Tag Archives: fixative

Cold Snap

I was really looking forward to getting home and enjoying some hobby time, but weather and life had other plans. We came home to a freakish cold spell- the coldest it’s been in Oregon in my lifetime. Since cold can wreak havoc on primer and fixative, I’m limited in what I can work on.

To add to that, I can home from California with a bad case of poison oak- so bad that my whole face swelled up and one eye was swollen shut! So my downtime pretty much involved lying on the couch icing my face. Luckily, I also got some steroids to take so I was feeling (and looking) better pretty quick.

I was jonesing for some hobby time in general, but I also wanted to get back to work on the portrait horse I’m making for my trainer. I base-coated him in acrylic and I decided to try doing a bit of pastel on him and see how the fixative behaved in our freezing temperatures.

Adding pastels

Adding pastels

I figured that if the fixative did go wonky, I would only need some sanding and another coat of acrylic to get him back. Luckily, the fixative worked pretty well, so I was able to make a lot of progress on this guy.

After a few layers in

After a few layers in

At first I made him a little too red, but I was able to back it out a little and I think I got the nice red bay I was going for. I did several layers of pastel over a weekend to get his body color where I wanted it, and I’ve been using my free time on weeknights to work on his acrylic details.

Working on his intricate blaze

Working on his intricate blaze

Ducky is a somewhat challenging horse to do a portrait of because he has a very intricate blaze, and even his leg markings have pretty unique edges. I’ve been doing a lot of layers followed by buffing.

Duckys blaze

The temperatures are still mostly below freezing, but they’re supposed to come back to the usual 40’s later this week. Even with my success (and/or luck) with fixative on Ducky, I don’t want to try doing primer, or spraying fixative on a grain-prone color like palomino. So those projects will have to wait.

Detailing his markings

Consulting my notes while working on details

But I’m sure glad I was able to make progress here! Hopefully I’ll be gifting this little Ducky next week.

An Hour with Pastels

Tonight I put another layer on my mule (Troy Soldier) and my G3 pony (unnamed).

Weasel the Arabian foal and my Tiger Horse mare are also in progress and nearing completion

Earlier this year when I finally got my hands on Dullcote, I thought my fixative woes were over. Yesterday when I was trying to put a layer on the pony I was unpleasantly surprised to find that the pastels weren’t sticking very well to his barrel. “WTF?” I thought. “I fixed the last layer so he should have plenty of tooth!” Then I realized, duh, that the last layer was on his legs- and I had held him by the barrel in order to spray the fixative. So of course that area wouldn’t have tooth. So now I’ll remember to spray twice- once to fix, and once to add tooth to the area where the next layer will go.

The pony with his third (or so) coat of base color

Soon I’ll be adding darker pastels (purple, perhaps!) to move towards my reference picture

Random Pastel Tip: when you’ve completed a layer of pastels, check over your horse to make sure the dust hasn’t fallen and been smooshed onto any areas where it isn’t supposed to be. Often when I am putting on a rich layer of color, the dust will fall and get trapped between my glove and the horse, so the pressure of my hand applies it to the horse.

The chestnut dust has fallen onto the light areas on the legs- you can see a particularly dark smoosh mark on the inside of his knee.

The smoosh marks do not match my reference picture

This is where a good moldable art eraser comes in handy. They are pretty cheap at art stores and are a good addition to your pastelling tool box. Do NOT use one that has been used to erase pencil marks, lest you get residual graphite on your horse.

Another good tool for getting rid of (less persistant) errant pastel dust is a make-up brush.

Handy dandy

I acquired mine by buying an unused makeup kit at a garage sale for a pittance and then chucking the makeup. Make sure you get an unused brush and then keep it nice and clean so dust does not move from model to model. These are especially nice for getting excess dust out of pesky spots like in ears and eyes and other sculpted details. The brush is nice and soft, so it only removes the surface dust and doesn’t take off the applied color.

Helpful Tutorials From Jaime Baker

During all this work and moving shenanigans, I am really missing my pony studio time! We move the weekend of June 3-5 and then hopefully I’ll be in my new apartment and mobile studio (aka the dining room table). All of my model stuff is packed away but I am still haunting various sites to get my fix partially satisfied.

