Tag Archives: progress

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

My name is Leah, and I am a performance addict.

Through February and March I was busy working through my to-do list of things to get in time for Breyerwest. Barely a week after, and I find myself back in the studio.

pre-breyerwest desk

My studio, mid February

post breyerwest desk

My studio, today

I’m back, exhilarated by my success and excited to be working on tweaks and improvements for my next show.

The two major differences in the photos above are my shiny new ribbons, and a beautiful new horse.

If you read Jennifer Buxton’s blog (who doesn’t!) then you’ll know that I was very successful in the performance division on Breyerwest. It’s the best I’ve ever done at a show, and I’m honestly still kind of in shock. My sectional champ ribbons are hanging proudly above my studio, while the overall reserve and overall grand ribbons- which are too long for the studio- are in the utility room, making me happy every time I go in there for laundry or hobby supplies.

PHF Richard Squared, Overall Reserve Champion. Photo by Jennifer Buxton.

PHF Richard Squared, Overall Reserve Champion. Photo by Jennifer Buxton.

Showing performance is a blast. I’m proud to say that at least one of my new hobby friends has been convinced to try it. I’m excited for Anna Helt (nee Kirby) who posted on Facebook that she is prepping for her (first?) foray into performance showing, after years of making the hands down best stablemate tack in the hobby.

Showing performance is fun, challenging, rewarding. I love the prep work, the planning, the details, the research, the precision. Sometimes I think about my setups while I’m going to sleep or stretching or driving. I’m an addict… and very happily so!

Four and a half weeks to my next show!

Breakneck Steed

Changing the headset or head position of an OF horse is a great way to make something fun and new. But that means resculpting the neck, which I find very difficult. Inevitably I end up sculpting, destroying, and resculpting a neck at least once before I get something I’m happy with. My latest project was no different.

My first attempt at this neck sculpt was marred by several silly failures that I should have avoided from the get-go. I was so excited to have studio time (and inspiration!) that I didn’t take the time I should have to get organized for success.

You know how when you are first learning to canter and your school horse won’t canter, you keep kicking and get that crazy super-speed trot and then if you can finally get the canter, it’s bumpy and wacky and barely lasts a quarter of the arena? It’s kind of like that. How many times have I heard my trainer telling the kids at the barn to get an organized trot before asking for the canter? It’s sound advice, and I wish I’d applied it to this project.

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 4.56.04 PM

I don’t have a before picture of the first neck, but I did sort of document my corrections and the renaissance.

The first silly mistake was not taking the time to get just the right reference picture. Since my horse is a draft cross, it was important to find a reference horse with similar heavy-ish features. This mare is my next performance horse, so I wanted her to be on the bit, but not with the vertical profile you see in some dressage horses. Finally, my model is standing, so I should have a reference with a standing horse.

This was my first reference, a lazy find:


After the initial failure, I took the time to find a better reference:


Much better! This is a much better picture to work from for my project.

The second problem with my first try is that I had been lazy with my initial dremeling. Sure, I’d removed the head from the neck and the neck from the body, but I’d left residual plastic on both pieces that didn’t jive with my vision. Bits of the jaw, forelock, and chest remained which were both distracting and difficult to work around. With something as finicky as a neck, you want things as neat as possible so you can better judge the shapes.

Extra crud

Extra crud

As a note, I do like to leave the ears on an OF when I’m resculpting the neck, even if I plan to replace the ears (as I do here). They provide a good visual reference while you get the head where you want it. You can always hack the ears off later.

After finding my better reference photo, removing the extra plastic, and re-psyching myself up for the neck, I set about building the basic shape using wire and foil, secured with super glue and baking soda. As I worked, I continually compared my model to the reference picture.

2015-12-28 17.58.50

You can see above how much easier the neck shape is to visualize now that the excess plastic on the throatlatch, chest, etc. has been removed. I also made sure that the armature is only that, an armature- I want to leave plenty of space in which to add epoxy- I don’t want to be sculpting away and suddenly hit my solid armature.

When I was finally happy with the armature shape, I wrapped the horse in paper towel and blue tape (sometimes I use foil and blue tape, it just depends on what I have close at hand). I tend to get epoxy goo everywhere when I sculpt something, so I cover up the smooth bits of the horse to prevent a bunch of extra sanding and prepwork later.

2015-12-28 19.22.21

And finally, with the proper groundwork laid down, it was time to sculpt. I follow Laura Skillern’s recommend method of laying down blobs for each major muscle, and then blending. It’s a handy way to get a headstart on the shapes you want. From there it’s all blending and smooshing and blending and smoothing. I looooove my clay shapers for this step.

Happily, my preparation paid off. My horse has a neck, and she gets to keep it this time.

current state


Post Moving Ponies

I packed up my horses and hobby stuff around the end of January in preparation for our February move. After we moved, I was busy for a while unpacking, shopping for furniture, and a hundred other little post-moving tasks. But then… I started to get the itch to work on horses. I really missed it.

At that point our only available work surface was the kitchen island, which was also where we prepped and ate meals and a catch-all for household detritus. But I managed to make it work. With most of my supplies still in boxes it was possible to get out the necessary items for a work session and then re-store them away during meals.

kitchen island studio

The kitchen island studio

Last fall I got two new resins that I was very excited to paint- Wee Wyakin, as a trade-commission deal, and Covenant Renewed, as a birthday gift from my parents. I’d bee working on prepping them before we packed up, and I was excited to get them out again.

It was wonderful to be painting again. My Wee Wyakin was destined for a complicated semi-leopard pattern, which is lots of fun to paint. And Covenant Renewed, the Morgan stallion of my dreams, was slated for a deep luscious bay.

