Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More Lirico work

Today was spent ticking the sabino Lirico. In this picture I've put down some warm gray (eventually it will be a darker charcoal color) and have started the hair texture on areas of his neck, flank and hip. I tend to move around a fair bit like this, working in one area and then switching to another, so the piece looks more consistent in the end. By the end of the day I had one side done. Tomorrow I'll tackle the other. After all his hair detail is fired on, I'll start deepening his coloring and softening the effect of the ticking.

I had hoped to fire the appaloosa Lirico in the kiln with him, but I bent my last airbrush needle. (Obviously inventory control here at the studio leaves something to be desired!) Hopefully replacements will arrive in the next day or so and I can get him caught back up with his buddy. For the moment he just looks like an odd pink-skinned white horse with a dirty mane and a dark tail.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Purple Mummified Ponies

Can't you hear them? "No! Don't leave us like this!!" And they would have a reason to worry, since I've left them encased in bubble wrap for years now.

When this piece was produced by Marcherware, I was asked to produce four pieces as a guest artist. The pieces were to go to caster (Mark Farmer), the finisher (Joan Berkwitz), the sculptor (Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig), and myself. Since the other customs were done in groups of three, these would be the only one-of-a-kinds from the run.

I finished one, a pale silver dapple, fairly early on. (Early is a relative term with me.) But the other three have been here waiting while I fell into the trap of believing that they would never look as good with a current-day glazing as they might in some future "when-I-know-even-more" glaze. It's a really bad habit. I've been working with underglaze for ten years now, and the detail and finesse we can achieve now is amazing compared to what we could do then. What if I later saw these guys and thought, "if only I had known how to..."? Like I said, bad habit.

I decided it was time to get off the fence and glaze these guys. Even a someday-surpassed finish is better than three identically white horses. Besides, if I worked hard, I could finish them in time to hand deliver them to Joan and Sarah when I saw them in Boise!

Here they are with their hooves, manes and tails painted. The hooves were already painted when they got mummified. I always do those first so I can be sure I have a painted "canvas" to detail later. I've picked out some complex patterns for each, so they are going to get a lot of what I think of as "preparation" firings. Those are firings of bits that need a color or some basic shading down so I can add things on top.

I also plan to take full advantage of the fact that, unlike with earthenware, underglaze on bone china is impervious. I can scrape it, mask over top, or even wipe paint off from it, all without causing any damage.

The first guy with the dark mane and tail will be loosely based on this guy, Pusher's Coat of Colors. (Check out the link for lots more really neat pictures of him. He's always been a favorite of mine.) I want to try some new tricks with getting softer, more true-to-scale roaning on him. I also wanted to go a bit darker with him than I have done on some of my previous sabino roans.

And this is Pratt Sully Fire. I had chosen him as the reference for Sarah's Lirico back when I first got the bisques. I have always loved the idea of leopard-patterned Spanish horses.

My original thinking was to tone down the "loud" in his pattern by making his base color champagne. This would also give me a chance to do some greenish eyes. Yet when I pulled up Sully's site, I found more recent pictures of him, including the one above. I really liked the effect of his stained, but mostly pale, mane against his darker pattern. Adding this to a light base color wouldn't have the same effect, so I opted to go with a warm chocolate black instead. This would not only let me play with some staining on the mane, but also on the haloing of the spots.

Here is a close up of the initial mane tones. Eventually I'll go back in and add some silvery-chocolate streaks for accuracy (a leopard that loud shouldn't have an all-white mane) and interest. But this kind of coloring really plays up the detail Sarah put in his mane.

These guys are back in the kiln, this time with their pink areas done. I'll post again when I get to the next step, and it will make sense why the pink needed to go on at this stage.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A new Spinnaker

I pulled this little guy, "Phoenix", from the kiln this morning. He was done as a donation for the Realistic Equine Sculpture Society. I suppose you could say he's the product of three donations, since Sarah sculpted Spinnaker for the organization, and then Addi produced him in ceramic for them. I am not sure what plans they have for this guy, but I'm happy he can be a part of the rebirth of the group.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Brookgreen Photos

I had hoped to have some finished horses to post today, but I didn't get the kiln started in time. My large kiln, where I do all my glaze firing, is a manual so someone has to turn up the temperature every two hours for its six-hour cycle. There was a time when I was so anxious to see the horses, I would stay up late to do this and then wake in the wee hours of the morning, unable to sleep because I just had to see how the horses turned out. I'm too old for that now! Or maybe just more patient. (Yes, that's it! Patient. Not old. Patient!)

