Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Surviving the holidays

I'm in the clear! Now that the gift-giving holidays are over, I have some time to sit down and regroup. You see, every year I tell myself I will not take on any last minute projects in time for the holidays. And every year, I do anyway... resulting in a caffine-induced stupor, pulling all-nighters to get everything done on time. Ah, reminds me of college....

This year I had three photography shoots, two portrait models and an actual portrait. It was a holiday full of mixed emotions, since some of these gifts were spurred by the death of my filly's father, Henry. Henry was an extraordinary gentleman, and his tragic death send a ripple through the farm and those who knew him. The saddest part was the revelation that his owners, the Shepards, had no good photos to remember him by. And so seperately, the two of them commissioned me to do related gifts, for each other. The first were the photoshoots, one of each of Henry's babies, and then some holiday shots.

Here are the babies: Legs (my little girl), Barbie (who belongs to Mrs. Shepard), and Callie (other bay filly). There is also Murphy, Barbie's full brother, but being a yearling, he was a goober for his photoshoot. Then we did a few holiday pictures. All the mares are SUCH hams! They loved every minute of their glamour shots.

The portrait was of Henry himself. It is 22x28" in oils.

It has been nearly a year since I've painted on canvas, and I didn't realize how much I missed it. It was so nice to paint without limits-- no need to worry about brushstrokes or anything else-- just me, my palate, my reference pics... and whatever comes off the brush. After completing it, I know that I need to be doing more portraiture again. So, my books are open for portrait painting once more.

I will share the portrait models tomorrow. One of which is a portrait of Barbie, leopard mare. It came out GORGEOUS! I hope to borrow her for a show or two, hehe!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Coffee anyone?

I got this photo from some friends who decided to end a chilly afternoon trail ride with some hot coffee and donuts. Spot seems to be checking out the "anytime eating" menu... I wonder if they decided to try the veggie flatbread or if they stuck with munchkins.

The holiday is bearing down on me fast and so I don't have much time to be on the computer. Or sleep, for that matter. It looks like studio-cat (now named Paul), has become quite comfortable in my absence. He was actually annoyed with me that I turned on the light to take the picture. I can't wait to be done with all my projects and life can return to normal!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lesson #2... Don't freak out

Or, if you do have to freak out, then set the horse aside until you regain your composure. The worst thing you can do in... well, any situation, really... is freak out and then rush into something you shouldn't.

In this case, you MUST let the matte finish dry... as hard as it is to see your lovely pony all awfuled up, don't touch it. Resist the urge to poke it with your fingers (or anything). Let it sit... Overnight is best, since that way there is no doubt that it will be dry. If you try to mess with it too soon, you could pull the paint up right down to the resin! AGH!! And then THAT would be a really tricky mess to fix. Trust me on this one... self control was a tough one for me to learn.

In the morning, you can start the task of fixing the horse. The good news: its fixable. And, you don't have to strip the horse. The bad news: you will have to do some repainting. And it requires patience and more of not freaking out. But, hey--you didn't have to start completely over, right? That's a good thing!

First, take a very fine sandpaper and buff the afflicted areas. On this lady, it was pretty much everywhere. This is a VERY light buff; its just to take off the worst of the offenders and do a light smoothing. Clean off all the extra powder from sanding (I use a blush brush) and then... and I am not crazy... Hit the offending areas with Krylon Gloss. Use an even, but not too thick, coat. The goal is to fill the wrinkles but not obsure the sculptural detail. Because the gloss is thicker than the matte finish, it will give you a huge head start in evening out all the imperfections.

The next step is similar to the first, in that you need to wait a day until the gloss is totally dry. Then, take out the fine sandpaper and sand all over. You can be a bit rougher with this round of sanding; the gloss coat will protect the existing paintwork. Your goal is the remove all the texture from the wrinkles. Basically, you are smoothing them down. You'll still see them, but at this point in time, you don't want to *feel* them. Run your finger over the areas until it feels smooth.

If you have very bad areas, where the wrinkle has been forced upward like two techtonic plates, creating a horrible wrinkley mountain chain... then sand it down as best you can, gloss just that area, and sand again. By the second time around, it should be nice and smooth. Most wrinkles melt away though in the first shot of gloss.