Wee Wyakin (or Pollyanna Plaudit, as she is named) was done in a combination of acrylics, pastel, and pencil, with many, many layers of work.

Pollyanna wip 1

Starting the first layer of hairing and leopard spots

Pollyanna wip 2

Staying safe in the tea cupboard

Pollyanna wip 3

Roaning continues…

Pollyanna wip 5

Starting to look like the references, but far from done.

I had a show coming up in April, and at the last minute (at least, by customizing standards) I decided I could get my Morgan, Salty Captain, done too. I have less photos of his process but he went from funky…

Funky Captain

…to hunky in a matter of weeks.

Beautiful in Bay

Just in time to win his class at NW Expo too!

NW Expo 2014

I’m so happy to have added these two lovelies to my growing resin collection!

Peaceful Pastelling

After what feels like months prepping (actually, I guess it was) I am finally starting to put color on my two resin commissions. The two resins are Justice by Kristina Lucas Francis (the drafter) and Stacey Tumlinson’s mini Majestuoso (the Spanish).

Both horses are artist’s choice colors and they are both going to be chestnut, although very different shades. Justice will be a flaxen chestnut tobiano and Maj will be a deep red chestnut with a hint of metallic shine. At least, that’s the plan!

I am also doing my fourth attempt at a palomino on Chryselephantasia. I did a palomino earlier this year who turned out lovely and was almost effortless… and now this. She is really making me work, but I think I’ve got things right this time.

yellow ponies

The above picture is from a week ago. Chrys was still getting her main body color, and the two resins are getting their yellow-tan undercoats. It was funny working on three yellow horses for a while there.

Since then the two resins have taken a turn toward orangey chestnut.

drafter 12-29-13

As I like to do at about this stage, I also added some basic acrylics so I can start visualizing the finished horse. I blocked in Justice’s tobiano pattern too, so I know where I need to keep going on the chestnut. He’s a bit overly orange right now, but I’m pretty confident in where he’s going.

Majestuoso has a longer way to go, since he’ll be a much darker chestnut.

Maj 12-29-13

Blocking in his dark mane and tail really shows just how far he still needs to go. I love how even just painting the eyes black suddenly brings the horses to life. This guy has a lot of layers left.

Chrys is getting closer and closer- she too got her hair and marking blocked in, and I took the tape off her hooves.

Chrys 12-29-13

At this point I’m only pastelling her greys, and fixing a few boo boos in her coat. Once that’s done, she’ll be getting her whites for real. I’m pleased with how soft her coat came out (finally!) and the super subtle dappling.

I’m so happy to be pastelling again! But I’d better keep up with sculpting and prepping too, so I’ll have a new herd ready for color when these guys are done. I’ve got at least two bays and two appaloosas coming up…





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.

Getting Antsy

I’m still in California hanging out with family, but I’m starting to get antsy and miss my plastic ponies :) I have so many exciting horses in progress and I’m eager to get back to work on them.

Poor Chryselephantine is being repainted AGAIN. For those of you counting, this is my fourth attempt to get the golden palomino I’m looking for. I bought some new pastels just for the endeavor, and so far so good- but time will tell.

Drying after a layer of pastel and fixative

Drying after a layer of pastel and fixative. I’m trying to preserve the paint on her hooves, hence the blue-tape booties.

The portrait horse I’m doing is getting his chocolaty base coat in acrylic. Normally I would do a bay with all pastel from a white base, but I wanted to hurry him up a little. Plus he’s a gift for a non-hobbyist, so that perfect workmanship-winning color is less important. He’s a gift for my trainer since I’m leaving her barn (for one closer to home) and so I want to have him done soon.

Ducky 11-24-13

Ducky is a slightly CMed G1 Seabiscuit with a new tail, new forelock, gelding parts, and corrected legs.

I finally got up the courage to start adding a new mane and tail to my beautiful Doodlebug resin. He’s getting a short, tack-friendly mane and a flowing tail. He’ll be a bright chestnut… in a million years when I finish sculpting him!

Sharky 11-23

Quick-drying epoxy under a desk lamp

I’m continuing to rejoice in my beautiful new primer and getting these guys prepped. The Gallus and Majestuoso are commissions and the Wee Wyakin and Rivet are mine. Rivet still needs some sculpting work, but the other three are getting very close to painting time.

primer herd 11-24

The primer herd drying on our kitchen island

With all these guys going, my in-progress cupboard is quite full. I’m stoked to get back to working on these, and hopefully have a few done in time for the spring shows.

I’m a little late on the announcement, but Anna Kirby at Dreamflite Design is running a Black Friday weekend sale on her stablemate English saddle tutorial. If you want to make your own tack, I highly recommend this tutorial! For this weekend it’s only $5 for a full color PDF! Get the details on her Facebook page.

I won’t have much to report til I get home on Tuesday. Hopefully I’ll quickly get back into a routine… including plenty of pony time!

Broken Promises

Despite my hopes, I have still been failing at blogging this month. All my hobby time has been devoted to getting things done for the Sept. 7 show. That endeavor is going well, but I still have a lot to do.

I was pretty on top of things until this happened:

Chrys - 8-21-13

I was having several issues with her and despite my efforts to fix them and continue, I knew that they were never going to be resolved completely, and that they were going to always bug me. So I’ve stripped her and I’m now re-prepping, re-adding veins and wrinkles… and have a short window in which to get color on her again.

Alpo is coming along really nicely, so *knock wood* I hope to have him done in his new improved look for the show. I also made him a custom travel box to keep him safe, and took the pictures so I can do a mini tutorial.

I definitely have my work cut out for me hobby-wise in the next week weeks (not to mention work, a good friend’s wedding, and in-laws visiting) but dang-nabbit I will be ready for this show!