Tag Archives: tips & tricks

The Start of a Roan

I had planned on painting my roan draft stallion using acrylic paint to do hair-by-hair roaning. But after a couple sessions, I really wasn’t satisfied with how it was looking. At the same time, I ran across part one of a nice roaning tutorial by Amanda Brock (Rogue Horse Studio) and Caryn showed me her first roan (done with a similar pastel technique) who was turning out quite nicely.

Caryn's horse (in progress). Can you believe that's her first roan?

Caryn’s horse (in progress). Can you believe that’s her first roan?

Inspired, I washed the acrylic roaning off my resin and started to work on him with pastels and pencil. He already had a sealed blue-grey-brown base coat, and I started in on some white pastel using Amanda’s stippling technique. I also added some hairing detail with colored pencils. I was all ready to start doing some serious hairing with white charcoal when I dropped him on the floor. Sigh.

I was actually pretty lucky- all he lost was an ear. But it took me another few hours of work to get him whole again.

Building a new ear using Sarah Rose's super glue and baking soda technique

Building a new ear using Sarah Rose’s super glue and baking soda technique

After shaping his new ear, it took a few coats of acrylic to get it somewhat matching again. Then finally, using my white charcoal pencil, I started adding individual white hairs.

hale - hair roaning started

It’s crucially important when doing hair-by-hair roaning to a.) keep your pencil very sharp and b.) keep references handy. I’m using multiple hair growth charts (download them here) as well as close up pictures of flanks, armpits, and other tricky areas.

Keeping the pencil sharp enough to draw hairs on a stablemate scale resin requires a lot of sharpening. I used a regular sharpener plus sandpaper. You have to do it almost constantly, and that means you go through a lot of pencil.

When I started roaning, I had two full sized pencils.

When I started roaning, I had two full sized pencils.

Happily, there’s an art store within walking distance so I was able to pop out one afternoon and buy six more pencils to use.

hale - charcoal pencils 2

I’ve got a whole collection of nubbins now, but I’m done with the first layer of hair detailing.

Even with all the sharpening, it’s basically impossible to get all the little hairs quite right. To keep things from being too stark, I go over each section with a medium-stiffness brush, keeping with the direction of the hair growth. It smudges the drawn hairs slightly and takes off any excess dust, which softens the detailing in a nice, more realistic way. I seal each layer with Dull Cote before moving on to the next. As with pastels, the sealer “pushes back” the color a bit which also helps prevent any stark lines.

On his neck and shoulder, the hairs have been brush-softened and sealed with Dull Cote. The starker hairs on his barrel have just been drawn in with the pencil.

On his neck and shoulder, the hairs have been brush-softened and sealed with Dull Cote. The starker hairs on his barrel have just been drawn in with the pencil.

I’ve been finding time to do a bit of work every night, and by today the first layer of hair-by-hair roaning is done. I need to do a bit more blending in some areas, but I’m going to give him a break for a bit so I can come back with a fresh eye. I also might work a bit on his acrylic details so I can better picture how his coat color will look on the finished horse.

I’m still working on a name for him- I’d like to find something from French Brittany, since the Breton breed is from there. It’s an area highly influenced by Welsh and Gaelic language, which is always fun.

Martouf the Strawberry Blond

I’m continuing to work on Martouf as time allows. I was able to put in some really good time on him last weekend, and I can really see his body color coming together now.

martouf - 2-22-13

His mane and tail are a complex color. As a chestnut-going-grey, he’s got a whole bunch of tones in there. I was actually a little afraid to start working on the hair at all, but I got brave yesterday. My main reference horse has a reddish mane with greys around the roots and a lot of variation. I started out by gathering together a bunch of colors that might work. I used Jaime Baker’s brilliant tip about comparing to a printed reference page to find out which I really wanted to use.

martouf forelock - colors

Martouf already had a very thin light chestnut coat over his hair to help me visualize. I started adding in the other colors, keeping an eye on my reference and also on the overall flow of color in the sculpted mane. My technique was basically to keep adding color, in thinner and thinner lines. If there was a swath of one color that I could fit my brush into, that meant it needed another line of a different color added.

martouf forelock 01

Besides varying the colors, it’s really important to make sure you find and paint every bit of sculpted mane or tail. Sometimes it’s hard to get at, for example, the edges of a lock of hair, but it’s really important to maintain the realistic “weight” of the hair.

martouf forelock 02

Also, note the color of the shorter hairs where the mane meets the body color. Often those are the color of the body more than the mane. I used some Titan Buff to transition between the white/grey of his body to the reds and darker greys in his hair.

martouf forelock 03

In the last picture his forelock is about 95% done. I still need to add a few more bits, but I ran out of time. I’ll add that when I tackle the tail- but I want to wait til I have 2-3 free hours before I start that!

Great Painting Tip from Jamie Baker

Jamie Baker is a great model horse artist, and is always very generous with sharing her techniques. She shared a brilliant (and so simple!) technique on Blab that I definitely plan to use.

