Sunday, February 28, 2021

This Poor Horse

      I shared a photo recently of the Breyer Ideal Quarter Horse I decided to customize. Now it's time to share the start of the horrible things I am doing to him. My disclaimer, I really have no idea what I am doing. But to be clear, I am not asking for help, critique or anything else. Just sharing the madness. 
      I started out the process by watching a video of a horse moving it's head up and down. I wanted to see the way the shape of the neck changed. I took some screen shots of it while it was up, similar to the way the model has his head, and when it was lowered where I wanted the model's head to be. I thought about how I wanted to do this and decided I didn't want to resculpt the chest muscles if I didn't have to, so I cut along the line where the neck and the chest attach. I drew myself a sharpie line so I wouldn't screw up while I was cutting. I left a tiny bit of plastic right at the front.
     I went inside and heated up the bit of plastic with a hairdryer for several minutes. I know that a heat gun is usually the preferred tool for this but I can't find ours. Or it broke, I don't remember which. Anyway, I warmed up the neck and lowered the head...  but then the head was turned more to the side than I wanted. I didn't want that. So I did some more cutting. 
This angle was really not going to work out for me. 
      So I made the cut right behind the cheeks and the ears, but left the head attached at the top. I also gelded him while I was at it. Poor horse. 
        Next I stuffed a bunch of foil in his neck in such a way that I didn't have to also fill the entire body cavity with foil. I am sure there is a better way to do this, but again, I am just trying things out and don't need advice. 
      I realized quickly that I had very little epoxy on hand. But I mixed some up and slapped some over the foil and a bit on the throat to try to cover the splits I had created. It was rough and was not going super well. The white along the mane is not epoxy, but where I removed the factory mane. 

     I got pictures from each side and sent them to a couple of friends (one who does customs sometimes and knows horses and to one who just knows horses) and asked if the neck was too long. It looked too long to me. I was not sure if it was just because of the two colors on the neck area or if it was too long. I also ran into an issue with the epoxy not wanting to stay where I put it. Or the neck not wanting to stay where I put it. It kept trying to go just a bit lower and made a gap between the plastic and the foil, got even longer, and was just a hot mess. 
          I looked at this poor horse and I said to myself, I can't do this. But that thought lasted only a few seconds. I told my brain so shut it and that I would keep going. If I did something kind of bad I could always take it apart again and redo it. So I grabbed the hairdryer again, reheated the small bit of plastic at the front of the neck, moved the neck back up a tiny bit and cooled the plastic again. Then I got some super glue and put it all over the gap between the neck plastic and epoxy and smooshed everything back together. Then after a minute or so I smoothed out the epoxy again. It was still an ugly, hot mess, but I wanted to let everything cure and then think about how I wanted to get back into it. That neck really was too long. I put him on the shelf and figured it would be days before I could work on him again, since it was supposed to rain all weekend. 


