Monday, April 24, 2017

Motivation Monday - Create a Vision

I was already way behind on blogging before this trip and spending a month on the road has left me even MORE behind.  I'm actually not struggling much with motivation these days, what I have is more a lack of time to get much done (and a limited amount of supplies *wink*).  I'm already eager to return home and get back to work, fueled by things I learned at BreyerWest (more on that in other posts coming soon) and after inspiring visits with family and friends.  In the meantime, I present a (short) edition of Motivation Monday.  As always, I hope you have a great week!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Trip So Far

I have several more in-depth posts planned, but I thought I'd post a quick summary of the great adventure so far.

First up was BreyerWest in Albany, Oregon.  The first day was the Open Show; here's my table, complete with a display of horse-shaped-objects from Japan.

That night was the Swap Meet!  I had taken a selection of laser-cut things, along with saddle pads, CM SMs, my first ever Arabian presentation offerings, and a few other random things.

The next day was the A Good Vintage show, I entered a bunch of my oldies and won a few tiles!

After BreyerWest, I flew to Rapid City.  While there, I visited a few friends, including Paula, who has Friesians!  I watched her take a lesson on her newest horse, a Friesian cross mare named Lexi.  After the lesson, Paula asked if I'd like to ride.  Yes!

Then it was on to Aurora, where I visited my friend Heather for a couple of days and then went to see Jennifer,  That visit was filled with foal visiting:

a trail ride (!!):

and a fun day of models and tack making!:

Next up it was on over to my hometown, where I stayed with my Granny for a few days.  I also visited with my dad and Grandma (his mom).  I got to see their family cabin up in the mountains.  It is beautiful up there.

After Colorado, it was down to Arizona where I saw Bo and his friends.  This is his best friend, Houdini.

A few short days later, it was off to Texas!

There, I reunited with Jeff.  We did a bit of sightseeing in Texas and then went up to Arkansas to see my daughter.  

We had a good visit together, including a whole day spent making mosaics and going to the Little Rock Zoo.

The very next day, Jeff and I set off for Virigina.  I was feeling depressed and drained from the emotional goodbyes (again) of Granny, bo, and my daughter, all one right after another.  Jeff asked me if there was anything I'd like to do along the way to Viriginia.  I did some research on the road and decided that the Memphis Zoo sounded neat.

So, we ended up going to two zoos in two days.

We have been in Virginia for a couple of days and are already packing up to move on.  That's been the theme of this whole trip, for me anyway.  

Today we set out for Pennsylvania.

There may be a stop at Chincoteague and Assateague islands on the way...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Trip Check In

First off: Happy Easter!

I am finally stationary for more than a few hours, somewhat rested, nothing else going on for a bit, AND have Wi-Fi.  So I figured it was way past time for a quick check in.

I'm a little over halfway done with the Epic Tour of the US.  Two days ago, I reunited with Jeff in Texas and we are now in Arkansas for a couple of days.  It was good to see Jeff again after a few weeks on my own, touring the western half of the US.  It's also really nice to not be the only one doing all the driving - hence the reason I am sort of feeling rested, finally.

The great picture upload, sort, and edit has just barely begun and I wanted to share this picture first.  It's my handsome Bo boy at his vacation home in Arizona.  I took a bunch of pictures of him and also my friend took several pictures of us together on my last morning there.  Stay tuned for some Bo spam!

There is SO much that I want to share about the trip so far, and it's not even over yet.  I may have a month or more worth of blog material to wade through and compile.  For now though, I just wanted to say "hello!".

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

BreyerWest - I'll be there!

I've been cooking up this announcement for a little while.  

The original plan was a trip to the U.S. to visit family and friends (and Bo!!) in April.  Jeff mentioned that I might want to go a week earlier to have more time to visit.

I had already looked at the NAMHSA Live Show schedule, ya know, just to see if there might be any shows in any places I might be, in the time frame I might be there.  Much like I did when I ended up visiting Arkansas and discovering there was a live show (Mid-Ark) right there, right when I'd be there.  (yay!!)

The stars didn't seem like they would align this time.  However, I did see that BreyerWest was in Oregon, in late March.  Well, I'd be flying into Seattle, from Japan.  Hmmm.. close, but not enough.  Ah well.

Then came the idea of leaving earlier for the trip.  Hmmm..  How about if I leave a bit earlier still and...  maybe, you know... go to BreyerWest...?

So, I am!!

I've spent the last few weeks juggling dates, hotels, planes, trains, and automobiles (no, really) and as of last night, the last puzzle piece is in place and, it's official.

I'm going to BreyerWest!