Alright. Now that the horse is buffed to a baby-bottom smoothness, you can touch up the areas. In my case... that was pretty much the whole horse. Looking at the bright side... I only needed two coats in most areas, and I didn't have to strip and repaint her. Woot!

Here is a closeup of the wrinkled area after the repair. At this point, I can go back in and start re-applying the shading. You do not have to repaint all the areas you've sanded. When you apply the next coat of matte finish, the scratches you see will melt away. This is why its important to use a fine-grit sandpaper; you are buffing the surface, not gouging it.

After the touchups, seal her again with the SAME can of matte finish that gave you the problem in the first place. This is important since it will prevent the same thing from happening again. If you use another can, you may have another chemical reaction and experience a whole new wrinklage... and that would probably REALLY cause a freak out. The gloss is an excellent sealer, but I'm not one to take chances. Mist the horse first with the matte finish. Let that dry. Then mist again. Don't spray it heavily!! Just keep misting until you feel satisfied that its sealed.

At last!!! Repaired. Pics of her finished will come tomorrow. :-)

Lesson #1...

"Always complete a horse with the same can of matte finish you started with."

Why is this so important? Well... because this could happen. Go ahead, blow it up to full size for the full horrific experience!

This is an Eberl Oktopussy (the reining horse) that I had completed as of last week. She is golden palomino and came out just brilliantly... all she needed was a final coat of matte finish.

While working on a different project, the can I had got used up. No problem, I thought to myself, and went to the store to get a fresh can. I didn't think much of it, as I've done this before.

I shook the can, and started spraying. Immediately I smelled that the spray was different-- much more chemically-- but at that point it was too late. The wrinkling had begun, ALL over her body. All I could do was watch in horror as weeks worth of work went down the toilet as she crinkled and wrinkled. There were many tears, and a bit of swearing.

After coming to terms with what had happened, I made a phone call to Krylon. The feeling of the phone call was similar to the one I made to Plasticote when my favorite primer suddenly was different. "WHY is the formula different? And you couldn't have put something like that on the new cans? Because its definitely not compatible with the old cans, and I just ruined a piece of artwork since your company failed to disclosed that they changed the chemical formula."
And that was basically the gist of it. Krylon has changed the formula in the matte finish (AGAIN).

The solution for us, who use it: buy several cans at a time, to insure they are all from the same batch. These cans you can use interchangeably since they will be the same formula. ALWAYS finish a horse with the same can you started with. If you can't, then spray a VERY light coat of the new can to prevent wrinkling from potentially happening. Or, do test sprays!! Have a guinea pig horse who is painted even in just a basecoat that you can test spray on. My personal favorites are FAS's. :-)

As for the Okto... I spent most of the past 2 days repairing her so that I can do touchups. I will post today the step-by-step on how to repair wrinkles without having to strip and repaint the whole horse.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Long days!

If ever there was a face to describe a long day... this is it!

While all the dogs take their "work day" very seriously, Lady is the one that gets most excited about the trip to and from the studio. As soon as the back door closes, she assumes the "travel position": smooshing her face in-between the headrests... and as soon as the car starts rolling... falling fast asleep.

Hayden, however, is more of a snoozer once he gets to the studio.

We all have been spending a lot more time at the studio now that the holiday rush is upon us. While I paint and sculpt, the dog-children are in charge of "NR&D"... that is... "Nap Research and Development". Yea... I'm not sure where the saying "working like a dog" came from... since I would gladly switch jobs with them any day!!

I've been quite pleased of the latest pieces that I have been working on. This Hazel was a joy to paint.... her owner basically gave me the reins on her, and it was wonderful to run with an idea. This was the result!

Her feet I was especially proud of. Previously, I had been doing feet with verticle striations. However, they needed something-- the horizontal striations-- to make them more realistic. I had tried several ways to do it, but none really created a convincing result. I am not sure why it had never occured to me before, but by doing the horizontal ones first in washes, and then using similar washes to do the vertical ones, I get the perfect balance. Any further details can be added with pencils (either oil or watercolor). The finished hooves look amazing!

From now on, all hooves will be looking like these lovelies. The next piece will have dark hooves, and I will be sure to post pictures of them as well!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Weird gray goop

As another way to break up the painting, I have been working on a few "extreme" restorations. One of these pieces is, of all things, a Hutton custom. He was sent to me because he had some VERY serious epoxy lifting issues. Its taken me a while to muster the courage to start on him. My very first rule of restoration is similar to a doctor's: First, do no harm. I didn't want to start on him until I was absolutely positive I possessed the knowledge to repair him completely.

