Sunday, January 28, 2018


With this post I temporarily abandon the long form and take up the short notices appropriate to Works-In-Progress.  I have too much to say to fit onto FB but too little for my usual chapters, so what's an incorrigibly show-off artist to do??  Squeezing all this down to something I believe appropriate for my FB just isn't happening. 

      On the other hand, I have a trip to Tucson coming up that will last a week (if all goes as planned).  During that week no progress can be made on Brasenose.  (Truly he is too tender to survive a flight stuffed into my backpack, even packaged.  I know how tough I am on a horse.  This is the root of my OF collecting...)  And so right when the universe of National Model Painting Month explodes into action, I am forced to sit on the sidelines for a week.  However, there is Jypsi the Test Medallion;  I'm going to try and transport her across state lines...

I'm sorry I haven't taken earlier pictures of this lovely medallion.  This is 'Jypsi in Repose' by the incomparable Sarah Rose.  The medallion came into my hands when Sarah, for whatever reason, was late filling an order for me (I don't even remember which one) and threw in a sweetener.  As if she needed to do that.  (As if I minded waiting for a Rose horse... me, the TSII!!)   Anyhow, I had this beautiful bas-relief lying around when the decision was made to enter NaMoPaiMo.   It dawned on me I really, really needed a practice piece.
Medallion by Sarah Rose
What you see is Layer 3 of what I'm hoping will eventually be a liver chestnut.  Right now it sure looks like a perfect claybank dun, except for the legs.  In my defense, I'm not exactly clear on which parts are legs.  In my defense, I've never pasteled in my life.  But that's what this is about eh?  The only surprise so far has been how long it takes... how transparent each layer has been.  I'm on step 3 of 10 of my tutorial and already I've deviated from the instructions.

(Not clear why there's a white spot on her nearside butt.  Hoping it's just lighting; it's not intentional.)

The other story is, of course, Brasenose.  He too is surprising me with how long it's taking.  Again thanks to NaMoPaiMo, I was warned there would be a lot of work in prepping.  It seems like forever although it's only been about 3 days.  The place where the tail touches the leg has been worst.  As I write this he's in the barn drying after his second coat of primer.
Gazyr by Malova with  mane by SBY
From the start my approach to NMPM was that I could only do it my way.  As a tackmaker the tools I felt most comfy with for prepping were jeweler's files.  That is what I've been using:  220-grit sandpaper, my two smallest files (left), the needle awl (braided handle), the Precista for cleaning the files, a paintbrush for dusting, and my X-Acto knife.  The awl is for testing pinhole depth, and, later, for smearing glue.  The Precista is a stainless-steel-wire brush originally designed for cleaning archeology specimens (the things you can find at the Gem Show!).  It works perfectly to take primer and resin out of my little files.  The drawback to using files for this job is you have to clean them constantly.  What's not shown is an old toothbrush to do the first steps of that same cleaning job.  The Precista is only for the final step of file-cleaning.
 Scrape, sand, file, brush off horse, repeat until file is completely white and clogged.  Put down everything, use the toothbrush on the file(s) and then the Precista.  Repeat...  Three times now I've cleaned off everything and then dusted off the workboard itself (with a large feather)...  I started out using Elmer's for his pinholes, something that worked beautifully for tack but somehow wasn't quite right for Brasenose.  It did work on one of his fetlock holes but on the bigger ones the glue didn't fill them.  Last night I gave up and switched to gesso.  This has done better, though it seems very soft.

I know my dusting paintbrush is wildly too small.  Just now I found a bigger one.  A miniature tackshop does not need large brushes, but this one was hanging around for large-scale dyeing.

Good luck everyone in NaMoPaiMo!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Me and NaMoPaiMo

I wish I'd kept a copy of what I wrote in the comments for my NaMoPaiMo entry.  It was downright funny! along the lines of:  Although following the crowd is anathema to me, this horse of all my 13 unfinisheds is talking to me most strongly.  "Flame mane copper liver chestnut," he says, "that's as close as you'll get, Akhal Tekes don't come in silver bay."  "But you don't have a mane," I say.  "Sculpt some," he says, "thirty-nine years in the hobby has given you the skills."  "I'll call you Brasenose," I say.