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Breyer Bootcamp

      This weekend was Breyer Bootcamp. This is the weekend that is typically Breyerwest, but since this year it is virtual, and not west of anything, it was renamed Breyer Bootcamp. No matter what they call it I was excited to be able to enter the show. Under normal circumstances Breyerwest would be even harder for me to attend than Breyerfest. There are definitely a lot of things about our current situation that I don't like at all (I really want to hug people!) but the ability to show with people from all over the country is not one of them. 
       Last year I entered the virtual Breyerfest show and I went in with the idea that I am a good performance shower and I would potentially do well. Then I started looking at some of the other entries as they were loaded into classes and I was reminded that while I am a good performance shower, I am not a good photographer. The new rules of performance showing in photo shows (usually) say that realistic backgrounds are not required and will not give your photos a better chance of winning. That is great! But there is no denying that someone who is really good at photography likely has an edge. I am still trying to deduce exactly what it is that makes such fantastic, standout photos. I think it is the ability to get the perfect angle, with just the right lighting, so it turns your model horse entry into a really cool, realistic photo. I do this with dolls all the time. Little tiny tweaks to make them look more human in photos. I need to learn to translate that into my full entries in photos. I am still a good performance shower, I am still not a great performance photographer. 
      Anyway, last year after Breyerfest I saw a bunch of comments from people, also good performance showers, saying they "expected" to do better. Which is odd because the Breyerfest show is notoriously hard. I did not do particularly well in the Breyerfest show, the best placing was a 4th, but I could look at my entries objectively. They were not great. My "plain" backdrop was a bit distracting since it was a white cloth, over my studio backdrop and many entries show both pieces. The lighting was bad, the angles were definitely not the best... So I had goals to do better. 
      I went into the Bootcamp show not expecting to do amazing things. I am a good performance shower so I figured I would likely at least place, but I wasn't expecting champs or anything. Kristian Beverly judged open performance and she made us all sweat a little. Instead of marking her placings as she judged, she saved all of that until she was done (I did this when I judged the MIB Spooktacular show too). 
     When the performance results were in I went and checked the "my results" page of the reports section on the ponybytes website. It was such an easy way to see how my horses had done! For days I had been watching halter results come in and seeing no placings. I am not surprised. I am not a halter shower, or a great photographer, so the chances were slim to none that I would place at all in a halter section where the placings only went to 5th and some of the classes had 200 entries. I was not wrong, I did not place at all in halter. 
      I did place in performance. Just Because got 4th place in Western Pleasure Other Breeds, out of 14 entries. Not bad. 

     I also brought Lady Intrigue out of retirement so she could get out and show again. She got 5th in English games in a class of 22! Also pretty impressive. 
     The history of Lady Intrigue, and my ability to show in dressage at all, started a long time ago at a live show in New York. Marisa Spence talked me into showing in dressage, loaned me the props, and taught me how to do it. After that day I think I showed a horse in dressage at every show I went to! For Bootcamp, Lady Intrigue got 4th in a class of 22! Even an old horse can do cool things!
     Lady Intrigue's other placing was in hunter over fences with her handy hunter entry. She got 4th in that class as well out of  34!

     Bring the Mayhem got some placings as well. Placing 5th in Other English in a class of 26 with his versatility entry. 

    And 3rd place in Other Western, in a class of 29 with his Extreme Cowboy entry. 

      By far my best performing performance horse was Purdy Zippin Chick. She went into Huntseat Pleasure, which was a huge class of 39 entries, and got 5th place!

      Purdy Zippin Chick got 5th in Western Trail as well, which was a class of 35.

      She got 4th in Western games, out of 24. I wish I could find a more interesting game than the tennis ball relay, but it works. 

      She also got 4th in Reining/Western riding in a class of 27 entries. 

      Purdy Zippin Chick won her class in Western Pleasure Stock Breeds. This was a class of 24. This was amazing and I was super thrilled!
     My proudest entry may have been Purdy Zippin Chicks win in the showmanship class. It was "only" a class of 20, so the smallest of the classes my horses placed in, but showmanship is one of my favorite classes and I was really excited for this win!

       In the end I didn't get any champs or reserves, but that is OK. When you put things into perspective I actually did really well in the Bootcamp show. There were a lot of showers that didn't get a single placing at all. The classes were really large. I put Purdy Zippin Chick in 7 classes, she placed in 6 of them with a win in 2 of them. That is really fantastic! I am not at all disappointed in my results from the Breyer Bootcamp show. 
     The only sad part of this is my horse that did the best, Purdy Zipping Chick, cannot show in the Breyerfest show since she won a champ or reserve champ in the past. It doesn't matter that she wasn't mine then, she still can't show. So I will just have to make sure that before July, all of my photos are better. Time to get to work. 


Friday, February 26, 2021

I Did It!