The first thing I did was drill a breathing hole behind his boy-parts. The popping sound that resulted was incredible-- like opening a soda can. And the smell was that of plasticky vinager... not good. Toxic smelling.

From there I got out my carbide scraper to start on the lifting on his flanks. The moment I put my tool to it, I knew I had to get out my camera. It just didn't seem like other repairs I've done like this; and boy, was I right. I left the images big so you can click on them to get the full experience. :-)

When I repair a lift of this nature, I first "trace" the outline of the lift with my scraper. This cuts through the paint and gets at the source of the problem: the epoxy is no longer attached to the plastic. To repair it, I pull off the detached piece and re-attach with Zap-A-Gap (or, more recently, an *incredible* glue called Last Glue. I need to write about it... I will do that soon).

Normally, there is nothing unusual about this process. Pull off detached piece, sand both surfaces, put piece back on. But on this horse, when I cut through the paint and pulled up the edge of the piece, I got that same toxic smell. I put on a mask just in case. It was then that I noticed that the veins on him were also soft. And gooey. When I lifted the rest of the piece off, there was a mystery gray goop. It was gooey and pastey, and I have never seen anything like it. E=Mc2 was known for using 'non conventional' media on their horses, so I can only assume that this goop was originally some sort of adhesive? I have no idea. If anyone has any idea, I would definitely LOVE to hear!!

In any case, I removed all the gray goop with my scraper and Bestine.

Once both pieces where clean, I sanded them lightly and then re-attached it as I would have any other repair.

The catch: I have no idea how to deal with the veins. My thought is that some of them are not veins at all, but drips of goop that has leaked, and traveled beneath the paint. They are soft, and in my handing I opened one them-- to find a clear sticky goop. All this makes me very nervous, as my WORST fear is that there is some sort of chemical decomposition happening on the inside of the horse that I cannot fix.

I started on his other side, and found the same gray goop. Time to remove it, and piece by piece, get this guy put back together. I will continue to document this repair for all of you to see!

I am leaving each piece off for a day or so to let the plastic breathe and be exposed to the air. I am going to start at his rear and move onto his belly and then his chest. All the lifts look very similar, so I expect to find the same in each lift. I just wish I knew what it was! I also will show how I match the paint and media used. This I am still mulling over. I love these types of repairs-- they really make me THINK!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Indian Summer

The past few days have been just so gorgeous out.. its hard to believe that its the middle of November. Yesterday was about 65 degrees... the day before that was around 70! I'm not so foolish to think that it will last... winter is bearing down on us New Englanders and its only a matter of time before we are buried in snow. It is forecasted to get colder every day this week till its in the 40's.

While the warm reprieve lasts though, we all have been enjoying the nice weather thoroughly. I caught Legs snoozing in the warm sun today and it was so darn cute. I called to her, she opened her eyes and took a step ... and then started dozing again.
Although the show horses are all blanketed now, the rest of the horses are getting quite fuzzy. Especially the babies!! One baby I am particularly fond of... probably because she is Legs' full sister, named Macy. There are 5 babies currently on the farm, all (soon to be) geldings except her... and she is the boss-hoss without a question when it comes to the boys. The girl holding Macy in the first pic is Nora, and Nora is 5'5". Macy is 6 months old... she is one big baby! And the thing is, she is not even the biggest. Her half-brothers are all about 2-3" taller than she is. She will probably mature the same size as Legs. The family resemblance, especially in their faces, is just uncanny. Its like the same horse but in different colors.

According to Mrs. Shepard (the farm owner), Legs apparently was a bossy little brat too at that age. I don't believe it. Not MY sweet and wonderful Leggsie! It just goes to show how much babies can change from when they are weaners to when they are 2 yr olds.

This is the farm Legs came from: www.PrinceCharlesEnterprises.com
You can see Leggsie's sisters, brothers, and all the rest of farm there. :-)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This Old House

As anyone with an old house knows, maintenance of it can be a full-time job. Something ALWAYS needs to get repaired or repainted, restored or replaced.

