing the sandpaper squares in plastic bags is ideal for easy grabbing and keeps things nice and organized. I mark the grit on the bags with a Sharpie, and just pull out a square of whatever I need!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Winter Sale!

It's shopping time! From now through January 1st, everything on the Chinook Studios website is on sale. There are some painted items and lots of unpainted resins and medallions. New to the website is Bill the pony, a miniature medallion only 2 inches high. He makes a great little ornament or display piece for small areas. And better yet, he comes free with all orders!

I plan on holding some treasure hunt giveaways just like last year, so keep watching here for more info. Happy Holidays everyone!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Update on Traveller

Since the last blog post I was able to get some new pictures of Traveller. These were taken on Wednesday, 12 days after his arrival. He is starting to fill out a bit and happily trots into his stall every day at feeding time.

The closeup of his withers sort of shows the sunken in area on either side of his spine, but the saddle sore is healing nicely. The sores on his side have healed over as well, and his hair is growing back in some places now.

After pictures, we went out for a quick walk to the best grass spot and filled up on yums!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Well, well, well!

Has it really been a month? I have been poking at the files for the next Friday Tip hair chart, but I haven't had a lot of time to finish them lately between the barn and the flu. And with an imminent system restore on my computer and a couple of horses I really need to finish in the studio I probably won't be able to get to the tip this Friday either. Hopefully things will be back on track next week! In the meantime, I thought I would share what has been going on with the horses lately - and it has been a lot!

Chinook's paddock, being nearly marshland and with a natural spring on the property, gets really bad during the winter unless I do something about it. Usually that something is digging out the mud and replacing it with pea gravel. That gets pretty old when a lot of the mud is actually half filled with the gravel I put in before to help solve the problem!

So this year I did something different. For weeks I dug out all the soft ground I possibly could. Then on one big weekend (in the rain no less) a little crew of us dug a big hole and some trenches. The trenches were filled with perforated pipe to help channel the water into our hole, into which was set a garbage can with a sump pump inside. Then a whole lot of gravel was put on top. It's hard to judge in these pictures, but it's at least one and a half feet deep most places. Here's a chunk of the area:

There is a little more gravel area than this, but you get the idea.

The stock tank gathers the rain water, but it always overflows when the rainy season comes. And for us, that's pretty much all of fall through spring. In this picture it was just raining a little - imagine what that looks like when it's pouring! A short trench was dug around where the water spills out of the tank which then runs into the container:

Chinook's paddock is angled down towards the pump container and with the pipe under the gravel, the rain water is quickly dispatched. As you can see, my side is free of water and mud (and hopefully will stay that way forever now) compared to the other side. I included a shunt in the container so my neighbor can dig out all her mud and put gravel in too if she wants. At least now all she has to deal with is the rainfall and not the overflow from the tank. So that was my major time consuming project of late!

Over the summer I got to start riding again a bit. It was very nice to get back in the saddle, and even nicer that my skills have come back after rusting for five or so years. Most of you probably don't know that I used to be a trainer and riding instructor; I have a lot invested in those skills, so it was a bit of a relief to know I still had them!

As a part of all this riding, I needed to borrow a nice easy horse for my novice riding partner. After one particularly frustrating day on the trail with a reluctant horse we decided to bust Chinny out of his retirement and give him a try. The old man has stepped into his weekend warrior role quite nicely, and he even seems to enjoy getting out for his short rides.

My mount, Lucy, is a fun little Appaloosa and has been just the right match to help me get my skills tuned up. She's a little firecracker and probably the most persistently resistant and stiff horse I've ever been on, but at the same time I feel like she is a solid and reliable horse who is only falling on bad habits most likely developed from tack issues. She's coming around to the novel ideas of walking, bending, and going on the bit, but I can always count on having a bit of a battle to get there every time I saddle up. Still, she is a great horse with a lot of potential and is always fun to ride. Amazingly, considering all this, she is a pretty good lesson horse and has subbed in to do a little of the higher activity work Chinny isn't cut out for anymore.

