Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nuances of Conformation

Alright all you halter judges out there! Here's a great exercise that I think would be much more helpful in the model horse world. Below are three photos of horses the same age and breed (3-4 yrs old, Appaloosa). Place them in order as you would a halter class, and explain why.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Canter Cadence Question

Say that ten times fast!

So now that I have things starting to come together, I need to put the leg nubbies into a frame. A suggestion was made to put him on the ground, totally base and rod-free... which certainly appeals to me. Here is what I was originally thinking:
With the rear toe touching the ground, and a short acrylic rod in the down front foot for 3 points of contact. But, would people prefer something else? Here are some other ideas:
I'd be curious to get your thoughts on it!

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Muse

Having a long weekend turned out to be a really good thing, because not only did I get to make an armature and then cut it up, but I also mapped out a torso and leg-nubbies. "Leg nubbies" are, for lack of a better description, bits of wire with joints attached to them. Right now they are separate from the body, since they aren't strong enough yet to support the heavy mass.

This piece is drawn from my own selfish desire for a loping pleasure horse (who still will be coming, mark my words!). After sending some of my confidants pictures of what I envisioned, I was told that they wanted something bigger, more forward, and more versatile. So... that told me that I needed to do something other than a stock horse. I still want to do something cantering, since there are a million and one trotting horses out there; and still wanted to do something that will be performance friendly.

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for draft crosses. They have this charming, naughty quality about them. Prior to Leggs, I had a draft cross who rode like a couch. She was a point-and-shoot jumper that made it so easy to fly around a course, and being so smooth it was like riding a cloud. This is the type of horse I wanted to capture in this piece. I had tried a small classic-sized version almost 2 years ago (that never really got off the ground), but now I wanted to try it again with new techniques and a fresh outlook.

In hunting for reference, I came across this guy. He is *perfect*... the body type I was looking for (heavy but not too heavy), and a face that is just gorgeous-- reading immediately both drafty but refined. The soft eye is just perfect as well. This guy, Charlie, is going to be my muse for this next piece. Pics coming soon of the armature once the leg-nubbies are filled out and it can stand on its own!

And here is the pose for this handsome guy:
Base or no base? I personally feel no base in favor of (short) acrylic rods... but I definitely need feedback!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Leggies all finished!

Slow to post this here, I know! But, since the last post still showed her headless and bald, I figured I needed to update it with a finished photo.

After she went up for sale officially, I got a lot of people asking of what size she was, for the purpose of seeing if she would fit regular sized tack. Needless to say, I went to my tackbox (which I haven't been through in about a year) and dug out my newest saddle. It was SUCH an unexpected joy to tack her all up. Dave came home to me playing ponies at the kitchen table... it was the first time he's seen me do this, and he just smiled. He knows how long its been and how I've been in a performance-showing funk for what seems like forever.Just like the real Leggs, she has the perfect face for a bosal!
My own copy of Leggs will be a portrait of the real little princess. Bay!! My favorite color. I am going to continue to experiment a bit and try painting her in oils. Why not, right? I do all my portraits on canvas in oils, but never tried it on a model. I figure if its going to be a disaster, it might as well be a disaster on my own model, LOL! I'll definitely show the progress here.

I want to I plan on focusing more on sculpting over the next few months to see what propagates. Leggs was created by literally cutting an armature apart and building her in pieces. I found that this gave me much more control over symmetry in her face as well as overall quality-control; I could fuss over one piece of her without getting overwhelmed by the rest of the unworked sculpture. There were some minor issues putting the pieces together (requiring some dremmeling and resculpting), but the overall result was WELL worth it, and by far I think that this process was successful. Now that I feel like I have a method that works well, I want to keep pushing. I will be building a new armature next weekend, and I'll post pics of that as well. I think you guys would find it interesting (mostly because its unusual) how I put it together and then cut it apart.

The hard part now is coming up with a rough concept. I have ideas floating around for what to do next, but nothing set in stone. The model of Leggs was a piece born out of my desire for a portrait of the real Leggs, and a burning desire for a walking stock horse that I can performance show. I think working from a live model gave this piece a down-to-earth quality, so I want to keep up that look now that I've found a sculpting method that works. I'd be open to any ideas...


