Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Marketing Your Art/Creating a "Brand"

Most artists are unaware that it takes about 50% of your time to market your art properly.  No agent, no gallery is going to market your art with passion and knowledge like yours (remember, they aren't working only for you!), so do it yourself and put that money you'd give an agent into your own advertising! 

As an artist, your name is your "brand name" unless you prefer promoting your studio's name.  Either way, it's a "brand" and that's a good way to think of it as you promote it. 

Building a "brand name" is a multi-pronged task.  You need a business card with an image of your work preferably on both sides (with some clear space left to write notes on if you need to - and all your contact info on one side).  ALWAYS carry a good supply of your cards with you.  I recently gave cards to a couple of people I was introduced to in church, when my friend included "She's a sculptor" in his introduction and then asked me to show his friend some pictures of my work.  Carrying cards is the first, simplest and one of the most important steps in marketing.  And try to always have at least some pictures with you, even if they're on your cell phone, as mine are (gotta love smart phones!).

You need brochures or fliers with pictures of your work - color, if possible (if I can afford it, I'm doing color next year!).  Don't do cheap-looking brochures (those printed on regular computer paper, for instance) or people won't consider your art to be worth much.  Use heavyweight, glossy or matte paper, but GOOD paper to make the best and most memorable impression.

You need a Website - not just a Facebook page.  People looking for artists don't look on Facebook, they search the Web.  Google won't find your art on Facebook, just your posts, but it will find your Website if you build the meta tags right! 

All your promotional materials - cards, brochures, website, etc. - need to be similar in style.  Perhaps you'll use your business logo on everything, or a picture of the same piece on the cover of each thing, so every piece of advertising, each hand-out, tells people this is YOUR work, without them even having to read your name.  If your work is elegant and refined, your Website and other materials should be elegant and refined.  If your work is more eclectic or funky or whatever, then your website and everything else should have the same feel.  You want to create a "presence" that's recognizable. 

Think of Nike and their "swoosh" - all you have to see is that "swoosh" and you know it's a Nike product, which tells you something about its quality, style and price without you even looking for that information because you know the brand.  Find a way to make your work that recognizable.  I can recognize a Kimberly Kelly Santini painting the instant I see it - her style is that unique (to my eye, anyway).  Same with Elin PendletonDebbie Flood , Shary Akers and many other artists.

Create a unified presence with a real similarity in style or palette among your works.  My bronzes are COLORFUL because I want them to look like real horses.  I rarely  use the French brown patina people think of as "bronze" color - it's good for outdoor art because it's durable, but there are many more interesting choices for indoor sculptures.  I have my bronzes finished with translucent patinas so the metal glitters through just as a real horse's clean summer coat glitters metallically in the sun.  I haven't seen anyone else use such patinas on horses the way I do, and that's fine with me!  The few paintings I've done are bold-colored and look more like stained glass than realistic horses, and I like them that way.  If I ever produce paintings I think are worth selling, they will be bold and probably a bit stylized since I can't draw as well as I'd like to.  But they will fit in my "colorful" style.  (That's my "Frolic" show above.)

Stand back and look at your work.  There is a uniformity or a thread of continuity to it somehow - that's your style.  Find ways to emphasize that in all your advertising and in your booth setup.  For instance, I don't use black drapes for my table covers.  Mine are a slate blue and my carpet is light beige - it's a light, bright, elegant but cheerful booth.  Early in my career, I followed someone else's advice on how to make my booth elegant and used to use black drapes, but all the Friesians I do faded into the black when it was behind them, and I found that much black to be kind of overwhelming, so I went for contrast with the art, and lighter, pretty colors to keep me happy.

There are tons of books out on marketing your art.  Go buy at least one of them - preferably two or three so you can compare methods between them - and then do what they say!!  Do your own research and figure out what will work for you.  Nobody but NOBODY can sell your art like you can!  Believe it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finished and Mounted Maquette!