Our house was built in 1925, and was built and owned by the same family for all its years. The problem was... as the man and his wife aged... regular maintenance things started to fall through the cracks... like house painting. So when we bought it, EVERYTHING, inside and out, needed to be stripped. Our BIGGEST project has been repainting the exterior; which involves stripping 5 layers of peeling, awful paint all the way down to the wood; then priming and painting it. Towards the peaks at on the dormers, the paint was clearly original to the house. It was pretty incredible.

Its taken us a long time, but this past weekend Greg finally stripped the remaining dormer. When this piece is finished, we will be *done* with the house's exterior paintwork. All we need to do after that is repair both chimneys, the hatchway doors, and replace the windows upstairs.... it never ends!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Every once in a while, I need to do a "test horse". More often than not, these horses serve as practice, so I can move onto customer horses with confidence on how I want to do their piece. Other times, its that I want to test either a color or a technique but don't want to chance messing up on or over-working something that belongs to someone else. This little girl is a bit of a combination of both; I wanted to try a new dapple technique that had feathered edges and had a more "star" shape. This is something I could then transfer over when I do star-dapple grays.

As I moved along her, I added washes over the top of the dapples to help blend them a bit. I need to do a few more in some areas to fade them away, and then I think I will be happy with the result. I still need to finish her face, add white markings and some 'palomino mottling'. I've seen this happen on the light palominos; it almost looks like the mottling that champagnes get. I'll have to snap some pictures of it specifically from my 'muse'... a QH mare who was my inspiration.

During this experiment I also discovered that I can do a dapple by pulling up the paint with a bit of water, similar to how someone in oil paints would pull up paint with turpenoid or mineral spirits. This technique will prove to be extremely useful for subtle dappling on bays and chestnuts. Its something that I have always known I could do (I've done this for pulling up colors and shading that I wasn't happy with)... but I think in the future I can make the conscience decision to layer my paints in such a way that I can pull them up to make perfect, subtle dapples.

Once I finish this beast I can move on to the dappley critters who she was a test piece for!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

more on my little girl

What can I say, I love her to pieces and so I love to share all about her! Here she is getting ready to be a naughty baby and pull her sheet off the fence.

I've gotten several emails about asking about her pedigree. She's got some pretty famous branches on her family tree, which you can see here:


On her mother's side... her grand-sire is BirdOnAWire, the same grand-sire of KY Derby winner Mine That Bird. Further back is Mr. Prospector... Native Dancer... and farther back, Man O War.

On her father's side, she has The Hunter, who is in the Appaloosa Hall of Fame. Further back is Impressive, Roman's Straw Man, and Prince Plaudit.

I hope to have a video soon to share of our adventures together. She is coming along just brilliantly under saddle... I really am so proud of her!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

mmm.... perlino goodness

There aren't many colors that I don't look forward to painting. I love all horse colors, and their subtle nuances... however, this guy turned out way better than I ever expected. Now, I am a traditionalist when it comes to morgans and the colors they come in. So, when I got a request for a perlino morgan... I was curious as to how it he would look all finished.

Well... to be honest... he was one I really enjoyed working on, start to finish. I'm not sure what it was... perhaps the ease of how the colors blended... or perhaps that I am such a sucker for a pink nose and blue eyes. Perhaps it was that I love Knightly Cadence in any color! He was just a joy, and I was so happy with the results.

In the side shots where I was able to catch a bit of the sun, you can see the shimmer to him, and more of his true color. Warm and buttery! If you click on the images, it will blow them up to full size. :-) The one of his eye is really nice!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Studio Cat

This week has been one of heartache... in that my childhood cat, Foxie (who lives at my parents) went missing. Foxie was a very distinctive looking cat. He looked like a Maine Coon; tiger-colored with white, with a huge fully tail and long, luxurious fur. He was just beautiful. When he went missing, I called every local vet, the humane society, animal control, and asked all the neighbors. We put up posters all over town. No one had seen him, no one had any information. We have a lot of coydogs and coyotes in our area, and so as the days go by the chance of finding him or having him come home become slimmer and slimmer.

Today I had a bright shot of hope when I got a phone call from a lady who got my number from a local vet. She had called them to say she had found a cat, and they told her that I was looking for one that matched that description... even down to the fleacollar that he was last seen with. She got my number and called... and when I heard... my heart jumped in my throat. I told her to please bring the cat over right away.

