Thursday, December 31, 2020

PhotoShopping Jewels

There has been some progress on Akhal Teke set #3, which features sapphires and rubies.  This short post will be taking a look at two finished parts, the cape and the smaller neckpiece, and exploring what I've done with PhotoShop with them.

For instance, compare the original photo, below, with the one above:

The two might not look all that different.  But compare the red ruby centered on the throat.  Also look at the color of the sapphire closest to the mane on the neckpiece.  Lastly, try and pick out the teeny rubies on the tips of the cape (poll piece).  In each case, I've enhanced the colors for the upper photo.

Why bother?  In the first place, it's proving surprisingly difficult to light and photograph this tack in such a fashion as to bring out the colors.  In the second, I'm falling in love with the skill of PhotoShopping... (as if Laird Hamilton were not warning enough!) ... and it's always looking for a chance to practice.   The skill is self-taught, a perfect twin to my tackmaking.

Here's another view of cape and neckpiece.  The colors are really there, but you need to be holding it in your hand to see them at their best.

And here's its enhanced, or 'retouched' as I'm calling it, version:

This time, the increased light blue and red should be obvious.  The sapphires really are slightly different from each other.

I'm using PhotoShop's eyedropper to choose from both the existing colors and new ones from the Color Picker, then hitting basic Artist Brush and choosing 2 or 3 pixels at a time.  The trick is to deposit them near  existing light areas:  to enhance what's already there.  Then I use some Smear to finish with, but not much.

I'll end this little jaunt with another unretouched view.

One of my 'New Year's Resolutions' should be to try and maintain "Web-Free Wednesday."  I'm discovering that FB simply EATS time and attention, yet produces precious little -- certainly no tack.  Why are humans so hypnotize-able!?  (Could this be the root of all evil?!?)  Can I assert an hour at the bench before even turning on the computer?!  I've tried it before.  Only time will tell.

My 2019 Christmas letter appears to not have been saved digitally, a blow to my pride.  Thank you for your patience while I summon the energy to write, print and mail more than 55 copies of the 2020 one, without even an armature.  :)  I am amazed at the Christmas snail-mail I've received this year.  My heart is warmed and gladdened by the enormous outpouring.  Thank you all so very much!  May your next year go better than this last!!

Keep On Tacking.

Friday, December 25, 2020

My Kilbourn pair, plus Santa

 When I read about the Kilbourn Collector's Corner cover pic contest on FaceBook, I got inspired.  My ideas leapt from blankets to harness to Santa to a certain unfinished Criollo pony.  What a rabbit-hole of a chain!  Who knows where these things wind up?!  I only know I was spurred enough to get out the TSII Red Team Harness and refit it to my matched Kilbourn pair (which took all evening).  I also tried finding other pix of tacked-up Kilbourn horses.  In the process I found something that had been lost for more than 3 years,... and I hadn't even known it was missing!  This was fun.

This story begins in 2018.

There is a blog post on the 2018 acquisition of these matched bay geldings:  The Traditional Loot Shots.
Finnegan, also known as the Copperfox Irish Sport Horse, was first released in 2015.  Loughnatousa Fabio is the name of the solid red bay (also known as Superman, which I think is a stable nickname).  Breyer's Rangoli, the first bay on True North, came out in 2017.  As soon as I saw Rangoli I fell madly in love (and I do mean madly.  I still have plans to etch my own); I only had to wait until Breyer released a regular run bay.   I could hardly believe it when Icabad came out so soon.  Even their stars match!!  Twenty-eighteen was a very good year for me.

 My first thought for a pic of matched Kilbourns was this.   It features what they've got on now,  'wearing around the house,' as you would say.  Dry The Sea, my Icabad, was wearing tack.  I knew from the start I wanted to show off tack.  :)

The rage for digital photo-showing has inspired me to enter two shows so far; then it sank below the surface.  Why does it come bubbling back now?  I can tell the answer is complex; for now, let's just say the Kilbourn contest offered an escape from a probably ridiculous but still perceived expectation of perfection.  I have no photo backgrounds.  This is a driving pair, but I have no vehicle with a pole suitable for light horses (only the Hitch Wagon!).  With the weather the way it was, I couldn't even go outside.  It is too bad that sometimes the amazing artistry of other people's entries is, paradoxically, depressing.  I should know better.  (And, I should let this be an excuse to PhotoShop more...)

