Saturday, May 22, 2010

Details, details, details . . .

Now I'm at the point of building the saddle on the horse and making sure it fits the rider.  The rider is nowhere near perfect yet, but she's about as thick as she's going to be front to back (this is a petite middle-aged rider).  I  may need to adjust the length of her legs once I get back to work on her, but for now, I'm just getting the saddle assembled and placed where it should be.  I know I need to get her body more proportionate and to get her sitting on her seat bones.  I'll get there eventually.

At first, I had the saddle a bit long for this rider - If you look carefully, you should be able to see I've just cut the clay at the back of the cantle so it fits the rider better.  I've just turned a bit of clay over to fill in some of the seat behind her, actually, and then put a cut behind the cantle as a marker for when I get back to work on it.

You can also see I've put feathers on three of the legs now, and those legs have also developed muscles, bones and tendons.  I've put a bit of clay on the neck as well, starting to plan out the movement of the mane.  The strips of clay ahead of where the saddle's knee rolls should be in the picture below are just extra pieces I haven't trimmed off yet.  I've only developed the saddle on the left side and a bit on top.  The right side will be done tomorrow.

Here are some detail shots of the horse and rider. 

Don't worry, her ankles and feet will be straight with no wire sticking out of them when I get finished.  For now, this is very much a work in progress.  The knee rolls are just being developed and will be shaped better before I declare a victory over them.

I'm pretty pleased with how it's coming along.  Hope you enjoy seeing its progress!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Resetting the leg and repairing the shoulder

Continuing  my saga of "Tolt's" leg repositioning.  I removed the wax from the shoulder area (a lot harder to do than it sounds - I'd put it in there REALLY well!) and broke the wax off the wire for the shoulder part of the leg.(The wax you can see here is on part of the armature.  It will anchor the wax I'm going to use for the shoulder.)

Then I cleaned all the clay off that wax that I could and dropped it into the pan to be softened so I could reapply it.

WARNING!!!  Working with melted wax is DANGEROUS!  You can be severely burned if you're not careful!  Don't say I didn't warn you!

I didn't need the wax to be melted, just softened, so I watched it carefully as it "cooked."  I had the electric griddle set to about 200 degrees so it would soften quickly (I'm not the most patient person in the world).  I turned it over every so often so it would soften on both sides.  When it was as soft as I wanted it, I scooped up a portion and put it in the shoulder cavity, which I had dug deeper so the leg would be set in a bit more than it had been before.  Then I pressed the wire in place, made sure it was straight to the horse's body and packed more softened wax on top of the wire.  I pressed wax around the wire until the wax cooled too much to maneuver anymore to make sure the wire was strongly set. 

The little knob of clay at the bottom of that leg isn't the basis of the hoof - it's actually part of the ground.  Its function is to give the wire a strong anchor to the working surface.  It will be surrounded and covered by clay as I build up the ground and the hoof for that leg (as shown below).

I added clay over the wax, rebuilt the shoulder and reattached the clay from the leg to the horse's body.  I haven't done any muscle detail yet, and it probably needs a little more clay to be added, but here's the finished repair.

If you noticed the thin band of clay around each coronary band, those are there so I can put hair on the coronary band.  They will be textured and the clay blended in to the pastern so you'd never know I had a "worm" of clay around each hoof once upon a time.  :)

The repair went well and didn't take too long because I thought it all out before I started (always a good plan!)  Moving the leg forward that small amount (about 1/8-1/4 inch) made a huge difference.  I'm happy with it now.  Onward!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Just when you think you're making great progress . . .

*sigh*  I was going like gangbusters on "Tolt" (not "Tolte" as I've been spelling it -  my customer corrected me.  :)) and thought I was getting close to where I can start making it look more finished when something that had been niggling at the back of my mind reached up and slapped me in the face.  Well, figuratively speaking, anyway.  I didn't like the way the right front leg was set for some reason, and today I figured out why.  It's too far back.  *sigh*  I'll have to rip it out and re-insert it and rebuild all the muscles again.  Argh . . .

Other progress on it:  The head is nearly finished except for the ears and the bones behind and the eye sockets, so I added the beard today.  Icelandics, like many cold-country horses, have beards and feathers, and the customer wants the beard included on the piece.  I've done lots of horses with feathers before (mostly Friesians), but never one with a beard like this.  It took me a while to get it to look the way I wanted it to.  It still needs a bit of work, but I'm fairly well satisfied with it.

The back legs need more detailing in the tendons and so on, but the hooves, pasterns and fetlocks look good, so I put the feathers in place to see  how I liked them (sometimes I put them in and then take them off or revise them a LOT before I get them the way I want them).  These aren't too bad.

I realized the heartgirth (depth of the body) was too deep, so I trimmed down the neck, withers and the part of the back where the saddle sits, and then it was right.  Then I worked on the muscling in the neck.  The problem I'm having with the muscling on this horse is that she's not built like the breeds I do most often (warmblood, Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred).  Her coat and skin are thicker than any of those breeds and the muscling isn't as distinct.  (Thicker skin means the tendons don't show as much and the few blood vessels that show aren't prominent.)   I've been sculpting what muscling I know must be there, since it doesn't show in any of the reference pics I have of this horse or others of her breed, and then smoothing them down so they aren't as distinct.  I think that's going to work well for this piece.

One thing sculptors do fairly often but painters rarely do (to my knowledge) is to work from lots of reference photos of other horses of the same breed in order put the subject in a different pose than we were able to photograph.  In this case, I saw the mare trot but not tolt.  I revise poses fairly often, but it's easier to do with breeds I'm familiar with.  None of the reference photos I have of Icelandics tolting are well-lit enough for me to see any detail in their legs, which is frustrating to me.  I'll get it, it's just a lot harder than I'd like it to be to get it right.

Painters are dependent on the light on their subject, so they will usually paint from a photo that has the pose and lighting the way they want their painting to be.  They may do something different with the background, or may add or subtract foreground or background subjects, but whatever is included in the painting has to be lit the same way.  That isn't the case with sculpture.  We sculptors need to see the subject from all sides in the same position, which often means using reference pics of other horses to be able to see the muscling properly on all sides.  None of the pics I have of the horses in that gait are high def or well-lit or crisp enough for my satisfaction, but I'll figure something out.  If all else fails, I'll go visit the Icelandic farm in our area and take my own pictures - or at least run my hands over the horses' legs.  My hands "see" the sculpture in ways my eyes can't, so running my hands over a  horse like the one I'm sculpting is often quite useful.

As for this leg that's set too far back, I've dug it most of the way out now and will have to soften some wax in the morning so I can put it back in the right place.  It will be a pain to bring it up to the level of completion it was, but it's better to fix it now than to see it in the bronze with that leg set too far back!  Argh . . .  Yeah, it's progress - three steps forward, four steps back - but still, it IS progress . . .