There's a new horse at the barn now, owned by fellow hobbyist and friend, Amy Widman. His caretakers across the state said Traveller was losing some weight and since he is getting on in years Amy thought it best to bring him back home where she could keep an eye on him. She was told he had been started on a senior feed and was improving. After a lot of work and dealing with a major lack of communication, Amy was finally able to get Traveller to his new home. Here is what stepped off of the trailer:

These pictures were taken two days after he arrived. The pictures do not really show just how skinny he was and the extent of his wounds. Not visible are the the girth and huge wither sores. We were told to be careful because he bites when the girth is tightened - no kidding. He won't have to worry about that for quite a while now. He has been remarkably strong for what he has apparently been through. It is impressive that he was able to have his terrible shoes pulled and hooves trimmed the day of his trailer ride.

He has now been here for a week and a half and is starting to show some improvement. His stylish new blanket is keeping all that heat energy locked in and with a float and two bad teeth pulled he's enjoying his heaping portions of mash. There will be plenty of time for establishing trust and some manners while he fills out this winter. By spring he should be nice and plump again and ready to be reintroduced to riding, and this time with a saddle that fits.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Friday (now Tuesday!) Tip

Well, who knew making a line drawing would take so long? I may paint and sculpt a lot, but I'm a total newbie to the world of drawing. Here at long last is the Friday Tip, and it's another frequently requested one - hair patterns! Today we'll cover the horse's side, and move on to other angles in upcoming Friday Tips. The picture above is clickable for a large version. The full size file is available here (be sure to download the image so you can open it at its full size).

It is a good idea to paint hair whorls, cowlicks and other changes of direction first when dealing with detailed hair patterns. This prevents the large sweeping portions of hair from encroaching on the hair direction change spaces and causing a cramped hair pattern. The highlighted areas below are the spots to work on first, before "filling in" the rest of the hairs.

  • The downward direction of the hair over the large upward flowing flank whorl, which causes the hair to come together and poke out in a little arch over the hip
  • The small whorl at the base of the flank
  • The oft-forgotten whorl on the underside of the rear barrel
  • The direction change of hair and the gentle blend between the side and bottom hairs at the front of the barrel
  • The smallish whorl towards the front of the chest which causes the hair to change direction slightly over the arm
  • The elongated whorl under the throat
  • The direction change behind the ear
  • The way the hair radiates out from the whorl on the forehead, and
  • The direction change along the crest, where the hair sweeps up rather than down near the root of the mane.

Whorls can occasionally be found all over the body as well. Although Chinook (our hairy model) does not have any whorls on his crest, that is another common area to find irregularities. These are the main points, but all horses have some differences in hair direction and whorl placement, so do not feel locked into any hair growth chart. They are great reference tools, but do go out and look for all the possibilities horses have to offer!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Vistoso is finally done and up for auction on eBay! It was a long road, but well worth it in the end, I think. Now I can finally relax a little!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Tip

Welcome to the last tutorial in the dapple grey series! It is difficult to see the detail being painted in the video, so take a look at the shading in this picture (click to embiggen) and note where the dark and light areas are shaded around the braid in addition to the natural mixing of colors in the greying hair. Don't go overboard with the shading, or it will appear that the mane color itself has blocks of color on it. Keeping that in mind, let's move on to the video and recap:

  • Begin by basecoating the entire mane and tail in a dark color (if the hair is to be dark or medium grey) or a light color (if the hair is to be mostly white). Use a large brush for the bigger spaces, and a small brush with a good sharp point for the tighter spots. Make sure to get in all the nooks and crannies!
  • With the basecoat on, start adding some medium grey, leaving the deepest parts of the braid black. (If this were a very light mane, you might paint white or light grey over a medium grey basecoat, leaving some grey in the shadows.) Also leave a bit of dark paint along the line where the unbraided portion of the mane meets the braid.
  • Repeat this step, but with lighter greys and whites. These initial coats do not need to be very carefully painted (but obviously taking care not to get paint anywhere it doesn't belong) as they are just there to create some tonal guidance and act as a shaded basecoat to do the real work on. Do make sure to apply the color blocking in roughly the correct areas however; use references to get the greying pattern right.
  • With the basecoat in place, grab a very sharp and tiny round brush, and begin painting "hairs". Paint several layers of alternating light, medium and dark (in any order that best suits you), taking care to keep the natural variegation in color while adding some shading and highlighting to make the braid pop instead of blending in in one boring mass.
  • Be sure to get right up under the braid and around every bit of mane and tail. Details should be viewable from any angle.
  • Remember to take breaks! This process takes several hours and trying to do it all in one go usually results in sloppy and uneven work.
  • Try doing some wet on wet and some dry painting. The acrylics look a little different depending on which method is used, and you may find that one or the other, or both works best for you.
  • This method of shading does wonders for braids with no sculpted detail, and can even work to give a bit more precision to a simple crosshatch sculpted braid. But be careful, as overdoing it can easily cause a distraction instead of having the intended effect of unobtrusive realism.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Tip

Apologies for my absence, but Vistoso put my back out of commission for quite a while. It's feeling much better now, but I still don't quite have the mane painting video done. In the meantime, here is a tip that is really helpful for pieces that take a long time (ahem) to paint.

After a while, the paint will start drying on the palette, even when it is folded over. When it starts getting goopy around the edges, that gross stuff can sometimes get into the paint that is actually going on the model. This is not good! When goop happens, scrape as much good paint off of the palette as possible and put it on a new one. More blending medium or a drying retarder (like linseed oil) can be added if desired. In Vistoso's case, I actually put a tiny bit more drier in since the paint was taking several days to dry thoroughly.

Another related tip, always keep your paint until the horse is sprayed and photographed. You never know what you might notice while editing photos, and the repeated handling while finishing markings can damage paint. As long as the original mix is kept, the paint can be matched perfectly for touchups!

Monday, September 7, 2009

A quick peek!

Just a little peek at the whole thing before I move on to Vistoso's mane, tail and details. He is almost done! I hope to have him ready for auction by the end of the week, so stay tuned for sales information.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Tip

With the dappling (mostly) done it is finally time to move on to finishing up the head and legs. We are almost there! I always do the head last on dapple greys whereas I would usually do it first on other solid colored horses. This is because there is so much fiddly work to do on a grey, I don't want to risk messing up the head in the meantime. (The head could certainly be finished off last on any color, it is simply my preference to do it earlier.) Before the video started, I scrubbed on a shaded layer of paint on the head to make blending the details possible. This was done in exactly the same way as previously shown, so we are just jumping straight into the details now:
  • Start by adding highlighting with a very precise small round brush. The highlights should go on the eyelashes (if the horse has light lashes), eyelids (don't forget under the eye!), around the nostrils, wrinkles can be created around the mouth, and any other spot that needs it. A lot of sculpting can be done with paint, and certain areas can be emphasized or fixed up a little with creative use of highlighting and shading. Just be careful not to go overboard or it will stand out saying "I am paint!" instead of just appearing to be natural shading.
  • Use a soft small round brush to gently blend the white lines in. Try not to over blend to a soft nothingness, but don't worry if you do. More paint can always be added, and sometimes it is better to overblend one part in order to better blend another highlight. On the flip side, blend enough so that the lines are not too stark! Practice is essential here, so do not get frustrated if the first, second or more attempts are not exactly as you want.
  • Next, add dark shadows between the eyelid and nose wrinkles, shade deep inside the nostrils, and anywhere else that needs it. Blend the black, and repeat with light and dark as much as necessary to get the highlights and shadows just so.
  • Now move on to the ears. If they have dark rims, use a small brush to paint around, and then shade the deepest part of the inside dark as well. My reference horse has some fuzzy white hairs inside his ears, so I am shading grey in between. The ears can be left dark too - consult your references. Don't forget to blend the backs of the ears!
  • Finish off the head with more hair texture anywhere that needs it. You can emphasize the grey on the nasal bones, perfect the hair whorl on the forehead, etc. Try to have some sort of hair effect even if it is just light grey and white in the lightest areas to simulate hair growth. With most of the horse hair textured, any spot that is not will look unfinished or not quite right.
  • When the head is done, fix up any areas on the body that still need work. Hair texture and dappling can be added at any time. If you are worried about ruining the work done on the head, you can always stop and come back when it is dry.
  • Finally, move on to the legs. I started this session with the legs already basecoated with 2-3 layers of shaded paint.
  • First, add black to the darkest areas, and stipple a little bit on over the white marks on the tendons.
  • Lightly go over the black with grey to add hair texture. You can go back and forth between black and grey until the shade and amount of texture looks right.
  • Add white according to your references. My horse has white on his tendons, insides of the upper legs, trailing down into the tendons behind the knees and in front of the hocks, behind the pasterns and around his coronet bands. These are very common areas to lighten, but not all horses grey out in the same way.
  • Touchups can be done at any time, but the body is now done! Tune in next week for painting the mane and tail!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Tip

