Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Year in review!!!

Well this first chapter of our adventurous new life is coming to a close with the close of the year. It started out with us selling as much as we could of our possessions and moving 800 miles south, to a very foreign land to me! Quite exciting for a gal who never stayed more than a month away from central CT my whole life.

So I still love it here. I’ve gotten homesick for a few things but not much... which is surprising all things considered! I wondered about the holidays and I guess the ability to chat folks up on the phone and the relief at not having to zip around for a few hours here, then an hour drive and a few hours there… in between stopping at a barn to feed some horses (my own or the therapeutic riding program’s horses). I honestly can’t remember a holiday last when I stayed “home”. So that was nice! I hope we can start up some traditions of our own off of this. :)

Overall the year saw many transitions for me. I’ve become painfully aware that my forte is not painting horses for money – I’m very slow at the painting and always have been. Just as I’m exceptionally slow at prepping too. I know that sculpting has seemed slow for me but to be honest, it’s mostly been because I’ve been tinkering at it.

This year I decided to get more serious too about the sculpting and move back to ordinary modeling clay. In 2011 I’ll probably play with firm and soft or wax versions but overall, soft clays (pottery clay typically) has been my normal (before 2001 that is!) sculpting media. This year I decided to tackle the issue of casting the work with these clays that never harden.

In general in sculpting this year I’ve gotten several sculptures done while down here already. Here’s a new one for the people who’ve made this possible for us by letting us live in their in-law space while we get established here. This is their dog Pepper. I had my fianc√© take a few pictures the week before, got a wild hare to try and sculpt him and wound up literally putting the final details on him on Christmas day.

When sculpting I’m completely in my zen state of mind and I literally fail to notice things going on around me. In college on time I looked up to find the entire class standing in a group nearby staring at me. I guess the professor had called a halt to things to do a demo or something… but there I go merrily plugged along completely oblivious to everyone stopping and his calls out to wrap it up… I was a little relieved that he told the class it wasn’t entirely a bad thing to get so “lost” (except when perhaps alarms are going off or things around you that maybe you SHOULD notice are happening and well, then there’s me – merrily oblivious still!). One time my fianc√© came home, walked up to me and stood for a minute or so in the studio before I noticed him next to me, hovering over me actually, and yelped/screamed in surprise. Anyhow, time flies when you’re in this mindset though – that is for certain.

I hope this coming year and decade will bring a lot more new sculpture faces out for me. I’ve been transitioning my site over to be more sculpture-focused. I have several works going on but producing sculptures isn’t just a matter of conceiving and creating them. It involves daunting ways of getting them made into a permanent media somehow. In the past my love of Apoxie Sculpt was in great part due to this. However getting proportions in hardened clay isn’t a minor trick. I like to think of these last 7 years of sculpting horses for artist grade resin releases as proportion training so that I might really express myself now!

We also hope to be moving sometime in 2011 – hopefully this time to our first home. Homes and mortgages down here are very much a fraction of what I paid in cheap rents back in CT. Again too, my fella here is a engineer turned timberframer/welder and now is going back to the workforce in the office.. soooo I’m pretty sure he’ll be hard to hold back building things. We have a joke about this “shed city” that his father has in CT (some 10 sheds I think but he sold antiques and really puts them all to good use still, as well as the neat old barn). Anyhow, the joke now is that I may be facing my very own shed city. As long as some house horses however I’ll be fine… ;)

Reflecting more globally on how my life has already changed so much, while I’ve never been a fan of putting all my eggs in one basket, this past year has been a departure from my former tactic of eggs all around! I’d already started it out with my hours of my part time job cut more than in half… from 18-20 to 8 (2 days a week @4hrs ea). We turned around and did a major clean out – and we still have a lot of “stuff” by most people’s standards. The tough thing is that both of us have actually made income off of our “stuff”.

When I sold my boarding business in Feb of 2009 I had kept most of the tack and tools in storage in another building on the same property where I leased the 6 stall barn.. there were several truck loads full of equipment. I had a photo of it but we think it was deleted – it was a crazy tag sale with people pouring in for hours. We had it piled up pretty densely, with one car/truck worth of space and a car trailer filled to the max with horse & tack stuff… and then another truck parking space and a garage space inside filled with his tools & equipment. And with my horsie stuff, some of it was sold before the actual tack sale spread out– friends came by to buy stuff for their horses, a couple of local biz owners made appts to come over the day before (biz or private I was surprised at how much was left even after that!!). And still we had tons to spare. Consequences of a few decades of hoarding averted eh? So much of that tack & equipment had been acquired, not purchased. So a lot of it was priced at just a few bucks. It was really something to spread out my possessions for a tack/tag sale – mentally a major clean up of a former era. I wasn’t even sure of a lot of it’s value; like sweetmouth western bits (I don’t even know what they look like new, I’m sure I’ll learn down ehre though, western tack stores were rare up north and it seems like English ones are rare down here?). It was REALLY hard to let even the stuff just given to me go; it just always is great to have this or that around to grab when needed... For example boarders and friends borrowed stuff all the time there and I was so happy to have it to lend. It always had a way of multiplying/spreading like good karma too when you lent/gave it away....!! I might give away some keepers and then the boarder gave me a saddle rack later… Too funny - you can't make a pile like that go away, it just NEEDS to grow! ;) Good times of course but literally, I sold as much as possible (pricing crazy low) because I’m sure someday when I start over again here I won’t have half the storage inside you get in new England type barns. In the meantime a lot of stuff gets ruined in storage no matter what you do. And what’s that saying? You can’t take it all with you!!! :D I still have a lot that didn’t sell – so it’s not as if I totally gave away all my possessions. I could get a horse tomorrow and not have to buy anything tool or tack wise .. I’m pretty sure. ;)