It was surely one of my best paragraphs.  Brasenose, incidentally, means bronze nose:  rather appropriate for a metallic-copper-tinted horse, don't you think?  It's the name of a college in Oxford England, a building actually, and I got it reading Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (one of my favorite Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries) at the time I was buying this horse.  I found out that the bronze doorknocker of the building, in the shape of a dog's head, gives it its name.  It's a very English name for a very Russian horse.  This contrast, like the mane/no mane, perfectly represents my ambivalence towards the project.
Of course the horse was talking to me.  In the NaMoPaiMo FaceBook group I see posts from people asking what color to paint their horses.  Use your imagination and give it time.  Eventually even  tack may speak to you.  Tack certainly speaks to me!

My story begins with an MH$P ad, but the roots go back to becoming interested in jogging and race-running for health reasons.  Of the many breeds I've identified with in my life, the current one is clearly solidifying: the Akhal Teke and its ancestor the Turkmene (E.H.Edwards' Horse Type 3).  Who'd'a thunk it!!  since I was raised on Quarter Horses and went through Belgians and Paso Finos...  whose favorite color was black bay tobiano and favorite breed, if you'd asked, was the Moroccan Pinto... (all right, let's go off the rails for a moment and confess my real favorite breed, the Zalar:  a carousel horse carved by John Zalar!!)  Anyway I'd been focusing on Akhal Tekes for a couple years, such as Breyer's Lonesome Glory and the CollectAs.  Then I started noticing resincasts.
Last year I'd had my Mini Rose Khan painted by Jennifer (Danza) O'Donnell.  I asked for the "Golden Horse" coffee table book for Christmas, and got it!!  (Thank you Janet!)  When I saw Margarita Malova's Gazyr and Magnolia on MH$P last October, I was smitten.
Photo by Margarita Malova
As cute as that foal was, the stallion was what grabbed me.  I could find very little wrong with his conformation.  Every other Ahkal Teke resin was either unaffordable or just didn't look right to me.  This one, though of very limited production (the ad promised a mere 10 copies) was within my range.  The fact that he was part of the Russian wave just added to his allure.  My husband and I had great fun following the postal tracking of his box.
(I don't think he's really limited to 10 copies, by the way.)
Notice the Cyrillic characters on the box.
 At the same time I was trying to decide whether to join NaMoPaiMo.  I had extremely complicated feelings about it.  My observations are part of this blog (Thoughts on NaMoPaiMo) but my actual participation centered around a saddle blanket.  How's that again?  A saddle blanket for a silver parade set:  a black-and-white corona.
Of all the participants in the first National Model Painting Month, I'll wager I was the only one doing a piece of tack.  And I must have been the record-holder in confused feelings, because I was trying to keep the saddle under wraps (command of the owner) while viscerally responding to the trumpetcall of a FaceBook group passionately involved in something I cared about.  Not the horse-painting so much as the group dynamics were what called me.  I was new to FaceBook still, and here was history being made, right in front of me.  I read most posts.  I stubbornly clung to what had been true for decades:  I was a tackmaker, not a painter.  What I needed from this huge and wonderful push was to get that corona done.  It had the benefit of truth.  I did finish.
Arrow shows white band.  TSII #456 'Star Wars'
I look back now and credit myself with an original and perfectly acceptable solution to my situation, but at the time I was so shy I only managed squeaks of comments on other people's horses.  (It takes time to form new habits of gabbing in public when one's decades-long hobby history was carried out by handwritten letter.)  Plus, this organization was NEW, and no one really knew how it would turn out.  I was, and still am, very strongly trained not to post anything on FaceBook that could possibly be construed as a criticism.
Starting to sculpt the mane
Well, it turned out fine.  I don't think I could go so far as to credit politics with inspiring a spirit of supporting inclusiveness in defense against hard times, but those times were right for NaMoPaiMo's attitude of helpfulness.  Even professional tackmakers need psychic support, as it turns out.
Of course the next thing that happened was NaMoTackMo.  You'd think that would be a natural for me.  It was.  My habits of reticence proved too strong for me to take a hostess position (plus I honestly didn't have the time), yet I enjoyed it very much.  Many good pieces were born and many good posts written.  Tackmaking is different than horse-painting, and there was a far higher rate of 'failures' or non-completions; still, I used the energies of NaMoTackMo to help finish my monster silver parade saddle,  TSII #456, 'Star Wars.'