He's done and he's GORGEOUS!!  "Nanning 374: Spirit of the Friesian" comes mounted on a walnut base with a built-in turntable so you can turn him to any angle you wish without having to lift him up.  He's 15 1/2" long x 13 1/2" high at the top of the neck x 3 1/2" wide, not counting the base.  (I have those measurements here somewhere, but I've already shipped the finished ones out, so I'll have to remeasure if I can't find my note!  Argh, I'm so blond sometimes!!  LOL)

ANYway . . . he sells for $2250, 5% of which is a donation to the Fenway Foundation for Friesian Horses.  I do take payments at no interest, and it takes about 4 months for each one to be cast, so you have at least that long to pay for it.  I've taken payments as long as 3 years for some pieces, so let me know what will work for you.

Here he is in all his glory!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Maquette in metal!

The maquette (small version) of the life-size is in metal now!  It will be patinaed (black, of course!) on Monday and I'll have the first two in my hands sometime next week!  I have all the bases and name plates - the bronzes just need to be mounted.

I'm really excited about how GORGEOUS they are!  Wow!  It's SOOoooo cool when a piece comes out looking even better than you'd hoped!

Here are some pics the foundry sent me to approve the metal work.  Please don't drool on your keyboards!  LOL

BTW, you can order one of these for yourself - $2250, and a donation will be made to the Fenway Farm Friesian Foundation from each sale.  I take payments at no interest.  Email me at if you're interested.

Can't wait to see them in person!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Digitally Enlarging the Maquette to Life-Size

Yes, I published this post in August.  I was going to send it to a friend and discovered the formatting had gone all wonky!  So I'm fixing it and re-publishing it.  The bronze is finished now and will be installed in April!  YAY!

* * * *

My life-size piece is being cast in bronze now. I can't wait to see it!! My husband and I went to Oregon for 9 days for me to work on the enlargement to make sure it was exactly the way I wanted it. My customer came out in the middle of the week to see it and make sure it was how he wanted it too. It passed both of our inspections by the end of the week! 

 The digital enlarging method ROCKS! First, the piece is scanned by a computer, then it's cut out by a 12' long 7-axis robotic arm (like the kind used in the auto industry), then clay is applied and ART happens! The scanner doesn't get into tight spots, so there was a curve that attached the testicles to the gaskins, instead of the line of separation that should've been there, but it was EASY to carve out the Styrofoam and touch up the area with additional clay. The horse's buttocks and tail created such a shadow, the scanner missed scanning the rectum completely, so I had to add that to the life-size, which again was no big deal. The enlarging place has a whole staff of people with degrees with  sculpting working on the piece along with me, my husband and even my customer (who said I was like Tom Sawyer, getting everyone to work on it, LOL!) 

 When you go from maquette to life-size, any tiny errors in the maquette will show up as large errors (the life-size in this case is 700 times bigger than the maquette). Thankfully, no errors showed up once it was enlarged except for one ear not being set quite as straight as I wanted it to be (on the maquette, it looked fine, so it really was a small error). With help from the crew (since I didn't know how to do it), I cut the Styrofoam ear off, put it at the angle I wanted, secured it with a pointed dowel rod, then squirted glue under the gap. It's a foaming kind of glue from a caulking gun, so it expands and fills gaps. It's also easy to carve or rasp off if it's in the way. The dowel was hammered farther into the foam so it would be easy to pull out, then removed. Voila! Perfect ears!! The scanner made the edges of the ears and nostrils too thick because of its inability to "see" sharp edges like that. No biggie. I carved them off with a bread knife, then built up the clay to what I wanted. 

Once the piece was fully assembled and all the finishing work done, it was cut into pieces to be sent to the foundry for casting. I worked from 8-5 for a week (and my shoulder didn't hurt much at all thanks to a cortisone shot the previous week!) It was hard work but I learned SO much!!!! And the piece is GORGEOUS! (Not just my humble opinion, either! LOL) The 12' long 7-axis robotic arm that's shown in the pictures can do a two day job in two hours! That's pretty darned amazing! You might notice in the following pictures that the edges of the hooves weren't as "crisp" as the edges of real hooves are. That was due to the way the machine cut them out. My customer fixed the hoof edges for me - I asked him to add that clay and he got it in really good shape himself before I came along and did the fine tuning.  He sure enjoyed himself, and he'll be able to point to certain parts on the bronze and be able to tell his friends that he did that!  I think that's great!  :) 

This was a FABULOUS experience for me!  I hope I get more life-size commissions so I can go through this process again!