I'm not quite to a place where I can do more filming on the dapple grey Salinero, so this week we have a couple before and after pictures for closer inspection. Both are clickable to see large versions. The above photo is his current state (though a bit unsharp so some of the detail is lost), and the photo below is a before picture of the first dappling layer. Let's compare the two!

1) Notice that the dapples on the left side are smaller than those on the right. Fortunately, this problem can be fixed as the dapples are worked on in the next stage. It's always nice when the initial roadmap of dapples is perfect, but that seldom happens. ;-)
2) The before picture also shows some sloppy dapples (especially on the hindquarters when I started getting really tired) and roany "hairs" that are too large. More layers like those shown in the latest video will tone those down and improve the dapple shape and placement.
3) The before stage is too even and many of the dapples allow paint underneath to show through. Allowing paint to show through layers is a good blending technique in some instances, but more of the dapples need to be filled in.

In the after picture, things are moving more in the direction of randomness and subtlety. But it doesn't end there! Things that still need touching up in the after photo: toning some of the dapples back down, making the dark to light transitions better, and adding more hair texture.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Tip

Welcome back! This week we are covering the second major stage in dappling. This process also takes quite a while, but not nearly as long as the first dappling layer. Instead of doing quarters, I usually do one half of the horse one day, and the other side in another session. Let's get on to the video recap:
  • Start with the medium grey shade and a small brush with a decent point. Do not use a brand new brush, since scrubbing the excess paint out of the bristles will quickly ruin it.
  • Where the dappling becomes very faint in the white areas, begin adding in some "frame dappling". This is basically sketching lines in between dapples. Do not just draw circles; use short strokes in the direction of hair flow. Do this in a way that looks random, not evenly everywhere.
  • Fill in some of the existing lighter grey dapple networking to emphasize certain areas. Again, do not fill in everything; just select areas to make the pattern less uniform.
  • It may be easier to start with filling in some of the grey areas first to get a feel for how the frame dapples should be painted before moving on to the whiter areas.
  • Moving on to the chest, begin painting the hair whorls in with medium grey. The hairs will look a little too dark and big probably, but that is ok. Going back over them with white will make them appear smaller and the whole area will blend in better. Go back over the chest in as many sessions as necessary to get the desired amount of hair patterning.
  • Work some more on shading the face, using roaning techniques with stiff brushes in some places (like the cheeks and nasal bones) and using softer blending techniques in other areas (like around the eye and muzzle). Start putting in some basic details here like light and dark shading around the eye and be more precise than in the basecoat stages.
  • Using black and another small brush, pick out the darkest areas of networking around the dapples. In larger expanses of black, a small stiff brush can be used to brush over the entire area. It is ok to go over some dapples lightly, but try to keep the black as contained as possible.
  • Next, using white paint and yet another small brush with a decent tip, go back over the coat and work on the dapples. Many will not be opaque enough from the first session so they need to be filled in. Pick some out to be very white, and leave some to fade into the coat.
  • When the dapples are all picked out, get another stiff roaning brush with a bit of white and blend in the dapples in the whiter areas. Add more roaning and grainyness to the darker areas (you can go back over this with the darker colors if it is overdone) and generally make the coat more cohesive.

