Friday, September 25, 2009

Time at Mach 7

Holy cannoli! Is it Friday already?! It can't be -- if feels like Tuesday! Well, then...I know I've had an awesome week. When the days zip by and blend into each other, it's been a perfect week for me. Why? Because it means I've been allowed to settle into a happy, productive routine without distraction, so I can take the bit between my teeth and run with it...blind to the passage of time. Oh, it feels so good to have periods of time like this!

It also explains why everything has fallen into place -- getting the RESS Finish show to the juror on time, hummin' along with The Boat (much faster than expected -- I'm almost done!) and finally achieving my goals with this dapple dun paint job -- at least for one side. So I think "tutor kitty" would be most pleased with me. (Though I suspect this is the expression on the faces of my assistant editors when I send them the barrage of articles to proof!)

I still find it amazing that The Boat attracts the awesome authors it does. Wow! I just can't thank them enough for their hard work in sharing their knowledge with us -- we are so fortunate! This is going to be a huge issue, though, and I hope people won't have a hard time downloading it.

I'm also amazed that I figured out this dapple dun coat! I thought I never would, to be honest. My little brain cells are doing that elbow motion (well, if they had elbows) and gleefully hissing, "YES!" So much frustration or disinterest happens with me during the middle of the painting process -- when I'm past the initial rush of starting a new project, but see I clearly have a long way to go. That's the danger zone for me, creatively. I just have to slog through it (though sometimes I'm not as diligent at that as I would like), and eventually I can find my momentum again.

So I have one side just the way I want it, but now I have to tackle the other side. Yow. Yikes. Hrmmm. Any painter will tell you this actually is the trickiest part because not only do you have to match the unfinished side to the finished side (in terms of tone, effects and color placement), but this is where boredom can again loom its ugly head and stare you right in the eyes. This is perhaps why some artists work both sides at once, sometimes in sections, which is what I ordinarily tend to do.

However, remember that I have very little patience, with practically nil left over for myself. I was just too curious to see if I could paint this color in the way I wanted it to look, according to my current Eye and skill, because I know I could not have painted it previously as well as I think I could now. I'm ready now. But that's a steep personal challenge. I've smacked myself in the face with my own glove. "Take that, smarty pants!" This meant I wanted the satisfaction of seeing the finished product sooner rather than later to prove something to myself.

Well, that, and doing one side and then the other would help me infuse that sense of genetic "randomness" on either side of the sculpture by helping my brain avoid too closely recreating the same pattern on either side. Indeed, sometimes "starting fresh" has its advantages.

But really -- I needed to see if I could do it, with my fresh outlook on painting and realism. Anyway...

Speaking of fresh -- my friend, Lesli, got me onto the work of Christi Friesen. I love it -- it's so whimsical, unique and imaginative. I also like the rounded shapes, the colors used and all the "stuff" going on with each one. I also really appreciate this woman's business model -- look at her website, packed full with helpful, fun and inclusive ways she gets people interested in her work. And some great ideas for sales! Lots to cogitate for my own future business plans. So when you have a moment, peruse and enjoy!

So anyway. Now. To paint the other side of this horse. In a word, ahem..."ACK!"

"To be tested is good. The challenged life may be the best therapist." - Gail Sheehy


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yoicks and Away!

funny pictures of cats with captions

I just got the 2009 RESS Finishwork Exhibition CD off to the juror! PHEW. Thank you to all who entered and a big thank you to Stephanie Michaud for being the juror for this year! Lots of nice entries and a good healthy turn-out -- Yay! This year's Advanced division "canvas" is the wonderful Okie Rio sculpted by Carol Williams and the canvas for the Intermediate and Novice divisions is the Breyer® American Quarter Horse Mare.

I'm actually most tickled to have some Intermediate and Novice entries into this show. It's been my long-standing belief that Novice and AO divisions are essential for the future of model horse showing. This dominance of Open divisions, of throwing everyone in with the pros, is disenfranchising the vast majority of participants who participate as a hobby. IMO, this paradigm is based on exclusion rather than inclusion. I find it ironic that this competitive game overlooks the most important aspect of itself -- the experience of the participants. How I long for the day when this game re-models itself after something like, say....the shows of the Quarter Horse industry. Now there's an activity that fully understands the intrinsic value of its beginners and AOs!

Anyhoo, if you'd like to peruse the entries into the 2008 RESS Finishwork Show, check 'em out here. To see lots more show results, like those for the sculpture shows, bas-relief shows and such, go here. I really appreciate the RESS paradigm of inclusion, education, promotion of the art form and as a community of like-minded colleagues. And I'm much more drawn towards self-competition anyway. Hey -- I'm my own worst critic! Speaking of which, that dang little voice is buzzin' in my ear with this sooty paint back to the palette!

