Tag Archives: fixative

Creative Spraying

Most models have a good handle- their tail sticks out, or they have a base, or something else easy to hold while priming, fixativing, or painting. But sometimes you have to get creative.

When my main projects are drying or otherwise on hold, I’ve been working on some of Maggie Bennett‘s awesome micro mini resins. They are super fun and I enjoy painting them in acrylics.

My current project is Maggie’s sleeping resin, Kahlua.

Because of her size and her pose, Kahlua doesn’t have a great handle. I needed to spray her initial layers with fixative, so I decided to get creative. The advantage to her pose is that she has a large area that won’t be seen- her belly and bottom.

So I grabbed my trusty dremel, picked just the right bit, and caaaarefully made a hole in her belly.

The drill bit I used was chosen to match the size of a toothpick. And thus…

Micro on a stick!

I made sure she was firmly on there…

…and then took her outside for an all-over spray of Dull Cote. Then I simply planted her stick in a glob of playdoh.

Easy peasy! She’s drying safely on the shelf next to her buddy Hazel, who also got a layer of fixative.

Hurrah! This will make the rest of my work on Kahlua much easier.

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?