I thought I would post some of the photos from Brookgreen instead. Kiln gods willing, tomorrow I will have some ponies to show off.

This piece is Youth Taming the Wild. It sits on an island in the middle of a pool, accessible to visitors by means of a small wooden bridge. It's one of the most peaceful spots on the property.

This is the view from the island standing beside the sculpture. The opening just past the small dogwood tree is the gate where Huntington's Great Danes sit. I was told this particular gate marks the entrance to the original Brookgreen plantation.

This is the view looking back through those same gates. The two Great Danes, one male and one female, sit on the brick walls on the sides of the gate. Although the two dogs are made from granite, they are in pretty poor repair. If you look you can see the repaired break on this one's tail. She also has breaks on both her legs. Still the damage seems to give the dogs a rather poignant air, as if they are still waiting for their master despite their "injuries".

I photographed these squirrels for my friend Sarah. Not only is she fond of small critters, but their wild action reminded me of her! (Oh, and Sarah would you have loved the squirrels that hung out at the Old Kitchen. They were so fat they had butt dimples!)

I also got to see the newly opened Offner Sculpture Center. It's looks more like a warehouse than an actual gallery, but still it was a treat to finally get to see some of Brookgreen's "hidden" collection. If you can imagine a large warehouse building with rows and rows of glass cases like these, then you can get a pretty accurate picture of the place. It's a bit like a library, only with cases of sculptures instead of books.

Unfortunately it's not the best way to show off the pieces. The pieces on the highest shelves are really difficult to see, especially for a short person like me. And everything is difficult to photograph (and sometimes even see) because of the reflective glass. But it is an amazing collection with a fair number of horses. Sadly, those were not the pictures that turned out well.

I did get a pretty good picture of Little Lamb, by Gertrude Lathrop. I thought he was unusual in that he is a rather large piece (probably close to life-size) and bronze that had been silver-plated. I wasn't aware that anyone did that to large pieces.

Many of the pieces had odd finishes. There were plasters and even wax originals that had been made to appear as if they were bronze. There were also bronzes with gold leaf, including a draft horse with gold leaf decorations.

This Wolfhound is a newer piece, and I'm sorry to say I did not get the name or the artist. He stands in front of the zoo, facing a companion piece of a crouching wolf. It has been nice to see more dogs at the Gardens in recent years. There is even a sculpting workshop focusing on dogs this year, conducted by Louise Peterson. I wish I was able to attend!

I still have a lot of photos from the medallion show and from Anna Hyatt Huntington's unusual house Atalaya. (There aren't many houses with a place to keep bears.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Everyone needs a little challenge

Can't you see these guys glazed in really cool colors?

Sarah and I decided that it had to be attempted. I have no idea if it is possible. Thin legs are really difficult. Ditto that with the textured coats. And I won't begin to think about the moldmaking fun that is a Sarah mane and tail! Nothing like a crash course in super-advanced moldmaking. (Perhaps I should have warned Joanie not to read this post, in case she takes one look as decides to change her phone number.)

But how could you resist?

And the attitude! (Oh, have I seen this expression from my own mare many times.)

You can see more pictures in the albums Sarah has set up for each: Imp the foal, and Vixen the mare. Sarah is already releasing them in resin, to go with her previously released stallion, Taboo. Sarah says that Lynn at LafnBear will be casting them for her, which will be fun. When all of us met for "Mayhem" last year, Vixen was mostly legless (and we were told the source of much cursing from Sarah) but even so she was already really cool.

It's such an exciting time to be making shiny ponies!

Home again

Want a towel on a chair in the sand by the sea
Want to look through my shades
and see you there with me
Want to soak up life for a while
in laid back mode
No boss, no clock, no stress, no dress code

I suspect listening to Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney is not the most effective way to transition back into the work world. Especially when a week at the beach just means a week's worth of things that didn't get done while you were gone! Surely that is how vacations work for everyone. And there is just something wrong with coming home to heavy sweater weather when you have a sunburn.