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Slow... But Progress!

As I wait for her face to dry and get ready for assembly (yay ears!), I thought I'd snap a few more in-progress shots of the body of Leggs!

Since the last pics, I made a few changes. My goal is to capture a 4-5 year old mare, mature through her frame but still delicate in her features. I thought that the way I had it sculpted prior, she looked too gaunt over her back/withers; there just wasn't enough muscling. So, to give her more youthful appearance I raised her back and added further muscling across her hips and shoulders. I also filled in the rib lines since I don't think that was working and I'd rather have her nice and smooth through the belly.

Overall she still needs detailing, sanding, and overall prepping. Her head will (finally) go on this weekend and I can finish her general sculpting through her neck and throatlatch. From there she'll get some serious smoothing and finishing before her mane/tail go on. She will have a short, loose mane and long, natural tail.

If all goes as planned, I will be wrapping her up this month, then off to MVS to be cast! Details on that though will be forthcoming as I actually get her finished and I hear what the time-line is from the caster.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day!

About a month and a half ago I started a fantastic new job as the Project Manager for a luxury home builder here in CT. Beyond the job description, they brought me on also due to my art background--and so I've been doing all their design work, website, and promotional materials.

This past week, my boss gave me a roll of blueprints on a house we are working on (we are in the framing
stage) and told me to stretch my creative capabilities... in order to do a color rendering of what the house will look like finished. I haven't done a lot of architectural paintwork (um... ever) and with just the general idea of what it would look like in the prints, sat down to start laying out the lifework, followed by mixing colors, and figuring out shadows. After working on it all week, Friday I was able to snap this photo with my iphone to really look at what had come together. While not a great photo by any means, I think its good enough to share!

It will be getting scanned this coming
week in order start using it for promotional purposes. The size is 28"x28", and the copyright was added and not on the original piece.

Its been a long time since I've done a complete watercolor... actually, I haven't touched my watercolor paints for about 5 years, back when I was doing much more portraiture. This particular piece was an interesting challenge to say the least. What made it difficult was that there were no reference photos, just notes on what each component was made from (cedar, blue color swatches, copper roofing on the bells, etc)... so everything had to be cross referenced with the blueprints, and then also my boss who can see the finished house in his head. He seemed quite pleased with the results.

Being able to sit and paint like this was both mentally exhausting and hugely satisfying. It has me creatively inspired in all sorts of ways, and now that the studio is back to a workable space, I have all sorts of projects lined up to get finished. I also have put the website back up again ( so that people can access the archives until I get the new site up and ready to launch. I have high hopes for May... I have to keep this spring momentum going. There are things to do! And things to create!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Illustrations that inspire...

I came across this illustration when looking for pictures of miniature schnauzers for a portrait project. It both captivated and disturbed me... to where I felt compelled to keep it... and share it with all of you!

I am not sure who the artist is, so if you know, certainly chime in.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Creative Space

Every artist has their "space"where they create. Whether it be a tabletop, a room in their home, or in another building, the studio becomes a highly personal space and an extension of the artist themselves. Regardless of how it looks to the outside observer, the way things are organized, where everything is put, or found, or placed-- has a specific reason or purpose; we organize our studios the way we organize our thoughts and our creative processes. The studio space becomes a place of comfort, of familiarity, and of creation. A place where we, as artists, can shed the weight of the rest of the world and sit down and create for the shear joy of creating... it is our safe place, sheltering us from the harshnesses of the outside world and allowing us freedom to let our imaginations wander and our hands to put those ideas into physical form. The studio is our bubble, it is our haven, it is a retreat where we, as artists, have total control over our domain from the moment we walk through the door and sit down at our desks.

The level of emotional connection to the studio space is something I did not fully appreciate until it was taken away from me. From the time I was 16 years old, the back room in my parents warehouse (what used to be a tobacco sorting warehouse) has been my studio. It is an oak lined room with a large sliding door, where through the 1920 through the 1980s, crates of dried broad-leaf tobacco used to be stored in order to sweat out the extra water in order to cut down the shipping weight. As I continued to do more and more in that space, both with painting and the model horse hobby, my father and I divided the room so it could be heated. It started with putting up plastic and a kerosene heater for cold days, and then when I needed to use it year-round, he built the walls with sheetrock... insulating it and then finishing it with brand new windows, paint, proper heating, lighting and fans. He built me a spray booth, put up drawing boards that I could tack pictures up on, shelving to put my horses and art supplies, and anything else I thought I needed-- he made sure was there... even providing me with a stereo so that I could listen to music.