What a fantastic idea my hobby had come up with!  This was worth joining FaceBook after all.  For all its time-wasting, it had merit.  But paint a horse??  I hadn't painted a horse since 1983...!!!
Not true.  I had painted the mane and tail on the Moody Minuet seen in my last blog post (Silver Acorn) in 1996.  I had painted any number of figures on my saddles.  I had etched something like 6 horses.  Painting was, if not directly used, at least in my toolbox of skills.  Brasenose had been perfectly right.

Other hobbyists, particularly Lisa and Bobbie, encouraged me.  It will be these few, I am sure, who will see me through.  I haven't got a crowd personality; perversely, I interpret heaps of people leaping on something as a sure sign I should run.  I suppose it is related to my husband's hatred of traffic jams and big cities.  I'm not just afraid of a crowd; when people do something just because others are doing it, I lose my respect for them.  It's a narrow path to tread:  sovereign independence versus the connectivity FaceBook gives in spades, and which I find I need after all.  If I can keep my courage (and of course manage the time!), I just might succeed.

As for the mane part:  I had sculpted several saddle trees, particularly that of the Clyde Goehring set (Tree Fun) and I still had the Apoxie that Ann Bilon had gifted me.  Brasenose was right again.  There was no stopping this skinny Russian horse.  He might not have a partner or wife, he didn't even have eyes yet, but he sure had ideas!

Today I finally set aside time to make a mane for him.  I wanted it to be sparse and thin, yet long enough to show a flaxen color shading to bright at the tips.  One hard part was creating it so as to allow for future tack wearing: "tack friendly."  I'd seen enough Akhal Tekes to know where the necklaces go.  For all my grumping that I wasn't interested in Akhal Teke tack making (truth:  I've never made a set, never bought one and never been tempted), that mane speaks more truly of my intentions.
Grenendere, PAS in the background, is for the carousel saddle restoration.

We come now to a mystery.  How did I happen to choose to try pastels?  I think it was by elimination.  I didn't want acrylics, which I somehow equated with enamels and didn't like the finish-feel of.  I didn't want oils, which would smell too much and besides had a cachet of professionalism I wasn't ready for.  I didn't want to use an airbrush, although I had one; I wanted the handheld tactile control of a paintbrush, something I'd known from tack for 30 years.  My mother had dabbled in pastels when I was growing up.  The thought of slowly layering on powders was strangely akin, in my mind, to dyeing leather, which happens by layers.  The only sticking point was the sealant spraying.  I could not do that in the house, for reasons familial, medical and historical.  Somehow I had to get around that.
Customizing the ears: a bit smaller, with curved tips
So that's how it happened that I can blame a model horse for causing me to clean out the storage barn.  It's a long chain, but it does connect. 
The offside ear is now done too.
Some Akhal Tekes have ears that curve inwards.  The Golden Horse book claims they may be the ancestral stock of the Marwari and Kathiawari.  Gazyr has very long, big ears.

As of now, the barn is not cleaned out.  Finding the time has been my main sticking point; unlike some young participants, I have a house and a husband and a career to take care of.  Plus, what is not obvious:  documenting a project just adds to the time it takes.  I don't have a percentage but it must be considerable: say about 30%.
But the vision is clear:  I know what color I want.  In a purely personal fashion, my goal is not so much a real horse (though I do have photos) as another model.  I want the copper-enhanced liver chestnut of Stone's Ragtime and Jazz.  I started out wanting a copper Wedgewood -- how simple that would've been!  There's nothing in the rules saying it has to be realistic --  then switched to silver bay.  Then, realizing (thanks Lesli) that Akhal Tekes don't come in silver bay, I made up a color.  Brasenose started talking, and he's been talking ever since.
Wish me luck.  And come join us.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

It was Bob

Since the subject of this post is metaphysical and paranormal, I originally planned few illustrations.  That was before I looked up how many canoe pictures I had of one of the rivers we had done this trip, the great St Johns.  Now you get all the best shots from when we did the St Johns in December 2014.  Current shots exist but aren't yet available  : (  in any case they would be similar.