Perhaps recovery is merely a function of time... the dip and rise of a heartbeat graph line...

The solid-blue, white-lined blanket that says ""Timaru Star II" is a gift from my generous friend Lynn Martin Isenbarger.  The space-fabric blanket :)  is a beautiful commission from Nichelle Jones of Desktop Stables, specifically for this horse.  Loughnatousa  is correctly pronounced Lock-na-two-sa (it is the name of an Irish stud) , but I keep calling him Loff-na-toosa.  Somehow I haven't found a better name...  Here, the camera makes his head look big.

On the way to what I had in mind, I put them side by side.  It matters how you position them.  Loughnatousa is larger, though not by as much as this shows.

If you put Dry The Sea in front, suddenly they're perfect.  My camera exaggerates the front horse just enough.

The slight difference in color is lost under certain conditions:  See the first and second pix of this post.  If you do notice it, it just makes them more realistic.

Getting out the harness and fitting it was an exquisite pleasure.  I've had this set for 30 years and every needed part is long since made and put right (or so I would like to think!).  It was originally built on a research ship in the middle of the Pacific (I'm not making this up.  Meteorological field experiment TOGA-COARE 1992-3).  Later I replaced most of the hardware with gold filled, which I hadn't known about (or obtained) until about 1995.

I used a clothespin to hold the reins for this session.  Note the bell string around Dry The Sea.  I only have the one string so it goes on the horse closest to the camera.

They're both going at the same speed, a canter.  Think cantering isn't done in harness?  Haven't been to a Combined Driving Event, have you...?!  There are speed elements.  They run.

See the ring around the crossed inside lines?  Put the rein of the horse who carries his head highest on top.  It's not too hard to pick which horse that is.

This is my second-favorite shot.  I was using my left hand to elevate Dry and my right to hold the camera.  Action!!

But none could top this one.   Finally, this is what I was after.  I believe I was inspired by photos I'd seen in Driving Digest magazine.  True to life, the bridles are slightly different; Loughna's has the tandem-wheeler's rings, and somehow their cheek keepers don't match.

The flaw I see is that Loughnatousa's off foreleg appears too small for his size, and unfortunately placed stridewise in comparison to Dry's.  But that's the way it goes.  Without those forearms you'd have a harder time figuring out the molds.  ... Maybe I should just crop it.  OH and what a great opportunity to get rid of that scuffed ear...!


Later fixes I see (this must be the ever-critical judge) include moving Dry's neckpad to before his withers, and raising Loughna's mouthpiece a bit.  Both nosebands are a little lower than they should be.

I should stop here.  But I didn't.  I took Dry The Sea (because he's been Horse of the Day for some time now) and put him to the Red Sleigh, using my new doll (still working on a name, Anne!) and my old driver Steve the Cowboy.  Then I dug out my Santa.  Steve decided Chereene (?) should drive.  He also thought his magnificent fur cloak would cover them both, ... which was a bit farfetched.

I'm hoping you don't notice she's dropped a line (I didn't notice either).  Nor that Santa seems to be perched uncomfortably on the back seat, no doubt ready to tumble down the moment Dry hits a bump.  I won't tell you he's pinned in place.  Man I need a better Santa.  It's a good thing Dry's so strong.

What's PhotoShop for, if not to fix a lady's troubles?  Here, I raised that rein for her.  Above, I extended the snow, which started as a piece of white fleece.

 Merry Christmas everybody!!

I mentioned something lost at the beginning of this post.  It was the folder which held the pictures of my unfinished Maxixe wearing the 2016 Pony Hackamore.  I could remember shooting him wearing it, ... but could not find the folder,... which was exasperating, to say the least.  I remembered the blog post about that very Hackamore, which saved me in the end:  it proved I'd taken all those pix.   I finally went over EVERY picture I'd ever taken that fall, and there it was:  I'd somehow stowed the entire folder inside another folder!  "It happens."  But this was my first time with so basic a mistake.