The important thing to keep in mind with this whole process is that randomness in color intensity lends credibility to the paint job. Do as much as you can in this session, and go back to touch up and pick more things out as needed later. None of the steps in this video need to be done in exactly this order, except for the white dappling and roaning last. Skip around and fiddle with whatever catches your eye. I'm not exactly sure where I'll be with this horse by the time the next Friday Tip rolls around, but we'll probably be covering other details in the head and legs. See you then!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Friday Tip

I'm not quite far enough along to show the next stage in dappling, so be looking for that next week. This week I'm going to share some of my favorite horse photography books to help build your reference collection! There are lots of coffee table type books out now so in addition to this list, visit your favorite bookstore and browse through what they have. Lots look more promising than they are, so it is wise to preview before you buy. Don't forget used book stores - sometimes they get the overstock of new books, and they may have older books that have unique photographs you won't see reproduced today. If you're in the market to buy now, using these links gives me a couple bucks and doesn't cost you any more! And now, on to the list:

"Arabians: The Classic Arabian Horse", by Rik van Lent, Sr. and Jr.
(I have the hardcover; I don't know if it differs from this paperback.)

"Arabians From the Camera of Johnny Johnston", by Johnny Johnston

"Conquerors", by Deb Bennett
(Black and white photos, but still a valuable reference.)

"Equine Color Genetics", by D. Phillip Sponenberg

"Fascination Horse", by Gabriele Boiselle

"Horses", by Valeria Manferto De Fabianis

"Horses", by Gabriele Boiselle

"Horses", by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

"Horses of the Camargue", by Hans Silvester

"If I Had a Horse: How Different Life Would Be" by Melissa Sovey-Nelson
(Comes with a DVD which has some good moments for watching movement.)

"Man and Horse: An Enduring Bond", by Fulvio Cinquini

"Marwari", by Francesca Kelly
(Sorry it's so expensive, but it is a real visual treat if you are interested in this breed.)

Edit: This book is listed on Frencesca Kelly's website for $77! (Thanks Beatha!)

"The Western Horse: A Photographic Anthology", by David R. Stoecklein
(The color reference is great, but ignore all the Ben Green quotes. Check out Sponenberg for more accurate and current color information.)

Also check out magazines, especially those from the breed registries you have a particular interest in. Two excellent magazines for general reference are:

Horse Illustrated
(The information provided in this magazine is quite basic, but the photography is excellent and covers many breeds, colors and disciplines.)

(Not as much variety and imagery as Horse Illustrated, but often has great detail pictures.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Tip

This week's tip is the beginning of the long awaited dappling tutorial! If you haven't watched the previous dapple grey videos, I suggest you do so before watching this one as many of the earlier techniques are still used, but are glossed over here. Let's get started!
  • Work in sections. This process takes a looooong time, and the paint will start to dry on you before you can get a whole lot of dappling done. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since tacky paint is more resistant to blending and accepts roaning/grainy effects better - great for a dapple grey. I like to do the forehand on one side one day, then the hind the next day, the same thing for the other side, and then the belly and what I can of the legs last. So in all, 5 days for just the dappling basecoat.
  • Begin as before by blocking out color areas. Scrub the paint on so that it is so thin if you were to touch it, it would only stain your finger. This thin layer is there to help blend the dapples in later.
  • Next, grab a small round brush to begin sketching in the dapples. One that holds its point well, but is not new and super sharp will work the best. (For smaller scales, you do want to use a more precise new brush.) Only use a little bit of paint at once. Using too much paint causes spread out indistinct dapples and the extra paint is hard to get rid of. You can always add more!
  • Lightly dot and stroke the paint on, paying close attention to dapple grey references. Note what size and shape the dapples are in each specific area of the horse. Blend as you go, but be careful not to overdo it, since dapples should "pop" a little rather than fuzz out in the darker areas.
  • Start in areas that have notable dapples and get their shapes and spacing worked out before moving on to filling in the rest of the coat. Doing the hair whorls at first helps to prevent crowding too.
  • Move around to different sections and take frequent short breaks to prevent getting into the trap of painting organized dappling.
  • When all of the dappling is done (it took about 4 hours for the hind section in this video), go over the coat with a the stiff roaning brush and a little bit of white paint. This will set the dapples in and add some irregularity to the coat and build on the previous grainy, hairy look.
  • Finish off with the same technique and a bit of black paint in the darkest areas. Use a smaller brush where necessary to get around the dapples.
  • The dapples look pretty nice in this first coat, but come back next week to see how to finish them off and really make them look great!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Tip

