01.05.13 “The gloom of the world…”

“The gloom of the world is but a shadow;
behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.

— Fra Giovanni Giocondo

On January 1, 2013, I had the pleasure of of visiting my childhood home in Illinois. The new owner welcomed Barry and I warmly, sharing how she has updated the property to fit her needs; a great new kitchen, revived hardwood floors, lovely new colors for the walls, and lots of work in the yard.  But out back my family’s favorite tree, a stalwart old ash, still stands. My parents would be happy, pleased by the great love and care that has been lavished on the house they built in 1958.  My father loved landscaping the large yard, my mother loved the privacy the trees and sloped setting cocooned her with.

I speak of them both in the past tense now: my mother passed away four years ago; my father, just two weeks ago on the first day of winter.

His passing prompted a 3,681 mile winter road trip to to central Illinois and back again during the holidays. Trust me, we hadn’t planned to spend a snowy New Year’s Eve in Peoria. But 2013 dawned shiny and bright. The visit to the old house and meeting its vivacious new owner reassured me that all is well and as it should be.

Welcome 2013
Offering a belated toast to friends and family
and warm wishes for your health and happiness
~ Lynn and Barry

12.11.12 The tale of the mane and tail that became my main obsession

He’s finally done — Peppy Poco ChaCha.
As you might have noticed, it took much longer than I thought it would.  When I started on this little diversion of a project, back in January, I thought this would be easily completed within a couple of months.  Right.  Sigh.


Then I got all excited in August when I finished the main sculpture and Barry made a waste mold so that I could have a hard resin master to work on.  Just add a mane and tail.  No big deal.   Right…  Sigh…

Except it turned out that the tail had to be carefully designed as a support and balance structure.  Just a wee bit of engineering. That was the last blog entry. In September.  Sigh…

Since then tale of the mane and tail has become my main obsession.

Quite often, I have been disdainful of manes and tails as a sculptor. Especially manes.  They only cover up all that gorgeous neck structure that I love so well.   And, let’s face it, other artisans like to customize manes and tails to create a unique piece, so why not make it easy for them by not having a cascade of mane that will just be dremelled off anyway. (Is “dremel” officially a verb yet?  If so I suppose I can properly use a past-tense version…) So for the past few years I’ve kept manes pretty sparse.

Fraley14_ChaCha_ManeDet1_10x8_72dpi_typeBut now I was faced with a dynamic sculpture demanding that a complete story about movement be told. Where did that movement begin?  Where is it going? How fast?

Beyond depicting the structure of bone and exertion of muscle and what visual element do you have to work with? Hair. Long silky hair.




I think there’s a nice flow when all’s said and done.

But how did we get here?  Lot’s of layers:



A note here about the tail.  I started out being very swirly and curly, a highly dynamic sculpture in it’s own right.  But that didn’t work with the overall design of the piece.  Too busy, too eye-pokey for an area of the sculpture that is intended to depict a pivot point.  It was more show than flow.  In the end the idea of “Flow” won out.


Peppy Poco ChaCha will be available for order starting tomorrow, December 12, 2012.  Newsletter subscribers will receive an alert later tonight with more details.

Happy Holidays ~ Lynn

09.07.2012 A Tail of Trial and Error

Ahhh, the equine tail.  A thing of beauty, key to balance and essential to a design, without ever having to be “My Little Pony” about it.

You may recall that the new cutting horse I’ve been working on was first molded with a mere stub of a tail bone.  And no mane.  The reason was that I wanted to see how the resin would balance without it, and then design a tail (and mane) to further stabilize the base-less piece.

To start with I had a scrap of metal craft mesh left over from another project and the “obvious” place to start was to simply attach it to the resin stub with super glue, catalyzed by baking soda.  This is a magic combination to create instant structure.