       I have signed up to participate in NaMoPaiMo every year for the past 5 years. The first year I did not even finish prepping my mule and I definitely didn't get any painting done. The second year I prepped that same mule and had her ready before February. This year I had prepped horses, a plan, a little bit of experience, and no fear. The photo below was of my horses while they waited for the brand new (expensive) matte finish to be applied. 
        I was really excited to try this finish, I had heard so many good things from people about it. So when I got it I shook it and shook it and went to read the instructions... which are all in characters that I can't read! So I treated it like any other matte finish. That did seem to work
      This is far from the best photo, but it does show a bit of the toned down shine on these horses. 
      After I had everyone sprayed with a couple of coats of matte I did the hooves, added back in a bit more black, "erased" the white parts on those, and I really like how those worked out. This is actually my favorite angle of this model. 
     So for the 4th year in a row I can say I did it! I finished painting a model horse in the month of February. I chose a color that was challenging for me and worked at it to make it the best that I could. 
      It's possible that next year I could do a better job. I just don't really know. But I do know that I tried several things on this model, a lot of the things I did were totally new to me, and in the end he came together. 
       I love his two toned mane and tail. I love the white bits in his dark legs. 
       I really love his right nostril, lol! This is not a great photo of it, but there is the darker gray, some white, and pinking. It came together in a very realistic way. This is a piece where I look at it am amazed that it is something I did. I am really proud. 
     Kayla and Laura also finished their models for minis painting minis. They are much happier about it than they look. 
      Since, clearly, I also painted the micros for the dolls, here is my group shot of the 3 models I painted in February. I LOVE the bay on that micro Harmony model! I did most of Barnaby in eyeshadow, did acrylic for his dapples and white markings, used some pan pastels on him and his hooves are pan pastels and Prismacolor pencils. I went crazy with him! Harmony is all pan pastels other than mane, tail and eyes. Pan pastels are my new favorite thing. 
     I took this group shot because I know how much Jennifer Loves them. Monet is my mule from 2018. I think she turned out cool, and she does look like the reference, but I really had NO idea what I was doing. Hugh Can Do It, my 2019 horse, taught me that doing a bit more, and then a bit more, can really bring your horse to another level. He is still something I am super proud of. Beauty Queen was the first traditional scale model I have painted that wasn't a total embarrassment. I am still happy with her, mostly, but I may go back over her with a bit more shading in Pan Pastels. Partly Sunny, who is my 2021 horse, is the nicest thing I have ever painted. Ever. I worked really hard on him. I spent hours and hours dappling and shading and fixing. He is still not perfect, but for now, he is the absolute best that I can do. And I am definitely proud. 
      I don't plan to stop painting now that NaMoPaiMo is just about done for the year. I have a lot of horses in base coats, a new love for Pan pastels, and ideas. I will make sure to share my results.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Casual Crew

      When I get a custom order for a doll I try to get it finished as quickly as I can. Sometimes people will say they can't pay for their doll until X date, and I will put a note on the order not to make it until shortly before that date. But mostly I like to finish things quickly. I am pretty good at waiting for items, but I don't love waiting, and I don't want to make anyone wait longer than they need to. I have made some issues for myself with this idea. As longtime blog readers know, I am bad at free time. Part of this is there is a little voice in my head reminding me of all the work that still needs to get done. And this is really just adult life. There is ALWAYS something that needs to be done. Work, chores of one kind or another, repairs, something. There is always something. Some people struggle with a work-life balance. A lot of times it's because they spend more time doing fun things than the things that need to be done. I struggle with being OK doing fun things. I am much better at it than I used to be. 
     So why am I talking about this? Again? Because I found a way to do something fun, that was also getting my work done. Casual dolls are still really popular and I want to make sure I have plenty of them available at my next live sale (March 27th at 2:30 EDT). So I have decided that even though I have orders I am going to alternate between orders and random dolls for my sales. Making custom dolls for an order gives me all of the guidelines (usually) to make the required doll. Sometimes it is fun and refreshing to just make whatever I feel like making. So instead of making myself crazy trying to finish up the orders as quickly as possible, I decided I would alternate what I work on each week. This week was orders. Next week I am back to whatever random dolls I feel like making. I think it will work out well. 
     I am still aiming to have dolls in a variety of skin tones and ethnicities. It is still sort of a struggle. I decided to make a doll with a body from Classic TV toys which has a dark skin tone, but is unmodified. She is just a darker version of the original Yvonne face. I am a bit iffy about it. But there are some dark skinned people of many ethnicities that have fairly Caucasian features and dark skin. Perhaps she is a mixed heritage. She might be a dark skinned Indian woman. I feel the modified faces are more realistic as people of color, but people come in many varieties. Maybe whoever gets this particular doll will give her a family tree and a backstory. That could be interesting. I will continue to keep trying for a variety of faces. I am determined that doll diversity is going to be a thing. I know some people also want a variety in body shapes, but I am not there yet. One step at a time. 
     I think this new plan for working on the dolls will be a nice brain-break and will give me some more energy for doing as much as I do. I also have some plans for customizing projects and painting that I am determined to make time for. NaMoPaiMo is nearly over and I am not quite finished with my horse. I am also very determined to finish before the deadline. I can do this. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Little Things

