Thursday, March 28, 2019

Craft Time: Painting the Stone

The trick to getting a nice stone effect is watery, blotchy layers. You're going to need a coarse paint brush, a small dish, water (I use a small water bottle as I'm less likely to knock it over and destroy all of my work), and some acrylic paint in stoney colours.

I used Revell Aqua Color in sand, dark earth, earth brown, and medium grey - the light blue at the top is what I used for the woodwork - and Liquitex burnt umber.

Drip a little bit of your lightest colour paint in your glass dish, and add enough water to make a nice coloured water. Splortch patches of colour on your wall, leaving white areas and let it dry thoroughly.

Move on to the next colour and do the same. Overlap some of the previous colour as well as covering more of the white plaster. Allow each layer to dry completely or you'll end up with a muddy look.

This is after the third colour. Now all the white plaster is covered and I've started adding a bit of a weathered pattern - drips from the eaves and a stain where the stonework is cracked.

The final colour before adding the grout is the grey which I applied fairly uniformly over the entire building.

For your grout, you can either go light or dark. I prefer light as that's how our local buildings look. Again, you want your paint to be watery, but it can be a bit thicker than the stone coats.

Since the grout area is actually exposed wood, it's going to suck up a lot of paint, so you might find you'll need to go over some areas more than once. This is the tedious part.

After the grout dried, I used the bunt umber to further weather and stain the building.

Once things have dried, it's time to seal the paint. I like using Mod Podge as it protects and smooths the surface - the putty can have some sharp edges and it loves to eat cat hair. Podging it helps all of these issues.

The only downside is that even the matte finish gives the stone a bit of a shine. In the image on the right you can see the difference between a Podged wall at the bottom, and the un Podged strip at the top.

While the outside dried, I finished up some bits on the inside such as the grout in the side room and installing the door frames.

The walls and ceiling got a fresh coat of white paint and some water damage.

The Magpie's Nest is just waiting for me to finish the second floor and to get started with filling in the window and door frames.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Craft Time: Cheap and Easy Stone Effect

In Scotland, rough stone barns, buildings, and walls are a common sight. My props and accessories tend to reflect my current location, so things have become rather stony in the Horse Room.

I started this building several years ago with the idea of it being a barn which had been converted into a tack and feed shop. Somewhere along the line it turned into an antique store instead. While I had built the structure, plastered the walls, and put in a stone floor, I never finished the interior or even started the exterior.

I thought it was time to finally finish this project and I thought others might enjoy seeing my process, and possibly trying it for themselves. The barn was built with wood from the scrap bin at B&Q with balsa wood accents, and put together with hot glue. My husband has a very rude term for my carpentry skills, but they work well enough for my purposes. To paraphrase my sculpture professor, wood putty will hide a world of sins.

 Supplies for this project are pretty basic. You'll need a couple of stiff, coarse paint brushes, a scraper kind of tool like a dead pen, stick, or something similar, and a pot of all-purpose filler or wood putty. I used the Tesco store brand this time, but I find the cheap stuff you get at B&M to be more durable. I usually pay less than £5 for a container. (my pot is upside down because I dropped the brand new, unopened container and shattered the bottom, naturally).

If you're doing something which cannot lay flat, prop the side you're working on up a bit so you can easily reach the bottom edge. I usually toss a roll of tape under there as it's about the right height, stable, and strong.

To start, just scoop up a brush-full of filler and start rubbing it on the wall. Just a thin coat and kind of scrub it in. This will help it stick. Work quickly as you don't want it to dry before you're finished, really, the whole process needs to be done pretty quickly, so just do one wall at a time and try to work somewhere cool.

 Once you have a thin coating, apply another, thicker layer, like icing a cake. You don't want massive clumps, but a nice, mostly even layer, a just a bit thicker than the first.

Once you have your wall covered, take the stiffer of your brushes and start stippling the wall. This seems to take forever, but this wall took less than five minutes.

Take your scraper thing, mine this time is a little chisel, and start drawing your lines. In the left hand picture I am drawing guidance lines to make sure my bricks line up with the stones on the front wall. For a rough stone wall, the lines can be fairly irregular. You can create any type of pattern, brick, stone, cobbles, etc.