Additional wisps of “tail” were added with more super glue and baking soda.
My intent was to recreate this cool curly que design I saw in a little photo in a working cow horse magazine.
The three-D design was sketched in by stabilizing the mesh edges with super glue and baking soda.  Then I started to fill in with epoxy putty (by the way, does anyone know where to buy “Gapoxio” putty these days?).
But it just wasn’t working — the balance was off and the poor lil’ dude tended to fall over on his nose.  That’s no good!  So….
Do over — off with his tail!
This time I added top-to-bottom support with sturdy aluminum armature wire.
A quick sanding gave the wire some “grip’ for the super glue/baking soda “cement”.
That’s better! Now I can really test what position and angle best supports the hind end.  To me that’s the key engineering function of this tail design, it must provide a solid column of support for the hind end of the dynamically posed horse — in fact, I don’t want much weight at all on that left hind leg, I want the tail to do the work.
Here we go again, add strips of screen mesh…
Apply super glue and baking soda to set the edges on the mesh.
More mesh. More glue. More soda.  Repeat.
Then fill in between the “glue lines” with epoxy putty.
What’s so nice about the mesh is that a sloppy mix of putty will squish through and really lock things into place.
Inevitably, I over-do the putty and end up dremeling half of it off again. 
 That’s why it’s a tail of trial and error!

08.06.2012 Cutting It Up


CutterWstMold_CutApart_Aug6_2012_1_72Just a quick follow-up to the previous post; the new Cutting Horse sculpture has been cut out of his waste mold!  You can see that the soft clay original sculpture of ChaCha did not come out unscathed, he lost his ears and the front leg sure got pulled apart. 

But that’s not important at this point.  


What’s important is that Barry got a really clean looking imprint coat, i.e. the first coat of rubber that captures all the detail of the sculpture.

Bubbles in subsequent layers are not a problem in a waste mold.  If this had been a mold designed to cast a smaller resin under pressure Barry would have placed the rubber in a vacuum chamber to extract air prior to pouring a sturdy block mold.  Another approach to mold making altogether actually.  And, good subject for a future post.  In the meantime I’m eagerly awaiting the first resin to be cast from this mold so that I can get to work finalizing a master copy of ChaCha.

07.20.12 Now Producing "Aliens"…

Ok, not really. But, my new sculpture sure looks like an alien in this photo.  Or a lava lamp gone wild.  Or a batch of “magic rocks”.  Or?  
So what are we really doing?  We’re making a “waste mold” of a
nearly completed sculpture. This one in fact — Peppy Poco ChaCha (say that three times fast; go on, it’s fun!)

The mold Barry is working on now is an intermediary step in the overall process of creating and producing a new sculpture.  We’re only pulling one or two castings from this mold to get a hard-bodied master for me to work with. Thus it’s referred to as a “waste” mold. However, this is by no means a waste of time or effort!
You’ve no doubt noticed that the sculpture has no mane and tail… yet.  I decided that in order to avoid damaging the soft clay body I would wait to add the mane and tail to a hard resin casting from the waste mold.  There are a few other details to add, and I like to see how the piece “reads” in white resin before committing to a production mold. 
Going through the exercise of making, cutting apart and then casting into a waste mold gives Barry a better feel for the piece overall and that will make designing the production mold go much more quickly for him, since ChaCha’s idiosyncrasies will already be dancing through Barry’s subroutine so to speak.
Here are a few pictures of the waste mold as it’s being built up layer by layer.  Yes, it would be quicker to make a dump mold, but that would require a lot more silicone rubber.  Pricey stuff, that silicone rubber….  

Ok wait, first let me show you a diagram of the two different methods, then we’ll get back to pictures.
top: a multi-layered “brush-up” mold
bottom: a “dump” mold in which the sculpture is suspended in a container then mold material is poured (dumped) in around it.
Shown below is the first layer of a brush-up mold.
The pink and the blue are all the same silicone rubber (Smooth-On Mold Max 30), with different dyes added to each batch to keep track of the layers .
Then another pink layer and it’s time to work right side up again.

This top view gives you an idea of the all the layers that were added while ChaCha was upside down.

Now it’s time to add more silicone goo to the topside.  There is method to this madness.  The first few coats are drizzled on with a very runny mix of silicone, so that the rubber can ooze its way into every nook and cranny of the sculpture, capturing all the fine detail.  

Later layers have had a thickener added to the silicone in addition to the dye, which makes for a more-putty like consistency that builds up thickness more quickly.
After a couple of thick coast right side up, ChaCha gets flipped over again for more layers.