Below you can see the robotic arm cutting out the head and neck - the horse's face is to the left and the back edge of his neck to the right. This is the same kind of Styrofoam used to insulate office buildings. It comes in 8" thick blocks.

The computer split the scan of the legs and tail in half lengthwise.  These parts are being cut out on this router table and will be glued together later.

Below is one of the master sculptors who works at the enlarging shop, working on the detailing of the mane. In the life-size, the details I put in the maquette's mane and tail weren't dynamic enough, so clay was added to make them a better size for the life-size. The sculptors there can do all the work for the original sculptor, either at their direction or without them even being there. Apparently I was unusual because I jumped right in and worked alongside them, which made sense to me - it's MY piece! My hands needed to be in every aspect of creating it!


Yeah, I'm happy with it! Awed by it, actually. It's amazing - and HUGE! Eight feet tall by 9 feet long without the cart it's mounted on at the moment.

I wish my parents were alive. It would be such a kick to be able to send this photo to them and say, "Look what I did!" :) I know they'd hang the picture on their fridge.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Taking Credit Cards

Changes to the rules of how credit card transactions are processed necessitated a change in the system I was using last fall.  The software I was using (PC Charge Pro from had been  made obsolete by the new compliance rules.  PC Charge Pro is a very good system (and what they're selling now is compliant with the new rules) and I liked it a lot, but before I spent the money on new software, I decided to see what was new in the market since I'd last looked. My husband suggested I look for merchant services apps for my smart phone (a Droid), which is what I went with.  First I'll tell you about a popular system we looked at and didn't choose, then I'll tell you about the one I signed up with (and am very happy with).

Of the merchant services that work with smart phones, Square ( is one of the more popular ones.  Their fees are low and the card reader is cool, but there are problems with the way they do business that turned us off.  Any company that has no "real" office or phone number where you can talk to live people about problems is not a company I want to deal with, for one thing, and that's the case with Square.  Also, their reputation for customer service and complaint resolution is bad
( The Ripoff Report website has an interesting complaint
(\up-346db.htm) against Square too - it's always good to check these things when you're researching something that involves your money.  (Notice in the Ripoff Report the problem with taking sales over $1000 - many of my sales are over $1000 since I sell bronze, so that was a real turn-off for me.) 

A better solution, IMO, is They have free apps for Iphones, Androids, Blackberry and I believe Window phones too, and their rates are guaranteed to be the lowest (they will work with you on what the best rate is for your business). You can get a Bluetooth swipe machine to go with your
phone for $129, IIRC, which works great. However, if you're in a place like Equine Affaire where one company has the WiFi contract for the premises, you may have problems. At Equine Affaire in Ohio this April when I tried to use my Droid to do charges (it works great at home!) I couldn't get online with the
phone because of the WiFi service for the fairgrounds blocking my signal. I finally had to pay for the internet access and use my computer to use the free Merchant Gateway on So a really good aspect of the Merchant Warehouse system is that you're not locked into just using your phone - you have another option. BTW, when you input the customer's email address, a very professional-looking receipt is emailed to them, which is a really nice feature.

Periodically, Merchant Warehouse will go over your account and make sure you're still getting the best available rate, which is the first time that's been offered to me in the 16+ years I've been taking credit cards.

