Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall colors





Monday, October 13, 2014

Prepping progress

My weekend wasn't exciting, but at least it was productive!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cigar: America's Racehorse, April 18,1990 - October 7, 2014

The racing world has lost a legend, and to many BreyerFest goers, it feels like we've lost a member of the family, too. Cigar truly was America's horse, both while racing and in retirement. He captured the imagination of the whole country while he strung together a record-equaling 16 straight wins, and in many ways, he served as an ambassador of the sport in his long tenure at the Hall of Champions at the Kentucky Horse Park. I visited him there every year, and I'm sure many other collectors did, too.

Racing under Allen Paulson's star-spangled colors, Cigar was a late bloomer. He ran at three and four with moderate success, but he didn't really come into his own until the end of his four year-old year in 1994. In his last start that year, he captured the G1 NYRA Mile Handicap in spectacular fashion, defeating the mighty Devil His Due by 7 lengths and leaving the likes of Bertrando and Harlan far in his wake. It was a taste of things to come.

At five, he was absolutely unstoppable. He began the year with an allowance win before kicking off a string of victories all across the country from Florida to California to Arkansas to New York. He won all 10 of his starts that year, eight of them G1s including the Donn, the Oaklawn Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup, the Woodward, the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the Breeders Cup Classic. In the latter, Cigar took command rounding the final turn, and Tom Durkin famously called him home as the "unconquerable, invincible, unbeatable Cigar."

At six, Cigar traveled 6,000 miles to Dubai to compete in the inaugural running of the world's richest horse race, the $5 million Dubai World Cup. He prevailed by half a length after a thrilling stretch duel with fellow American runner Soul of the Matter. Though he continued to run well at six, traveling halfway around the world took a lot out of him, and he did not go undefeated that year. Still, he tied Citation's record of 16 straight victories, and his wins in the Donn, the DWC, and the Woodward as well as near misses in the Pacific Classic and BC Classic secured Horse of the Year honors for him for the second year in a row.

Cigar retired as America's richest racehorse with just shy of $10 million in earnings, and his career was celebrated with a spectacular send-off at Madison Square Garden. He then was sent to  Coolmore's Ashford Stud, but unfortunately he proved to be infertile. In some ways, this may have ultimately proved to be a blessing for him. Cigar's pedigree was not the most fashionable, and had he failed at stud in the usual way, he might have ended up in a breeding backwater. Instead, he was graciously allowed to live out his life at the Kentucky Horse Park where his adoring fans from all across the country could visit him year round. He was truly America's racehorse.

My heart goes out to the KHP employees who loved him best. The Hall of Champions just won't be the same without him there. Rest in peace, champ.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Highland Ponies

I've been a Celtophile for most of my life, and not surprisingly, that has translated into an interest in the native ponies of Scotland and Ireland. Unfortunately, I've had only limited exposure to these breeds in person. As a kid, I took lessons on an aged Connemara gelding named Bullet (who, despite his 30+ years, could really move when he deemed it necessary). And while in college, I had the pleasure of visiting the first breeding pair of Highland Ponies imported to the United States, Quartz of Croila and Nora of Croila. I don't have any pictures of Bullet on hand, but I do have these of Quartz of Nora.

Quartz of Croila, aged 2 or 3, with owner Bill Begg-Lorimer
Nora of Croila and Bill

Sadly, Bill passed away not long after my visit, and his pony herd was dispersed. Quartz proved to be a well-regarded stallion here for over a decade before being exported back to Europe last year. I'm still trying to track down Nora.

Though I only spent an afternoon with Quartz and Nora, it solidified my already growing interest in Highland Ponies. I couldn't have the real thing, but I was interested in at least procuring some model  versions. Frustratingly, the hobby was decidedly lacking in HP models, so I was pretty thrilled to find the Beswick Mountain and Moorland series Highland at BreyerFest that July. He's not the most detailed piece, but beggars can't be choosers, and the M&M Beswicks are some of their nicest molds.

Since then, a handful of resin Highland Ponies have hit the market, but for the most part, they are sadly lacking in correct anatomy, conformation, and type (or all three). However, Donna Chaney's curio scale Highland Pony, like most of her native breed resins, stands head-and-shoulders above the competition, and I was quite delighted when my friend Carra M. asked me to paint two of these resins for her.

The first pony had been painted by Sheri Rhodes but had suffered some damage to the legs. He also had white markings which are not acceptable for purebred Highland Ponies, so fixing his cracks provided a good reason to add some shading to his points. The lovely dappling is all Sheri's work.

Glenfinnan Chibera champed at his first show!

Carra's second AA Highland had likewise suffered from cracked legs. Because these resins are solid cast, they're quite heavy, so they're prone to cracking if you look at them wrong. Once repaired, the second pony received a flaxen chestnut coat. It's a very rare color in Highlands.

Lassair of Lonmay

Working on Carra's AA resins inspired me to pull my own AA Haflinger off the shelf. It's the same mold as the Highland, but with slightly different hair. I decided it was high time I painted him---he's been kicking around my studio for years---and besides that, I hadn't painted anything for myself in ages. I thought he'd make a nice portrait of Quartz.