Sadly... it wasn't Foxie. This kitty did match my description, with the exception of that he is a pastel tiger (tiger with the dilute gene). He actually looks a lot like Foxie's sister, who was hit by a car last year while I was in KY at NAN.

I was really sad that it wasn't OUR kitty, but it was a kitty who needed a home... and from the looks of him, a good meal. He is mangey and skinny, and looks like he's been on the streets for a while. I gave him some food and a warm bed in the studio while I tried to figure out what to do with him.

So, now I have a studio cat. My mom is still very upset over Foxie, but warmed up to this little guy when she came to see him and he jumped in her lap and purred. I am hoping that even though he will never replace Foxie, that he will help make the loss less painful since this little guy will need love. First and foremost he needs a new fleacollar, to get his shots, and to get fixed. He is 'quarenteened' in the studio until that happens. I left him tonight... I hope he is on his best behavior. I asked my mom to check on him before she goes to bed to make sure he isn't doing evil cat things. But, he seems like a pretty mellow guy, so I have the feeling that he is just going to get some sleep in a nice, secure place.

My dad is going to be harder to convice that this new cat is a good idea. But, I think he will warm up to it. He's a really nice cat, and I think my dad will like him.

I still hope Foxie comes home though.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Birthday Present!

Ok, so she's not REALLY a birthday present... but since my birthday is in 19 days, I thought it fitting!

I am *thrilled* to introduce "Legs"... who is officially mine this week. She is a 2 yr old Appaloosa filly who will be my new project over the winter, and I plan to show her in the spring/summer in hunter under saddle/western pleasure... and when she gets older, over fences. She is so fancy I can hardly stand it. She is so mellow... and such a little sweetheart... you just wanna smoosh her nose. Today I hopped on her bareback and we rode around like she was doing it her whole life. Initially I had a bit of apprehension of getting a young horse with a lot of TB in her background (if that wasn't obvious!) and a mare at that... but she is such a doll, I would trust even my husband on her back. Her face is just so pretty... such a delicate little lady!

It was really just this past month that getting a 2 yr old became possible. Lilly, my draft cross mare, is going to live with Jenn Scott. Jenn has a young horse of her own, who is not ready to take on the rigors of the type of showing Jenn wants to do (eventing)... and so was in need of a mostly finished prospect that would be ready to start showing as soon as this summer. Lilly fit the bill PERFECTLY... and so when Jenn agreed to buy Lilly, I started entertaining the idea of getting a 2 yr who was started but that I could finish with the intent to show. And, my first love being stock horses...and when I met Legs, I was smitten.

I will of course take lots of pictures to share before she gets too hairy for winter. Legs currently is living a mile down the street from my studio at the barn she was born at, which is an Appaloosa farm. Booger will be heading down there soon as the weather starts to get cold so I can ride right through the winter. It will be SO nice to have an indoor to ride in when there is snow outside!

ps.... I'll be getting her a nice new halter this coming week. :-D I'm thinking PINK!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lilly... in her clay mold!!

I just got these photos from Jenn Scott today of Lilly all clayed up!! How much fun is THIS??

Jenn is doing her casting and production. It is so exciting to see the process along the way. Most standing horses need a 3 piece mold. One piece for each side, and then one piece for in between the legs (that's why on most standing pieces you prep, you see the upside down V in the chest and under the tail).

I can't wait to see the next piece of her progress!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Boogie's home!

After 4 years, my gelding "Booger" is finally home from his lease. He was being leased by an 8 year old who was showing walk-trot... and now that she is done, I asked for him to come home. He got off the trailer today, and it was SO nice to see him. They have been taking really good care of him... I laughed to see him with such a big belly!

Booger is a once in a lifetime type of horse, because he is totally inflappable. He's been this way since he was a baby; nothing rattles him. Even though he hasn't been on our farm for years, and even though there were lots of changes (particularly next door at the neighbors, since they didn't have horses when he left)... and he looked around, thought to himself "Huh, that wasn't there before" and walked around a bit, rolled (stopping halfway to have a snack)... like business was usual. He didn't even seem to notice the 2 mares in the pasture next to him *freaking out* because of the handsome new man that they've never seen before.

I look forward to working with him this coming week. He hasn't been ridden all season, and before that he was ridden by a kid who weighs MAYBE 40 lbs.... so I'm sure there will be some grunting and groaning when I get on! :-)