It was a space that I grew into, that I filled with my reference materials, my beloved art books, and all my supplies. Over the years I spent countless hours in that room, working on everything from portraits, to art projects for school, to xmas presents... to when it became my full time studio for the model horse hobby. This room was my sanctuary, and I would retreat to it whenever I needed a moment to myself or when I needed time to close out the stresses of the rest of the world.

And, it became that way for alot of people-- a meeting place, where both other artists and friends would come to visit and just hang out.

It was for this reason that this room became my bedroom when the time for it was needed. It has been a room I have always found emotional shelter, and so I did not think twice to pack up my art things and convert it into a living space. Packing up my things-- my books, my horses, my paints... it all seemed ok since it needed to morph into something new for the immediate time being. And it served me-- it stayed my haven, for a long time... but in my heart a grew a hole from not having a space to create.

The hole continued to grow as I had no place to work, and so when I moved into a new apartment, it became imperative that the studio must become that again-- a place of creation and of emotional refuge. While empty, the room became a target of interest for other family members wanting it for their own purposes-- and it was when they moved personal items into my room that I realized how fiercely possessive I was of it. This was MY space, MY room-- and while I hadn't moved back in yet, the connection I had to it as a creative sanctuary became clear. It was a highly charged situation, since it is very hard to describe to someone who doesn't understand the need or the emotional connection of an artist to their creative space.

I moved back in a table and my spray booth, and my painting/sculpting supplies. My stereo, a few unpainted projects-- to be able to sit and create again. However, it was not back to how it was, it was not back to how it needed to be for me to fully remove myself from the rest of the world and just... be. While I've been able to plug away on projects, I have not been able to just walk in and sit down without thinking about all the things that still need to be put back in the places they were.

The process of moving everything back started with my books. My books are something that have huge value to me, and that they've been sitting in boxes for a year has bothered me to no end. My old classics-- an original copy of Black Beauty from the 1950s and an original copy of Misty of Chincoteague were just a few of my prized relics that met a fate with water damage and mold that brought me to tears. These are things that have brought me joy; things from my childhood (the classics actually were given to my mother by my grandmother, which were then passed along to me.) My grandmother's ancient oil paints and battered brushes, from when she was a girl, are scattered in a ripped, water-damaged box that they were stored in. To someone else, they are just old paints... but for me, these are items that I connect to the people who gave them to me... and now, that my grandmother is gone, they are that much more important to keep safe.

Putting everything back in its place has been more difficult than I expected, since it is so emotionally charged-- seeing my books ruined and the pages crinkled just tears me apart. Things I had put away so carefully... and because I am not the only one use the warehouse for storage, they have been shoved, moved, and put in harm's way. And seeing the space totally unkept, in total disarray as I moved in everything all at once, rattled me and I had to take a moment to compose myself. This room has been so much for me; and to see it in total chaos puts me in a bad place in my head.

It was yesterday afternoon, as I had to shut the door and walk away from the mess, it dawned on me that the act of putting back together the studio has become a metaphor for life much larger. Beyond organizing a creative space, it is about putting my life back together... in each facet, with every piece put back its place.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Getting back into it

Starting a new job has made it a bit difficult to get things moving on Leggs, but I will have her face finished and attached to her neck this weekend! I'll get n a tail armature and a general idea. So far feedback has been great! I am excited to see her come together. More pics coming soon!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sneak Peak of "Leggs"

Here are the very first photos of "Leggs"-- The portrait of my mare. This is the piece that I have been quietly working on this past year, and will be releasing in a very limited edition if the interest is there. She is regular trad. size.

A bit about her...