Hopefully you are already familiar with Jaime Baker, whether through her amazing customizing, her awesome yahoo group, or her online video tutorials. And if not, you’re in for a real treat.

I recently discovered this great page on her site with nice, simple, and helpful tutorials on applying pastels and applying primer or fixative. You can learn a lot from trial and error and reading about technique, but it’s great to see a hobby rockstar demonstrate on video how she does it. Check these out!

Seven Worthwhile Purchases

As you may know, I am a total cheapskate. I am always looking for a deal or a way around spending money, both in my regular life and my hobby doings. I regularly use this blog advice ways around spending, but here are some purchases that I consider to be totally worth that hard-earned cash.

1. Carbide scraper from Rio Rondo Enterprises

Photo from Riorondo.com

The basic carbide scraper set from Rio Rondo (includes two tips, #1 and #3 from the left) was one of the first “investments” I made for customizing after bodies and paint. I put quotation marks around the word investments because the handle and two bits are only $14.50 plus S/H. I would consider the full set of 6 tips ($54.00) to be a bona-fide investment, but at the time shelling out $20 for a tool seemed like a lot.

And worth it’s weight in gold. As Rio Rondo brags, this tool works fabulously for prepping and is safer and more effective than exacto blades or knives. Plus, the pointed tip is invaluable for carving ears and hoof details. I haven’t found the need for the full set, but that original $20.00 was very well spent- I really can’t imagine customizing without it.

2. Decent epoxy

When I started customizing I used the same brand of epoxy clay as my mother, who uses it occasionally to repair pottery. I don’t remember the exact brand, but it came in two plastic wrapped rectangles, parts A and B. The epoxy itself was nice enough, but I was frustrated because even though I worked hard to keep it in an airtight container, one of the two kinds got all hard and crusty and unusable. It was messy. And it was expensive.

When I had finally used all that up (it takes a nice long while when you work with minis!) I looked around for another option. I’d heard other hobbyists say good things about Aves Studio’s Apoxie Sculpt, so I checked out their website. I bought one pound of Apoxie Sculpt (for a reasonable $15.00) and I am very pleased with it. Not only is it excellent to work with (easy to sand, etc.) but it also comes in fabulous, airtight, screw-lid plastic containers, so it’s easy to get out for use and doesn’t dry up! I know there are lots of different epoxy clays out there, but I highly recommend Apoxie Sculpt because it is highly economical.

As a side note, Aves Studio offers both colored Apoxie Sculpt and Smoothing Solvents, neither of which I have been inclined to try.

3. Needle files

I have previously sung the praises of my needle files in this post, but it’s worth repeating. This is a cheap ($8), sustainable tool that will help you with more refined prepping and sculpting tasks. They are excellent for use with ears and leg seams, and unlike sandpaper you don’t have to throw them away. I adore my set of 10 from Hobbylinc (pictured) and use them constantly.

4. Multiple kinds of sandpaper

Much as I love my carbide scraper and needle files, there are times when a good selection of sandpaper is really useful. Packs of sandpaper are about $3-4 each, but a pack should last you a while if you really use the pieces until they no longer work. I recommend getting fine, semi-fine, and coarse, so that you’re prepared for various prepping needs. A smooth model makes a much better final product.

5. Spray primer

Cheapskate that I am, I used to paint my horses with acrylic gesso before starting the pastelling. Five bucks will buy you a bunch of gesso, but it doesn’t work terribly well for models. Because you paint it onto the horse, it is prone to brush strokes and uneven covering. Plus, it takes a while to make sure you’ve really covered the horse.

One day I splurged and bought a spray primer from Krylon. It changed my life (well, my hobby life anyway!) I now firmly believe that spray primer is the way to go. It runs about $5-7 per can and lasts pretty well, although it will certainly cost more than gesso. But it works fabulously. Spray primer coats evenly, completely, and smoothly. It really cuts down on priming time and sanding time. It’s good stuff.