A Pony Hackamore 

I have had real fun with this long shoot, and I am relieved that "photo showing fever" can come back.  I love Morgen Kilbourn sculpts and currently have 5:  True North, Finnegan, Maxixe, Bobby Jo/Sheila and the Baroque Horse Bust.  I am still hoping to get my Christmas letter out before Valentine's :)  and I am so thankful for all the blessings we have enjoyed this year.  Indeed we have been blessed,... 

... still I AM looking forward to 2021...!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

A Snow Event

 December 17, 2020.  Fourteen inches as home-measured on our deck (9 last night + 5 this morning).  We haven't had snow like this for several years.  Certainly this was the most of the season so far! -- there have been only a couple of quick dustings since fall began.  I started blazing away before I'd gotten dressed.

You can't see it but there are little stickers on this glass wall marking the record snowfall we got in 1994.  That was twenty-seven inches.  That was before we had so many plants on the deck, too, which kind of spoils the chances of marking that again.  Still, this is a very respectable snow event.

The twin-topped spruce of our neighbor behind was a thing of beauty.  And the light!  As the sun reaches up over Nittany Mountain [behind us, to the south] the light sweeps towards us like something out of Lion King.  I did a zoom on this shot and was very happy with it.

This shot shows how our rear neighbor, in the green house, dug out a Y-shaped space 'for the convenience of' their two dogs.  For some reason the most popular breed around here is the Lhasa Apso.
Reversing the viewpoint, this is the front street scene.  George had dug out the sidewalk last night, but it kept snowing -!

Speaking of digging, by now I had my clothes on and we plunged into the task.  It must have been after breakfast but I honestly don't remember.  

The whole rest of this post is a series of 'before and after' pictures.  Somewhere deep in the files I have a shot of our earlier neighbor's car (in this same location) completely buried.  That would tell me when we last had snow anything like this....

Oh.  I found it.  2014.

Here's the contemporary version, six years later.  The earlier neighbor is gone, having moved to Florida, how about that.

Our other car, the famous Moxie, daughter of Zippy.  Someday I must do a post on Zippy...

Now:  Magic!  Whirling corn shovels!  Flying powder!  Fresh air, exercise, camaraderie and speaking more with my neighbors than I have in ever so long...

It's good for the arm muscles.  I dug the snow out of her exhausts with a spoon (not making this up...)
My preferred weapon is an old plastic house broom.  I get the car roofs;  Geo does the heavy lifting.  This time I did a neighbor's car roof too.
It might look normal to you, all this shoveling.  It is normal.  But somehow I do not want to be taking too much for granted.

Thank you, sweetie.

Bonus story:  Did you know that piled-up snow and ice around her feet will cause the Toyota Hybrid RAV4’s Low Tire Pressure icon to light up?  I thought it was just the cold.  I was sort of right:  The snow interrupts the radio waves [between her brain and her tires].  I checked all her feet with the tire gauge:  Nothing was unusual.  I couldn't reach the spare (in truth, I didn't bother to turn it over [and get to the stem] once I dug down to it).  Only by digging deep in the manual did I discover the incriminating words, "accumulated snow and ice," and then, with even more digging, find the way of resetting the icon.  Oh these sensitive cars.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Decisions, Decisions

Five equines, four sculptors, three real contenders;  toying with two colors, choosing one winner.  Is it ever too early to be trying to decide which victim I'll attempt to paint for NMPM?!  In theory any time is right!  But there are much deeper questions.  It isn't exactly easy turning the age I did, this year of all years.   IF I choose to paint (and it is not a given!), this post shows part of my decision process.

Decisions, decisions.  Why are most of the colors in my imagination roan?  Is that the next level of difficulty for this artist?  Am I ready for an action model, now that I've had 3 years of standing (well, almost standing!) ones?  You waited a year for Orion!  Didn't you want something different, something unusual, which is why you got him in the first place?  But others are even more unusual...

Orion, Arab stallion by M. Malova

This shot shows Orlik as very similar to Brasenose.  Orlik's legs are thicker and his butt is a little longer behind.  That mane!  Margarita painted him in dapple grey, I saw it and, god help me, I was smitten.