Jamie Baker tip screenshot

This idea is a cool compatriot for another tip from Blab about visualizing colors, which I posted about previously.

Have I mentioned I can’t wait to start painting again?

This post needed a picture. Check out the butt on this gorgeous guy!

This post needed a picture. Check out the butt on this gorgeous guy! I know it’s the angle but… dayum. Cool reference for the pangare, too.

Too Much Fun with Organization

I love a lot of things about this hobby- I love the horsey aspect, the learning, the crafting, the people… and I love how often it gives me an excuse to organize. I loooove organizing. I get maybe a scary amount of pleasure from things like binder tabs and well formatted lists.

In preparation for the show this weekend, I wanted to better organize my documentation. Sure, I had it all laminated and in plastic sleeves, but isn’t it just an absolute hardship that I had more than one in each sleeve and sometimes they covered each other and I couldn’t tell exactly where they were? Oh, the humanity!

So armed with a stapler and some fresh sleeves (not too fresh- they’re from Goodwill) I set about making a pocket for each reference.

A line of staples down the middle keep the two references from sliding around, and a slit down the right side of the bottom one provides a way to slip the bottom paper in and out.

I did the same for performance and separated the two with sticky-note tabs to make things even handier. I’m very pleased with this method. The individual pockets also allow me to easily store relevant notes with reference material. For example, my little sketch that reminds me how far apart lope-over poles should be can be tucked in with the western trail pattern.

I was a little bit stymied when it came to organizing my wee little text only bits (for pleasure classes or other relatively simple events). I almost gave up and put them all together in a sleeve, but was saved from that terrible tragedy by some sweet card holder sleeves (again from Goodwill). These divided each sheet into four pockets, and from there I could easily delineate more with staples. Voila!

It’s beautiful. My heart will sing a little song every time I use my handy dandy newly organized reference binder. Is it Saturday yet?

Easy-Peasy Make Your Own Scale Poles

As far as prop making goes, making ground/jump poles is just about as simple as it gets. It’s a great started project because it’s easy and because a set of poles gives you a lot of options for performance events. I’m making these for use in trail and gaming classes, but they have a myriad of uses in set ups.

Here’s how I went about making my new set of poles.

First, materials. Poles are really just dowels that have been cut and painted. You’ll want to make sure you buy the right size dowel for your scale. For 1/32 scale (Chips/Stablemate) I’m using 3/16 inch diameter dowels from a hobby store. Before you go, you’ll want to calculate how many pieces you need. They’re generally sold in 36″ lengths. I wanted my poles to be equivalent to 12′, which in 1/32 scale is 4.5 inches. I increased that to 5” just to be safe, multiplied that by 8 (the number of poles I wanted) and got 40 inches. So I bought two 36″ pieces. To do my scale conversions I used this handy scale calculator.

In addition to poles, you’ll need sand paper, a saw or dremel, masking tape, and acrylic paint. I also used sealer (Krylon) and play-doh (an idea adapted from Friesian Fury Studio’s post on using play-doh for masking).

Next, you’ll want to measure out the poles on the length of dowel.

I left a bit of space between each poles length so the dremel would have room to cut. You wouldn’t need to leave so much if you use a hacksaw (and/or aren’t such a klutz like me).

You end up with poles a little over the intended length (in my case, 4.5 inches). If your poles are close to that, you can probably just move right on to sandpaper. Since mine each had several millimeters to lose and I had the dremel handy, I used that. You have a lot more control with the dremel when you can cut straight down, instead of at an angle as you have to do when cutting a long piece. That allows you to get a lot more precise and get the pole just a hair over the goal length.

Then a bit of sandpaper on the ends will take off any roughness and get them to a uniform length. You might want to sandpaper the whole piece, depending on how rough your dowels are. Keep the ruler handy so you don’t overdo it and end up with a pole that’s too short (I just plan ahead for failure and start with extra poles. I need seven, so I’m making nine).

Once your poles are all cut and sanded, it’s painting time. Poles come in just about any color or combination that you can imagine, but mine are going to be a relatively staid blue and white stripe.

I start with doing a layer of white. I do half a pole at a time, and stick the unpainted end in a lump of playdoh to dry.

Once those are dry, simply paint the other half. To make the stripes, I taped off the areas I wanted to remain white and then painted blue over the exposed white. There are a lot different striping styles out there, but you will want to measure out the taping if you want the poles to match.

This is blue tape with blue paint, but hopefully you get the idea. The ends and middle of each poles are taped up to keep them white.

You may need to do a couple layers of color. Try not to put it on too thick or it’ll look funny later. Once you pull the tape off, you may need to redo some of the white where it bled through or the taping was off. And then you’re done!

For longevity and durability, you may want to seal the poles with a matte fixative. I did mine using the same playdoh base technique, one half at a time. For some scenes, you might want old weathered poles. Handily, they’re pretty easy to make so you can create a whole arsenal in different colors and conditions, a pole for every possibility!