A note: when you buy your spray primer, buy a pair of thick rubber gloves. As the primer nicely coats your horse, so will it nicely coat your hand. And primer is not good for your skin.

6. A really tiny paintbrush

Or two, or three. Especially working with minis (but really, on any scale) you’ll want a teeny tiny paintbrush to really get control over itsy-bitsy details like pupils in the eye or mapping or kissy spots. Many artists are willing to spend $10+ per brush for this little pointed ones, but I’m still too cheap for that. The good news is that most stores have cheaper options. It’s still pricy for a paintbrush, at least in my book, but I’ve generally found these small, delicate brushes for about $6 at various local stores. With something as ubiquitous in art as paint brushes, you should be able to find these locally and not have to pay fat shipping fees that this hobby often requires.

I’m not the sort of careful person who uses special brush cleaning devices or cleansers, but I do try to protect my investments by taking care of my little brushes. I make sure to clean them thoroughly with cold water after every use (hot water will loosen the glue that holds in the bristles). Also, I save and use the little plastic tube that small brushes come with, which goes over the bristle and protects them from getting squashed. This way, my $6 brush lasts me a good long time.

7. Dull Cote

If you haunt hobby message boards or list serves like me, you have surely heard of Testor’s Dull Cote. It’s a great matte fixative, but the only problem is that it is not readily available locally for many hobbyists.

When I was in college in a small town I could not find Dull Cote, and, refusing to pay shipping to order it online, I made do with Krylon Workable Fixative/Krystal Clear and Krylon Matte Finish. If you can’t get Dull Cote, Krylon works fine. But to get the best matte finish and the best “tooth” for the next layer of pastels, you really do have to use both kinds every time you fixative a layer- first the Workable Fixitive/Krystal Clear to fix the work you’ve done, and then the Matte Finish to keep the horse matte and to provide tooth (It may work fine to just use Matte Finish, but I always say the combo recommended and followed that advice). Even with the use of Matte Finish, these models often looked glossier than I wanted and I would end up doing multiple coats of Matte Finish at the end to get the shine down.

The great thing about Dull Cote, which I found at a hobby store here in Portland, is that it it very matte and has great tooth- better than the Krylon combo by far. This means that each layer of pastels provides a nice strong addition of color.

For the cheapskate in me, Dull Cote is a nice option because I am buying one can rather than two, although a can of Dull Cote is pretty small. Now that I have experienced the Dull Cote magic for myself I might even be inclined to buy it online if I couldn’t find it locally. It just might be worth it. After all, the right fixative is pretty crucial to each custom and makes all your hard work worthwhile, satisfying and successful. So yes, I am jumping on the hobby bandwagon in support of Testor’s Dull Cote.

Those are my crucial studio purchases. What do you consider essential to customizing and collecting?

Sealing Schleichs with Modge Podge

Earlier this week a member of the bakercustoms Yahoo group posted about using modge podge to seal Schleichs (and similar plastic ponies like Safari and Papo brands) in order to prevent the “tacky” surface that can happen with these customs. I just finished painting a Safari Lipizzaner, so I decided to try this technique and see how it went.

Modge podge is basically watery glue sold under a brand name for crafting. I have heard that you can create it by just mixing Elmer’s white glue with water until you get the right consistency, but I can’t guarantee that would work with models the way the branded stuff does. You can buy modge podge at most craft or hobby stores. It’s great for sticking paper to plastic, glass, metal, etc. to create cool collages on bottles, boxes, or furniture.

I've used modge podge many times before, for example to decorate my old laptop. I also have an awesome modge podged side table. It's a great craft product for all sorts of fun projects.

Happily, I have modge podge in my craft box from all these past projects, so I was all prepped with what I needed to coat a model. The one thing about modge podge to watch out for is that it can kill your brushes, so don’t use an expensive brush or one that you love. What you want is a decently large (you want to thoroughly coat the whole model), pretty soft paint brush. I had one handy that probably came with a cheap water color set. Just use whatever you’ve got around, but wash it very thoroughly when you’re done.

The tools: mod(ge) podge, brush, fully painted horse.

