Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Buyer Beware!!

Hello everyone!

I just wanted to let you all know about a change in labeling that could lead to disaster!

Michael's Craft stores are no longer selling Plastikote brand primer, but instead are selling Valspar. I asked the guy working in the paint section if it was the same, and he said yes, that it was exactly the same stuff, just with a new label. So I bought 2 cans and didn't give it a second thought.

I want to let you know that it is NOT the same. Plastikote IS a Valspar company, but the Valspar primer is chemically DIFFERENT than the Plastikote we know and love. When I used the Valspar primer, it was gummy, shiny, and remained tacky even after several days of drying. It was impossible to sand and miserable to try and work with. And, when I spritzed a bit of it over another resin that had Plastikote on it, there was a MAJOR chemical reaction and it all peeled and bubbled. It was awful. And to make matters worse... I learned when I tried to strip the horse that the Valspar primer does not always come off well with EZ Off because it is so gummy.

I will be calling Plastikote when they reopen next week to complain about this inferior product, how it is behaving, and if I can get the old Plastikote directly from them. I'll let you guys know what I find out!

This is a photo of the can you SHOULD be looking for if you like Plastikote. I swear by it... its my most favorite primer. The best is the GRAY (I've had mixed results with white, but that is typical of all primers).

Monday, December 29, 2008

weener dogs!

This past weekend Greg and I went to go and visit some friends in upstate NY and chill out after the holiday chaos. We went up Friday evening and stayed until late Sunday afternoon, and just had a blast. They have 3 little dachshunds that are the cutest darn things I've ever seen... and the littlest, "Bitsy", has a fairy tale (tail?) story that I'd love to share.

I believe it was in October when Danielle (my friend in NY) got a call from one of her neighbors asking if they were missing a dachshund (since she has two, Frank and Beans). Danielle said no, that both of hers were snoozing on the couch... but thought that she better go check it out to see exactly what her neighbors had found. You can imagine her surprise when she first saw the little quivering dog on the neighbor's porch... days from starvation and in really, really rough shape. After coordinating with another neighbor to keep her for that night so she could run home and prepare for her arrival, Danielle scooped up the shaking little pup and brought her home. After some talking with the vet, they surmised that little "Bitsy" that this poor little girl was a puppy mill dog who, no longer able to have pups naturally, was dumped by her 'owners' in the neighborhood. She not only was not spayed, but had intensely bad teeth AND had a hernia from a poorly done c-section. All that has been taken care of now, and she is really something to behold.

After several months of excellent care, little Bitsy has flourished from a nervous, fearful little dog to the grand diva of the household. She is just a little princess... she loves to be cuddled and held, and has the most beautiful face... it just melts your heart! I snapped these photos over the weekend... enjoy!

In the first photo, Bitsy is on the left, and Beans is on the right. The other two of are Bitsy. :-)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All finished!

So, we opted to wait on adding Susie (the dog) until after Christmas since the paint is still very wet... and the dog is white... and so I can't put her in until after the area she is supposed to be is dry. The frame really completes it!

And, here is what it will look like when the dog is in there too:

Monday, December 22, 2008

now, with dog

And now, through the magic of photoshop, here you can see how I'll do the reins and where I'll put the dog... :-)

besides model horses...

This season I took on one portraiture commission; mainly because it was a friend who wanted a special gift for her husband. Of course it was a rush order, and of course it needs to be done by Christmas... but I've been having fun working on it. It is of their stallion, Charlie, and her husband's dog, Susie (who passed away over the fall). These two creatures mean the world to him, and she wanted to incorporate both into a painting, along with the chair he always sits. She even did all the leg-work and did a full photo-shoot of the horse, in front of their barn, in the exact pose she wanted... the only problem being is that she didn't have any good photos of the Susie... so that I would have to improvise.

8 hours into the painting and this is where I am... I've spent nearly ALL of that time on doing the architecture of the barn and getting the angles right. I don't do a lot of buildings, and man... if something is off... you know it right away! The biggest problem with oils is that I can't just go in with a ruler and use it to make the lines. So, every line you see has been done free-hand.

