Thursday, February 27, 2020

Marimba 13: Finished

I DID IT!!!   Finished Wednesday night, the 26th.  The homestretch was an hours-long struggle with that mane.   The Muse dragged me down a path I didn't even know was there!!  But I am SO happy with her -- !!!

Here is one of the first pictures, taken on a winter day.  Normally I shoot my tack and horses on this railing, but this is the first time it's actually had SNOW.  The light makes her look like a real horse (or as I prefer to say, full-scale).
That last evening, I was happy at first with her mane, and the tail was what fought.  Back and forth:  Add color, take it away.  I was using isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol as a solvent and it allows erasing as much as deposition, but it's tricksy.  I eventually used the X-Acto, cutting down in places to the resin.  This helped with the tail but was a liability with the mane, as it revealed the pinholes.
Deep in the heart-heat of creativity,  I am not happy or sad, just INTENT -- this is the finest hour of artistry ---

At an unknown stage of the proceedings, when I got the tail to a satisfactory 3 colors, I tried Pearl-Ex on it (micro pearl).  Amazeballs!!  The tips suddenly got as white as I wanted, it blended well back up the length of the tail (pearling the red beautifully), and best of all, it obscured the dark lines and pinholes that the tips had so much of.  The tail was solved.  I could see no way to make it better.

In contrast, the mane got worse.  Worse and worse.  My dreams of a Flame mane -- orange & yellow, straw & gold, cherry & lemon -- were dying.  Hard.  I got the tips white, and through all that followed, they stayed that way:  A vision that insisted, that stuck in until I had to accept it.  The white mane -- how it crept, higher and higher, rising and falling like a tide with my efforts -- gave her an Atlantean look, like Princess Kida in the Disney movie. 

Once I saw this, the battle between a white mane and a Flame one was foredoomed.  But oh how hard I fought.  I tried and tried.  Orange, copper, gold, yellow I tried;  even, towards the end, I tried pure flesh tones.  The yellow was a horrible mistake.  Late in the game I cut the tips white again, down past the primer -- reckless yet determined.   One secret was to raise the white past the mid-point of the mane.  Another secret was four bands of color:  for quite a while I was happy when the neck around the white tips was a proper orangey... in defiance of the rest!

Very late in the game I realized I had to use pearl here too, to match the tail.  I put it on one tress at a time;  you can see there are a lot of tresses.  The Pearl-Ex did a beautiful job of covering up the pinholes, hiding the dark crevices which had so bothered me.  It blended reasonably well with the chestnut roots.  I was beat:  Flame manes would have to wait for another year.

The end result is not exactly a Perlino so much as a pearled Atlantean fantasy!  But I had been true to the artist's vision.  I had fought the battle to a successful end.  Given the skills and tools I had, she could be no other color.
 I had not so much painted as unpainted her, building up layers of browns and reds and then melting them off, and laying down a transparent yet blending coat of pearl over them.
Ambolena's [the filly's] Pearl-Ex spread a sheet of clear gold glass over her.  But Marimba's Pearl-Ex was much more of a translucent effect, an aurora-borealis shimmer of a blending:  the milky pearlescence of a sea shell.  Indeed she reminds me of carnival glass...!

I learned so much.  I learned not to put too much alcohol on the brush: That was huge.  I learned to sweep upwards from the mane tips with the brush pointing upwards:  a process that destroyed the brush! but gave lovely blending, a beautiful shading.  I used Q-tips to strip when I ran out of patience (which was often).  Just like Brasenose the chestnut stallion, my quote became: "Many Q-tips were destroyed in the making of this animal."
In a glorious Victor Hugo finish, I used up my last Q-tips right as she was done.
Victor Hugo reached the end of his bottle of ink precisely at the last words of his famous novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831).

Lor' she fought so hard.

Largely after looking at so many beautifully oiled and shaded other peoples' horses, I passed through a phase of deep shame.  My poor prep job -- she's so rough, so coarse, grainy and nicked: her nose, her lips, her mane and hock.  Her lack of face shading -- for all of Sarah Mink's best intentions [Mink's face shading tutorial].  Her eyes, believe it or not:  They were done with colored pencil, as I wasn't going to go downtown and buy another pastel for so small a dot of color.  Thanks to L.K.Magga & Gretchen Haskett for their help there!