       I am still dealing with somewhat of a mental block when it comes to making saddlebags. I did manage to get 4 more sets finished up the other day, I have 2 more sets cut out that need ironing as their next step, and I have new micro print fabrics that would make super cool saddlebags, but I am not sure I will be able to talk myself into making them. I am not even sure if I can talk myself into the last two sets I already have in the works. I am really hoping I can get them done, but currently I have no desire to work on them. 
      Speaking of the micro print fabrics, I was just thinking maybe I will make a couple of special bareback pads with cute prints. Printed bareback pads are not super common, and are usually animal prints, but I think they could be fun. And for the most part a bareback pad on a model horse is likely to be for a fun photo, maybe a scene. I might make some. It sounds fun in my head. 
         I was talking with my sister, Cathy, about remote classes recently. She is a teacher and her students haven't been in the building all year, but recently started in the hybrid model. My students started in hybrid, the town was not responsible over the holidays and COVID numbers spiked so we went back to full remote. Next week we are going back to hybrid classes. It is a weird model and has some things that are tricky with the technology. Anyway, I mentioned to Cathy that I participate in a lot of seances and she was unfamiliar with this (though I am sure she has experienced it). So I sent her this meme. 
      In my experience the freshman don't like to unmute much at all. Unless it is to disrupt the class. Online school is definitely tricky, very different, and does not work for everyone. We do what we can but not everyone is engaged no matter what we do. It's tough. 
      This week I judged youth performance at Breyer Boot Camp. I have been judging for something like 12 years (maybe more) and have judged both open and novice at many live shows, as well as in photo shows. I ran into a class that was very tough to judge. Most of the time that means that the entries are, for the most part, super good and it makes narrowing down the top placers really challenging. Youth and Novice classes are often no acceptation to this, though most usually need a bit of work. This time I ran into different issues. My top 2 placers were fairly easy to determine. They were correct, clean, and safe. In almost all of the rest of the entries I found safety issues, or a doll really hurt the entry. The top 2 was easy but the rest of the top 5 was not. I went with entries that didn't have safety issues, even if they were not overly correct. It was a struggle. And I think people are mad about it. I don't love judging Youth/Novice online, there is not a great opportunity for teaching. Anyway, I got a message asking how I judged that class because the top entries were less correct than some entries that didn't place at all (that was in the message). I started to second guess myself. So the other night I went through the class again, one photo at a time, and I found the same top 5 I had in the first place, They ended up in the exact same order, and I stand by my judging. They were the most correct of the safest entries. It's rough when a comment makes you second guess yourself. I know that I am allowed to answer questions after the judging for the whole show is wrapped up and the champs have been announced, and hopefully I can clear up any confusion on why I placed the classes the way I did. I know it is disappointing to not place well, but it is also an opportunity to figure out how to make your entries better. 
     I still have some of the smaller items to make for my live sale, which will he held March 27th at 2:30 pm. EDT. I will hopefully have a catalog of available items I can post before the sale. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Semi-Mass Produced

      During my vacation last week I got a bunch of stuff done. Not all of it was doll related, but some of it certainly was. I made some shirts from the cool new mini fabrics I got from Spoonflower recently. I really love how they came out. 
       I also cut out clothes for 12 (I think) casual dolls, in several varieties, for my live sale. I am going to do the jeans and hoodies dolls that I have been doing, but also hoodies and breeches. Because everyone likes variety. Or at least I do. I am also going to make some casual western dolls, mostly with cool new mini fabrics. Sooner or later I will probably also make some other types of dolls. But I am starting with casual dolls. 

