Saturday, February 28, 2009


Oh MY!!! I got my copy of Imp today, and I had no idea how TINY he is!! He is just the most adorable little morsel.... my mind is swimming with ideas for him. SO CUTE!!! I've got frame overo on the brain... against my better judgment (I have other horses I really need to be working on!!) I think I'll be getting him ready to paint this coming week. I will post pictures of him here before he goes up for sale.

mmm... fuzzy...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why my airbrush hates me (and visa versa)

When I first started painting model horses, like so many I started with an airbrush. I tried for years to try and make it work for me, and tried several different types of airbrushes and types of paints, but we never got along. It was a love-hate relationship... I would have LOVED for it to work, but each time I used it, I HATED it. It was early in 2007 that I pitched my airbrush into the garbage and started fresh painting by hand. And this I believe was the biggest turning point in my work.

Although I will never attempt completing a horse by airbrush again, it wasn't long before I realized that base-coating by hand took me FOREVER. So, I caved and decided to get another airbrush for base-coating purposes only. I did some research and found the Paasche H, which has an external mix and a gravity-feed cup.

For those of you who love your airbrushes... who take good care of them, and meticulously clean them after each and every use... now would be the time to look away, lest you run screaming into the night...

And with that disclaimer, here is how I keep my poor airbrush. It sits in a Windex/water solution full time, and I change the solution about twice a week. What I do is after I am done spraying, I flush it through with straight Windex to get the excess paint out, and then just set it into this cup. From the looks of it, I need to change it again....

I love the Paasche H because of the external mix. The paint never goes through the actual airbrush, and so it won't get wrecked it if you don't clean it exceptionally well (or at all...). I don't have the patience for cleaning it over and over and over (probably another reason I hand-paint). I use Windex because it keeps the paint from drying in the workings. It does dry out the rubber sealer around the tip, but that is a cheap part to replace and I've only needed to replace it once or twice in the 2 years I've had this thing. The cost of the airbrush is $65, the replacement parts (the whole mixing assembly) costs $10 to replace. I replace the mixing assembly probably once ever 4 months depending on how often I am using it and how mean I've been to it. The cost of the compressor... well... its a bit more. I got a good one for $350, and it has an automatic shutoff and a regulator. You really need between 60-90 psi to keep the paint from glopping up.

Now, I don't recommend you treat your airbrush with this much hate and disdain... but hell, if the Paasche H works through these conditions, there is NOTHING anyone else can do to it to wreck it. The Paasche H is the workhorse of all the airbrushes... and although I use it exclusively for base-coating, with a fine tip you can probably do more detail work. It saves me a lot of time and is really dependable. And, I've fired other stuff through it too, like bronze coating. I don't recommend that either. It doesn't like that. But, I've done it successfully!

So, if you are looking for a good general-use airbrush which takes a LOT of punishment, the Paasche H is the one for you!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bambi and eBay

She's now officially up at auction, and this is one of those VERY rare occasions I opted for eBay. I had sworn off eBay quite some time ago, since its so full of fraud and the fees are just ridiculous. But, since I didn't know how to price this particular piece, I figured eBay would declare the fair market value. However... I didn't realize though how MUCH the fee structure changed until after I listed her.

You can see it here:

They seem to be catering not to the sellers who have a few odds and ends they want to sell, or people who have something high-end to sell... but instead are catering to the Walmart/discount-type sellers who are buy in bulk to resell at lower-than-retail prices. This makes me sad, since it is another shining example of how our economy and culture is changing from mom-and-pop stores to favoring the huge buy-in-bulk giants. We've gone from a people who believed that all things good are worth waiting for to a people who only care about instanteous gratification. Quality and uniqueness all to often becomes secondary to a low price and having it now.

Sociology has always intregued me (it was actually my minor in college). One book in particular, called "The McDonaldization of Society" really outlines this trend and offers a really keen insight on it going on in our world right now. It was written by George Ritzer, and is a pretty interesting read if you've ever gotten frustrated with how there is a McDonalds or Starbucks around every corner. You can find it at Borders:

Back to eBay... the overall greed of eBay/Paypal is what really turns me off to the whole system. Here is what I found out when I actually did out the math. It cost me $7 to list that foal. That included the ad being bold and also a reserve price ($3). I also found out the charge for the reserve price no longer goes away if the reserve is hit. Hmm.