I still can't figure out whether it was the perfection of that color on that model or whether it was my long-held detestation of grey finally revolting on me.  Unplowed fields! 
Grey is a perfectly good color for a driving horse (for an Orlov Trotter, classic!) and it is also a perfect next-step-up in terms of my painting skill.  (Following the She Moved To Texas blog, with its grey horse, didn't hurt... :)  But even if I don't choose grey, he'd look fantastic as a chestnut,...  or a bay,...  or a roan...
{Editor's Note.  I'm putting this picture here again in an attempt to find out whether Blogger really does pick the Fourth picture for its thumbnail.  Ever since Halloween, Blogger has been unpredictably and freakishly Not picking the first picture, despite years of doing so.  No amount of web research has given me answers.} {P.S. It worked!!  :)}

For years I've been slowly narrowing down on a color for this girl, Sarah Rose's Moxie.

I finally found it.  Does that mean she's next?
Photo by Sarah Sanderson

Not 5 minutes after I took Moxie's above picture, she effectively removed herself from the running by breaking the near hind.  :(  I can mend it,... I think,... but oh so much more work.  (I'd put her back in her dust bag, but I was moving too fast and carelessly with a slippery, fragile package.  I lost grip and she fell to the carpet.  Unlike Breyers, resins don't bounce.)

I named my Hillingar after a word found in Mary O'Hara's biography (yes, that's THE Mary O'Hara, of My Friend Flicka).  The name Shinar referred, in Mary's mind, to the country you went to when you were swept away by imagination and books and where all things were new and shining; the magical place children can get to if they concentrate hard enough.  (Compare Ken looking at the ducks in My Friend Flicka.)  I found it perfect for a unicorn. 

Hillingar by Sarah Minkiewicz
 Unlike all the others in my 5, I have long known what color Shinar wanted to be.  This is both strange and not strange.  (Think emerald dragon.)  Also unlike the others, I have a clear idea about his fate.  Though he's tempting, I must honestly confess:  I am not good enough yet.  He demands more than I have right now.  I'm OK with that.  It's a relief.

Down to three.  But there are yet more standing in line, a second tier of victims.  Three (possibly 4) horses are eager to rise up behind the 5 (I am reminded of standbys on airlines).  Left to right:  Little Lone Star by Rose, Denderah by Gerhardt, and Rocket/Alzucar.

 The 'possibly 4th' is Brasenose, who has been hiding a painful secret.  Remember that I often stand horses near me on the computer,... and how tippy he can be, only I know...

 If I am stuck and can't move, this is a good place to start budging.  NOW is the time to repair Brasenose and (almost in the same breath) to repaint Alzucar/Rocket.  Give that dishwater-doeskin some real black points and a golden metallic body overlay:  here, at least, is a color not roan!  Here is a 6th horse, a Teke still, and connected to your standing-Russian-horse habit,... but easier.  In theory.

All of your victims have been standing.  This is beside the point.  All of your victims have been by Malova.  This is also beside the point.  This habit has been good to me, but it is not set in stone.  I am increasingly ready for diversity.

What bothers me is the amount of unpreparedness,... and my inability to stick to a large project.  Not just prepping - though that is huge.  Not just choosing a color -- though that is huge too.  The question goes even deeper:  Is this the model horse project I wish to devote my precious time to?  What about the book?  and its attendant braidwork pieces?  Apprentice potential...  What about B's harness, committed to now, and every other harness, about to rise up from their fallow-&-now-fertile field??  I can make a connection between the need to get the ink pens working for the book -- and the black points on Alzucar/Rocket,... and another blackpoint who needs repair, my CopperFox Marble's tail, which flaked.  Psychically, practically, Brasenose needs doing, clearly first.

After that, it's a contest between Orlik and Ziggy.

