Tuesday, February 28, 2017

NaMoPaiMo success!

She's done! And with a couple of hours to spare, ha ha! This color and pattern were a significant challenge to execute and complete because I have often felt a lack of confidence in my dun dilutions, but I'm really rather pleased this gal turned out so nicely. I am still struggling with my workload mentally (and temporally) and a big dose of seasonal affective disorder, but NaMoPaiMo has been a very much needed artistic mojo boost. Thank you so much, Jennifer, for organizing this wonderful hobby event! I have thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie and enthusiasm it engendered. 

Hermosa is on ebay now. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

NaMoPaiMo: Down to the wire

Getting my ducks in a row is a slow process, but I have been busily chipping away at commissions all month. I've also managed to squeeze in some time to work on my NaMoPaiMo model. I think I'll be able to have her done by Tuesday (the last day of the month, eep!), but it's going to be down to the wire. Unfortunately, working right down to the last minute of a deadline is usually what I do. I always seem to underestimate how long painting will take, especially white layers on pintos. Which brings me to the subject of today's post.

I usually map the spots on my pintos with carefully shaped tiny pieces of blue painters tape or some form of liquid mask, but this time around, I decided not to. Because frame overo feels less intuitive to me than tobiano (my favorite pinto pattern if you haven't already guessed), I opted to draw the pattern on my fully painted model using references to have better control of the pattern. I used a white Prisma pencil to sketch that pattern and fill it in.

Then I began the slow process of adding thin layers of white paint to the pattern.

By the end of Sunday evening, the pinto markings have much better coverage than when I started, but they still have more layers to go. I often find that taking a break from the monotonous white layers is useful, so I decided to block in the basic color on the hooves and eyes. It helps give me a better sense of the finished piece, and it also seems to make finishing the piece less daunting.

Getting there!
So, with two evenings left to me to work on her, I need to finish the white layering, add pinking where appropriate, finish the hooves and eyes, and finish the mane and tail. I'm pretty sure I can accomplish this. Wheee!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Commission and NaMoPaiMo progress

I shipped out three horses last week. Hooray! Progress feels so very good. I have a long way to go, but chipping away at small tasks like prepping and priming is helpful. I work 40+ hours a week, and by the time I get home in the evenings and make and eat dinner, there isn't much time for working on horses. Most of my painting time comes on the weekends, so I do my best to get as much done as possible on my days off.

Painting fuel and an in progress pony
I use an Iwata Eclipse airbrush, and paint primarily with Jo Sonja acrylic guache. I thin it to the consistency of whole milk to run though my airbrush, building up color from light to dark.

I do sometimes use other brands like Liquitex and Ceramcoat if I don't have certain colors on hand. Jo Sonja is carried by Dick Blick, but there isn't a store near me, so I usually order that paint online. Happily, I can get to a Michaels easily to pick up the other brands when I can't wait for an order to arrive.

In between working on commissions last weekend, I painted a few layers on my NaMoPaiMo Hermosa who will eventually be a grulla frame overo. I usually mask off pinto patterns with little pieces of blue painters tape, but I decided to try overpainting the pattern with thin layers of white instead. We'll see how that works out. These cell phone pix are not great, but here are the first few layers of color.

Pale iridescent cream
An overlay of pale grey with a hint of silver
A slightly darker wash of grey
Two layers of darker grey
Today, I began adding layers of color with pastels. I apply them with old brushes that have gotten worn and fluffy and are no longer of any use for painting fine details. I have specific brushes for various colors to keep the colors I apply from getting mixed and muddy. You don't want to use a brush caked with black for pink skin tones, for instance.

First I added a layer of dark brown.

And then some black.

I seal all layers of paint and pastels with Krylon Matte fixative. It dries quickly and has a nice, smooth finish.

I'm quite pleased with how this grulla color is shaping up. I rarely mix colors from recipes---I just wing it most of the time---but I do at least make notes for myself when I come up with something I like. I have been experimenting with subtle metallics lately, and it's made all the difference, especially with this color.