Merchant Warehouse has an A+ reputation with the BBB (Better Business Bureau). Whatever system you go with, be sure to check them out with the BBB and possibly Dunn & Bradstreet as well to make sure you're going with a reputable company and equipment. It's also a good idea to do searches for complaints against whatever company you're interested in, and whatever terminal you're interested in as well. I once was leased a terminal that the company KNEW would be obsolete in a year when AT&T changed their system!!!! There was no way for me to know that when I got it (because when I signed with them, I wasn't given the name and
model number of the swipe machine I'd be getting, so I couldn't research it - and honestly, it never occurred to me that it could become obsolete like that), but in researching our complaint against them, we discovered AT&T let those companies know that certain terminals wouldn't work anymore BEFORE this company leased this machine to me. What a pain.

Another good thing is that Merchant Warehouse gives its customers who refer people to them $100 if that person signs up. So if you do check them out and decide to go with them, please give them my name! :D I've already gotten paid for referring others to them, and they pay very quickly! You can also get a standard swipe machine type of system or software for your PC (although with the Merchant Gateway, I don't know why you'd need the software) with Merchant Warehouse if you prefer to work that way rather than with a smart phone.

I've been with 4 or 5 different merchant services companies since I've been in business. This Merchant Warehouse system is easy to use, easy to explain to others who might be working in your booth, inexpensive, secure and the people there are nice to do business with. I'm very happy with them, which is a very pleasant change from some of the ones I've had before!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nanning and "Tolt" updates

Nanning is at the enlarger's in Oregon. The maquette has been scanned and is already at the foundry where the mold and castings will be made for the maquette edition as well as the life-size.  You can order a maquette now and it should be delivered hopefully by the end of October.  The maquette will be mounted on a shaped walnut base (not a rectangular one but one that follows the movement of the horse) and numbered sequentially.

These pictures were taken just before the piece was shipped.  For more information on this piece, please see its webpage, Nanning 374: Spirit of the Friesian.

Now that the piece has been scanned, the next step is to cut it out of Styrofoam at life-size.  To do this, the enlarging company uses a seven axis robotic arm.  The piece will be cut out in all three dimensions and will be 1/4" smaller all over than the finished size (17 hands at the withers).  A coating of the same kind of clay I use will be put on it and then I'll go out there to do the surface detailing.  I can't wait to see the enlargement!  I guarantee I'll get all misty-eyed.  This project is a dream come true for me!  I'm so excited about it!

"Tolt" is finished and gorgeous and now installed in its owner's home.  Here are the final pics of it.

Now I'm starting on a bust of Nanning that will be a bronze wall-hanging.  I'm eager to get started on it, and I'm REALLY eager to go to Oregon soon to do the final work on the Nanning life-size!  YIPPEE!!!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Nanning nearing the end - WHEW!!

I'm busy detailing the mane, tail and feathers on Nanning, and I had to repair an ear today after I bumped it and messed it up, oh well.

Don't look at the feathers on the left hind - I've redone them many, many times and am still not settled on how I want to do those vertical feathers.  (He'd just stomped that food down in the photo, so they really are flying straight up.)  Those feathers, cleaning him up and smoothing out any remaining lumps are pretty much all that's left to do!!  YAY!

The piece is 15 1/2" long x 13 1/2" high at the top of the neck x 3 1/2" wide (just over 1/6 life-size).

Since this piece will be a life-size bronze and displayed outdoors, there are things to consider I don't normally have to think about.  For instance, I need to design him with as few "cupped" places as possible so they won't trap rainwater and create green spots on him.  Yes, the foundry will drill seep holes to drain any serious depressions, but still, if I can sculpt it so there are very few of them, that's best.  

"Tolt" has patina now and will be shipped to me soon!  I'll post pics of it as soon as it's mounted.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Updates on "Tolt" and "Nanning"

"Tolt" is in metal!  I got some "approval pics" from the foundry last week.  There are a couple of things I want them to fix (the reins should not be looped up above the rider's hands, and the stirrups are too far back on the feet), but overall, it's beautiful!! 

The maquette of Nanning is coming along well.  I've added hair to the tail and have started putting clay on for the mane, but the clay for the mane isn't "installed" yet.  It's just lying there on the surface in strands much too thick for the finished version because right now, I'm just working out the movement of the mane.  Once I've figured out how I want it to be, I'll thin those strands and make sure they're well-attached to the sculpture, as well as having mane on both sides of the neck..