     Ethan's birthday was last week and he decided he wanted burgers and fries for supper. Which is super simple if you eat carb laden foods, which we don't. We made the rolls out of a "cornbread" (not a speck of corn in them) recipe we tried recently. I had made cornbread muffins the first time around and Ethan used one of the leftover ones as a hamburger roll and said it was pretty amazing. So I made them bigger and we tried them out again. Well, I think they needed to be cooked even longer than we cooked them and perhaps done the day before. They were super crumbly, though really delicious. We also had jicama fries. It was a very messy supper. But really good!
     I also haired several heads. I am going to need to do a lot of doll heads for all of the casual dolls I have planned. I am not going to do all of them with fun colored hair, but I think a lot of them. I enjoy the fun hair colors. 

     I also got this guy in the mail the other day. Do you think he looks scared? I do. And he should be. He is going to get customized. And I have pretty much no practice with that. Can I do it? Maybe. Will I ruin this horse? Possibly. Is that going to stop me? Not even a little. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Painting Party

      Saturday I had a NaMoPaiMo painting party again. Though I was the only participant who is actually a living person (that sounds weird, it is not quite as strange as it sounds). I was hoping for 4 of us but Travis again decided he did not want to paint his horse. I have a feeling he is not going to finish before the end of the month. He wanted to paint in January, but not in February. I feel that. Waiting is hard. 

     But my dolls had not started on their horses for minis painting minis and I decided that it was time. Especially once I started doing layers of white on Barnaby and had to seal him so often. 

     Laura's horse is a Kitty Cantrell micro Harmony resin. At the beginning of February I got him into a sort of tannish basecoat. 

     Kayla's horse is a Maggie Bennett micro Madhuve. I got her base coated in unbleached titanium. 

         I got a bit of the colors done on the horses and then decided I really needed to set up the proper photo shoot for everything. 
       After all, what is the point of collecting the tiny props and things (and dolls) all year if you are not going to use them? So I got out all of the art supplies, which actually work just fine for 1:6 scale, even though they are meant to be 1:9. I could not find my 1:6 scale folding chair. I am sure when I don't need it it will appear as if by magic. 
      Barnaby got multiple layers of white pan pastels, and very slowly I started to see the difference. He stopped looking totally like a model horse with paint on him and more like a nice model horse. 

       I also decided that pan pastels are my new favorite thing. This was one layer of yellow ochre over the unbleached titanium base coat. The horse already almost looked like what I wanted her to look like. I am  Laura is painting her to look like Ayla's horse, Whinny, from the Earth's Children book series. At least sort of. Laura is not skilled enough to do primitive leg barring on a micro. Maybe next year. 
      The pan pastels build up super fast and really make me very happy. Though now Harmony looks jaundiced. 
       The painting area quickly expanded. Sometimes you just need to spread out. For efficiency. 

      Harmony quickly reached the ugly stage. I was actually ridiculously happy with her ugliness!

       The painting area and pile of supplies expanded even more. Poor Kayla ended up hiding out under my reference photo. She didn't seem to mind too much. 
    Barnaby's color finally came together in a way that I liked. The white layers of pastel over my dapples stopped disappearing when I sprayed on the finish. I got the dark parts shaded back in and I felt that added to the realism of his coat color. If you look at him really closely, he still looks like he has paint on him. But from a reasonable distance I actually think he looks really good. My cell phone doesn't even take nice photos of him!
      When I was finally happy with his body color I moved on to his socks and his face. The reference has a very bald face with some nose pinking and a lot of white on the legs, but also mixed with the dark gray. It is tricky and I am certainly not painting it exactly like the reference. I don't have that level of skill by a long shot!
     Still, I am not hating how he is turning out. Eventually I had to decide that I was done for the day because I was just really tired of working on the horses. I am sure I have plenty more layers of white to put on before I am done with that. I also have to get into the mane, tail, eyes and hooves. But I definitely needed to be done for the day. 
     Laura and Kayla did a pretty good job as well. They are pleased with their progress, and also really love pan pastels. I think these micros are down to manes, tails, eyes and hooves as well. Hopefully some day soon we can get some of that done. We are running out of February!