"The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important -- and then get out of their way while they do it." ~ Jack Welch


Monday, September 21, 2009

The Simple is Complex

funny pictures of cats with captions

YOW! It's noon! I got up at noon today -- I didn't mean to do that! I have things to do! And apparently I can put all that off so I can share my shock with you....

I have a real problem sleeping when my brain is going a million miles an hour, and it has been with The Boat, the head article, contemplating my Christmas ornament for this year, and finishing up a very old painting commission for a very patient -- of saintly proportions -- customer. So I took an over-the-counter sleeping pill, which apparently knocked me out! Geez! I still feel a little blurry despite my coffee.

Anyway, I finally have all the "bits" down on paper for the head article -- that was a task unto itself. But now I have to sort them by sequence as they'll be sculpted, from deep layers to superficial layers, which on the surface sounds easy. However, the equine head is a complex structure of subcutaneous bone and an interlaced network of "stuff," and figuring out what should be deep or superficial almost is an arbitrary decision in many cases. Plus, I have to account for the actual process of sculpting, which can demand a sequence all its own. So I figure I'll put them in a logical order, but expect to tweak that in the dry run of the process. We'll see. I may cook my very last braincell in the process, but 'tis a small price.

Speaking of interlacing, I've been finishing up an old commission in between frying my brain with head anatomy, and I'm rather excited about it (about both finishing the commission and frying my brain, just to be clear). I admit that I'm far more enamored of sculpting than painting. However, I have to say that figuring out how to make this particular paint job "work" has been an interesting challenge. I keep hearing one of my personal existential
sensei, Tim Gunn, saying in my head, "Carry on." And so I'm "carrying on" with whatever means that creates the effect I need...and discovering some interesting things along the way. The primary thing I've discovered is that there is no cold-painting "process" of painting a realistic color. You do what you have to and use what you have to -- that's it. It's as simple -- and as complex -- as that.

Similarly, this particular horse color, sooty dapple dun, may seem easy, but like the equine head, it's remarkably complex. Its complicated network of dapples and sooty factors, its tones and particular brand of "luminosity," and above all, its "look," which is grainy, splotchy and "random," all amalgamate into one big steaming wad of, "How the heck am I going to paint that?" I've tackled this color before, as seen here, (on Sarah Rose's lovely resin-cast sculpture, Khan) which was inspired by this reference photo of the gorgeous Akhal-Teke stallion, Singapur, (as per request) here. But I'm easily bored by replication and so I'm tackling another version of sooty dapple dun (thankfully, this color is highly diverse, so I have a smorgasborg of options).

But what strikes me now, as I'm painting this guy, is how I've come full circle after twenty years in this biz. I started out painting entirely with a dry-brush, grinding the "un-wetted" acrylic pigment into the previous layer. This was an arduous, time-consuming and tedious process that was killing my hands (and going through brushes by the metric ton). So I switched to an airbrush to do most of the "grunt" work. But what this did was to eliminate certain effects only dry-brushing can create with my media and method, but which are essential for certain coats. However, I didn't realize this at the time because creating realistic art is a continual process of increasing awareness of what life presents to our eyes. In other words, it's not enough to approximate the tones and patterning of a coat -- I have to approximate its "visual signature," too -- and a large component of that is the color's "visual texture." Not the texture of the hair of the hide, but how those hair shafts interact with each other because of the color. And so I've learned that most of what our brains recognize as a horse color is in equal measure "texture" as it is tone and color placement. Sootys, classic silvers, greys and roans, for example, depend on their texture to be truly convincing.

So the airbrush has become used less and less lately and now I've come back to dry-brushing to regain that level of strategic texture.
Only now this technique is interlaced with several others, such as color pencils, stippling (indeed, the beat-up stencil brush has become an indispensable companion in the studio), airbrushing, hand-painting, sponging, etc. In other words, what may seem simple actually is a remarkably complex process. And so...

"Make it work." ~ Tim Gunn


Monday, September 14, 2009

This is my brain on hyoids...

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Good golly -- ya know, when I chose to write "how to" articles, I really need to consider my penchant for well -- fiddly detail -- when I decide on subject material. Oy! Between other projects, I'm working on the head sculpting series because I figure I need to get this rolling a year in advance. There's a whole process and sequence that has to be worked out, let alone written about! And right now, I'm working on the hyoid bones in the head in terms of text and sequence. However, what strikes me -- now -- is that at roughly 1/12 scale, what size are those tiny bones and teensy muscles going to be? Teeny weeny, that's what! Yet they are important features for an artist to know, even though they do lie within the head. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the hyoid apparatus actually is important for horsemanship issues, and if an artist wants to sculpt riding that doesn't hurt horses, well...she needs to know about the hyoids. Especially in this day of modern riding that appears to abuse the hyoids with wild abandon. I'll just keep reminding myself of this when I actually have to sculpt those puppies and I feel my sanity start to slip away...

