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.