I still probably have another day and half left in it (approx. 15 hours) before it is finished. I usually work back-to-front... that is, background to foreground. Its pretty obvious where I stopped... I haven't done anything on the horse... the chair is really unfinished, and the whole front needs to be tightened up. Looking at it now... I also need to amp-up the shadows.

I'll post more pics tomorrow when it is more finished!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

is winter over yet?

Ah yes... the Northeast... where snow and ice prevail! We've gotten hammered with snow the past few days, and the driving has been terrible. Today it was snowing so badly I couldn't get to the studio, so stayed indoors and did a bit of sculpting. It was actually a nice change of pace, but I really needed to be at the studio painting. That made it a bitter-sweet type of afternoon... the projects that I can't get to just sitting...

This evening when I took the dogs out I noticed a very long icicle that had formed over the past few hours. It runs from the roof to the light, and then extends down 2 ft or so. Its pretty impressive... I can't help but wonder if its going to keep growing over the course of the evening and reach the front step. Now that would be something!

Greg has been working tonight on digging out our cars and driveway so we can go to our respective studios tomorrow. It wouldn't be such a big deal, except our driveway is at a 35-40 degree angle.. and lined with oak trees.... and one of our cars (a mazda 3) pretty much has no traction in the snow. We pretty much got duped by the dealership when we bought it; we specifically asked how it was in the snow, and the guy straight-up lied to us and told us how great it was. Well.... we bought it in April 06, and for two winters now its given us nothing but frustration, even after getting special low-profile snow tires for it. Thankfully, our other car is a Suburu, which I can't say enough good things about. Nothing shakes that thing... it just carves through snow and ice like it wasn't even there. I will say that the Mazda is a really fun car to drive... just not in the snow!

Monday, December 15, 2008

let the xmas rush begin!

Just a quick note here to let anyone out there that I'm not dead, LOL. Things are just busy here as I try to get things out before xmas. I've been going back and forth over when to ship horses, since I am terrified of them getting chucked around in the holiday volume of mail. I'm sure I'll figure something out.

In the meantime, if you haven't heard, check this guy out:

He is the bitty Bosco by Morgen Kilbourn, and he is the most adorable thing ever. He reminds me of milk chocolate in this color! I can't wait to get one in my little mits... hehe!

Friday, December 12, 2008

just can't help myself...

Another gratuitous photo of Hayden... I was playing with my friend's new camera, which I LOVE... and managed to snap two really excellent photos of my little guy. This one I replaced the background with since it was studio chaos. :-) I would love to do more pet photography... although, Hayden makes it easy since he's such a ham.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A few fun photos

Of an in-progress piece!

This tired little lady is actually nearly finished now, but I came across these pics while cleaning out the pic folders, and I thought I'd share since she's such a fun piece. :-) She belongs to Betsy Valley, who got her during the pre-Bfest sales. I can't wait to share pics of her all done!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

a slow week here at the studio

Thats an understatement! Its been crawling. I've gotten only a few things done that I wanted to, thanks to either a cold or the flu finding me and knocking me right on my rear. Yesterday I spent a lot of time outside and when I came in to warm up... it whacked me a good one.

I've started working a bit on Miss America, who is coming along really nicely. She is going to be customized a bit with a new mane/tail, and a few other minor modifications. I think she will really be something special when all finished. I have a few colors that I'm trying to decide between right now, including palomino, a mostly white buckskin tobiano, and dark seal bay.

Because I am behind this week, I probably will have to wait another week to list Stormy. I want to get a few more commissions finished up before I list another sale piece... I dunno, I just feel strange listing sale horses when there are still pieces here that people have been waiting on.

Also... just a quick side note... Daisy is feeling MUCH better and has been all fired up the past few days. Her face is healing up really well and her hair is starating to grow back a bit. She's on antibiotics, and probably will be for the next 2 weeks to make sure whatever caused the absess is gone for good, but she's feeling great, and thats most important. :-)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Poor Daisy... talk about a bad day!