Tomorrow, I plan to block in the basic pattern. I'll probably do some more pastel work as well. Having looked at my reference photos, I need to darken up the legs a bit as well as add dun factors. Because I use the tail as a handle, that and the mane will be just about the last parts of the horse I work on. Stay tuned for more pictures!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Safety Dance and other prepping musical numbers

Living in an apartment presents a variety of challenges as an artist. Lack of space in general is the primary one, but lack of appropriate space is also problematic. Regarding lack of space, most of my models live in boxes at the moment because that's the most efficient way to store them. My shelf space is limited, so I have a tendency to rotate models on and off display. Plastic bodies and resins also stay boxed until I'm ready to work on them. And as you can see, my work space is tiny.

Where I prep, airbrush, and hand detail models. Cat for scale, ha ha.
Lack of appropriate space means I have to primer horses in my bath tub rather than in a better setting such as a garage or a deck (like so many turn-of-the-century buildings in Chicago, mine has neither).

I spread newspaper or butcher paper under the models so as not to get
primer all over my tub.
The first step in getting a model ready to paint is selecting appropriate entertainment. No really, prepping is tedious and boring, so having something to listen to while I work helps keep me focused. I occasionally play something from Netflix or Youtube on my tablet while I work, but the vast majority of the time, I listen to my trusty iPod. Audiobooks, especially mysteries or histories, are my usual preference, and my musical tastes  run to to punk, ska, goth, new wave, and '90s alternative, with a very healthy dose of Celtic music thrown into the mix. Sometimes you need a good bagpipe jam to keep you going late at night. :)

The second step is prepping. This means removing all seams, the company logo, filling divots and pinholes, as well as restoring any details compromised by the prepping process, like wrinkles crossed by a seam. When I need to remove company logos and heinous seams, I prefer to us a Dremel. You can buy a practically endless array of sanding, cutting, and drilling bits for Dremels which make them incredibly useful tools.

Dremeling is a messy business---fine plastic or resin dust will coat your clothes, so wear something you don't care about. (Speaking from experience, you may also accidentally catch your Dremel in your shirt and tear a hole in it, so again, wear something expendable.) Dremels will also fire larger chunks of hot plastic or resin right into your face (it stings!), so a respirator and safety goggles are a must. I use these (pictured below) which can be found at any home improvement store, but as I wear glasses, I find that bits of plastic and resin can still nail me pretty close to the eye. I recently saw Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) using this face shield with glasses, so I plan to acquire one soon. It looks perfect for what I do.

I then go back over the seams and logo with sandpaper, using coarser grit (100-200) to begin with and progressing to finer grit (500-600) to smooth the surface nicely. I use a carbide scraper from Rio Rondo to get at seams in hard to reach places or in areas with lots of fine details (wrinkles, hairs, etc). The scraper comes with 6 different tips of varying shapes and purposes.

I'm not picky about sandpaper. I'll buy anything that looks useful.
Once all prep work is done, I go back over the whole model with medium-to-fine grit sandpaper to give the surface just a bit of tooth to grab the primer. Resins generally get a quick scrub with soap and water to remove any lingering mold release and then some general sanding.

For primer, I use Rustoleum Clean Metal Primer in white. Because I use acrylics, I build up color from light to dark (otherwise, the colors end up looking muddy and dull), and a white base layer is the best option for me. I know some artists use red or grey primer with acrylics, but I feel white makes my paint jobs more luminous and clear.

As I mentioned above, I primer models in my bathtub. Happily, my bathroom has a window that opens to the outside, so I can just open the window wide, spray the models, and turn on a fan for air circulation. I keep the door closed so the smell won't permeate my apartment. And, of course, I always wear a respirator when spraying primer.