The new fee structure also says that eBay gets 8.75% of the first $25 (which is basically $2.15... I don't know why they don't just say that) and then 3.5% of the remaining final value. Ok. So lets say that the foal sells for the current bid amount, which is $200. So, according to this fee structure, I would have to pay eBay $2.15 + $6.13 = $8.28. PLUS the initial $7. So the total fees for listing the foal are $15.28. This is 7.6% of the total value of the sale. Then couple that with fees from Paypal (another lovely eBay company) which are 3.5%... and between the two of them, they've eaten into over 11% of your sale. YIKES!!!

Of course, by the time I actually did this out she was already listed. I will not be using eBay in the future, and I really encourage other artists to do the same. I will probably start using Auction Barn... if more artists use it, it will become THE place to find all the newest and hottest pieces, then it will enjoy huge popularity... and that of course benefits the whole hobby. But, as a hobby we need to make that effort. Of course its going to take a while to get it really rolling, but it has the potential to be the answer to the exorbitant fees that eBay whacks us with. Its kind of a Catch 22 (also a great book)-- no one wants to use it until it becomes popular... but it won't become popular if no one uses it. The more artists choose to use Auction Barn, the faster Auction Barn will gain popularity. So, the next time I need to auction something off, I will list it there.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sneak Peak... "Bambi"

I don't normally paint plastics, since normally we don't get along. Give me a resin to take apart any day... but plastics are just an enigma. That being said, I am so enamored with all the pieces that Maureen Love has done, especially the classic mustang family. They are just so charming, and have this amazing personality that all her pieces share. I had this little mustang foal hanging out in the studio and decided to use her for some experimenting. She's been in process now for a while, and just this afternoon I was able to finish her.

The first thing I did was make her fuzzy. I recently had the honor of doing a restoration on the amazing "Elvis" by Sarah M-B, who has a fuzzy texture to him. This got me thinking about how to go about that, and used my little mustang as the test piece for this technique. "Bambi" was the result! She has been redetailed and painted, and I'll probably put her up for sale tomorrow. Here are some sneak peaks of her face. I'll take studio photos tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Intro: Painting in Acrylics

On a lighter note, I thought some of you might find peeking into the process of how I paint. I will always take photos of horses in-progress so I can study them larger than life on my computer screen. Sometimes its easier to see flaws or weirdness on the screen than in person, especially when painting minis since I can blow them up REALLY big to look at the details.

Its rare that I'll actually share photos of something before it is finished, since I know its hard for people to see how the horse will look complete when he is looking all weird and awful. And with that, I'd like to share with you this Dinky Duke. He was one of the in-progress pieces I had to put down last week, but found some time to fuss over him today since he really needs to go out. I'll share the finished pics tomorrow.

Intro: Painting with Acrylics

This is going to be a quick rundown of my process, but I will get more in-depth with it on a different piece (something larger and easier to see). My process is a bit different than how others paint I'm sure; half because I am using acrylics, half because I work from dark-to-light instead of the other way around. I start with base-coating the horse with one of the darkest shades I plan on using. Here, Dinky started out black since he is going to be seal bay.

Once his base-coat is dry, I start working over it in washes, moving the very lightest color next. The wash ratio I use is about 75% paint to 25% clean water. Since I mix the paints themselves with extender; there is no need to add more. Another note--the paints I mix have a higher concentration of pigment, so I can add the water and it doesn't make it too translucent. Even still, it takes several washes to make it opaque, and takes a long time to get it the right place.

Here you can see where I've started on the pangare. I have 3 washes on his right side, with no blending just yet. Another quirk of mine is that I work front-to-back. I start at the muzzle and work back to the tail. I even do this when customizing something; it helps me see where I've been and how far I still need to go. So, on this side, you can start to see a bit of blending down his neck.

Once I get the lightest values blocked out, I can blend in the middle values to create shading and depth of color. I've gotten a little farther on his left shoulder/neck.

Here you can see his finished face, before any coats of Krylon (this is why it still looks a bit streaky; that is caused by the different mixes/intensities of the paint layers). Once it gets sprayed with finish it will be completely smooth and even.

This dinky is going to be an appy. That, along with finished pics, will be tomorrow's entry!

Life... interrupted.

Art and life are irreversibly tied together, as so much of our work is impacted and influenced by what is going on our day to day. In my world, this most notably is seen in how long it takes something to be finished; as a bad day here or there, or something going on so quickly eats up the time that would have been spend painting.

