A fine day for painting

After what has seemed like months of endless rain, today has been a picture-perfect spring day. This has always been my favorite season, perhaps because I have spent most of my life in the deep South. It’s hard for me to imagine many places more beautiful that the South at the height of spring. Of course, we are just at the beginning of spring but the spice verbena bush that grows just outside my studio window is already blooming, and the breeze coming from the open window has been carrying the scent of its flowers all morning.

It’s made a perfect setting to work on what is my favorite part of glazing – the detailing. I’ve become a passible airbrush artist over the years, if only out of necessity. But at heart I am a hand-painter, which is probably why I tend towards such fussy patterns. I’ve come to believe that most artists will gravitate towards whatever colors play to their strengths, and my hand work is much stronger than my airbrushing. I like the kind of patterning that I illustrated in the previous post, but I like this kind of work even more because I don’t have to concentrate nearly so much on not touching things. This is the step where I can just do what I like best!

Part of that is because the fired underglaze is a good bit tougher than the raw underglaze. It’s also because I can start sealing things under the gloss glaze. That’s what I’ve done in this picture. The grayish-pink areas over his shoulders and hindquarters are a thin layer of clear glaze. The gloss that I use goes on salmon pink, dries a rather ugly strawberry pink, and then fires clear and glossy. But at this stage I’m not really adding a full layer of glaze, but rather adding just enough to give the finished areas of the underglaze some protection so I can more easily handle the horse.

I also use the glazed areas to tell me what has been checked and found ready for the final fire. This is important because this is the point where I will do the last check on the pattern. When removing underglaze, the blade will often leave a gray residue. This can make it hard, especially when working with a grayish horse, to be sure of your pattern edge. The marks fire away, making it easier to see any areas that were missed. I am also checking for tool-marks. It can be hard to see areas that look too much like the tool that made them until the underglaze has been fired. I want the coat to look roaned, not xacto-blade-scratched, so I have to fix those areas. After this is done, I coat the area with the gloss to protect the work – and tell me that I don’t have to look there for errors. The more pink on the horse, the closer I am to getting him in for his final firing!

I tend to work like this on the hips and barrel first, because that is the most logical place to hold the horse. After that, areas that need painted details get addressed, starting with the simplest and working my way out to the ones needing the most hand work. Usually the more hand painting an area might need, the more important it is to have the rest of the horse sealed with glaze. I tend to stop thinking about how I’m holding the horse as I focus more on paint strokes.

So with this Finn, the last areas to receive gloss were his mane, which had a lot of strand-by-strand streaking and some edge clean-up, and his hooves. Almost all horses get their hooves done last because aside from one light undercoat sprayed in the beginning, and one final spray at the end, almost all the hoof shading is done by hand. They take the most time, and they often require the oddest hand-holds to reach. (Some day I’ll do a post about how I do the hooves, but it will need to wait until I have someone in the studio with me to take the pictures.) Blue eyes are another area that tends to get left until the very end, though this guy doesn’t have any of those.

Once I have a thin layer of glaze on the whole horse, he is ready for a few more layers of glaze and then his final firing. I don’t usually post on the weekends, but Monday I should be back with a picture of him in his final glossy form.

, ,

One Response to A fine day for painting

  1. mel April 4, 2009 at 1:52 pm #

    Whoever is the lucky owner of this Finn is extra lucky: to be able to see these in-process images is fantastic! I love knowing tidbit about the horses in my collection and seeing the creative steps like this is simply fascinating. Thank you!

Leave a Reply