I enjoy working on the "hairy" parts of horse sculptures.  That's where I can get more creative with it.  I think he's going to be gorgeous!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The beginning of the end

The sculpture is coming along well, with the muscles defined and the body probably finished except for a bit of smoothing here and there.  I still have a little detailing to do on the legs, but with Friesians, their skin and coats are thicker than that of the average horse (I may have said that here already - sorry if I'm repeating myself!) plus they have all those feathers, which actually start all the way up at the chestnuts (which are above the knees, just under the hocks in case you don't know). For those reasons, the detail isn't as crisp in a Friesian's legs as it would be in an Arabian's, for instance, so I add detail and rub it out a bit to soften it so it's appropriate for a Friesian. 

The "beginning of the end" for a Friesian piece is where I start doing all that hair.  You'll see in these photos that the feathers have been added and are pretty much finished on three legs.  The weird stuff sticking up on the left hind leg shows me exploring various ways to depict feathers that are literally vertical at this moment in the stride.  It would be so easy to do in paint, but in sculpture, there are mechanical issues to consider, such as  how a mold will pull off the piece without destroying the detail.  I've applied and ripped off the feathers from this foot probably five times now.  It isn't a problem - it's an educational journey as I try to find the very best way to portray them that's also going to work for the mold.

Anyway - here are today's photos:

I've also done a good bit of work on the head, ears, shoulders and on smoothing out the bumps in the body.  The shoulder on the right side still needs a bit of work, but I'm lucky enough to have a good side-lit picture of him with his weight on his front leg so I'm seeing all kinds of detail I want to build in to the piece.  When you see me working on the mane and forelock, you'll know the head is finished.  I'll probably do the tail last.  It will be fluffed out and moving, not hanging in a lump the way it is right now.  Trust me, I'll get it there!  LOL.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Progress, progress, progress!

I wish I'd taken a picture of Nanning's head when I finished work today - I spent most of today on it and there are a lot of changes.  I'll just have to post the pic another day!

In the meantime . . . I've done a lot of work on his back legs and rump, and now he has four legs, which I'm sure will make him very happy!  LOL  Normally I work with the horse's feet on the ground and build up "grass" around his feet, so I don't have to pay attention to how "level" they are - it all works out fine when they're on the ground.  But this one's in mid-air for several reasons.  For one thing, the owner wants the piece to be of just the horse, no ground under him, and for a life-sized piece, that's a good design.  It saves money (less bronze to cast, less weight to support, less expense in shipping, etc.) and looks more natural than it would with a "pad" of grass under it as a life-size horse.  To balance, three feet have to touch the ground, so I've had to lower the right hind leg to have the toe touch the ground, which isn't the way it is in the photo, but it's only off by a few inches.  I also had to straighten his front leg, which is bent in the photo, so he would have two feet completely flat on the ground, which will make him stronger.

Here's how I'm checking how level his feet are:
That's a piece of cardboard (from a calendar) that I've cut a slot in so it will fit around the post.  The level is way off right now, but the right front hoof still has a wire sticking out of the bottom, so it won't be level front to back until I cut that off.  I was mostly checking to see how the back feet were doing.  They're not too far off, so I'm happy about that.

Here's how he looked yesterday before I did all that work on his head.  I'll post the revised (and much prettier) head soon.

I'm still not happy with his hind legs, but he's in such an extreme posture (he was playing - horses can get into all kind of extreme positions when they play!), it's hard to get it exactly right early on.  My way of working is to build the horse too big and with everything in place as well as possible to start with, then carve away what isn't the horse I'm working on, making adjustments, either tiny or large ones, as needed.  He'll be gorgeous and his pose will make sense once I'm done with it!  I think I have at least a month's more work to do before he's finished.

The jumper is painted and finished, ready to be mounted on the walnut plaque.  Here's how it looks finished.  It's name is "Rolltop."

