Tag Archives | coat patterns

An Unintended Hiatus

I knew I had neglected my studio blog while working on my horse color book, but I was genuinely shocked to realize that it had been more than a year since a post was made here. It is, however, a pretty telling indicator of how that particular project moved in and took over my creative life. As an avid reader who really does read the front matter (introductions, acknowledgements) in books, I was aware that writers almost universally mention the sacrifices of their friends and family while they were absorbed in the work. Now I understand why!

The Equine Tapestry was supposed to be a small project – something to fill my time while recovering from foot surgery. What I had in mind was a quick reference guide that equine artists, model horse showers and judges could use to verify the presence (or absence) of colors or patterns in each of the different breeds. I thought that I could give a quick description of the different colors, then a paragraph for each breed. But the world of horse color is changing. New discoveries are outpacing the normal publishing schedules for books. I could not rely on readers being able to find more information to go with a “quick description”, because much of the information could only be found in peer reviewed journals. It is also true that it was just too tempting to begin adding images, which meant a more detailed explanation.

And that was all before I got to the breeds themselves. Keeping the stories to a few paragraphs seemed nearly impossible. What’s more, understanding color in the breeds was too closely tied to how the different stud books were structured. Telling someone that there was a buckskin Shire, and even providing pictures showing her unmistakable color, was not enough. Readers needed to understand why she was a perfectly legitimate – if entirely unexpected – entry in the stud book. Paragraphs became chapters, and before I knew it I had close to 900 pages of manuscript in a book that was not even close to finished.

I decided to split the single book into three, and then eventually four, volumes. The project also changed in scope, so that I was not just writing for people within the equine collectibles industry. I was writing the books that I wished existed. It was – and still is – a labor of love. I should have seen the potential for it to crowd out all but the most essential things in my life. (My friends and family might argue that sometimes even those got short-changed!)

But the first volume went to press in July. At 424 pages, it covers all the (as yet!) known colors and patterns, and then begins with the draft and coaching breeds. In addition to hundreds of photos (many historical images of rare colors), the project included creating 81 illustrations for the various pattern charts.

The book has been far more successful than I ever imagined. In the first week, it went up to the #5 best-selling horse book on Amazon, despite the fact that the majority of the copies were sold directly (through my site here) and were not included in the count. It was also the #1 new release in its category that week. Within two months, it has already exceeded the typical press run of a specialty horse book. The companion blog, Equine Tapestry, that was launched a little over a year ago gets thousands of hits from all over the world. What is even more surprising is that the blog reaches people all over the world, and that has resulted in a lot of new information on some unusual colors. (You can read more about the effect I called Belton and reverse dapple roaning by following the links.)

Obviously with three more books to finish, the project is not really finished. But it is time to return to the studio and the many projects I left here. I suspect that taking a break from all-day writing (and illustrating and editing) will give me better perspective for the next volume, which will cover the pony and small horse breeds.

I do know that focusing on the details of the various colors and patterns has already given me a new perspective that I suspect will benefit the work that will come from the studio. So stay tuned – colorful, shiny things are (once again!) in the works…

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Articles on Pattern Interaction

With the unfortunate passing of the Realistic Equine Sculpture Society, publication of the organization’s newsletter The Boat has ended. The last issue was sent to members this past week.

Like so many readers, I eagerly looked forward to each issue. Twice a year we were treated to 200+ pages of in-depth information on everything remotely related to the business of realistic equine art. I benefited immensely from what others wrote, and I was flattered to be asked to contribute articles of my own.

When my friend Sarah (the tireless Boat editor) asked if I would do a regular column, she suggested that I write something more advanced that the usual “this gene does this” type of series. I jumped at the chance to explore a topic that I had only touched on briefly in previous seminars and articles, which was how the different patterns interact with one another. It’s pretty esoteric stuff for real horse people, but for us as artists there aren’t many aspects of horse color that are more useful. We need to know which interesting aspect of a reference can be realistically combined with a different pattern, because all of us do that a lot. Can this face marking go with that blanket pattern? If I decide to use grey as a background color instead of bay, what changes about the spots on my leopard? All of these are important questions for us, and I thought it would be fun to look at them from an artist’s point of view.

I decided to start with the appaloosa patterns. I had not written extensively about them before, and there was a lot of ongoing research into them. There was a lot of potential for new discoveries. I also, as it turned out, had become the rather unexpected owner of a very loud appaloosa of my own.

Four installments of the series “Hoist the Colors” were published. A fifth is partially completed. Since the position of RESS was that the copyrights remained with the authors, I can republish the articles however I see fit. I decided to upload them to the website. The links for each one are:

Part 1 – Pattern Interaction Overview

Part 2 – Appaloosa Pattern Basics

Part 3 – Base Color Interaction

Part 4 – Appaloosa Dilution

I probably will not get to the (almost finished) fifth part until after the first volume of the Color Book is published. Right now that is tentatively scheduled to coincide with Bring Out Your Chinas Convention in May. So if the blog is quiet in the upcoming months, know that I am just working on that – and the studio backlog.

Once the first book is out, I do plan to split this blog off with a separate one devoted to horse color. I have been told that publishing tends to flush out missing information (that is, you will get a lot of corrections!), which has been part of my motivation in writing. I want to make that easier, so a blog seems logical. I just don’t want the subject of horse color, which by its very nature is likely to generate a bit more two-way conversation, to overwhelm the studio chatter here. So watch for that later this year!

In the meantime, I’ll still be posting the goings-on here at the studio. I am not sure there will be a lot of new information since I am focusing so much on the books. But little by little I am trying to wrap up stalled projects, and as those are finished I will try to post pictures at the very least.

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