Dunharrow Quartz of Croila
Moving on to plastic models, Brigitte Eberl's new classic pony mare for Breyer makes a very passable Highland though she was not sculpted as such. Carra sent two of these to me as well for new paint jobs. Talk about HP heaven!

Several years ago, Carra visited the Brownbread Highland Pony Centre, a farm that is home to a couple of very rare silver dapple Highlands. The color traces back to ponies from the Scottish island of Rhum, and Brownbread is working hard to preserve the beautiful color. Naturally, one of the Eberl ponies had to be silver.

Brownbread Bell Heather

And the other is a classic grulla.

Coventry Skye Blue
My painting mojo continues to flow, and with models like these to work on, it's no wonder! Carra's ponies will be shipping out this week, and other commissions will be following soon. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 31, 2014


A recently completed portrait of Alydar, the tenacious rival of the 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed. Alydar famously finished second to Affirmed in all three legs of that contest, the combined losing margin being less than 2 lengths.

Though Alydar is nearly always mentioned in conjunction with his great rival, he was a tremendous racehorse in his own right. He faced Affirmed 10 times, and while he was victorious in only three of those meetings, he was such a determined runner that he is as much beloved by racing fans as if he had won them. And for all that, his racing resume is hardly shabby---it includes wins in the Champagne, the Great American, the Tremont, the Flamingo, the Florida Derby, the Bluegrass, the Travers, and the Whitney.

Alydar also proved to be an outstanding horse in the breeding shed, siring superstar Easy Goer; Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeders Cup Classic winner Alysheba; Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold; Travers winner Turkoman; Horse of the Year Criminal Type; and champion filly Althea to name just a few.

The sad story of Alydar's untimely demise is well-known, so I won't repeat it here. Instead, I'd rather remember Alydar for his incredible talent. Here's his run-away victory in the 1978 Whitney Handicap:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I have several unfinished posts I've meant to make here for the last few months, and with one thing or another, they haven't happened.Work has kept me very busy during the day, and prepping and painting models has kept me busy in the evenings. This means I haven't done any blogging here in WAAAAY too long. So, to catch up...

After one of the coldest...


and most unpleasant winters in recorded Chicago history, spring was slow to arrive.

The crazy cold temps were not conducive to priming or sealing horses which made painting a slow process, but once May rolled around, the weather finally improved. It actually became pleasant to be outside. It was quite a novel experience.

Spring and summer have been surprisingly cool and un-humid (until the last week or so) which allowed me to make huge strides with finishing commissioned pieces.

It's been a very quiet summer for me otherwise though. I wasn't able to make it to Springamathing this year, alas, and while I did go to BreyerFest, the weekend passed all too quickly. I enjoy chatting with my hobby friends online, but I really, really miss getting to spend time with them in person. Because of this, I've been feeling disconnected from the hobby lately. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it to any shows in my area anytime soon, but I'm going to (really, for real, seriously) try to keep this blog and my collectibility blog more active. If I'm writing about the hobby and my participation in it, such as it is, maybe I won't feel like such a recluse. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chiberia and New Year's Resolutions

If you live anywhere in the United States other than southern Florida or Texas, you've probably been experiencing extremely cold weather recently. Here in Chicago, the polar vortex effect has been dubbed "Chiberia." To wit, a week ago Monday, the high here was -14 with a windchill of -43 which broke a 20 year record. And we got something like 18 inches of snow to add insult to injury.

 Yep, this definitely happened.

Needless to say, between the holidays, the abysmal weather, and AT-ATs running amok downtown, not much has been happening in my studio in terms of priming or painting. (A fair amount of sanding though.) Happily, the temps climbed to 45 yesterday, a full 60 degrees warmer than the week before, and while it's supposed to get colder here again, it won't be anything on a par with last week. Warmer weather (relatively speaking anyway) means studio time!

In other news, in November, I started a new job, and while I like it immensely, it does keep me far busier than the last one. I haven't had much online time lately, other than a few minutes here and there to share memes on Facebook. But I'm finding that I'm happier than I've been in a long time, in large part because of the change of scenery so to speak, and I'm determined to make a fresh start in other aspects of my life besides work.

My biggest goal is to clear out all of my old commissions once and for all, and then take new ones on a monthly basis so as not to become overwhelmed. I also hope to offer one or two sales pieces each month. And then I'll need to address the state of my body boxes and my collection. I have models that I will probably never get around to painting that need to move along to new homes, and I have a bunch of OFs that I'm not sure I really need to keep after all. And then there are the books...and the clothes...and the old Blood-Horse magazines... It's going to be a busy winter!

That said, despite reduced internet time these days, I am hoping to keep my blogs more active, both this one for my studio and my Model Horse Collectibility blog. I have so many ideas; I just need to borrow Hermione's time turner to get them all done.

I'm also planning to scrap my Yahoo Group in the near future in favor of a newsletter-style email announcement system that will support images and other graphics, much like what several other artists have already started using with great success. I'll post details about that here and on my Facebook studio page once I've explored my options.

In the meantime, Happy New Year to you all!