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!!! ;)

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