Saturday, December 27, 2014

Reference Junkie (That's Me)

In the model horse world there is a term that some people call themselves... "Performance Junkie".  That would be someone who's really into performance showing, as one might imagine.  When we started the laser business and I decided to create a line of model horse themed items, I knew I had to make some Performance Junkie stuff - and we've sold several of them already!

Desktop tribute - English

Ornament - Western

I've come to realize that I would call myself a "Reference Junkie".  (though that might not be so catchy of a phrase to put on a laser-cut sign)  I have an obsession with collecting reference materials, namely pictures of horses.  For a while now I've planned to document my routine of reference picture collecting, storage, and usage.  I thought it would be fun to offer a glimpse into my creative process and maybe help others with some more ideas for how to start or manage their own reference library.

So here goes!

I have reference pictures in three main forms - digital, books, and cut outs.


For the digital files, I initially keep them in a "Horse Reference" folder in My Pictures.  Then every so often I sort them into folders by breed, color, pose, etc. 

Inside many of those folders, I have the pictures further divided into specific color patterns or poses.  For instance, inside the Color-Pintos folder, I have folders for Pinto Faces, Tobiano, Overo, and Tovero.

If I'm working on a specific custom horse, I might create a folder specifically for that project and sort pictures into there.

Some of the pictures are ones I have taken, others are from different sources and photographers.  Often, as is sadly the case with online pictures, I have no idea who or where they came from.  If I had any plans to sell or repost the pictures, I would try to find the original sources.  Since they are all part of my private collection and for my own use, I don't usually have an original source noted.  If I do know where the pictures originated, I often use that as part of the file name - something like the ranch name or photographer.

Moving on to hard copy pictures...


I have a ton of horse books, no really, a ton... (maybe even two tons?)  For the most part, I keep my horse books separated into two parts: reference and real horse use - training, care of, and so on.

Here's a glimpse of some of my hard copy reference materials, on a shelf in the Studio room:


(there are many other books scattered throughout the house, on other shelves, that fit in the reference category...)

For books, I flip through them and mark pages with pictures that interest me and that I'd like to come back to.

Jeff is amused by this.  He's watched me tagging pages in book and he says if I tag every page, why do I do it?  I don't tag EVERY page, but a lot I guess.  Case in point, one of my newest books, freshly tagged a few days ago:

I like looking through the books for the first time and getting ideas.  Then I figure I can go back when I'm feeling uninspired and look at the pictures that inspired me when I first saw them.  Sometimes I make a note on the tags (on the part that sticks out) as to what is marked, so that in the future if I'm looking for something specific, I can get back to it quickly.  I don't do that as often as I should!

Cut Outs

By far the most labor intensive part of my reference library would be the cut outs.  (but I do have a lot of fun doing them!)

I start with magazines and cut out any pictures that interest me.  The first step is to put all of the cut out pictures into some sort of container - I really like pencil cases (I have a ton of those too) for any picture that will fit in there.

For larger pictures, I either put them in a box, or load them into sheet protectors.

Then, much like the sorting of digital photos, I sort the cut outs by color, breed, pose, etc.  I use the pencil cases and sheet protectors for sorting too.  That way if I'm interrupted, I don't have piles of cut out pictures everywhere to get lost or messed up.

After sorting them, comes that part that I have the most fun with, making layouts.  I use sheets of white cardstock and three hole punch them.  Then I gather my cut outs and some glue sticks and go to work.  I make sheets based on how they were sorted.  For example:




I then sort layout sheets into binders, again by color, breed, or pose.  Sometimes I use the divider tabs to separate out sections, particularly in larger binders.

As for actually using them, I have a few paperclips pinned to my desk that I can hang layout sheets from.  Here's a random one I grabbed for the picture, only one cut out on it so far:

A side note, I also have a bunch of magazines that I think are just too cool to cut up, whether they are old or just chock full of neat stuff that I don't want to cut them all apart.  I treat them like books and just tag the pages with pictures of immediate interest. 

Here's an example, this stunning Arabian magazine that I came across:

Whew!  Well, I think that about covers it.  I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my creative process and if you're a Reference Junkie too, maybe it will give you some ideas on adding to or managing your collection.  If you have any ideas for storing and using reference pictures and materials, I'd love to hear them!

Since I've finally returned to showing, I'd like to start a collection of reference materials for showing.  I'm big on unusual colors, breeds, and performance events and I'm sure I'll need to start building up some documentation for all of that. (Wheee, another reference junkie project!!)  All of the above is just for customizing... though in the case of the cut outs, if there is something unusual about the photo, I'll cut that out too and use it in the layout.

I'd love some ideas on collecting, storing, and using show documentation!


  1. Thanks for sharing your process - looks like you have a ton of cool references!

    As a performance junkie myself, most of my references have to do with performance. I have a few folders on my computer for real horse performance pictures and model horse performance pictures. I sort by class/event, and then some are specifically the whole set up while others just focus on the props/tack. Some are sorted further into pose/gait. Then I have more folders for Word documents with write ups on rules, what sort of equipment would be needed to set up a class properly, etc. And then finally I have folders for the Publisher files for my actual show documentation pages.

    Once I print out a performance ref/documentation page, I laminate it and then store it in a three-ring binder in a plastic sheet protector. I have dividers to sort the documentation into Other, English, and Western Performance, and then I also have separate sections for Trail and Games since those can usually be used for either English or Western. With each reference page, I also have an explanation card (or sometimes variations). When I'm prepping for a show, I have another binder I use to bring on show day, and that's sorted by divisions and put in the order of the class list so I can grab things easily as I need them. I just take the whole page out of the at-home binder and put it into the show binder where it needs to be.

    I have a similar system for halter references too - files on the computer for breeds/colors, then folders for the actual reference page files, and then a binder for the print-out versions plus a separate folder for show day.

    Hope this helps, and good luck with your future show research!

    1. Thank you so much, Janna! It does help a lot! Your way of organizing sounds a bit like what I am doing already (as far as folder structure), except for putting text and pictures together. That's good news, it should be easier to start getting set up.

      Sometimes when cutting out pictures, if there is a caption or part of an article attached that describes something I think I might want to know later on, I'll leave it attached. But my current way of doing the layouts wouldn't allow me to easily use just one of the pictures. Maybe I should start thinking ahead and putting those "unusual" pictures with documentation on their own cards or half pages, something like that. I do like the idea of having text in Word and then combining it with the picture(s). I also like how you have home binders and a show binder - great idea.

      Thanks again for sharing! :-)

  2. Holy Guacamole! I wish I was as organized as you are! I am in awe! No one can figure out my organization, although I know where every scrap of fabric and lace is in my workshop. But YOU put me to shame!

    1. Haha, all is not quite as it seems... I TRY to be organized and on top of things, but it is a never-ending struggle. I have a system for some of it - like the reference pictures - but other stuff is just piled and stuffed in different places. Ah, the life of a creative person... ha!