It's on a paper towel that has black paint and gold Rub 'n' Buff on it from me finishing a bunch of medallions as well as this relief.  I'm happy with how this turned out!  I think it will make a beautiful trophy.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Update on Jumper Commmission and Frieisian Maquette

The jumper commission ("Rolltop") is sculpted, the mold has been made and I've been making castings.  The first casting is usually one that has to be thrown away, because that's the one where I find the places where the mold catches on the resin.  When it "catches," that usually means the mold material has gotten stuck in the resin and torn off the mold.  These are usually TINY places, so they don't usually damage the detail of the mold.  The first casting also removes any clay that may have remained in the mold.  So the first one is tossed.  I've gotten a good casting now, so it just needs to be cleaned up (washed with Dawn dishwashing detergent to remove any oils from its surface), painted with a prime coat and then finished to look like bronze.  Here's are pics of it in the mold and right after I unmolded it.

The Friesian maquette for a life-size bronze is coming along well.  It's still rough, but the proportions are getting there, and some of the details are starting to show.  Remember, this is a work in progress - it will be in "the uglies" for a while yet.

His body is curved, as if he's turning to the left.  Hopefully it looks like that!  I know his hooves that are flat to the ground aren't quite on the same plane yet - that will come with a bit more work.  Ignore the position of the tail - it's just a "placeholder" for now. 

I try to work all over the sculpture at the same time, without focusing too much on any one spot.  So while the head looks almost finished, it isn't.  While the left hind hip and leg look nearly finished, they aren't.  Everything's being developed a little at a time.  I can see the beautiful horse starting to emerge, although most people will probably not see beyond his current not-yet-beautiful state.

I'm finding the hard clay difficult to work with.  My shoulders are sore all the time despite using a hair dryer on the sculpture to soften the clay before I try to blend it or add more or carve some off.  Some of my ribbon tools are being damaged from trying to carve this clay.  I sure hope the results are going to be worth the effort of using this kind of clay!   It's good to learn how to use a different kind of sculpting medium, but I'll be happy to go back to the soft clay I normally use.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Jumper commission is finished!

This was a fun break from the big pieces I've been working on.  I really needed to take a step back from the Friesian maquette and try to see where it wasn't working, so I worked on this little jumper relief on the tiny  bit of space beside "Tolt" on my crank up sculpting table.  Nanning (the Friesian) is on the worktable across the room with his big reference photo right behind him.  A couple of days of work on the jumper gave me fresh eyes for Nanning, so that was really good!  And I got this pretty relief finished just today.  The customer and I are both happy with it, YAY!

The first picture shows it at an early stage.  I worked from the rear end of the horse to the front once I had all the basic shapes in place.

Below, you see me trying a different jump than the one in the photo (which was a simple jump with standards, although a pretty one).  The original jump was awkward to make into a relief.  One standard needed to go across the rider's boot and the other looked as if it were stabbing the horse in the throat.  So I decided "no standards!"  I tried a coop jump first, but wasn't that happy with it.  That's below.

Then I did a rolltop jump and that's the right one for this piece.  Now all I have to do ("all" - LOL!) is make the mold box, pour a mold, clean up the mold, cast resin in it, clean up the resin, paint and finish the resin, mount the resin and the brass plates to the walnut plaque (my basemaker will actually do that - I'm not that good with power tools!) and voila!  It's a trophy!

I put the little bush at the end of the rolltop to show she's at a show - the rider also has a number card tied around her waist that shows on her back (which is why her back is a bit flatter than it might normally be).

I hope you like my little jumper relief!  It will be available as a trophy on my Trophy Gallery page once I get it finished. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sculpting with Gloves On and Other Adventures

I'll bet you read that title and said, "Huh???"  LOL.  Read and learn!

I got a "rush job" yesterday, a trophy job that involves me sculpting a relief of a jumper.  After I sculpt it, I'll make a mold and cast a resin of it, then finish the resin to look like bronze.  The problem is, the trophy has to be finished and in their hands by the end of March.  That isn't much time to get such work done, but fortunately for me and the customer, the big piece I'm working on requires a lot of "down time" while the clay is softening in the crock pot, so while the clay is becoming soft enough for me to use, I have time to work on other projects.

