Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Suppressed Leopards

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been working on an article on how appaloosa patterns interact with the different base coat colors. In discussing the color black and how it can suppress white markings and patterns, I thought it would be fun to show how this suppression can effectively "shrink" the leopard pattern down to blanket-size. Digital images are fun that way, because I could take the pattern from the top horse and literally shrink it down and place it on the bottom one. Aside from the difference in hair growth direction (that part doesn't shrink so my spot directions don't quite match anymore), the effect is actually pretty accurate.

Here is my real black appaloosa with her "shrunken" leopard pattern.

The article has reminded me that I have a terribly outdated set of color charts. In the past I've just updated the existing charts with newly found colors or registry rule changes, but they really need a complete overhall at this point. There are new colors like pearl and dominant white to add, as well as older colors that need more detailed breakdowns.

If only I didn't need to sleep...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hitting the books

I've been hitting the books a lot lately. I often do a lot of reading prior to writing articles. The world of coat color genetics has been moving so quickly in the last few years that it's even more important than ever that things be double-checked before publication. The topic of my next column (for The Boat, the biannual publication of the Realistic Equine Sculpture Society) is supposed to cover the interaction between the appaloosa patterning genes and the different base colors. Since that is the subject of one of the Appaloosa Project's current research studies, I would have been making sure I had the most up-to-date information anyway.

But I was already going over some of the more recent papers on Dominant White. The Voltage that was pictured in a sneak peek a few weeks ago has been the motivation. When the first handful of Dominant White families were identified, I thought there were some subtle differences in the way their coloring expressed than those of sabinos. Certainly the two patterns are remarkably similar, and what I have seen may be more about differences in individual families rather than differences between sabino and dominant white. (Anyone who has followed Paint Horse families can tell you that even within a given pattern category, there are specific families that tend to pass along a certain identifiable look.) But I had noticed the differences, and I wanted the little mare to be "just right", so I began hitting the books.

Which of course led me down all manner of interesting paths. More research has come out since I posted about Dominant White a year and a half ago. There has also been a lot of progress on markings and base colors, too. Color research has changed dramatically since I first got involved back in the early 1990s. Back then, we studied phenotypes (the way the horse looked) and populations (to see how the offspring looked). Now much of the research is conducted at the molecular level. To understand some of the newer discoveries, I've been hitting the books.

And that is the downside of research, for me at least. These kinds of side roads are important because they lead to greater understanding. (Knowing why a mutation makes the pattern look this or that way is really enlightening.) The downside is that they really sabotage productivity in the studio. They are among the most attractive of distractions. They also lead to gaps in my blog posting, since I suspect a post entitled "Hey! I finally get this whole missense versus nonsense mutation thing!" would be of rather limited use to most readers.

So I have vowed to put the books away for a little while, and return to scritching off underglaze and cleaning out the garage. (That's the activity I've really been avoiding with all my research!)

I need to finish that project so Alan can start on my spray booth. A few people have asked me about the plans that were posted, and I have to say I'm not sure where they were found. Alan printed out a number of informative posts, but then of course he drew up his own plans that were completely different. (I think that's a guy thing.) Since a lot of people expressed an interest, I plan to follow the spray booth construction as it's done, much like I did with the Vixen molds. If it encourages more artists to use one, then it will be a good thing!

But for that to happen, I need to get rid of more boxes in the garage. We also have to await the delivery of the "squirrel cage" fan that was ordered. Apparently this kind of fan is required for safety reasons. (Much of Alan's work so far seems to be about preventing the whole thing from exploding - a possibility that hadn't really occured to me.)

I thought the fan was named because the shape looks a bit like a squirrel tail. It turns out the name comes from the interior, which looks like a hamster wheel. I'm still trying to figure out how safe a fan can be if it was designed by people who aren't real clear on the difference between a squirrel and a hamster!

But since the concepts surrounding the spray booth seem to evade me far more than molecular genetics, I may try to talk Alan into doing some guest blogging for the spray booth project.