Welcome back to the next installment on painting a dapple grey! Let's get right to the recap:
  • Begin blocking color in with the dark mix and dab paint on to the darkest areas. Pay close attention to your reference materials! The paint should be scrubbed in so that it is thin and more like a tint. If it is applied too thick, there will be brushstrokes and the blending will get too muddy and indistinct.
  • Continue with the medium grey mix, and fill in all of the non-white and non-black areas.
  • Scrub white in the lightest areas. At this stage, detailing is not important, but keeping the lightest spots white is. Use a small brush to get paint in the more crowded areas and leave a tiny border unpainted between white and black if possible. It is ok to paint right up to and over grey.
  • Lighten some areas of grey by dabbing a bit of white paint over the top. Don't blend it too much, just get a thin layer on there.
  • Finally, brush some black paint back over any areas that still need it. These spots will become a dark grey.
  • With the color blocking and brushover touchup work done, it is time to blend it all together. Use a small soft brush for the face to create smooth blending. Detailing is not important yet; just keep the color areas contained and evenly blended.
  • Using a stiff brush (I love my Monarchs for this), begin blending the coat with short, firm strokes. Be aggressive to get the paint to blend together with a hair-like texture. The texture should not be rough to the touch - instead it should simply look like lots of color variegation with a natural flow over the body.
  • Blend the lightest areas first and progress to darker zones. Painting the white first prevents smudges and muddy contamination in what should be clear white. Proceeding in this order also conditions the brush by coating it with lighter paint which will produce a hairy and grainy grey look in the darkest areas. As you work, you will need to add very small amounts of white paint to the brush. Lightly dab the brush into the edge of the paint and then scrub it either on the palette or a towel to both disperse the paint and get rid of the excess.
  • Be patient with this step - it takes a while (I took about two hours on this session), but is the roadmap for the rest of the paint job and provides depth to the finished product.
  • If needed, use a large soft brush to lightly (as in the tips of the brush just barely graze the surface) smooth the paint out in the direction of hair growth. Omit this step if the paint is fairly smooth already since it will soften what should be crisp, and may drag paint where it doesn't belong.

Tune in next week for starting the dapples!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Tip

This week's Friday Tip starts off a video series on painting a medium dapple grey. I'll be able to cover lots of the tip requests in this series, so fasten your seatbelts! Usually I would start off with a reference but I didn't have enough time to pick out what I wanted before making the video, so I put the shadings in the typical places. It doesn't much matter for the first basecoat anyway. With that out of the way, on to the recap!
  • I mix my greys by sight, usually using titanium white, metallic gold, and pearlescent white for the white mix, and ivory black, pearlescent black, and burnt umber for the black mix. Use the pearlescent and metallic colors sparingly (only up to 1/3 of the mix or so) or the paint will take too long to dry.
  • Try mixing a sample of the black and white shades together. Depending on whether you want a cool, neutral or warm grey, adjust the amount of burnt umber in the black mix. More brown will warm up the grey.
  • Add cobalt drier and mix thoroughly, then add blending and glazing medium to suit your tastes. I usually make my bays, chestnuts, etc, somewhat thin, and I leave my grey mixes thicker so that they are sharper looking. Be careful not to make starkly dappled greys too soft!
  • Notice the horse has a gesso basecoat over the primer. This helps the oil grab better and build up faster. However, it does often leave fine sand-like particles, so I avoid using gesso when I am planning on a solid color. Everything going on in a dapple grey - the grain, dapples, and constantly changing shades - completely disguises any little bits.
  • Start scrubbing white all over, excluding the back (so you have a good handhold for painting the belly) and legs (another handhold we'll finish off later). Scrub vigorously to spread the white out completely. You will still be able to see through the paint, that is fine.
  • Next, add some medium grey shadings and color patches. Just brush right over the white paint and blend as you go.
  • When the light grey is done, add in some black to the darkest areas. The medium grey shade can blend out some depending on the final desired color, but the black needs to be kept very confined. Keep the black roughly shaded so that it is variegated in tone.
  • With all of the colors blocked and crudely shaded in, go back over the entire paint job very lightly with a soft brush to smooth things out. This final step is not done for later coats, but for now it helps to keep things smooth.