You don’t need much modge podge to coat a horse, so you don’t need to buy a big vat like I do- I just love modge podge so I buy in quantity. My model has been fully painted and sealed with Dull Cote. He does not yet have glossed eyes, since the nail polish can turn milky if it has fixitive over it.

There is really only one step to this activity: just cover the horse in modge podge! Make sure you coat the whole horse every which way. Spread the modge podge on as evenly as possible and minimize brush strokes. Watch out for brush bristles in the coat and pick them out immediately. I did two layers of modge podge over the body (just to make sure I got everywhere) and then two more over the tail, which was my handle when I painted the body

Here he is with one layer of modge podge, looking very shiny.

This (blurry) photo sort of shows the "milky" color that modge podge turns the horse before it dries- notice the light grey on the muzzle, which is in truth closer to black (compare below).

Make sure you let the modge podge dry thoroughly between coats. I left it overnight just to be safe. When it is dry the horse has a interesting new feeling, sort of smooth and soft. He definitely feels very sealed, and I can believe that this prevents tackiness! After the modge podge layers were dry, I sealed him in two coats of matte spray. Although the modge podge bottle says “matte,” it really makes your models semi-glossy. Some customizers may like that but I prefer a flatter color, so I sealed him again.

Painted, modge podged, and fixatived. He is done except for the glossed eyes. This picture is a little dark, but the color on his eyes and muzzle is closer to the real thing than in the above picture showing the milky coating of wet modge podge.

I’m very pleased with how he turned out, and confident that he won’t have an seepage problems like some Schleich and Safari horses. What I didn’t learn from this experiment is if sealing with modge podge can change the color or depth of a more colorful coat. This model happened to be a white-grey, but that means that it’s harder to tell if the modge podge turned him a lighter color or retained any of it’s milkyness. In my experience with modge podge you can see the colors of the material very well, but this is  new use of it so you never know. Has anyone else done this? Results? I look forward to trying it with my bay Safari foal once he’s done.

Desktop disaster zone and the Best Way to Spray a Micro

Somehow I made this much mess in under an hour of work. Wow. Fridays.

I’ve got my lovely Rembrandt pastels out for some colors not included in my Earth Tones set- pink and orange for creamy palomino goodness! In the upper left corner of the shelf you can see a picture of me with my first real love, Jaime. And what’s that below the picture? Let’s zoom in…

Pony torture?

Egads! But really, the thread noose is the best way to spray fixative on a micro mini! Usually I wear gloves for spraying fixative, but with a guy this small it would mean that half of him wouldn’t get sprayed. And although I have been known to gayly spray my hand as well as a model, I try not to. By using the thread noose, my horse gets well sprayed with an even, light coat and my hand stays relatively safe. And for the record, he’s not that scary orange color… I’m actually quite pleased with how his coloring is turning out.

General Progress, fixatives for pastel work

This weekend I finally completed a project I have been working on since December. I am really pleased with how it came out, especially after some spectacular failures, but I am waiting to post pictures etc. until the new owner has opened her gift.

I got a lot of pony work done this weekend- it’s really nice to have several projects going at once, all at different stages. They all sit on the shelf right above my desk, where I am most of the time, and inspire me to get my homework, etc. done so that I can sit, relax, and bring them to life.

Left to right: Schleich Percheron stallion, MM Cantering WB, EquinArt Creations Pewter Rearing Horse, customized G3 SM ASB

Here are the four beasts currently being painted. The big Schleich Percheron (now a Suffolk) is basically done, while the others are mostly in early stages.

I think — I hope — I have finally found the proper way to spray and fix pastels. Like many people, I cannot get a hold of Testor’s Dullcote locally. I wanted to find an alternative since I am too cheap (and too small scale) to buy it online. I experimented with different Krylon fixitives, and finally this is my method: I spray the model once after pastelling with Krylon Workable Fixitif, let that dry (2 or more hours) and then spray again with Krylon Matte Spray. This method firmly fixes the coat of pastels and then provides good, firm “tooth” for the next layer. This has solves many of the frustrating problems that have plagued me, and made darker colors with pastels much more achievable.