When we got down here I’d already set up and booked to attend Breyerfest in the Artisan’s Gallery, so I leapt into painting up a bunch of horses I’d had here that were prepped. I thought 6 was impossible but then a 7th was added with Breyer asking me to paint sometime for their benefit too. In the end though I had a couple that weren’t quite done in time. When I got home I’d planned to leap into wrapping up my one sculpture. What I wound up doing was a lot of soul searching in general about focus.

And that’s where I’ll wrap this lengthy novel/essay/ramble up with I think… In general I’ve been pulling back and saying to myself “well what is working and what isn’t here”.

In the meantime though? I’ve at least been able to get a studio dog!!! :D Dogs are great for one’s overall mindset (well for me anyhow!) and I am just certain I’d have gone a little stir crazy without this awesome goofy gal to randomly leap up and play with here!

The rest of the time obviously I have to keep her penned up... ;) (I'm kidding of course!)

Transitions take time but the journey so far hasn’t been really nearly as tricky or horrible as it could be. We’ve found all kinds of really neat free and fun things to do around here too. Just yesterday we picked up 5 pounds of pecans (weight in shell) in the park. Last night a few cups were peeled and I suspect that today I’ll take a break and try my hand at a pecan pie. We still have some ingredients left over from Christmas (sugar isn’t normally something I have on hand). It’s been fun doing things as a couple. Going forward too, there are whole new avenues to explore around here, I got him a trail trekking GPS for Christmas so hopefully we don’t have any more explorations that veer too far off course. Literally and figuratively!

All the best guys and here’s to a really exciting 2011 eh!!!!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wrapping up another horse, and an era for me! :)


So this gal was created by starting with an airbrushed base coat in acrylic. Then I painted several layers of oils over that to deepen and get the right contrast to the dapples. Still, that was pretty new for me – I never painted so few layers of oils before but the “shimmer” and blended look was just right to me so hooray that I could leave it there. I only just got an airbrush I could use for base coat well the year before, and I’ll never master it enough to paint by airbrush. Plus I really consider myself an oil painter despite the mixed media – I can’t get my look without oil paint really…

Let me pause here and just be clear, I’m reflecting on my own work and my own creative process specifically. I’m a harsh critic of my own work, but I also really get manic about what I do so being exceptionally objective about my work seems necessary. Anyhow, so back to this gal….! ;)

Then the last step – the one I get hung up on and could do infinitely; using black, grey and white pencils with crazy sharp points & smudgies (tortillons)… to get those super fine points & then to get them blending out here and there.

(Click above to enlarge a lot!) If you enlarge this you can see the black, grey and white hairs a bit more easily than on some areas of her body where they're blended in more. I spent these last few months trying to make some areas more obvious.

So here on this dappled gray mare I’ve worked since July and just wrapped it up here in Dec on this last step alone. Not straight through mind you obviously, but picking at it, here and there, adding to the haircoat pattern. And that’s what isn’t worth it to me in the end. No one can see it – even *I* can’t see it so well in normal room lighting. Let alone judges or owners half the time. Although I know owners do like it of course! It’s just come to this point where I say to myself “this is really silly of me to be doing – it’s has no (really unique over the top type of) ‘zow’ factor”. (And let me be clear - I personally would love painting ordinary normal roans for example... without lots of genetic haircoat pattern add ons.. but I've got REALLY BORING TASTES personally!) ;)

And it’s absolutely exhausting. I love doing it but the “better” ones are harder to see. As it should be and yet too subtle all the same.

Of all the commissions I have left, only one (well 2 sort of) are non-hair pattern colors. I have 2 more fleabites (one very dappled, one mostly fleabites), one appy and a roany gal who’s almost done. The roany gal is more dramatic – and the appy will probably be popular too. Still? The color I’m most looking forward to doing is this liver chestnut. And possibly a bay sometime down the road.

The hair patterns show up on a computer screen at enlargements 20x real life, but in real life people just glance and miss them. Walking by your shelves, your table at a show, what have you. Hair patterns need to be accompanied by overall color patterns that are more dramatic. The macroscopic/microscopic factor – eye catching both when you stand back, the whole pictured is “dramatic” and when you lean in too inspect closely. In fleabitten colors that’s pretty hard to do well – something you can see from 40ft away across the room that makes you want to walk over… and then keeps you studying closer and closer once you get there. From across the room they just look grey. Closer up they just look speckled.. But while I’ve seen (and should strive for more often) lots of varied examples the painting style that mimics inked illustration techniques, that is to say the character of the shading is to outline essentially – creating a vastly more dramatic look that pops. It’s surprisingly easy but underused. In terms of realistic, it’s hard to fault too because it simply mimics a horse in studio lighting, verses outdoor lighting. I need to do this more often but still, where I tend to fail is using too much light in the studio and then getting into real world lighting and not being able to really see what I’ve done so much.