And that's it for the basecoat! The basecoat is done and needs to be set aside for drying. Where I live that takes about a day or a little less for a dapple grey, but it will vary depending on location and how much drier is used. Next week we'll cover paint blocking and blending techniques in more detail.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Tip

Dogs* love oil based clay. For some reason, they like to eat it. Maybe they like other clays too, I don't know. But I do know for sure that Chavant NSP is a delicacy best kept away from your canine companions. Maybe even your feline friends as well, though so far they have ignored it in my experience. I'm sure I don't need to tell you what prompted today's Friday Tip!

*Note the plural - oh yes, this has happened with more than one dog! My sweet little angel Shelby up there was only the first to savage a sculpture.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Return of the Friday Tip

Why hello there! Sorry to leave you all hanging. I didn't realize it was going to take me quite so long to recuperate from my NAN vendor preparations and blogging was really the last thing on my mind. But now I am back and ready to go again! Speaking of working hard, this week's Friday Tip deals with being as efficient around your work area as possible and juggling projects during crunch-time. You will discover what works best for you, but here are my strategies you can try!

If I have a lot to do and one set deadline I work in batches. (Batching is very effective all of the time actually, but it is practically essential when working within time constraints.) I use a calendar to help with my workflow and to keep me on track. It's time consuming constantly thinking of what has to be done next! Why waste that time over and over again when it can just be written down? I usually schedule a bit of extra work for myself, but not so much that I get discouraged when I can't get it all done. That way, in case I get everything finished early I have an extra project all ready to grab. I also typically arrange my schedule so that I have two extra buffer days or so for whatever arises. That time always gets used finishing stuff up even if I think I've given myself plenty of time.

If there is customizing to do, that of course gets done first. I will work on as many horses as I possibly can in one day. If I have more horses than I can work on in a day, then I work on the ones that need the most and switch between the horses that need less work. That way they still all get done around the same time.

Next up is prepping. This part is great because once I'm done primering all the front halves, the first horse is usually ready to have its back half sprayed! Do make sure not to rush this part, since grabbing a drying horse or worse yet - sanding one that is still tacky - will only result in delays. Be patient here, and work on something that only needs markings in the meantime if possible.

In the case of having many different colors to paint, I will mix up all of my batches at once and label each one. That minimizes all the time spent shuffling paints around, and once it's done the paints can go away for good! Once the paints are mixed up and the horses are prepped, it's time to think about the order in which they are painted. I like to paint the lightest colors first and work darker. This is good for two reasons: a) lighter colors tend to take longer to dry, and b) I can re-use some of the brushes from one color to the next, extending the number of colors I can paint in one day with a limited brush supply. Just make sure that when continuing to use a brush that the tint of the first color isn't significantly different from the next. For example, this technique works best when transitioning a brush used on a chestnut to using it on the darker areas of a bay. It is also helpful to scrub the brush in a bit of the new color and then wipe it off before painting.

When I get close to the end of painting body colors and it is time to start putting in the really fine details, I don't schedule more than 2 or 3 horses a day. That is not only time consuming work, but very intensive and exhausting. Overdoing it will result in sloppy details and burnout. I suffered from quite enough burnout in the weeks leading up to NAN and I was trying to be careful!

When all of the horses' oil coats are done, I move on to markings and other acrylic details. It is so fabulous to have horses ready for markings while paint dries on others - no wasted time just sitting and waiting! It is also a wonderful way to not waste paint - it's drying on the palette when it's drying on the horse after all. I also batch specific detail projects (eyes, hooves, etc.) so that I can work from one set of colors and think about one job at a time.