We had a horrible scare this morning. Our basset hound got an ENORMOUS abbess on her cheek today. It just happened all of a sudden... I let them all out this morning to go to the bathroom in the yard, they came in and went back to sleep, and then when Daisy got up again at noon she had a softball size lump on her face right under her ear. By the time I got to the vet it was the size of a grapefruit!! Her whole face was swollen. At first I thought it was some sort of bite, like when she was sniffing around perhaps she inadvertently got stung or bitten. I've never seen an abbess get so big so fast, with no wound, bruise or anything! I can't imagine what happened. :-( She doesn't DO anything besides wander around and sniff, and so I can't figure out how she could have gotten this.

So, now she is recovering from the anesthesia since it had to be opened up and have drainage tubes put in. She has been wimpering all afternoon and its just making me feel terrible. Poor little girl... she is all doped up and totally bandaged up like she had a head injury!

I went out and got her some Frosty Paws (the doggie ice cream) for when she feels like eating. The other dogs are in a funk too since she isn't feeling well. This is a first for us; our cats have had abbsesses, but just little ones from fighting with other cats. But this one was HUGE, and it just appeared over a few hours. I'm just thankful that it wasn't a tooth!

Frequently asked questions: How long?

Now that I've posted my 'in progress' list on my website, I've gotten quite a few notes from friends saying "HOLY CRAP you are busy! How are you able to keep up that pace?"

Well... for starters, I am, admittedly, a workaholic. I have a hard time saying no, and so I have a tendency to over-book myself and it gets out of hand rather quickly! So, I tend to keep very long hours, spending anywhere from 8-12 hours in the studio each day. The days are broken up with doggie pottie-breaks and snuggling, email checking, and cleaning stalls down at the barn... but for beyond that I work straight through most days.

How long does one horse take?
For me, I find that because I do spend such long hours at the studio, I have several horses in various stages to keep me from loosing my mind... usually 3 or 4. I try to group similar colors or projects together for the simple reason that it cuts down on material costs (since I make my own paint, its easier to do it in larger batches). Also, it helps streamline the process a bit.

It takes anywhere from 36-50 hours to complete one traditional sized horse, from unpainted horse to ready-to-ship. Since my medium of choice is acrylics, I can occasionally work a horse straight through, however, usually I break up the process in order to really look at him and do quite a few self-critiques. (Does that look right? Does it look like the photos? Is he smooth enough? Is the shading enough, or not enough?). It really benefits any artist to spend a day or two away from a piece in progress and then look at it again with fresh eyes. I may do this four or five times during any one piece to make sure things are perfect.

After the actual paintwork is finished, each pieces gets several layers of finish and has to dry for about 24 hours, and the from there the horse can get packed up and ready to head out to its new home. :-)

Do YOU have questions? Post 'em in the comments section!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Color theory, An Introduction

Color is one of those things that people *think* they either have an eye for, or they don't. This is occasionally true; you'll have some people who have an uncanny knack to mix colors the same every time; or be able to match paint swatches correctly the first time just by eye. For some people, working with color comes naturally. However, if you are not one of those people, you can LEARN how to do this by understanding colors, how they interact, and how to mix them to create what you are after.

Perfect Pitch vs. Relative Pitch
For you musicians out there, you can understand this concept of learning color theory through something similar in music: Having perfect pitch. Having perfect pitch is similar to an artist having an eye for color. Having perfect pitch means that when one hears a note, they can recognize the octave and pitch just by ear. This means if you hit a note on the keyboard, that person will know immediately what note that is. This is something a person is born with.

However, having relative pitch is having the ability discern the interval between two pitches and recognize it that way. This means that if you hit two notes on a keyboard, that person can figure out the first note by using the second. Relative pitch is something you can learn through practice. Similarly, color theory is something you can also learn through practice. So... for those of you who seem to be having an awful job mixing colors... don't despair... there is hope!

First, lets talk about color basics. In this first segment, I want to talk about the words we use to describe colors, so that you can use the proper vocabulary when discussing it.

Color Basics
Color is the perceptual characteristic of light described by a color name. Specifically, color is light, and light is composed of many colors—those we see are the colors of the visual spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Objects absorb certain wavelengths and reflect others back to the viewer. We perceive these wavelengths as color.