I spray models one side at a time and let each side dry for at least 24 hours before spraying the other side. (In humid or hot weather, I usually let models dry for 48-72 hours before adding more primer.) I then spray the top of the model and then the bottom, sometimes in one go depending on the size of the model. If I'm holding the model while spraying primer, I wear gloves to keep it off my skin. (Potential toxicity aside, it's very hard to scrub off, and going to work with primer on my hands would not be acceptable.) After the first rounds of spraying have dried completely, I sand the model lightly to remove any drips or gunk that may have stuck to the primer in the drying process. Very often, I'll have to give the model a couple of extra quick passes with primer just to make sure everything is adequately covered.

"Two by two. Hands of blue."
So all told, prepping and priming a traditional scale model usually takes me about a week depending on the weather and how bad the seams are. I'm sure I'm slower than other artists at the process, but I want to best possible canvas for my paint. Next time, painting tools!

And the obligatory earworm:

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Many of you are probably familiar with NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, an online event in November in which people from all over the world attempt to write a novel, or at least 50,000 words, in the space of 30 days. The only prize is a sense of accomplishment and hopefully a bunch of words that might eventually be publishable.

Jennifer Buxton of Braymere Custom Saddlery fame was thus inspired to create NaMoPaiMo in hopes of some camaraderie when she decided she would like to paint more this year. The idea is to paint and finish one model during the month of February. Any model and any media (acrylics, pastels, oils, even eye shadow and fingernail polish) can be used. To say the idea took off is an understatement---Jen has more than 250 entrants from 16 different countries at last count!

NaMoPaiMo struck me as a lifeline to drag me out of this artistic rut I've been in and to help keep me motivated. I'm going to try to make a couple of posts a week about my artistic process as well as on progress I'm making on commissions. Momentum is key. So that said, my NaMoPaiMo victim will be this Breyer Hermosa model---I'm thinking grulla frame overo. Both color and pattern are particularly challenging to me, so I hope they'll make for interesting blog fodder. Step 1 today though will be cleaning up my work space. As you can see from the photo below, I need to change out the filter at the back of my spray booth and lay down some fresh newspaper to start with. I also desperately need to reorganize my body hoard to make my work space more efficient.

In the meantime, I've dug through my saved reference photos for some inspiration. Grulla is one of those colors that comes out a little different every time I try it, but this shade is what I'll be aiming for.
Berry Sweet Whizard, a handsome QH stallion owned by
Cedar Ridge Quarter Horses
And as for the pattern, I think I'll opt for something with a moderate amount of white like this.

(Photo source)

Getting my ducks in a row

Literally and figuratively

This is hard to admit and even harder to write. I dislike having to confess that I can't handle something, that I got in over my head. But I did. As is evidenced by my lack of posts for almost a year here (and hardly any better on my collectibility blog), I've been in a blogging funk. Worse than that, and directly responsible for it, I've been in a pretty severe artistic funk, too. Depression definitely has played a large part in this. I am unhappy with a variety of life situations---location, vocation, finances (one step forward, two steps back) to name just a few---all first world problems, and problems I got myself into, but they weigh heavily on a person after a while.

For quite some time now, I've been feeling overwhelmed by my commission obligations and lacking confidence in my artistic abilities. I reached a point where I was finishing horses but couldn't bring myself to send out photos because I was sure they just weren't good enough. Naturally, this spiraled into a guilt black hole as delays turned into weeks and then months.

So I am now working very hard to claw myself out of this hole I've dug. It's not easy, and I feel awful for being so very slow and wretched at communication, but every finished horse will be just a little less anxiety and guilt weighing me down. I will not be accepting any new commissions for the foreseeable future, and I have set a goal to finish all of my existing commissions by no later than the end of May.

I am also planning to try to post more updates here to keep me motivated and hopefully more positive, starting with some blogging about Jen Buxton's wonderful NaMoPaiMo idea. The event spans the month of February, and while I do plan to finish one specific non-commission model for NaMoPaiMo, I definitely also intend to finish as many commissions as I can. More on that starting later today. Thank you all for your kindness and patience!