Efficiency also means being careful around your horses so you don't wind up knocking anyone over in the clutter and causing more work for yourself. Keep your space organized to prevent accidents. As you can see in the top photo (click to enlarge) even though there is a lot going on, everything has a home. Horses are arranged from small to large going away from me so that I don't have to reach over any Trads to get to a SM. The paints and rinse cup (as well as the *ahem* ever present Starbucks) are all kept to the right. The colors I am using at the time are kept more in front of me and get put to the right again when I am done to prevent confusion. Any brushes that are not being used for the day get put back in their out of the way spots at the back of my desk.

When I am done working on a horse for the day, I set it somewhere that won't be disturbed. The back of the workspace will do in a pinch, but it's much better to just have the horse completely out of the way. The final clear spray, glossing of the eyes, etc. and photographing are also done in batches. And that's that!

The last bit of advice I can give for working under tight deadlines is the most important: plan for extra projects but don't finish what you need to rush through to complete. Rushed work is doing you and your customers a disservice. If it can't get done right and on time, elect to put it aside and get it done right later. Deadlines are great for encouraging work to get done, but should never be the cause of sub-par work.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Neigh-Neigh!

Chinook turned 33 today! I took some celebratory pictures over the weekend, so this seems like a good time to post photos I have been saving up to show his color changes. He is a sooty buckskin, and every year he gets darker during the summer. His winter coat stays light except for his cute raccoon head which has also started getting darker over the last few years. The photos are all from this year, so you can see how much he changes in just a few months. Hopefully he will lighten a bit and get his lovely dapples before his winter coat comes in, but it didn't happen last year.

Yes, that grass in indeed taller than he is. He is small, but that grass is just humongous.

And yes, if there's grass to be found, even brown gross stuff, his head will be down eating it. I've pretty much given up trying to get pictures of him with his head up during the summer. I need a handler for photo days!

Doing his best Cheveyo impression!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Waterford up for Auction

Just listed is one of my favorite little horses. I have kept him back for a while, but it's time for him to move on to a new home.

This is Waterford, a large stablemate scale Hairy Dauntless sculpted by Donna Chaney of Animal Artistry. Waterford was one of my first powdered pigment and pencil pieces (done in 2005), but he remains one of my best dapple greys. Waterford has subtle hair texture all over which must be appreciated in person. Photographs cannot pick up the fine details in his coat or his mane and tail.

Waterford comes with 5 expired NAN cards, a NAN Top Ten, 2 Championships and 1 Reserve Championship. He has not been shown since his NAN outing, but he always did well for me. Now he is ready to go out and hit the show ring again for you!

For a complete gallery of large pictures including many detail shots, visit Waterford's gallery.

eBay auction link

NAN Vending Sneak Peek!

I will have a vending table at NAN this year, but as I'm occupied on Saturday and Sunday, my table will be open on Friday only! The following horses are what I'm feverishly working on. I have colors picked out for most of them, but if there's something you'd like to see on any of them let me know and I may change my plans.

I'll also have unpainted resins, my new Fjord medallion, and there are some other finished and half painted items in almost every scale I've not taken pictures of yet. I may or may not get photos of all of the horses up before NAN, so make sure to stop by the table to see all the fun stuff I'll have!

Idocus with new mane, tail and ears, bay frame

Animal Artistry rearing arabian with new base (will have grasses and flowers), bay sabino

G3 drafter with new neck, mane, tail, stallion parts and shoes, dark chestnut

G1 stock horse with new mane, tail, ears and gelding parts, sooty buckskin

G3 warmblood with resculpted barrel and topline, new neck, mane, tail and mare parts, color undecided, maybe chestnut or grey

G2 thoroughbred with new neck, mane, tail and gelding parts, appaloosa, not sure on base color, but possibly buckskin

G1 Swaps with new braided mane and tail, and gelding parts, seal brown, possibly tobiano?

G2 drafter on a base with new mane, tail and feathers, black tobiano sabino