Now the mold is ready to have plaster applied to the outside to create a hard “mother mold” to support the rubber.  See the little purple bumps with “t-pins” stuck in them? (Indicated by the red arrows)  Those will be registration locks for the plaster mother mold.  
Barry will let all this set up at least over night, then apply the plaster.  At that point the only photo I’d have to offer is of a white blob.  That’s none too exciting, so we’ll wait to catch up with this project when Barry starts to cut all this apart.

Would you like to learn how to do this in a hands-on workshop with Barry?  

He’s seriously thinking about holding a workshop next year, so your input is really important. Consider this before you respond though, you’ll need to bring your own ready-to-mold sculpture, and it will take at least three days, (probably really four or five days!) to cover the material and make a mold. And the going rate for any professional quality workshop these days is about $100 per day.  So, with those factors in mind, what do you think?  

Please leave a comment to let us know!  Thanks 🙂
I still like the alien look…

07.16.12 A Calf’s Eye View

I wonder what those calves think when the strange centaur creature starts to winnow them from their fellows.  It must be utterly bewildering to them.  Until now their whole lives have revolved around the importance of staying *with* the herd. 
Of course being equine-centric as I am, I’ve only managed to sculpt one half of a calf’s centaur nightmare.  And actually, he’s a gelding.  Peppy Poco ChaCha.  By name paying homage to a couple of strong families in the Quarter Horse world. And the ChaCha part?  I can’t help but think of nimble dancers when I watch a cutting horse work a calf.  And it’s just fun to let the name trip off your tongue — peppy poco chacha, peppy poco chacha…  
The sculpture is now out in Barry’s workshop having layers of silicone rubber drizzled over it to build up a waste mold.  Here’s one layer:

And another:

Really not very exciting to watch.  Like paint drying.  
Good thing I have some fun reference photos to share with you from the Idaho Cutting Horse Association show I attended in March.  Enjoy! 

07.12.12 Adding to the Library

Chimay meets Calderon

Chimayo meets Calderon

A friend recently asked what sort of “homework” I would suggest to help her better understand the internal structure of horses’ legs and my immediate response was “Have you read Animal Painting and Anatomy by Calderon yet?”  This has been one of my favorite go-to references for structure since I first read it.  The book was a required reference for a workshop taught by sculptor Veryl Goodnight that I attended 19 years ago.

Since I was sending my buddy out to find a copy I decided to search ABE just to see how exorbitant an older copy would be instead of a new Dover reprint (which generally runs less than $20).  Turns out older copies are reasonably priced as well!  A dealer in Stillwater NY listed a copy that was originally from the Rhode Island School of Design’s library.  That sealed the deal for me. I had to have this book, and the price was less than a new copy even with postage. Happy sigh….

Ahhhh, finally a hard bound copy with that pretty frontispiece painting in color!

And look at all the grime, the charcoal, the clay, the wax that has been layered onto the book’s pages by several generations of fellow artists.  Love it!!
And the most intriguing little treasure of all — an actual fingerprint in ink. Hmmmmm… *who* was that?
I just love this physical connection to artists in years past.
Of course I love new books too, and the one I’m most excited about right now (and am eagerly awaiting delivery of my copy) is The Equine Tapestry by Lesli Kathman.  
I like to think of her as the David Levy of the equine color genetics world. Lesli has poured her passion for equine color genetics into this book project and her meticulous perseverance shows in this first volume. You can see a little sneak peek of the book at her blog.  If you’re headed to BreyerFest, be sure to attend her new presentations!  I believe you’ll find up to date info about that at Lesli’s FB page, and of course her webpage is a delight.
Come on Amazon — I want my copy of The Equine Tapestry *now*.  But until then, I will commune with the spirits of art students past and the instructive Mr. Calderon

06.07.2012 "The fragrance lingers on the hand that offers the rose"

I wish I could be in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on June 16, 2012.  The landscape is lush this time of year, an undulating quilt of crops stitched through by highways and county roads.  The scraps of prairie that remain are redolent with wildflowers. It’s lovely, full of renewed life and promise.