Most of all I was ashamed I'd started so late, and chose to lower my standards because I hadn't left myself much time.  Ambolena [2019] was finished the 22nd;  Brasenose [2018] the 20th.  Just 10 days have seen Marimba:  17th started prepping, 20th started painting, finished the 26th.  At least 2 days in there I was doing nothing on her at all.
Truly a rush job.
 It quails me a little -- me who have nothing to apologize for.  This is the first NMPM I have felt so ashamed.  But then came that last evening, and I am charged with satisfaction.  That last deep session was a fitting match to Ambolena's gilding, and to so many others' accomplishments.

What's remarkable about this family is that all three were sculpted by the same artist:  Margarita Malova of Bologoye, Russia.  All three were painted by me, who have not painted a horse before NaMoPaiMo.  (Ahem:  Thoughts on NaMoPaiMo 2017  shows you repainted and haired a couple in the 1970s and 80s, then etched a handful up thru 2015.)  All three depict the same breed, rather amazing when you consider my history:  I have gone through Quarter Horses, Belgians, Moroccan Pintos and Peruvian Pasos in turn over the years, with Clydes and Pintos holding slightly lesser place.

I learned how to paint with some of the most difficult and unforgiving mediums:  rubbing alcohol and nail polish.  I have also (this is the place to boast) blogged nineteen (19) times about NMPM:  once in 2017, nine times in 2018 and six times in 2019!!  Yikes!!!!!!!!!
And yes, the painting artist made the tack.  :)

I read somewhere that the Akhal Teke mare does not wear the alaja (neck jewelry).  Oh such hard news!  Having made Brasenose his beautiful set -- those are REAL emeralds -- I simply could not resist.  Photo-shoot heaven.
I also read somewhere that while a Perlino can have a buckskin foal, a liver chestnut cannot, or shouldn't, be the father, at least out of a Perlino.  Alas.  Once again I'm going to ignore reality.  These little guys have been hoping for one another for 3 years.  I can't separate them now.

The Thank-You list:
Jennifer Buxton, for dreaming it all up.  And for finding the energy to comment positively on a majority of finishers, myself included.  I am amazed, honored, fulfilled.
Margarita Malova, the sculptress, for creating this horse right in the middle of my plans to paint another, and making her irresistable.  You did a good job!
Sarah Minkiewicz and Christine Riley for encouraging tutorials.  Friends near and far for encouragement, period.
Arthur Baboev, for photos of Akhal Tekes.
Ryan Buxton, who may have saved Jennifer's life with his software.
Lizzie Kanavy, who first saw the finished product, and responded most favorably.
And to George, my husband.  Without him I could have done none of this.

Long live the supporters of NaMoPaiMo!

What's next?  Finishing the 2nd Goehring saddle, of course.  Fixing up Brasenose, who is quite scratched -- ah, the powers of PhotoShop.  Tack short orders.  I am helping judge Michelle Sepiol's show on March 21st.  I plan to attend NAN as a volunteer photographer.
There might be a collar to my Emerald Teke set for NMTM.  :)
And there just might be more Teke sets in the future.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Marimba 7 thru 10

I'm happy with her hooves and eyes.  I'm not happy with her mane and tail.  We'll try a post with only 6 pictures, Hah!!
Paradoxically I feel as though I have plenty of time.  However, I may not always have nice weather.  It keeps clouding up and the forecast is for rain.  Nonetheless, things look hopeful.  A few more dinks, solve the mane and she'll be done!  YES, you can do it [other NMPM painters]:  I've managed so much in less than a week.

Yesterday Layers 7, 8 and 9 came together.  I am reasonably pleased.  Although dry-brushing the Pearl-Ex gave a lovely lighter overcoat, it did not solve the deeper streaks, merely disguising them.  They may always be with her!  But she's finally starting to seriously grow on me.  That happened this morning, with the hooves and eyes.
I found only one colored pencil, of all that I owned, which would work:  which would actually draw on the rough Gesso surface and not slide off.   I painted the eyeball white, then penciled in (graphite) where I wanted the iris and pupil.   The colored pencil was a Berol Verithin and luckily it was the very color I'd wanted most: a turquoise blue.  (It's labeled Sea Green.)  The pupil was done with drafting ink, carefully maneuvered with a pin.  Two coats of nail polish finished the job.
For someone's very first blue eye, it's not too bad.