A color is described in three ways: by its name, how pure or desaturated it is, and its value or lightness. Although pink, crimson, and brick are all variations of the color red, each hue is distinct and differentiated by its chroma, saturation, intensity, and value.

Chroma, intensity, saturation and luminance/value are inter-related terms and have to do with the description of a color.

Chroma: How pure a hue is in relation to gray
Saturation: The degree of purity of a hue.
Intensity: The brightness or dullness of a hue. One may lower the intensity by adding white or black.
Luminance / Value: A measure of the amount of light reflected from a hue. Those hues with a high content of white have a higher luminance or value.

Shade and tint are terms that refer to a variation of a hue.

Shade: A hue produced by the addition of black.
Tint: A hue produced by the addition of white.

Now at this point I bet you are wondering how this effects model horse painting. Well, by using your understanding of color theory, you can mix colors that have a higher level of vibrancy, luminosity, and saturation.

It is a common mistake for people who paint model horses to make colors darker by using black (shade), or make colors lighter by adding white (tint). The problem with this is that although this is a valid way to alter intensity, it often times effects and changes colors into shades that are not natural in the horse world. For example, if you take burnt sienna and add white... you get a pink color. Great for noses, but not what you want on the body color of your horse! Similarly, if you add just white to black to do a gray horse, you may end up with a color closer to slate blue instead. The reason for this is that black paint is never a TRUE black, but instead usually a very dark blue or purple that shows its true nature when modified with white. Because of this, white and black can never create a "natural" looking gray horse. You must always modify this mix with a brown or yellow to neutralize the blue (more on this later).

As (flatwork) artists advance in their use of color, many will drop the use of black and white altogether in most of their work in favor of using other colors to highlight and shade. I know that in much of my fine art and portraiture work, I no longer use white or black as part of my palette unless absolutely necessary. Shading and highlights can be achieved instead by using colors that are in the same family as the base color. So, if you use burnt sienna as your base color for a chestnut, then your highlights can be done in a raw sienna, and your shading can be done in a burnt umber. White should be reserved for white markings; and even then should be modified with a raw sienna to soften it.

The best way to start understanding color theory and how colors work together is through a color wheel. Colors have relationships with each other on the color wheel. While most horses fall into a very narrow color range, by understanding what colors work together then you can accentuate the "horse" colors (reds, browns, whites, golds) with other more less-intuative colors like violets, blues and even greens. Using these colors can punctuate your piece, adding depth and variation in the coat.

In the next addition... more on these relationships and how they look on a model horse! Over the next few additions I will go over many basic horse body colors (chestnut, bay, gray, dilutes, black) and show how you can add new colors to the traditional mix to really bring out the 'wow' factor.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Some things never change...

Back when Greg and I first bought our first house, it wasn't long before we has Lady and Daisy Mable. Soon after, my sister thought we needed a cat, and so from a horse show she brought home a little calico furr-ball... affectionately known as "Kitten". Kitten was just a TINY little thing when we got her, and so we kept her up in our bedroom because we were worried that the dogs might hurt her. After all, they were two hunting dogs, both around 6 months and full of puppy naughtiness, and so thought that it was better to be safe than sorry.

Kitten lived alone in our bedroom for about a week before one of us forgot to close the door tightly behind us. So, Kitten made her way plopping down the stairs and to the threshold of the kitchen, where we had a baby gate up to keep the dogs out of the dining room. And here it happened... Kitten met the dogs for the first time...

Lady and Daisy stared at her through the gate, tails wagging with curious excitement... and she stared right back at them... still, quiet. And then, in a lightening fast flash torrent of fuzz and claws, she soared over the gate and sent both dogs yelping into the family room, chasing them through the house unrelenting. Greg and I watched in amazement this 8 oz calico kitten went flying after these 35 lb dogs... and then, after sufficiently scaring the bejesus out of them, she went over and ate their food and took over their bed.

After a short adjustment period, Kitten decided that she was a dog, and that these big smelly creatures were family, and so the three of them would always sleep together.