The past two weeks have been quite difficult in terms of finding time to paint. I usually like to have a stretch of 6-8 hours of quiet, unadulterated time to work on things. I can't focus if there is a lot going on, and the work suffers because of it... and so if things get crazy, I normally put the paints away until I can my quiet time again. I don't function well in chaos (which may surprise some of you who have seen my studio)... its actually more of a people-related chaos... I prefer to spend my afternoons alone with my paints and dog-children. When people start getting added into the mix, I tend to become agitated and frustrated very quickly.

This agitation usually comes because of being bothered by 1) my mother, 2) my sister, and 3) other members of my family who need me to do this or that which I can just drop everything and do for them because I am working from the studio (re: I must be available since I don't have a 9-5 job). This has been an ongoing problem since I started working at the studio at my parent's; although it affords me the space to spread out and make messes away from my house, its created a whole different problem of being called upon constantly simply because I am there. The schedule I keep is actually rather strict and I do make deadlines for myself (I have to, or else I'd be fussing over horses till the end of time).. however because my car is in the driveway and I am in and out of the kitchen at my parent's, I make myself a target to take care of things that they don't have time to do because of their "real" jobs. (this annoys me to no end).

What ends up happening is that I let my clients know when their horse will be finished/shipped... and then a day or two later I get pressed into service again and my entire schedule is thrown off. This makes me look quite unprofessional, and I know I need to deal with this, since its long become an epidemic. The problem is that I can't say no. Its so hard for me, since I don't want to let anyone down. And, recently, I feel I can't say no because its been in regards to our real horses and my grandmother, both of which if I wasn't there to take care of, then it wouldn't get done at all.

Part of the problem is that my dad has been away taking care of his brother, who is now in his late 80s. His daughters are not in a position to help sort things out and he and my aunt really need to be in an assisted living place. So, my dad traveled out to Indiana (2 days drive) to try and sort through things. Dad's been gone for 2 weeks now, and while he has been away, I've had to get to my parent's house at 8 am to feed and turn out the horses, clean the stalls, and bring them back in at night. This wouldn't be an issue if my mother AND sister didn't live at the location that I am driving 35 minutes to get to. Its been made a bit more complicated in that my grandmother, who is 93, was hospitalized last week for a very serious bacterial infection. She is home now (she lives at my parents), but all the medications and the infection has left her very weak and so she really requires all-day supervision and help moving around. So, now, along with the barn chores, I am in and out of the kitchen to make her breakfast, tea, lunch, help her around, help her clean up, help her clean the kitchen... there goes my unadulterated day of painting. I don't mind looking after her; I grew up with my grandparents living in the same house and so they raised me as much as my parents did. I am more annoyed that I am bearing the brunt of the responsibilities when there are in fact other people who live in the same house and they can just walk to the barn. I can't seem to get my mother to understand that *I don't live close by* and that its costing a fortune in time and gas money to go back and forth and run all the errands.

This has how it has been for the past 2 weeks, and so I am approximately 2 weeks behind. This translates into about 100 hours behind!!! This is insanely frustrating to me because the show season is FAST approaching and I need to get my own 2 show horses as well as a few customer orders done in time to get qualified for NAN. BLARG!

I do feel better after complaining a bit. Sorry to unload...!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

planning a live show

This weekend I found myself greatly distracted since I've started planning a live show of my own. I've never hosted a show before, and so all the planning, preparations etc has my head spinning! My plans are for an all stock-horse show, to be named "North East Congress Live". A preliminary classlist can be found here:

I am still waiting on exact dates and locations, but it will be in South Windsor, CT in the beginning of September. As I started planning, the first thing that came into my mind was awards. And thats when I got REALLY distracted and against my better judgment, started sculpting a special medallion just for the show. Here he is: "Vegas"! He was sculpted after the 'real' Vegas, who is a Zips Chocolate Chip baby. It was his photo I used in the logo as well. I'm going to offer the medallion unpainted in a limited edition run to help fund the show, and then very special OOAK customized pieces will be given as awards. The whole medallion is 4"x4".

I still have some work left to do on it; the pieces are not attached to each other yet, which is why there is that shadow underneath his neck. I would love to have some other artists finish some of the awards for me; or perhaps do some auction pieces. Its still very early for all of this; I need to be working on other stuff! But, he just kind of happened along and I am happy with how he turned out.

The other side of the coin is that in doing him, it has REALLY made me want to start working on a full horse. I love doing medallion sculpture, but I am really wanting to get an armature built and start working on a full sculpture. I'm still trying to work out the details in my head of what exactly that should be. I still love the idea of doing Lilly, but also want to do something that hasn't already been done to death. I have some sketches of ideas... perhaps I'll scan those in to share later in the week.