Monday, February 25, 2008


It has been almost five years since I cold-painted a horse. For a while I did both - glazing ceramics and mixed media on resins. But over time the cold-painting tapered off as I got more deeply involved in ceramic production. Glazing is a good fit for me, and I've been an infinitely more productive artist since transitioning over to it.

But every now and again sculptures come out in resin that tempt me. These two guys - Lynn Fraley's Netsky and Sarah Rose's Mini Indy - have been sitting on my work bench doing just that. They represent two of my favorite breed types (small ponies and southern gaited horses). And I've learned that switching media from time to time can give you insights that keep your primary work fresh.

It's also tempting since our family's annual week on Pawley's Island is coming up soon. For all the wonderful things about ceramics, one big drawback is that works in progress are so not portable! These two little guys keep whispering to me, "Hey, prime us and you can tote us and the pencils along and work on the beach. Those bisques over there can't come to the beach." So far I've been holding them off by reminding that that it will most likely mean one of them comes home half-painted and ends up staying that way for the next few years! But it is tempting.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A day for dappling

"Glory be to God for dappled things" - Gerard Manley Hopkins

My husband found that Victorian-era quote a few years ago. I'm not sure Mr. Hopkins was thinking about horses when he wrote that line, but I certainly share his sentiment. Dappled horses - greys in particular - are among my favorites to paint. I started working on a group of them last week and will finally get to return to work on them today.

I paint my greys in stages, so they usually go through a half-dozen or so firings. This guy is really early in the process, having been through one firing (his mane, tail and legs) and just getting the coloring for what will be his second. You can just barely see the first layer of light grey on his forehand, which I have begun to erase. As I've mentioned before, when working with underglaze dappling is done by removal. You can see my main tools for this there in foreground - a stiff white EraserStik (sadly no longer made, so I'm always searching for them) and a softer pink Faber-Castell eraser pencil. The large, soft brush helps soften the edges of the dapples so the underglaze doesn't "pile" up and create a dark rim around the erased spot.

This first bit of dappling is always the hardest because the grey underglaze is much, much paler when it is raw than when it is fired. That makes it hard to see what you are doing. Usually I try to spray one light coat on the neck, forehand, and barrel, dapple those areas and fire again. Then when it comes out of the fire, that first coat can serve as the underpainting.

This guy is at that stage now. I can better see my dappled pattern, and I've added the first layer to his hindquarters. On an intensely dappled horse with a primarily dark hindquarter, I often leave that area until later so I don't risk marring it while handling the horse. Here I've also wrapped the finished areas, and the unworked areas, so they don't get hit with any overspray. Because the grey is so pale, it's easy to overspray without knowing it until after it fires and becomes obvious. I haven't wrapped those areas completely up to the new, though, because I don't want a line where the border was. (That's also why the wrap around his head is so loose - no hard edges in case I do spray in that area.)

This guy is one step further than the Andalusian above, with one more firing on his hindquarters. Unlike the others, though, his legs were left unfinished up until this point. His legs will remain relatively light, so they have not yet been sprayed at all. If the color calls for a dark leg, I usually paint those first so I have a good hand-hold. Most of the dark tones I use are pretty sturdy after they are fired, and even when they get rubbed they can be resprayed without any real harm. If I marred a light leg my only option would be to go darker. So his legs will stay light until closer to the end. Today, I'll start adding the red tones to his hindquarters, since he's to be a rose grey.

You'll notice that none of the faces on these guys are shaded at all. On greys I like to do that at the end so I can get a better feel for the finished look. That way I can adjust how light or how dark the face shading needs to be to balance out the piece.

And here you can see how my preference for dark leg hand-holds creates legions of only-the-legs-painted bodies on my workbench! All three of the horses on the left became, or will become greys (this is an older picture). The Arab at the top right is to be a dappled bay (hence the golden tones above her black legs) and the claybody below him will a loud bay leopard.

That's also why tobianos are the "easy" color in underglazed ceramics. Their white legs mean that they start out with safe handles. No rubs to worry about! They get finished in far fewer firings, too. But I still find the dappled horses hard to resist.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

That tobiano "Arabian"

When I posted about this mare a little over a month ago, I said that I would pass along any further information.

The original seller (not linked) claimed that the mare was a "confirmed purebred", and it does appear that she was indeed registered. But since that time serious questions have been raised about her papers. It is a bit of a soap opera so I'll leave off the details, but discussions can be found here, here and here. (The sites linked may require registration.)

So for the moment there is a registered tobiano Arabian. She does not, however, appear to be a legitimate purebred. The registry is investigating, and most observers believe she'll lose her papers.

Note: Since this post was made, some of the linked discussions have been removed.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pony Beads!

I meant to post this earlier, but here are a handful of the smallest versions of the Celtic Pony.

And here are some earrings made with the beads.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A winner, and some reminiscing

Thank you all for participating in the Valentine giveaway! I had a great time, and it was fun to hear from so many people in the comments. I just wish I knew how to write responses so they appear under specific comments!