An amazing part of Layer 10 was how much nail polish I used.  All the pink on her is nail polish.  It is the most unforgiving of mediums.  I had to be right the first time.  Not much shading was possible, yet I blobbed onwards, swabbing with a microbrush, and somehow it came out all right.  Ears, muzzle, udder, eyes, hooves, the skin at the elbows, under the tail -- everywhere I thought she should be pink, she got nail polish.  Even the socks were given a light coat of it (though not that pink, which was a custom mix).  I learned this from Brasenose and Ambolena, my previous NMPM horses:  Gesso for a sock base, then warming and protecting the coat with polish.   Alas, the chance to shoot her mid-swab and really show the difference (between polish-coated and not) went by like a freight train and I didn't take it.

The hooves caused me trouble.  There is a yellowish base under there (thank you Christina Riley!) sealed with clear nail polish.  The hind feet behaved relatively well, but the front ones, perhaps because there was no white primer layer, fought like tigers.  I had to brush and brush, reapply and struggle to get them to match the hinds.  The alcohol I was using kept melting off what I'd applied.  Then I went and put too much color on all four.  Painting these hooves was largely a matter of removing color.  At the end I was layering on my Almay Creme light pink nail polish, the same as for the socks.

Marimba is hard to photograph.  I'm sure you're tired of hearing that!  Here at last I feel I'm closing in on a good angle of view.  Not too much exaggeration of the head, and it shows the eye and hooves, just not much of the tail.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Marimba 1 thru 6

Marimba is my third NaMoPaiMo horse.  As the woman of the family (stallion Brasenose in 2018 and filly Ambolena last year), she is naturally the most difficult, most mysterious and temperamental of them all!  You see her here mid-metamorphosis, after Layer 6...  Six of who knows how many more layers.  Perlino is hard.

I started prepping on the 17th.  This is my only prep picture.
This is Mufida, sculpted by Margaret Malova of Bologoye Russia.

She is quite difficult to photograph.  Not only is the mold challenging, though that's bad enough:  The long curved neck, with its long splayed ears, combined with my camera's somewhat fisheye approach makes her head often look much too large.  The long lanky body and slender legs, while appropriate for an Akhal Teke, make most shots downward ones, resulting in a warped viewing angle.  But combined these with the Perlino!!  The pearl layer causes serious washouts, reflections and white glares that obscure her color and just don't show what she actually looks like.  This post has a variety of shots -- and not one of them is really her.

I have learned so much painting her these past two days.
To begin with, I'm astounded I got so far in only 2 days.  The 22nd happens to be the day I finished Ambolena last year... !!  I was just so derned busy for most of Feb.  The first week taken by being in Tucson; every day since then has been crammed with chores, errands, and setting up and testing (and downloading fixes on) a complete new computer, plus maintenance of everything normal.  Oh and I was intent on working on TSII #457.  (Which is going well, by the way.)  I don't really know why I've been so consumed with my own busyness.  Only in the past few days have I just decided to ignore the other calls on me, ...  and we'll see how long that lasts.

Prepping, while not as difficult as Ambolena's, revealed a few divots.  The worst was this near fore cannon.  I eventually filled the hole with multiple layers of Elmer's.
I think this is Layer 3 (below).  After Layer 2 , (and until now, that is, 7)  each layer of pastels has been only on the points:  mane, tail, knees, hocks, pasterns and face.  Unless you count the pearl.

This is the last shot before the pearl.  The wash of yellow is from another light source and not paint.  Note the blue tape stockings.  What was a good idea with Brasenose and Ambolena turned out much less useful with this horse.  Her hind legs are delicate and bendy and her body long and weighty, so I can't just 'hold her up.'  But I can suspend her upsidedown by her ankles.
Very undignified.  But it allows sealant to reach the belly.  :)
Photo by Arthur Baboev
I was in love with the Pearl-shaded Akhal Tekes.  After the success of Ambolena's gilding, why not?  I wanted to try the same procedure on the mare.  On the 21st I gave into greed and started painting with rubbing alcohol as a solvent. 

 With disastrous results.
What had worked on a filly with 10 layers of buckskin and sealant was much less impressive on a Trad mare with only 2 layers of near-white.  The alcohol melted through and caused streaks.  The size of the brush -- small -- was making the streaks worse.  I had a lovely overcoat of glittering pearl -- Yes, that part worked!! -- but to extend it over the whole horse turned the entire project into a mess.
 I also did the mane and tail with alcohol, resulting in a water-color-like texture.

