I named him Coney Eye. Coney for the historic peninsula, with all its carousel and ragtime associations; and the "I" for island, for myself and for the London Eye, a great ferris wheel. I got this inspiring and incredible sculpture straight from the hand of the creator, Laura Rock Smith, in 2019 at BreyerFest. Even then my mind was working towards his coloring. I had grown up deeply influenced by Elitch's Gardens in Denver.
|Image found online, unable to credit|
Finally ready to tackle this horse, I knew from the start I wanted a gold mane and tail. The rest would be like Paint-By-Number! When I sat down to digitally design him, I chose a photo by Tina DeCaussin, from last year's NaMoPaiMo, which just happened to have a gold mane and tail; and then turned the whole horse black and white.
Every time I use PhotoShop I learn something new. (Over the years PhotoShop is the computer program that has made me cry the most.) I'd used it for decades in image processing but I'd only just begun to paint with it. In Coney's case I discovered the Overlay option in the Artist's Brush menu. Suddenly I had translucent color which did not obscure the carved scales. The joy I felt when I first got that breastcollar right was beyond description. This was it!!
The borders of the scaled panels, as well as the blanket and its border, would have to be neutral colors, so as not to clash with that fantastic rainbow.
I added gold hooves and put in some texture to the fringe. (I've since changed my mind about the blanket lines; they should be gold, I just haven't done it yet.) I was insanely proud. I shared him with Laura, Tina and a few friends, who all reacted positively. I wondered why I hadn't entered coloring contests under Digital. And time went by.
February was a landmark in our lives. Retirement, pension, banking and insurance matters consumed us both. The fall of 2021 had brought this monumental decision, for both public and private reasons, and winter was spent in preparation. January and February both went into making decisions we must live with for the rest of our lives. Against this backdrop, painting model horses fell a distinct second place. I knew when I entered NaMoPaiMo that the odds of my finishing on time were low. I spent most of February completing the Lead Pair harness,... (and still have another unfinished tack order! the saddle below.)
So when I finally could paint, it was to discover I'd bitten off more than I could chew.
Matters were not helped by the method. Since Ambolena in 2019, Gilding the Lily , I'd fallen in love with alcohol-painting: using rubbing alcohol as a medium with pastel powders (and PearlEx), which I created myself by scraping with a knife on various pastel sticks. There was nothing wrong with the idea; but the tiny brushes could not apply color smoothly, nor did I know much about painted-on sealant.
I loved being able to create a color on the spot, by mixing the various pastels and PearlExes. The borders to Coney's panels were done in red-blue interference PearlEx, which came out a lovely metallic mauve. Photos don't do it justice.
I also started gold-leafing with the hooves and forelock,... enough to teach me that this step alone would take many days and probable re-doing. So the remainder of Feb went to mentally adjusting to not making NaMo's deadline.
On the 23rd I painted the bottoms of his hooves, as per Braymere's blog. What a grand idea! You can just see one in the photo below. I also decided to return to traditional pasteling & sealing, and did the girth that way. This worked beautifully except for some staining around the area.
Somewhere in the last week I went to Uncle Eli's, the art supply store downtown, and purchased primary-color pastels. My PearlEx package did not include such bright colors. With these, the magic began.
I kept the alcohol-paste method for the fringe, as it gave the texture I wanted. The girth proved to me I was on the right track. Another miracle happened: when it was time to seal after the rainbows, I cleaned off all the white areas around them with the alcohol. (Note not the tail, since it will be gilded.) And damn if his surface texture didn't suddenly appear like an old Park-paint carousel horse! I had primed him, of course; but I don't know if I got down to the resin or what. This smoothness, with a few bumps and stains from years of abuse, was exactly what I remembered from real carousel horses...
Things were progressing. Alas for the deadline. It was Feb. 25th. In a burst of pure joy, I painter's-taped some parts and swung into pastelling. I had not known I could have so much fun. Here he is, first layer sprayed, insurance policy completed, and all summer opening out with the lifting of a two-year cloud.
Every year, NaMoPaiMo has given me a fantastic lift. The inspiration travels through the months, and the wisdom accumulates. I have all the jewels for this horse; I am satisfied with my vision of him. Now it will be up to my own discipline to see him fully born.