But we are back. Well, I am back. Alan almost immediately hopped on a plane to Japan and Brandon boarded a bus for the fifth grade trip. This week starts a flurry of travel for all of us for the next few months. Even I, a person who truly dislikes travel of any kind, will be heading off twice. The first will be my annual "Mayhem" retreat and then on to judge at Devilish Kokopelli. (Teresa, I really will send you my biography for the website. I promise!) All this chaos is why the Spring Lottery is being held unusually late this year. (Please overlook the irony of me using the words "unusual" and "late" in the same sentence.)

In the meantime I'm trying to catch up with neglected correspondence and projects left half-finished.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Marsh Tackies

The family is still here on Pawleys Island, but I thought I would share a picture of one of the newest residents of Brookgreen Gardens. This little yearling is Bravo, and he's part of the lowcountry cultural exhibit. He is a Marsh Tacky, one of the original colonial breeds currently on the "critical" list with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Both he and the younger colt in the exhibit, Joab, were duns. (Joab would not come out from behind the feeder for a picture - perhaps because he was shedding out and going through some weanling uglies, poor guy!) The volunteer working at the exhibit said that the horses weren't donated, but rather were on loan to Brookgreen. Apparently the breeders are going to rotate various representatives of the breed through the exhibit.

I do have some pictures to share from Brookgreen proper, and from the medallic art exhibit there. But I'm going to wait until I get home to post those. The indoor pictures need a good bit of color correction, and I don't trust this old laptop for that.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Pony on a stick!

The Spinnaker mold goes on a base, and those get added after the horse is finished so for now he's on kiln stilt. Horses get stilted when they go in for their final fire, otherwise the glaze on the bottoms of their hooves would fuse them to the floor. (No horse looks good permanently attached to a kiln floor.) In this case the stilt is just a safe place to put him while I rest my hands.

In this picture his dark areas are just blocked in. The really fine details of a pattern are added by etching them in with a really sharp blade. I only use the very tip, so I go through a lot of #11 blades. (My hands wear out almost as quickly!) When he is done, his pattern will look a bit like this guy. And he'll have a dark tail. For the moment it's mostly unpainted because I need a handle.

(He's a donation for the Realistic Equine Sculpture Society.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

My favorite place

I spent the day preparing for our annual spring trip to Pawleys Island. It's a wonderful, quiet coastal town full of old growth trees hung with Spanish moss and wisteria vines. It's the perfect place to live slowly for a week.

It's also home to Brookgreen Gardens - my favorite place! Brookgreen was established in the 1930s to preserve the native environment and display realistic, figurative sculpture in a natural setting. It covers over 9,000 acres and the collection has almost 1200 pieces displayed among dogwoods, azaleas and man-made ponds. For a sculptor, especially one specializing in figurative work, it is an tremendously inspiring place.

And I'm especially excited to see it this year because they are having a special exhibit of bas relief and medallion work. I've already bought an extra memory stick for the camera! In the meantime, here are some of the pictures I took last year.

This larger-than-life sculpture of fighting stallions marks the entrance to the Gardens. The lighter color isn't a patina - the sculpture was actually cast in aluminum.

This is one of the two lions that guard the entrance to the gardens proper. They are copies of the pair at the Hispanic Society of America.

After you pass the lions, you find Diana of the Chase set in a large pool. That particular sculpture of Diana (and there are many on the grounds) is probably the best-known image of the Gardens. This shot is taken at an odd angle behind her because I was trying to capture the look the old trees and gardens give the sculptures. I fear I am not enough of a photographer to really capture the feel of the place.

This is a smaller copy of the bas relief of Boabdil that decorates one side of the Hispanic Society building.

If I remember correctly, this piece was a study done in preparation for Anna Hyatt Huntington's famous Horse Trainer. It was only a bit larger than a "traditional" model horse.

Anna Hyatt Huntington sculpted this (larger than life) piece when she was 87. I hope I'm still making horses at that age!

This is one of the many sculptures of small boys with curly hair on the grounds. When my youngest son was small, he was convinced that Brookgreen was full of sculptures of him.