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 . . .

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