I wish I could be in Cedar Rapids, most specifically on June 16, to tell each person attending the Laughing Bear Live Benefit model horse show “Thank You” and give you each a big hug.

When I was a little kid my mom sent me off to etiquette classes at Peoria’s Bergner’s department store in Sheridan Village.  “White Gloves and Party Manners” they called it. I learned many things.

But I was not taught how to be the beneficiary of such a wonderful event as Laughing Bear Live, other than to say “Thank You” and to stay demurely in the background while show hostess Lisa Bickford worked her magic.

And there’s been a lot of magic indeed.  Lisa approached me with the idea nearly 18 months ago, shortly after I shared the news that I needed to start treatment for rectal cancer.  As I type the words I can hardly believe it’s been 18 months since that tumultuous news.  All this time Lisa has been steadfastly planning the show; and recruiting the support of so many wonderful artists and friends.  Thank you Lisa!

I’m especially touched by the special award medallion that Kelly Savage sculpted for the show; a beautiful, strong, champion horse coming through the protective arch of a cancer awareness ribbon.  Thank you Kelly!

It’s been said that you learn about gratitude by giving. And that you learn about humility by receiving. 

I am humbled to the core by the outpouring of support that Barry and I have been enfolded with.  It’s like being wrapped up in a fluffy handmade quilt, warm out of the dryer, on a cold damp day.

I am overwhelmed by the generosity of people like Lisa, Kelly, Karen Gerhardt, Carla Bushman, Jeanne Grunert, Des Corbett, Melissa Hart, Danielle Feldman, Sharon Lazeo, Carrie Sloan, Linda York, Melodie Snow, Candace Liddy, Laurel Orrin-Dedes, Carolyn Boydston, Jennifer Scott, Sheri Rhodes, Sarah Rose, Kylee Demers, Marilou Mol, Robyn Jalbert who all have donated items to support the show.

Thank you all.

03.06.2012 Every Tuesday is Super at Marianne’s

Mixed media artist, Marianne Konvalinka

Mixed media artist, Marianne Konvalinka

Indeed — I have the rare pleasure of spending most Tuesday evenings in the company of a variety of talented, smart, funny and caring fellow Boise artists; all gathered in the cozy confines of Marianne Konvalinka’s studio space. Sometimes it’s just Marianne and one other artist, at other times five or six of us squeeze in to work on (small) projects and enjoy each other’s company.
I so value these evenings because it gets me out of my normal mental and physical work space. These are not equine artists; among us we have mixed media artists, painters, metal and ceramic sculptors and print makers.  Boy do we learn from each other!
Tuesday evenings at Marianne’s are the perfect time for me to work on more experimental projects, like taking the concept of analyzing a human form in simple blocks representing key elements (torso, pelvis, legs bones, knees and feet) and applying that to a four-legged critter.  I was happy with how well the technique translated to an equine form!
A study of basic human form by Lynn during the mid-February Simon Kogan workshop in Scottsdale
A study of a jumper I played with during studio night at Marianne’s last week.
Tonight I’ll be taking over a relief to work on.  Check in on my Laf’n Bear Facebook page for an update later on that project. Well, time to pack up and head over for Super Tuesday at Marianne’s!
Be well all!
~ Lynn

01.25.2012 A Fling with an Old Flame…

He’s dashing, dark and handsome. 

It’s amazing I hadn’t fallen under his spell for so long — 

But then again he’s been on a shelf in the back of a dusty closet for about five years.  Out of sight, far out of mind.

This zippy little cutter started out as a demonstration piece at a live show, seriously, about five years ago.  Maybe longer.  I took him as far as I could and then got frustrated with him.  So he got shelved.
Last Saturday, my sculpting buddy Leslie Tengelsen came over to hang out and work on one of her sculptures, and she gifted me with an issue of a stock horse magazine.  Seeing the cool cutting horse pictures in it made me think of this little guy.  I dusted him off (aahhcooooo!).  I tweaked his pose just a snidge.  And the romance was rekindled!

Ah, but I feel so guilty, like I’m cheating on Vata!  Mr. ChaCha must be put aside once more (poor guy’s going to get a complex).

I wonder if any of my artist friends out there have ever had similar such, um, dalliances and flirtations?