The dynamic changed a bit when we got other cats, and Kitten realized that perhaps she wasn't a dog after all. For a while she wanted nothing to so with her canine siblings, and reveled in her independent cat-dom. We thought that the days of inter-species napping were over, and adjusted to the Kitten who didn't want anything from anyone. But now, over the past month or so... we've noticed a change in Kitten, back to the old days... and the dogs have welcomed her back with open paws.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

roany goodness

On a side note... here is a pic of one of those roany drafters I've been working on! He's still got a little ways to go, but he and his handsome friend will be finished this weekend and I'll be sure to share pics of them both!

now, where did I put that...?

Today I spent the latter half of the afternoon/evening packing things up for The Move. I never had any idea we had so much STUFF... I mean, we haven't been at this house that long, and yet we seem to have so much stuff to pack its unbelievable. This afternoon was earmarked for packing up books. By the end of the day... it kinda looked like this.

Between Greg's music books, and my years of accumulated breed journals, art books, and then both our general reading books... we probably have enough for a library. I tried going through it to weed out things I could toss, but I am a packrat, especially when it comes to reference photos. I just can't part with my photos!!

This actually brings up a really good point for those of you out there who paint, or sculpt, or draw, or want to get into painting, sculpting, drawing.... the most important thing you can have at your fingertips is an extensive morgue. A morgue is the collection of reference photos/images that you've collected over time that you may call upon to help you through a sticky spot or if you need inspiration. A properly catalogued and organized morgue is absolutely invaluable; although its not easy to keep that way. As you get in new pics, whether off line, or clipped out of journals/magazines, or photos you've taken yourself, organization is key to making the most out of your morgue.

I myself have found that the best way to keep things organized is through a variety of systems... I have all my Chronicles and Appaloosa Journals organized by date, which is sort of useful... but if something crosses by path that is REALLY interesting (like a cool color or pattern I come across) then I will rip out the page and keep it in a separate set of files. In this file folder there are different sections... Pinto (split further into tobiano, overo, extreme overo), appaloosa, chestnut, bay, etc etc. That way, if I need to find a particular muse or color for a project, I can access my reference right away. My computer files are organized in a similar way. Once you get enough reference pics, then you can break each catagory further, like Bay: dark bay, light bay, medium bay, bay with extreme dapples.

Its amazing how quickly photos will add up!!! So, keeping organized is the best way to keep your head on straight and keep you from going crazy when you are looking for a specific photo that you KNOW you have but can't seem to lay your hands on it.

Now for me to go and practice what I preach... 'cause my reference folders are pretty much a disaster area right now!! EEK!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Heeeeerreeee she coommmmeessss

MISS AMERICA!!! I got the conformation that this lovely lady is headed my way. I *can't wait*!!!! I have all sorts of color ideas for her... but what do YOU guys think? I'd love to get some ideas. I am going to do some ASB research tonight to see if anything jumps out at me. :-D

Friday, November 14, 2008

More pics of the kids

More pics of the kids "hard at work". Some of you may have seen these pics already! The 4th dog belongs to my sister, and her name is Zoey. She usually joins me in the studio on occasion... as it turns out, the back corner of the studio is the #1 preferred canine napping spot in the area.

There also is a pictures of Daisy Mable. Daisy likes to come over and put her snout on my leg and ask to be petted (that's right, I paint in flannel pants). She is so adorable sometimes.

Just had to share

One thing that will probably be a regular feature on this blog are the antics of my 3 lovely dog-children. They come with me to the studio every day, and are a welcome reprieve from the super long hours I tend to keep. There is Lady, a Vizsla... Daisy Mable, the basset hound... and Hayden, who we adopted from a rescue. This first edition is on our youngest, my little Hayden.

Hayden came from a puppymill down south, so we can't be 100% sure of his parentage, however from the research we've done we believe him to be a Beauceron (french shepherd dog), since there were a breeding pair who were also rescued from the mill. He was severly malnurished and full of worms when he was rescued, weighing only 2 lbs. at 1 1/2 months. After a month at a foster home, with good food and being dewormed, he started filling out. When we got him he weighed 8 lbs, at 2 1/2 months. Our little guy is now a year old as of Nov. 15th, and he now is a gorgeous dog... albeit much smaller than we expected at only 40 lbs! His brothers and sisters, who were much larger puppies, weigh in at around 65. So... we affectionally call Hayden our 'miniature shepherd'. He has been the most awesome puppy... so well behaved, so snuggly... he's my little angel.