Side note: I'll have some goodies to peruse in the room sales and Friday night Swap meet at the host hotel, here's one of the things I'm working on:

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Shift

I've been slacking off on posting here for a little while now, but I've been busy behind the scenes.  I've been making some things and thinking, a lot.  When my blog goes quiet, it's almost always because I'm dealing with "stuff".  Mostly mental/emotional woes.  There's been a lot of that lately.  This post has been rattling around in my head all this month, but parts of it have gone on for years.  You might want to grab a beverage and a snack before we get started...

Anyone who has read my blog for a bit probably already knows that I've been struggling with... too much stuff.  That being: material things cluttering up my studio to the point where I actually do most of my work in the living room...  Ridiculous, yes.  Though partly that is because I enjoy binge watching on our big screen, I would like to be able to create more things in my, you know, creative space.

I'm also dealing with a lot of mental clutter as well.

For a while now, I've been thinking that a big cause behind both sources of clutter is that I just have too much to do.  Or rather, too much that I want to do.  For a looong time, I've joked that I'd have to live to be 300 to do all of the things that I wanted to do, as far as creative projects.  That may not even be an exaggeration.  That may not be enough time.

For the past few years, I've ranked my creative pursuits in my head:

1 - model horses (this is still a broad category, which includes: sculpting, painting, tack making, prop building, showing..  etc, etc...  I used to think that painting and sculpting ranked over tack and props, but I'm not sure on that - this could be a post all on it's own and may be in the future)

2 - paper crafts (hence my mountain of paper, card stock, a bajillion stamps, stickers, all sorts of gadgets and gizmos and paraphernalia)

3 - everything else is lumped in here (everything else is still a lot: tatting, jewelry, home decor, and the results of random Pinterest brainstorms, things I've found on the beaches here, and so on)

I've gone around and around and around with this, for years.  I was recently talking to Jeff about all of it, again.  I told him I felt like NaMoPaiMo was an eye-opening experience.  I felt far more joy painting Antar and seeing his presentation set through to completion, than I think I've ever felt doing anything in category two or three above - or anything really, unless it be training real horses.

His response was somewhat surprising, but maybe it shouldn't have been.  He said that if he had total control, he would pull everything out of my studio room and only put the horse stuff back in there, get rid of everything else.  He's suggested for a while now that I do just that.  I thought about it and said that I'm thinking that's what I should do too.

Easier said than done, of course.

I did start on the process, not in so drastic a way, simply because I'm quite sure he doesn't want the rest of the house buried in my craft stuff while the Great Sort (number 683) occurs.  Instead, I pulled out all of my rubber stamp collection, piled it on my desks that I'd cleared off for my klast minute painting marathon on Antar, and went all KonMari on the mountain of stamps.  I considered each stamp in the pile, one at a time: "Does this spark joy?"  Yes, move to keep pile.  No, move to go away pile.

While a clean sweep does sound appealing in its own way, I don't think it's entirely realistic.  I DO have stamps and "other" craft things that spark joy.  I would still like to be able to make a greeting card or three when the mood strikes me, but I don't need enough supplies to open my own store.

Next comes the "getting rid of".  I know that I should probably just bundle it all up, drop it off at the thrift store, or put it in the front yard with a "FREE" sign (or throw it away), and be done.  That's what the experts would say.  However, that's hard for me, because I can't look at things that have value and not try to get at least some value back out of them.  Maybe it comes from growing up poor.  Maybe it comes from the fact that I don't feel secure in my life right now.  Maybe it's because some of these things (like stamps from my Granny) have sentimental value (that's the worst when it comes to getting rid of anything, I know).  Maybe it's all of it.

I was thinking that I should set a hard and fast deadline for myself.  Say, give myself a week to try and sell whatever is in the go away pile.  After that, it all gets donated or given/thrown away.

There is a deadline of sorts coming up, with scary speed.  In just over a week, I leave to go on my visit back to the U.S.  I'm trying to decide if it would be nice to come back to a cleared out studio (in other words: should I bust my butt over this next week - with all the other trip pressures looming - or not) or if it would be easier to go through it when I get back, with a fresh mind - after I've been out of THE MESS for 6 weeks or so.

I don't know.

What I do know is that a shift needs to happen and I'm feeling fully on board with it now.  This is thanks to Jennifer Buxton's idea of NaMoPaiMo and the realizations I had as a result, on what makes me happy.

I didn't really have any pictures to illustrate this post, but I think this one is appropriate.  I shared it on my Facebook page yesterday.  These little tassels make me a lot happier than a pile of rubber stamps do.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I Did It

The cry of triumph on the NaMoPaiMo Facebook group when one finishes their model is: "I did it!"  

It took me all the way up until the last day, but..  I did it!  I worked off and on at his prep work all month and painted him on..  the last day.