I went ahead and plugged the number of comments into the random number generator and came up with the easy-to-count-backwards-to result of 83. (I figured if I got one, I'd disregard numbers that gave me deleted or duplicate posts.) So the winner is Heather Abounader! Heather, if you'll email me privately with your address, I'll send this guy out to you.

I was also going to share some photos. One of the comments yesterday was from "Dr B", probably better known to most of you as Kim Bjorgo (now Bjorgo-Thorne). She mentioned sharing biohazards for breakfast, so I thought I would share a photo I just happened to run across the day before she posted. I was looking for photos of Rosinante, my first custom glaze, because 2008 marks my tenth year making little shiny horses. I didn't find them, but I did find pictures from the second annual Carolina All-Mini Live Show held at my house that same year.

That's Kim there with my husband, Alan, holding our breakfast in - yes! - a biohazard bag. The show was still small and informal then, so it was held in our home. (We would move to the pretty Waterfront Hall the next year.) Since we had folks traveling from as far away as Florida, we decided to make it a combination show and pajama party. Kim had promised to bring fish so my husband could cook the lowcountry breakfast "grits-and-grunts" for everyone. The fish were part of a study Kim had just finished at Clemson University. She assured us that the fish she would be bringing were her control group. But she did bring them in that biohazard bag, which she claimed was "all that she could find" to put them in. I can say it's not the best way to get people enthused about eating fish for breakfast!

Here's another picture from that same show.

That's me looking rather skeptical standing beside Alli Willis. I'm not sure what was responding to with that expression (maybe someone said "palomino Arabians"!), but Alan swears it must have been him because he sees that look a lot. Poor guy. The baby Alli is holding is my oldest son, Brandon. Just barely visible in the foreground is Anthea Smith Peacock, and in the background is Gretchen Waldo.

I really need to pull out some of my archived photos and go through them and post a few. Then I can make other people feel old, too!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought it would be fun to give away one of the new "Summer Storm" plaques. Now if I had been planning ahead properly, I would have glazed one in some holiday-appropriate color like red or pink. (Though I must admit that pink is a little too "My Little Pony" for my tastes - no offense, Addi!)

Anyway, this guy is a pretty soft teal color. He's one of the first tests I pulled from the mold, so his detail is nice and crisp.

What I'll do is draw a winner from the names that appear in the comments. So if you'd like to be entered, just add your name to the comments, and I'll randomly pick from the entries.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The other Spinnaker

This is my other Spinnaker, a chestnut tovero named "Shindig".

More pictures of Elvis

Sabino roans - really, any low-constrast pattern - are always difficult to capture in pictures. Here are some detail shots, though

And a face shot from the other side.

Monday, February 11, 2008

More unseen horses

This is "Elvis Impersonator", a favorite from my own collection. I'm ashamed to say that he's been here for two years, and this is the first time I've taken any pictures of him. I started him at the Pour Horse studio at (what is now) our annual retreat, and then carried him home on the plane to finish him here. I've run out of time to finish color-correcting the rest of the pictures, but I'll post more of him - and of his fellow Spinnaker "Shindig" - later tonight.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Shrove Tuesday

The studio here runs on coffee - Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccinos, to be exact. But today is Shrove Tuesday. That's the Anglican version of Mardi Gras, only with pancakes instead of beads and frontal nudity. And that makes this my last Frappuccino until Easter. I've given up all manner of things for Lent in years past. One year I even gave up internet access, and got an incredible amount of work done. I guess I'll find out if I get less done without coffee. I have this horrible image of Alan coming home one evening and finding me face-planted on the workbench!

But at least on this, my last caffeinated day, I have been busy filling up the kiln. Remember this guy?

Here he is now, with just his final detailing and glossing left to do.

He's unusual in that I have done most of his dappling by hand, using thin washes of color much like I used to do when I cold-painted. That's also how the mapping around his pattern was done, though I'm not sure it's especially visible in this photo. I am anxious to see how he turns out!

And over the weekend I finished up the ceramic production molds for "Moose", Sonya Johnson's medallion for the CT River Classic Live. He's a nice size and has the clean lines that I enjoy painting, so I'm looking forward to glazing a few myself. It will be a week or two before the molds dry, though. His was the last mold I had planned for a while, since it won't be long before I have to start making horses for the Spring Lottery.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Legos in bulk

I've spoken before about using Legos for moldmaking, and the fact that I have been limited to small molds because modern Lego sets don't actually have many of the traditional rectangular pieces. I thought I'd need to haunt the yard sales this summer to see if I could find some of the older sets, but it turns out you can buy Legos online in bulk.

Joan Berkwitz also gave me a wonderful tip that makes clean-up a lot easier. If you coat the inside of the Lego mold with a little vaseline, it will seal the brick lines so the rubber does not seep into the grooves. If the rubber really gets in between the bricks, they can be really difficult to pry apart without damaging the bricks, so I really recommend it!