I have lots of adorable pics of the 3 of them together, hanging out in the studio and doin' dog stuff. If any of you guys are looking for a canine companion, I can't stress enough to go and look in your local shelters and at rescues. Stay away from pet stores who have puppies by the cageful... odds are they are coming from similar places as Hayden... places that are too horrible to think about. Shelter dogs are all looking for families to call their own... and they will love you more than you can ever imagine.

Here is a pic of little Hayden hanging out at the studio (which is a disaster area right now). This is his "Will you snuggle me?" face.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Today I continued work on a pair of roans that have been an ongoing project since before Bfest. These two are a Poudre and Punjabi, who are a red roan pair. Now, its hard enough to get one side of the horse to match the other side, let along FOUR sides to match... but not match TOO much, if that makes sense. I've been working hair by tiny hair on these guys for so long now... I REALLY want them to be finished because their very patient owner I am sure is ready to strangle me. First they are too dark... then too light... then too pink... then too brown... but I think now I am getting the two to work well together. In the process of working out their coats, I also started 2 other roans to experiment on.

In other news, I just finished this guy. He turned out to be a golden beauty! I was sad to see him go. This name is "Midas". He was the first horse I used a bit of irredescent paint in his mane/tail, and the results were just *amazing*. White or cream manes/tails will be getting this blend more often!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Me and an unpainted "Ed"...
oh the fun we had....
wow... I look exhausted.

As November ticks away, I'm feeling good about the remaining commissions that have to get done. I thought I could be done by Dec. 1st, but that is turning out to be a bit optimistic... So I'm going to shoot for Jan. 1st. More on these remaining horses later.... including pics!

Ok, so I know its been a while

I know I know... I am going to start writing here more regularly more often. I just haven't had time! But, for those of you who still are subscribed to read this stuff, stay tuned as more interesting things are to come!

Monday, July 28, 2008

the week after Bfest

Why is it whenever you go away for a while, when you come back you always get sick? I should have seen it coming... between the stress, not sleeping, and general crazy pace I've been keeping, it was only a matter of time that it caught up to me. This past week has been just miserable all the way around, between fending off what feels like a cold, to the intense humidity... UGH! All I wanted to do is curl up in my air conditioned bedroom and sleep all week.

So, that is really what I did for the most part. I haven't felt comfortable shipping anything, and trying to paint in this weather... just forget it. We got thunderstorms all yesterday that helped cool things off for that evening, but now its more humid than ever! I feel like I'm sweating just sitting here typing. yuck. I've been feeling so crappy that I haven't even had a chance to write about Bfest (which definitely was an improvement after my bad time getting to/at NAN). I will write about that soon though.

In other news, I am working away on commissions and should be able to take on new work in August some time. I think that this next offering may be my last for a bit, as Greg and I are preparing to move in the early fall. We've found a gorgeous house where both Greg and I can have studios right there on the property, and we can have the horses right there and there are hiking/riding trails all around. We both just fell in love with it.

We don't know exactly when all this will happen yet, it depends when we can close on the house and get everything in order. I know that as soon as we get closer to that point that I'll be busy getting everything packed up etc. So, don't be alarmed if I start putting up things for sale in an effort to 'cull the herd!' I'll have some tack, resins, odds and ends, etc. I'll post it on the MHSP as I get it photographed.

I have a lot to tell about my NAN/Bfest trip, but need some time to think that out before I post. I'll get that done soon!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'm back!

Yes, I've been feeling quite opinionated lately, and so I thought I'd get my blog back up and running. I'll be making very regular installments!

This blog will be devoted to keeping everyone updated on my progress on various horses, but also as a sounding board for thoughts and ideas on how to improve our hobby in all facets. I needed an *intelligent* outlet to voice my thoughts and to pose questions and hypotheticals. Hopefully some good will come from discussions like this since it will give an open forum for constructive conversation.

Alright... time to get this saved and get back to work... I'll post a bit later in the evening.