I'm happy, and relieved, to present Antar ("hero, strong one, warrior").  He is an "Anubis" resin, sculpted by Sheri Rhodes and painted by me.

The other thing I accomplished is a presentation set for him.  This is, officially, the very first completed piece of Arabian tack that I've done.  

I'd like to eventually do write up on here about Antar's creation; I took a bunch of pictures during the 12 hour painting session yesterday.  However, I couldn't wait to share him on here.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Tutorial: Hand Painting With Craft Acrylics

Disclaimer: The pictures in this post do not show me creating a LSQ horse or anything considered good quality.  I grabbed an unprepped blank stablemate as my model, and skipped several steps that would be done in my regular work (in addition to prep).  I wanted to focus on technique and tips and get this tutorial out ASAP to anyone who might want to use some of these ideas for their NaMoPaiMo project.  ;)


Way back when I first put paint on a horse, I used cheap craft acrylics, I think it was most likely Apple Barrel brand.

I've come a long way, learned a lot, won lots of NAN cards and even a small handful of live show championships and reserves...

... and I am still hand painting, with cheap craft acrylics.

One of these days I'd like to be brave and try other mediums (airbrush, pastels, maybe even oils), but for now, craft acrylics are still my jam.

It can be hard to find tips on how to work with them.  It seems they are something a lot of people start with and then move on to other things.  I never did.

Here's a quick list of pros and cons about using them:

Fast drying - you can finish an entire horse in one session, if you want to.
Cheap - usually around $1-$1.50 or so for each color
Easy to find - about any place that sells craft supplies: a dedicated craft store, or even WalMart.
Easy clean up - soap and water clean up, no need for potentially harsh chemicals
Thin with water - again, no need for chemicals

Fast drying - Yes, I listed this as a Pro as well, however: makes it hard/impossible to blend colors together on the model.  There are products such as drying extenders that can slow the drying time and possibly allow for more blending, but I have not used any of them.
Can't really be sanded, can be hard to touch up smoothly if nicked
Delicate finish, easily scratched - however, a good coat or two of spray sealer fixes this and they are actually quite durable with a good clear coat over the top


Here are the tools that I use:

A horse to paint
Makeup sponges
A pallet or something to mix paint on/in
Flat toothpicks to mix paint
Paper towels, for cleaning brushes
A cup of water to rinse brushes
And of course: paint.  I haven't found any issue with mixing various brands of craft acrylic together - ceramacoat, americana, folkart, apple barrel, they all seem to work together just fine.

Also helpful: instructional material, be it physical or digital (I prefer real books).

For color mixes, I use the color cards from Carol Williams' Color Formulas and Techniques book. 

They were written for use with oil paints, but I've found that most can transfer over to acrylics, or at least offer a good starting point.  Some colors don't exist in craft acrylics - like the cadmiums and so on - that's where improvising and experimentation comes in.

It's worth noting that I also have a bajillion reference pictures, both physical and digital.  Good references are crucial!

A little more information on tools:

I use the makeup sponges to apply my (thin) base coats for the first time.  I also use them to do dark shading over the body color, and to apply white over large areas, such as on an appaloosa.  I use the triangular makeup sponges, cut down into smaller pieces, since I tend to do mostly minis.  Even on larger horses, I want to work with smaller amounts of paint, so I'd still use small sponge pieces.

Here's how I cut them down:

Original sponge.

Cut in half.

Each half cut in half, lengthwise.

After cutting the pieces down, I like to round the corners on the widest end - the one I'll be using.

Small wedge piece on left, rounded corners on right.

What this does is prevent harsh edges when you are applying paint and also keeps paint from building up in the corners of the sponge and being applied where you don't want it.

I don't really have any tips on brushes.  I, uh, use cheap ones there too.  I still have the same set of brushes that I started with a long time ago.  They are nothing fancy, but they work.  Every now and then a hair may come out, but overall they've held up great over the years.  Though I've added more (cheap) brushes to the collection, this is still my go to set.

Along the way I've created a couple of "specialty" brushes (haha).  The one on the left is a 000 that has had probably half of its bristles pulled out.  It is my dedicated tiny detail brush, most often used for eyes on the mini models.  On the right is a 1 that has had its bristles cut off.  I use that for dry brushing, "scrubbing" paint into some areas.

Oh, one brush note: you want to use a flat brush on larger areas (such as the body).  Round brushes can work on legs, manes and tails, and for dry brushing the shading into nooks and crannies, but it is hard to get the paint smooth and even over a broad area with a round brush.  

Other notes on technique:

Less is more.  I try to work with small amounts on paint on the model at any time.

The lighter the color of acrylic, the thicker they are.  White is the thickest; it can't be used without thinning it down - I use water.  Black can usually be used straight from the bottle.  Keep this in mind with your mixes too, a lighter colored mix may need thinning, darker mixes may not.