Ziggy Stardust by Laura Rock Smith

Why doesn't Ziggy have a name?  (What's wrong with Stardust?!)  Orlik is sweet faced, familiar; he would present a safe place for a different, possibly difficult color.  I love a driving horse.  Yet Ziggy is a throwback to an earlier, older and oh-so-happy addiction, the Ragtime Carousel glory of a historical world, one I've long observed and researched, and read about.  There are so many connections to ragtime and so much of my own history here,... 1987 to the middle 90s, to start with.  Scrapbooks, photos, models, pictures books trips art calendars childhood memories!  The list is endless.  Oh he is completely undecided as far as color!  But does it matter!!  He leads to Shinar if he succeeds.  Maybe even to Rogallo, my full scale carousel horse, (who does have his color chosen, ever since I got him in 1991)... That is a dream beyond all possibilities,... but no crazier than Denderah,... or any other unfinished.

I see these two as essentially two halves of my own personality.  One is gentle and kind and the other is barbarically wild.  Both are necessary.  Ideally, then, I should do both.

 Well guys,

we're down to two.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Orlik Unboxed

It isn't every day you unbox a horse and discover three more you weren't expecting!  But that is what happened to me today.  Thank you Margarita!!  I was so surprised I laughed out loud, and I said, "This is a lot better than candy!"  All the previous times I've opened a resincast from Margarita Malova, she has so sweetly and kindly included an extra little giftie along with some candy:  Christmas-tree-ornament rocking horses and a pony.  Every time I'm impressed and humbled and don't know what to say.  Most of my hobby experience (more than 40 years now) does not include this level of gifting.

But Orlik knocked it out of the park.

The story starts with the box.  Technically it starts 3 years ago with Brasenose, my first Russian resincast, whom I saw in October 2017, purchased in November and opened in January 2018.  He was my first experience with Russia Post and the packing tape with Cyrillic letters on it.  The next 4 horses (Ambolena, Marimba, Orion & Orlik) have arrived in similar boxes.

This is Orlik's box.  He is my fifth Malova resincast, purchased in October 2020 and opened a month later.  This time the box was a little squished, but as it turned out, no harm was done.

Habitual letter-filer that I am, I keep the paperwork.

I even keep the wrappings.  The habits of recycling everything, well-started by being raised on the Colorado Front Range during the 60s and 70s, are truly set in.

There was a mysterious flat package alongside the cocoon of the horse.  Margarita sure knows how to pack:  Orlik was swathed in multiple layers of paper towels, shrinkwrap and bubble wrap.  Still completely unaware, I opened it. 
I could not believe my eyes.  Already painted!  I'd seen this medallion once before, and fallen in love with it then.  (I ask you, as a harnessmaker and lover of Tekes, how not!?!)  My gawrsh, this was going on a wall where I'd see it every day -- it's much too nice to tuck away!   Believe it or not, this is only my second finished flat pony.  It is unsigned, but I'm going to sign it for her.
On second thought, the fact that Orlik is an Orlov Trotter explains this medallion rather thoroughly.

Getting closer.  I was a little surprised by how big Orlik was appearing.  I am well on the way to keeping his mold name for him, a rarity for me; but it just sounds right.

I thought I'd pull back and put this operation into perspective.  This is the floor of the TSII tack shop.  The upper left corner is where I stand for my NaMoPaiMo selfies.  The tack benches are to the left (note the chair mats and the chair).  The air conditioner on the right (purple bandanna) is the one that died over the summer and is still waiting to be repaired (am I not multi-functional?!).  The stack behind it and right, under the hat, outside the shelves, is my pile of Breyers New-In-Box.  The deep-yellow box is TSC's Eclipse.


This is a good time to trot out the line about how I couldn't tell a buffalo from a horse.  Hah!!

Success.  Thank you so much, Margarita, across the miles and the years.

Calm and sweet, he's exactly what you'd want in a driving horse.  If you're thinking, "It's just Brasenose with mane and tail," it's true, they are very similar, although the shoulder and haunch musculatures are somewhat different.  But what does that matter if I want him?!

His face is so noble.

Close up, there are a number of pinholes -- almost unavoidable with this technology.  Her other horses had them too.  Pardon me while I run down a rabbit hole, but I couldn't resist digitally smoothing him out, as well as lengthening the mouth and enlarging the nostril a little.
If only prepping would be that easy!

Next up:  I'm in for some HARD decision-making before NaMoPaiMo - !!

 Please stay safe, and

Happy Thanksgiving.