Again, it is really hard to photograph this phenomenon.
The last thing I did on the night of the 21st was to revert to pastelling, and put another layer on the knees and hocks.  Spraying it revealed a softness and color that was pleasing.  With this small comfort I went to bed.  Next morning I shot Marimba outside.
So here we are, amazed at our own progress, and annoyed that I forgot things like the Ugly Stage, or that I was greedy enough to try alcohol too soon.  Overnight more ideas came:  more pastelling, and to try pastelling the Pearl-Ex itself.  Clearly a brush, even a big soft one, is doing too much damage with the alcohol at this scale.  If I were an airbrusher, that would probably solve the problem; it could apply a smooth thin layer in the fashion I wanted.  But I'm not.
"Not done yet."
Photo from Google images
I'm having fun and the weather is fantastic.  I painted Brasenose in the dark in sleet, rain and snow; Ambolena was done in snow and cold.  But Marimba promises spring.  Being a redhead myself, and not forgetting about Flame Manes (unlike Brasenose, she has mane enough -- thank you Margarita!), I'm well on my way to Claybank Dun.

Thank you, NaMoPaiMo.  Come join us.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Hock Deep: Engraving

Timaru Star II #457 is making progress, though often against what feels like a stiff wind.  On the one hand, we are way ahead of where the last Goehring saddle was at this time in its creation.  Five months (instead of 15) and we're already halfway!  On the other hand, there has been no work at all done on Marimba, my NaMoPaiMo horse.  :(   I had not figured on February being hock deep in everything!!  Where does the time go?!?  I only know that, as an artist, I must follow my Muse, ... and it has been saying, as strongly as it knows how, that I should engrave silver and work on tack.
So I did.
Engraving is a multi-step process; and each step is a separate art.  We have already seen the cutting out, filing and shaping of the pieces.  Next comes the soldering of the silver wire loops on their backs.  At this time not every piece is done,... but we have only 9 to go, out of a grand total of 40.
I  kind of forgot to dome some of the conchos before this step.  That's going to create an interesting challenge.  I can think of a couple of halfway workable procedures for that,... tackmaking is like this...

The next step in engraving, as we've seen before (Goehring Breastcollar Engraved),  is the making of holding blocks for the individual pieces.  This is necessary because they're so small.  I can't just clamp them in the vise by themselves; they need a matrix, an embedding material of some kind, for the actual engraving.  Enter Thermaloc.  This is the brand name of a heat-softened plastic.  The smallest amount the company sells is two pounds.  So,... I bought 2 pounds (and now I have enough for me and every other model tackmaker I know for years... !).  Each piece of silver is stuck into a lump of Thermaloc's grey plastic while it's still soft.  As I mentioned, it's hard to work with, being impossibly sticky when too hot and useless when it's too cold.  The working time feels like half a minute.
You might recognize the largest piece:  it's the center of the breastcollar.

After engraving, the next step, -- after prying the piece out of the Thermaloc -- they usually pop out easily -- is to set the concho in the breastcollar.  This is not just gluing.  This is a whole 'nother step of fitting, filing, cutting and adjusting so that the silver sinks down into the leather.  That tiny line of shadow around the concho is the difference between 'just another toy' and professional model tack that breathes life,... that looks so like the real thing,... that wows.

That shadow-line is why I tool down the backgrounds for my conchos.  That line is movable,... you wouldn't believe it, but it is, as is the edge of the concho.  But, naturally, at this stage the moving is expensive and difficult.  One aims for as little as possible.
Here's a glimpse of the back side.  Leather lace is threaded through the tiny loops.  The stress on the lace is so great it often breaks -- as it did here.
Here's the back of the top 4 conchos.  Lace ends are glued down.
All this will be covered later with a lining leather.  Not only will that protect the horse from scratches, it will hide the details of construction.  Instead of relying on a glue bond, this breastcollar relies on a soldered-metal bond and the strength of the lace.

As usual this time of year, I have a few soft deadlines and a hard one for tack.  The hard one is early May when I leave for Colorado.  To make that journey one more time! -- it's a miracle every year.  Surely this saddle will be finished before then.  But I do not feel I can promise anything.  This kind of work is dictated by diverse pressures I feel only partly in control of.
The Muse wishes we could work on Marimba too.  I'm not saying we can't!  She might yet greet the light of day.  But we'll just have to see.