Since acrylic dries so fast (a plus, I think), it's good to work fast - "get in and get out".  I do my best to smooth an area as fast as I can and then leave it alone to dry.  If you keep messing with it as it dries and gets tacky, you will get brush marks.  If you do end up with a blob of paint (too much), just do your best to spread it out smoothly, quickly, and let it dry.

When using a brush, I try and go in the direction that hair grows on a real horse, it's just something that makes sense to me.  If there is a tiny brush mark or something, it could be "hair".  I don't know if that makes any sense, but it's what I've always done.

Okay, enough blabbering - let's (sort of) paint a horse!

To apply all of that, I work in "zones".  For example: left side - head, neck, shoulder, front leg (outside), barrel (feathering into the back and belly), hip, rump, back leg (outside), and so on.

I try to feather the paint at the borders between zones; don't stop abruptly and leave a blob of paint - that can leave bumps or ridge lines when everything is dry.  I do the left side first, then the right.  By that time, the left side is dry and ready for another coat, and around you go.

I usually do each side and then do a pass down the back, then the chest, belly, and inside of the legs.  If more is needed, then I repeat the process: left, right, top, bottom.

Here's a quick series of photos, to better describe the zones:



Shoulder and down the outside of the front leg.

Barrel, feathering/fading into the back and belly.

A pause to show the top view.

Hip and rump

Outside of back leg

Top view

Right side
As you might have noticed, I don't worry about getting into the creases with my sponge; I'll get to them when I use a brush.  I like to do my base coat with a sponge, then I switch to a brush and repeat the whole zone process, until the horse is covered.

Your piece of sponge will get soaked with paint, I like to switch out fairly often, when it seems like it's holding too much paint (even after dabbing some off) another way to check is when the pores of the sponge are getting larger.  Then it's time to use a new one.

The good news is, you can actually use the same little wedge of sponge a few times.  Just cut off the end,

round the corners and you're good to keep going.  I generally use each piece 2-3 times this way.

One thing I forgot to mention in my preferred tools are these.  I believe they are french fry trays?  I bought a whole bag of them at a restaurant supply store a looong time ago, they make great disposable pallets.

The main reason I use them is below.  Here I'm getting ready to do some shading.  I put a bit of my paint in the corner, dab in my sponge, then dab most of the paint off.  I'm sure there are many other items you can use this way, but these trays are what I like to use.

I tend to do darker shading with a sponge again,  Here's a picture of some quick and dirty sponge shading on our tutorial model.  Again, I'm certainly not trying to make a nice horse here, ha!

If I could reiterate one piece of advice, over and over: use SMALL amounts of paint in anything that you do.  You can always add more, to make it darker or cover more of the horse.  However, if you use too much, you're kind of stuck.  Acrylic is not forgiving that way.  Once it's on there, it's on there and there's really no way to get it back off, without messing up more of your work (I know, I've tried).  If you do end up with too much paint, the best thing to do is spread it out as smooth as you can, let it dry, then paint back over it with your body color and try again.

To do the lighter shading, usually in tighter areas like the flank, behind the elbow, chest, muzzle, etc., I prefer to use a small brush, because it offers much more control in tight places.  I'll dab a (tiny!) bit on and work it in.

Black legs 

A particular challenge (since you can't really blend acrylics on the model) is the black or dark legs on a bay or buckskin horse, particularly where the black or dark brown color fades into the body color.  I have a two brush technique for doing that and it works well.

These are the brushes I use,  The first one really isn't all that important, anything will do, though I do prefer a small round brush for this.  The real hero of my technique is the stiff-bristled brush on the right.  This is pretty much the only thing I use it for.

If I'm using straight black, I'll just work from the cap.

Here's how I hold the brushes.  You don't have to do it this way, you could apply the paint with one and pick up the other, but in the interest of working fast and doing this before the paint starts to set up, this is how I do it:

What I do is dab the tip of my small round brush into the paint (small amounts, people!  I know, I sound like a broken record...)

Then dab some paint onto the leg, I usually put it on the hoof to start.  I don't have an actual picture of that, because as soon as it's dabbed on, I start spreading it up the leg.

Once the paint is dabbed on, I use the stiff brush to dab and work it up the leg, sort of brushing backwards.

I'll keep at this, until I have the dark color as high as I want it and (hopefully) well faded into the body color.  That's not so much the case here, trying to work over a rough sponged base layer.  ;)

The potential of the technique is probably much better shown off here.  This is a closeup of Crown Royale, my old G1 ASB custom who still does okay in the shows.  ;)

I hope all of this helps!  If you have any questions on working with craft acrylics or anything I've talked about here, please let me know.