Friday, April 15, 2011

A spaniel for Kelly

Since Kelly Savage is coming all the way from England to help out at BOYCC, it seemed only fair to make a special card for her (see her comments from the previous post). Kelly, it's not a proper English Cocker Spaniel, but it is a Cocker Spaniel for your name badge!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


When my friends Joan Berkwitz and Addi Hude began planning a true convention for the ceramic horse community, I knew I wanted to be involved. Joan had mentioned that they would be looking for donations for the "swag bag" that entrants received, and to be thinking of something I might want to do. I decided that we needed name badges. It seemed appropriate, because I'm a big believer in the idea that no one should feel like a stranger at a model horse gathering. But they couldn't be just any name tags. We needed artwork! And of course, if we were going to have artwork, all the horses needed to be cool colors. Lots of different colors.

I decided I would use lineart, which is common among those that enjoy two-dimensional horse art games. For the mock-up, I used Jacqueline Ferrigno's coloring book pages. For those that never outgrew coloring books, I highly recommend her site. That's him sporting leopard spots in the first photo.

That first badge was done last year, before I had the lineart prepared for the upcoming horse color book. Unfortunately my own artistic style isn't quite as romantic as Jacqueline's, but they do tie in with the presentation I will be giving at the convention. (The presentation is partially based on the contents of the book.)

When I did my sample, and the first few badges, the holders fit a 3 x 4 badge. That's the larger one at the bottom. Then when I returned to get more holders, the only kind available were smaller. I didn't realize this until I got them home, but they have the advantage of holding a card the same size as an Artist Trading Card. As a collector of those, I liked that idea so I decided to make the rest smaller. The top card is the smaller size. Hopefully no one will mind the inconsistency.

Here are some of the in-progress horses. They get cut out and pasted on the patterned paper backgrounds. It has been fun working with color again after months of focus on black and white book pages.

Here is a scan of one of the horses. No effort goes to waste around here; he's also an illustration in the upcoming book. I originally planned to color the book images digitally, but I found that the time saved on the repetitive parts was offset by how much longer it took me to do things. I suppose I am still a traditional artist at heart.

The horses were colored with Copic Sketch markers. I've always liked them, and for my last birthday my mother gave me this colorful box filled with them. I love their vibrant colors, and the brush tip (see the bottom marker) feels more like painting than coloring with a marker. And unlike my Intuos tablet, I can bring them with me to the beach next week. That's how I plan to spend Spring Break - sitting under the Spanish moss coloring little horse faces for my friends at BOYCC!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The book that ate my brain

As an avid reader, I noticed that in the acknowledgments, authors almost always thanked their long-suffering family members. I routinely wrote articles and blogged, so I really wondered just how bad could it be? Now I know.

I had great hopes that I could juggle studio work while finishing the upcoming horse color book, and still continue to post to the blog. Obviously that has not been happening! Over the last few months, my world has narrowed down to just the one thing: the book. I do not multitask well at all because I tend to lose myself in whatever project is in front of me, but I must admit that preparing a book has taken that obsessive focus to a new level. I am fortunate that those around me have been very patient with my partial presence; some part of me is always working on the book.

I am getting closer to completion, although I suspect that what looks like the end is just the beginning as I begin to deal with the actual publication. Towards that end, I have begun assembling the necessary photographs and illustrations. Just a few weeks ago, I made a trip to the National Sporting Library in Virginia in hopes of securing better digitized images from some old stud books. It was one of the few equine libraries I had not yet seen, so I was excited about the prospect. The building, pictured above, is in the style of an old coach house, and contains over 17,000 volumes dating as far back as the 16th century. I went with some specific goals, so I only had the chance to skim the surface of what was available there.

Civil War Horse, bronze by Tessa Pullan (1996). The sculpture, which stands just a short way from the spot where the Battle of Middleburg (part of the Gettysburg Campaign) was fought, commemorates the more than 1.5 million horses and mules that died in the Civil War.

There were restrictions on taking photos in the upper levels of the library due to some of the artwork on loan, which was a shame. The interior is lovely, and gives the impression that you are visiting the personal library of some nineteenth-century Virginia gentleman.

But this is where I spent most of my time: the basement. Over the years I've learned that the really useful stuff is usually in the basement. This one was far, far nicer than most. The moving shelves in the picture hold most of the stud books in the collection. To get to the necessary aisle, the handles are turned and each case slides along a track to open a path. If only I had something like this in my house! (Lacking such fancy solutions, I have relied on the Kindle to make space for more books.)

I intended to get better copies of images that I already had, but I made a few finds while I was there. One of the best was a handful of images of the famed, but sadly extinct, Hanoverian Creams. This one came from a 1909 book on horse breeds. There is a great deal of mystery surrounding the actual color of the Creams, so finding a handful of images was an unexpected bonus.

Pistachio, one of the last living Hanoverian Creams

So progress continues on the book, albeit slower than I would like. I had hoped to have copies in time for the Bring Out Your Chinas Convention, but I have other projects that have to be done for that event (including the presentation there) that are going to require that I set the book aside for a bit, so I suspect that is not going to happen. My next big make-or-break deadline will be BreyerFest. I am much more optimistic about making that one.

In the meantime, I fear this blog may still be more sporadic than usual. I have gone ahead and set up the blog for the book, but it is only a placeholder at this point. It should go live once the book is well and truly off to the printers. That's also when I should return to the studio, and pictures of shiny ponies will once again appear here.