This piece has actually ben a bit of a learning curve since I did it very differently than most people would. I created her armature, and then actually cut it apart-- sculpting her in pieces. She is comprised of 8 pieces, and then put back together. I just this past week assembled everything and smoothed the seams... and the last piece remaining is her face/head. I found it much easier to do it this way since I could really focus on detailing each piece, and also it was easier not having to hold and manipulate a solid heavy piece around when I needed to get to a certain part of it.

Overall, I think that the results (for me) have been great with this process. While she is far from perfect just yet, she is coming along really nicely and I am happy with how she is coming together. One thing I noticed when looking at these photos is that I need to bring up her topline a bit and smooth out where I attached her hips since its quite severe. I also think I'm going to blend out the rib lines I have on the left side... they aren't really working, and I don't think Leggs has ever had ribs showing in her life.

The reason I have left her face for last is that I am languishing a bit over it... I feel like on a model of a mare, the face is quite important-- you want her to look feminine and delicate, so she reads as a mare right away. A beautiful face can sell it-- a perfect example that sticks out in my mind is Stacey Tumlinson's "Scarlett". That horse has a beautiful face, and it really made her endearing.

My mare has one of those faces. Call me biased, but I think she has one of the most beautiful faces I've seen... not just on a stock horse, but on any horse. She has this large, dark eye,
delicate ears and muzzle. This photo isn't a great one of her profile, but it is a great one of that little nose. It is important to me that on her portrait, the face be perfect.

Here is the start I have on it so far. I think the eye needs to be a bit more open/rounder, so that will be something I need to get dremmeled and reworked. The other side right now is just fleshed out, without any detail besides eye socket, cheek, and nostril.

I wanted to get one side done first so I could match it to the other and hammer out how I wanted to handle sculpting certain aspects of her face. I wanted to capture that bright expression she has in the above photo, so both ears will be upright like she is walking right toward you with interest. I wanted her head up and relaxed, while still low enough so that she can be used for performance without having to be customized.

So, I have my work cut out for me... lots of tweaking to go from this stage forward. I will have larger, detailed photos by the end of next week when I get her head finished and in place.

My goal is to have finished photos of her by the middle of April. Feedback would be greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Back in the saddle!

If you also are on my yahoogroup, you know that things are kicking into gear here at the studio. I have it (more or less) put back together, I have a new piece that is almost ready to share with the world, and I just got a new job where I will be working normal hours again. All of these things have me filled with a new sense of hope and optimism. The piece I am working on, a trad. sized stock mare, is definitely the best thing to come from my hands yet-- and later today I will be posting some in-progress photos of her.

Releasing a new piece, regardless of whether an artist has been active or inactive, is always a bit stressful. Feedback only tells you so much, and its hard to tell how it will be received when it actually goes up for sale.

Its been a year since I have been out of the hobby. Comparatively, its not that long, (but long enough) and so I've been doing some 'due diligence' lately to see what's selling, and what's not. It surprised me to see that things are pretty much as they were last year... in the finished resins, there are LOTS for sale, for much lower prices-- some pieces I saw for sale at half their price from the original artist. This kind of trend is a little depressing... but what I also saw is a still strong support of the original artists, and that people are still looking for horses and tack as they always have been. The hobby is still alive and evolving.

I was talking with a friend of mine who is a miniature painter (as in, she does very small watercolor paintings). We were going back and forth over how things were and she said that the art world has been feeling the economy too-- she is not having the same sales that she used to, and has had to really shop herself out to new galleries to carry her work. In 2007, she was like 6-8 paintings a month... now, she is lucky to sell 1-2. Its amazing what a few years can do.

The difference between the hobby and the art world, however, is the type of collector. We are even different than the model railroaders (to whom we've been compared often)... because we use the pieces we buy to compete. This puts things into a very different perspective for the collector; creating two different types. The type that collects pieces to have forever, and the type that collects pieces in order to compete well at shows.

While there is no right or wrong approach to collecting, it does effect the artist community and what it is that we create and offer for sale. Scale is a huge one. For example, there are a lot of mini and trad. sized horses, but few classic/LB sized horses. Its funny how the hobby market dictates the preferred size of what models should be. Color is another huge one. Some colors just sell better than others.

So I am throwing this out to the community at large... what do YOU collect? And why? What makes your heart pump when you see it flash across your screen on the MHSP? What aspects are most important for you in a model?