I'll back up and explain a bit here.  I'm using a crock pot as a double boiler to soften the Classic Clay Hard that I'm using on maquette for the life-size bronze I'm working on (I'll call it "Nanning," the real horse's name, to keep things simple).  It takes a while for the clay to soften even with the crock set on "high," so while it's warming, I have time to work on other things. 

I don't want to leave the crock plugged in and turned on while I'm not in the studio, so I don't turn the corck on and leave the studio while it warms the clay.  I've got the rider for "Tolt" nearly perfected and need to give that piece a couple of days of not being looked at so I can see it with fresh eyes before I do whatever touchups seem necessary.  Then I'll photograph it and send the pics to my client for approval.  I don't want to start working on the wings for the Pegasus I'm doing using "Feather" as the horse's body because working on the wings takes both hands and my left shoulder is still sore and weak.  I don't have enough working room to get "Horseplay" out to work on while Tolt and Nanning are out.  With all my other current projects on "hold" for various reasons, I have time to work on this trophy relief while waiting for the clay to soften for Nanning.

My trophy customer sent me an excellent reference photo of a college-age rider jumping a nice hunter fence.  The background was very busy, with white vinyl fence behind the mostly white jump and people and a building there as well.  To  make it easier to see what I was doing, I cut the horse and fence out after printing the photo on my computer printer at the size I wanted to sculpt it.  To get it centered on the foamcore board I'm using as a working surface, I marked the outline of it on the foamcore.  This way, when I sculpt the piece, it won't be too far to one side or the other, and the mold will be much better as a result, with no possibly weak sides from being too narrow.

 Hopefully you can see the pencil outline on the foamcore above.  The cut-out reference picture that's been made the size I want it to be for the trophy is to the right.

Once I have the board marked, I start putting clay on the board to fill out the silhouette of the horse.  I will finish the horse first, then add the saddle, bridle, reins and rider (not necessarily in that order), and will build the jump and the bushes on either side of it last.

The trick to doing good reliefs is to remember that the parts closest to the viewer need to be the highest.  That seems like something that should be simple to do, but it isn't as easy to do as you might think.  Consider this horse's back legs.  The left hind leg is nearest the viewer.  That one has to be the highest.  You'd think the right leg would be the next highest thing, but this is a gelding and his sheath is showing, so the sheath has to be the second highest level and look as if it actually belongs between the back legs.  The right hind leg will be the least high.  The "least high" part still has to have a decent amount of depth top to bottom (as you look at the clay, not top to bottom of the leg) so the resin will pour well and the resulting piece won't be too thin and warp.  I have to be sure even the thinnest parts of the relief will pour well and be thick enough to be strong, but not so thick the piece loses its graceful appearance.  That's a trick in itself.

In the picture below, I've done about 45 minutes of work on the piece (with a couple of breaks to check on the clay in the crock).  You should be able to see the definition and different levels of the two back legs and the sheath.  The back legs, rump, top of the tail and the back part of the belly are all in pretty good shape now, although I need to detail the legs, of course.  I'm making this using the Classic Clay Soft I normally use.  I like it because I can push the clay around to get the various shapes needed without a lot of work, so my hands don't tire so easily.

The photo shown on the left above is the full photo.  It's about 1/3 bigger than the one I'm using for the sculpture.  You can see how the white vinyl fence behind the jump is distracting to the eye.  Having it cut out makes my job go faster - it's a nice shortcut. 

This is a *great* reference photo.  Having a straight-on, crisply focused profile shot where the camera is level with the center of the horse's body mass makes life a lot simpler for me, especially when I need to do a rush job. 