Over the [2017-2018] holidays a haunting thing happened, something that's only happened to me once before.  In essence it is a Message from Beyond.  I say "is" because these things happen outside of time, yet they are the essence of instantaneous.  They go a far way towards convincing me Not of everlasting life or communication with the dead, but rather evidence that there is a Connection, on a level I am barely aware of and can't explain, with what can only be described as a Web or Network of all living beings and creatures, past, present and probably future, in a timeless and simultaneous presence.

Sound familiar?

I have wanted all my life to have some sort of paranormal experience -- me, the daughter of an engineer and the wife of a science professor! -- so I am proud of my two instances.

Each one has arrived in the form of a thought, a subliminal sense, a suspicion of a change in the status of someone I knew.  The first time the someone was an author I'd never met, but read a lot.  The second time it was a fellow model horse hobbyist whom I'd seldom met, but knew and had worked with.

Out on safari, canoeing in Florida, I don't always know what day it is.  I can only guess that this latest occurrence happened a couple days before the New Year.  I and my husband have done these trips for almost a decade now, paddling the rivers and lakes of central Florida, hiking and birdwatching all the while.  With a mind full of species counts, bird identification questions, canoeing gear, navigation, weather, the state of one's muscles and dealing with river currents (not to mention attention paid to one's partner), I was days away from anything online.  Only books are read on safari.  It was with some surprise that I found myself wondering about one particular hobbyist.  Out of hundreds that I knew, why would one old lady (not THAT old!), with whom I had no current business dealings, now be on my mind so???
The awareness was one of sadness, as though she had suddenly been smitten:  as though she had died.
I found myself, then, while intently focusing on canoeing (a slow-motion sport which, like fishing, demands constant alertness while in a trance state), wondering whether Jane Wagner had died.
Jane Wagner?  She's not old enough, man!  Though accidents happen, Lor' knows; I know enough people, I suppose some of them are going to start kicking off, but I never thought it would be her.
Did Jane Wagner die??

The sense of awareness was quite specific.  I promised myself I'd check out her FaceBook next chance I got.  But safari is safari and it was 3 or 4 days before I could do so.  We have a tablet that can be used in hotels, and so occasionally I check out my online life, with difficulty I confess.  I know, I know, I'm dreadfully oldfashioned in my technology but we have known such success in our ways it's hard to change...
The awareness-of-sadness -- no, not really sadness so much as Connectedness -- lasted for 2 or 3 days and then faded out ... or perhaps I should say, I stopped thinking about Jane at odd moments after 2 days.

The same thing happened to me in 2011 on a March morning during spring break, when I was strolling along an East Coast beach.  Out of nowhere, out of the sea it seemed, it occurred to me to wonder if Farley Mowat had died.  A great sense of something came up over the horizon at me;  the feeling of a distant, if very real, friend's passing (or awareness) was quite strong.  In this case it was almost a week before I realized that my moment on the beach coincided with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, that killed so many and did so much damage.  It had not been Farley after all (he died 3 years later, and 1 year before I found out).  It had been, instead, a whole world of oceanic and northern interests that had been affected.
How had I known???

In the case of Jane Wagner I discovered that at the very same time I had first thought of her, her dog Bob had passed away.

"It was Bob!"  I said out loud several times, wonderingly, hunched over the tablet in a hotel room, no doubt confusing my watersport partner.

"It was Bob!"

The more I think about it the more amazed I am by the power and presence of a single Jack Russell.  Those who knew Bob, however, would not be surprised.
Is it going to be like this with everybody I know??  There's hundreds...  Or does this only happen while on safari, when I'm out in the wild for weeks, tuned only to the birds, the boat, the waters of the river and my partner?
A Sorrow and yet so much a Connectedness that the sorrow is almost drowned out.

What have we lost, that this is so rare?

hailing frequencies open...