Great for photos, fun to look at up close in good light.

(Click above to enlarge a lot!) This is the now finished (in Dec) flank of an example where I made her roany coat nearly agouti and thus a lot more noticable from a distance. It's fun to not blend them in so much but I prefer the blended ones too... even though they are pretty hard to see, even for me. The funny thing about these is that I keep going back to them over and over again - the anxiety for me is in saying "done" every bit as much as it is in waiting to hear if a customer is happy.

In the end, the real sticking point for me is the agonizing. This roany mare for instance. I did this whole neck and then erased it all and redid it. And THEN after the hairs were down I decided they were a little too stark in spots and painted them over. In this case the owner who’s getting her doesn’t show so I don’t have to worry about judges from across the table spotting her. ;) But no seriously, it’s one of my favorite patterns ever but it’s also been one I’ve been working on finding a “flow” for since this past summer. And at Breyefest, a lot of people peeked at her but I know not so many spied the little hairs. And I did myself no favors by not having her whites and hooves done completely by then. For me the showmanship of finishwork is hard too. Similarly, I consider myself a functional illustrator but it’s just very challenging for me and I’m never really satisfied with my work there either.

Soooo I’ll share these last few that will actually leave my studio for a while here. And breath a HUGE sigh of relief when owners happily get them in hand. I was telling someone recently that there’s just this crazy anxiety I get over finish work that I don’t have when selling unpainted resins. Sure it’s the extra costs of course too – but even when sending a $300 paint job to someone, I get pretty panicky! I don’t rest until I know the person has the horse safely and loves it. I worry STILL that oil paints will do some weird thing down the road, or that areas painted in acrylics will crack/peel god only knows… it’s just NOT for me. I’ve played more than once with the idea of looking into lacquered paints that Breyer and Stone uses for ARs somehow. That honestly would alleviate some of my worries… just adding a MAJOR one of health in there instead while the paint bonds/dries.

So that’s the long and the short of it. Sharing a few last horses here. This will hopefully be going to her new owner soon, I left the poor owner hanging as I agonized these last two months over the last of the details... She’s definitely one of my favorites in that I’ve only completely a couple of dapple greys – the rest were redone/or sit undone because I’m not happy with them. Somehow the planets aligned for her and I’m just tickled as I really like the look of this dapple grey style on this sculpture. :)

Ok, but you KNOW that I hope to paint up a Johann in a simple color very soon though… ;) Just because when you sculpt some horses (this happened for me with the bay Hazel too), you just see them in this “look”. To me he has a “look” and I do hope I can do that reasonably quick as well with airbrushing/oils. :) Well, well see… it probably won’t be major time investment of a wildly haired pattern however. Just something to keep on my shelf as a demo horse.

Well back to it now.. I've got a desk of medallions to address here. And I've neglected to point out to folks that 1 of my medallion editions was 2010 only & that's wrapping up in 2 weeks... I meant to do that last week - oops! (Well I've been having a week of "getting to know you" moments working out registry error issues with my computer - gifts compliments of Microsoft!). Aaaaaand I'd rather be doing AAAAAANYthing than that!!! ;)

Friday, December 3, 2010

New faces? New website!

It was loooong overdue! I was really tired of the black look. It was too contrasty to me, and I never managed to get the simple look I was trying for anyhow. It's more work to clear away around sculptures to get a "clean" look, but it's not like I'm sharing new faces every week. Hopefully I'll be sharing new ones much much more often (smaller editions, many many more faces - goals for 2011!)... still I'll just clean up the images.

The hardest one was this Fenwick from last year.
He's under a section I've hopefully more clearly labeled now "Past Editions". Almost all of the others were done. And sadly, I still haven't recreated galleries for those lost of my earlier works. At least they're almost all there... except for "Colt Mango" which is one little resin candidate I've really wondered if I should restart in clay to make my life simpler (wee brittle legs won't hold detail - they chip/flake off!).

I've got Johann a placeholder page there. My Serendipity medallion is only going to be around for a month... And my finished resins section is all over the place sort of still... PLUS some weird glitch seems to have come into effect on the interior pages in Internet Explorer... dangit. I'm not going to sweat over it today I think...

Just check links... ack that's the toughie (because juuuust once in a while I do really really bad web designer practices like keep my online folder arrangement different from my beta area's!)... Anyhow, it makes me sort of want to see if there's a quick way to convert my blog. Fresh start all around? :)

I honestly can not WAIT to share more new faces... and back to that... these last few painted horses here - they make my heart soar - it's been hard to call them "done" (one of the BIG reasons I am laying off painting for a while..!).... but yay they're nearly ready to share too! :D

Oh duh - my website is here;