While I worked on the jumper, the clay in the crock turned to mush - I should've checked it more often.  As a result, I wound up "frosting" Nanning as if I were frosting a cake!  That was interesting!  I used a putty knife to apply the clay to bulk him up and tried to press the clay in place with my fingers.  It didn't take me long to realize I needed to get smarter about working with that hot clay.  First I took the lid off the crock so the clay would cool a bit.  That helped, but not enough.  Then I took the glass bowl the clay was in out of the crock and set it on the table beside me.  Within a few minutes, it had cooled enough to be easier to work with, but it was still hot on my hands.

Above you can see the crockpot on the left, a plastic box behind it with a red lid - that's where the sliced clay is stored - the plastic cup I used to bring more water to the crock today (there's no water in the machine shed where my studio is).  On the right of the sculpture are the tools I'm using on this one so far: the putty knife I'm using to put clay on (sometimes frosting the sculpture, LOL), a large wooden tool that I use to both press the clay tightly to the existing clay and to carve the piece a bit, and some smaller tools I haven't needed yet.  The Friesian on the bulletin board to the left in the background is not Nanning - it's just one I liked when I first started sculpting.  I never have sculpted that horse.  This is my second sculpture of Nanning (he's the horse pulling the carriage in my bronze, "Friesian Elegance"  The Friesian mounted on the blue Styrofoam directly behind the sculpture is Nanning 374.  In this photo, you can see the clay was laid on in rough "swooshes" - this is when the clay was too soft and I was actually "frosting" the sculpture.  It all worked out okay, don't worry!

I got the bright idea to use vinyl gloves to apply the hot clay.  The glove you can see in the pic below is a "chemical barrier glove" I use when making molds and doing other stuff with chemicals that might irritate my skin.  It's leaving interesting alligator-skin-like impressions on the clay, but that won't last.  I'll be carving this clay down with sharp tools, either heated or after having used a hair dryer on the clay to soften it (hard clay really requires a different working method than usual!) and you'll never know Nanning looked this rough or had alligator skin at any point in his construction, LOL!

As you can see in the photo above, I put a piece of clay on and smooth it out, filling in depressions and gaps with it as much as possible.  Eventually, the sculpture will be smooth and elegant and will look like the well-muscled horse it represents - it's still in the "uglies" stage for now.

This is the best way to measure with calipers - you don't put the curved tips toward each other but AWAY from each other so your eye won't be fooled by the curve in the legs of the caliper.  Here I'm measuring the length of Nanning's body.  

This reference photo isn't as easy to use as the jumper's because the horse isn't in straight profile to the camera.  His body is actually bent, so his shoulder is fairly straight to the camera, but his rump is in 3/4 view.  There are reasons for him being in this position, but the simplest explanation is that he was playing and horses do unexpected things while playing.

This is what the far side looks like when you've been adding clay from one side without turning the piece often.  The clay is still very soft, so the slabs are going on well and are smoothed out on the horse's left side, but they look pretty weird on this side, don't they?  Don't worry, I fixed it. 

Note the toothpicks sticking out of his point of shoulder and point of buttocks above.  They are there to show me how much he needs to be bulked up.  The clay should be built up until the top of those toothpicks are even with the clay.  I have a way to go, don't I?  :)

After adding more clay and blending it in, pressing it so it will be hard and strong and there won't be any "surprises" (depressions where there shouldn't be depressions) in the future, and adjusting the armature a bit (I moved his tail and two of his legs - in pressing the clay on, they got out of place a bit), this is the result.  His neck is too thick and his body not thick or long enough, but my hands and shoulders aren't as strong as they were prior to surgery, so I have to stop here for now.  Thankfully, I'm getting stronger and gaining stamina every day - it's just taking longer than I want it to! 

I'm happy with where Nanning is now.  I could see the "portriat" emerging from the beginning, but I'll bet you can start to see it now.  If you noticed the working board is up on something else, I have a 2x6 under it at the moment that has a turntable on the bottom, so it's easier for me to turn the piece to work on it.  When I get "Tolt" off my big sculpting table and no longer need to use the crock pot to soften my clay, I'll move Nanning to the sculpting table.

That's it for now!  Hope you learned something interesting from me today!