Anyway, aside from this, I'm in the midst of editing trip photos and sundry other things -- hang tight for a trip log! I had a nice distraction this weekend though -- went to Art in the Park with Mom and a gaggle of buddies. In a word, Art in the Park rules. I love art festivals, and I gotta say -- this one is definitely one of the best! So many amazing, inspiring works! Here are some examples:
Batik art (The birds, especially the ravens and herons, are my favorite)
"Artimals" (How fun is this?! I got myself the blowfish t-shirt!)
Scratchboard art (These pieces have to be seen in person to be believed!)
Art glass (I love the organic look of these pieces)
Fun garden stuff (Love the rusted finish!)
Lovely mosiac mirrors (Love the polka dots!)
Pottery (I love the rustic "relic" feel of these pieces)
Fused glass fun (Love the insects!)
Gorgeous braided leather goods (Does a miniature horse count as a "long tailed dog?")
Super cool didjeridoo musicians (I bought two of their CDs -- hypnotic! To me the didjeridoo sounds like the sound of time and eternity itself -- I've always loved it. One of my favorite tracks has the didjeridoo set against Buddhist chanting from Tibetan monks. Didjeridoo and Tibetan monks. Two good things that go better together!)

And loads more! So much inspiration and novel ideas! It was a welcome boost to my "arty mojo" as I contemplate diving into stockie again! And boy -- the ideas swimming around in my head beg to made real soon. I really must engineer time to materialize them. Art in the Park also a culinary delight, too -- introduced Mom and Hubby to Basque croquetas. Talk about decadence! Wow! They're dollops of sin and oh-so-good!

"The most important source of inspiration for painting ideas is our own lives...and what we like most." ~ Jack Dickerson


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Back from Outer Orbit...

Good gravy -- what a trip! It's so strange to be back. You may know how it is, like you've come back from another life, or woke up from a dream, and you're back to reality. It's a rather abrupt feeling. It takes some time for adjustment. I gotta admit, when I got home, I really didn't know what to do with myself. Both of us just sorta wandered around the house, feeling outta sorts a bit. I was very happy to have my Blobbies back again, though! Mom watched them at her abode while I was gone -- thanks Mom!

But I wasn't quite ready to get back into the studio again, so into the office I went. And, lo! -- what threw me a rope back to my real life was, again, working on Boat material. I've begun outlining and writing a four-part series for The Boat on sculpting the equine head from the inside out -- from the skull to the flesh to the expressions. The whole enchilada. Readers can follow along this step-by-step series, so they can create their own horse heads from the inside out, too.

Every once and a while, it's good to throw something truly challenging in front of yourself, to try and tackle something that may seem "too big." The idea of not only creating an articulated horse head in polymer clay, from the inside out (with the hyoids!), is intimidating in itself. But then laying out a series that teaches how to do so is downright daunting! However, seeing the world from another point of view in order to clarify and convey things to others deepens my own knowledge. It's easy to take too much for granted, but having to teach forces me to relearn and re-evaluate what I already know. In turn, I'm learning tons more in the process! It's experiences like this that create obsessive behavior in me; a challenging learning situation pushes my buttons like a crazy space chimp. So it's been extremely difficult tearing myself away from working on this project to attend to more pressing things....such as the upcoming issue of The Boat! DOH. My assistant Editors should have the proofing to me soon, then I can input the changes and get that puppy published. Big issue and lots of great stuff! I'm so grateful to my Editors and authors! What a wonderful thing to know that our little industry is so willing to share knowledge to help others achieve their goals.

Anyway...I'll be getting back to sculpting on "stockie" probably next week. I'm really looking forward to it. When I came back, the first thing I did was rush into the studio to see if, so far, he still seemed "right" -- and he was! To be "right" this early in the game is a good feeling, but we'll see how he shapes up. No sculpture is that easy -- or should be. I still haven't peeked at the Haffie mare to see if she's "right," though. I'll leave that for next week, too.

In the mean time, I need to sort through and edit over 1,000 photos I took on the trip. Yes -- I got rather dorked-out with my camera. That's perhaps the great blessing and curse of a good digital camera -- not having to pay for shots up front tempts you to shoot like crazy. Yet you do get shots you might have been too skimpy to take if you did have to pay for film to see how they'd turn out. I'll be posting installments of my trip here soon, with pix, and I hope you enjoy the journey as much as we did. Suffice to say -- AC/DC ROCKED THE HOUSE. They DESTROYED the Tacomadome. OMG. More on that later, though.

As for the image in this blog post -- that's my new screen saver. Jedi Squirrels. I'm so OK with that idea. Laurie Jo also sent me a link to a "Squirrelizer," a means to insert an image of a squirrel into just about anything. Once I learn how to use it -- BEWARE.

"Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home." ~ Matsuo Basho

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