You'll very quickly accumulate filler build-up on your tool. Make sure you wipe frequently so as not to leave boogers on your wall. I usually have to wipe after each stone.

In a surprisingly short time you will fill your wall. Just let it set for a few hours until the wall is try and is no longer cool to the touch.

For areas where different textures meet, use a line of masking tape to give you a nice clean edge. All the little edges and sections have been treated as this will give the piece a more finished look. The floor was done the same way as the walls, but with a cobble pattern.

This is an incredibly versatile technique which can be used effectively to make roughly plastered walls and even wood floors, as well as the stone I've demonstrated here.

In the next post I'll be adding colour.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Silverado: The pony, the legend

Please pardon the quality of the pictures, they were taken around 1999 with a video camera. I can't get to my old photos easily these days

In 1994, when I was twelve, my riding stable got a new lesson horse. He was small, chunky, and decidedly weird looking compared to the other residents of our stable, which were mostly stock horses in solid dark colours with the occasional pinto or blanket appaloosa. Sil was white with blackish grey smudges, bright pink, freckly nose and eyes... and other areas, a wispy salt & pepper tail, and a funny short mane which stuck up like a push broom, and this silly puffball of a forelock. He stuck out like a clown at a wedding.

He was a black few-spot varnish blanket appaloosa Pony of the Americas, which was an breed developed as a stock-type, appaloosa-patterned pony, larger than a Shetland, but smaller than a standard horse. He looked pure white with black smudges, but when he was wet you could see the blanket pattern he was born with clearly under the white hair.

He was much smaller than the other lesson horses, too; we only had a couple of actual ponies and they were all privately owned. He was a little over 13 hands high, or as I thought of it, armpit high, because his back fit perfectly under my arm when I'd graze him out in the grassy area near the parking lot.

I remember the first time I saw him, the day he arrived; I was fooling around in the arena on the bay Quarter Horse I was leasing at the time. My riding instructor came bolting into the arena bareback on this little white chunk of a thing who trotted jerkily along, throwing his head all over the place. My first thought about Sil was "man, that pony needs a tie-down"

It wasn't long before I got some first-hand experience with him. Sil had a bit of a temper, could be more stubborn than a mule, but he was super fast, responsive, and full of character. By spring a lady was leasing him, but she was scared to death of him, so I'd ride Sil while she rode my big, sweet lease horse, Taos. Sil and I got along great, so well that he would often refuse to cooperate with other children during lessons and I ended up being the only one who liked to ride him.

When fall came around that year, the stable owner decided to downsize the lesson herd, and Sil the temperamental was at the top of that list. Unbeknownst to me, my parents decided to buy him! Christmas morning I opened a card with a picture of Sil in it, telling me that he was now my pony. Talk about a dream come true!

We had such fun together. With him being so small, I could hop on and off him easily and we would go weeks without using a saddle, especially in the summer when it just gets too hot for that nonsense. Once, he had a saddle sore at the same time I had a broken arm, and my doctor used to gripe at me for riding bareback in a cast.

We used to spend hours rambling through the brush in the pastures with my friends. One of the pastures ran along the access road for the freeway and we'd cut yucca stalks and choreograph mock sword fights on horseback which we'd perform any time a car went past.

Before we bought him, Sil had been used for polo, western games (barrels, poles, etc.) and stock work. He was incredibly responsive, something you had to be careful about, especially when you were bareback, because you would be galloping across the pasture, shift your weight slightly, and suddenly finding him going the opposite direction in a flash; sometimes you didn't always make the change with him.

We competed casually at various playdays in our area, doing barrels - clover and straight-away, poles - straight-away and flying W mostly, pylons, baseball, etc. We were always pretty middle of the pack; he was very competitive, I was not. You could not open the arena gate until after we had come to a flying, circling stop as there was no pulling him in after a run. If that gate was open, we would be going out it at top speed. Once someone did open the gate. I managed to save my leg from being crushed against the gate post as we shot out and we finally stopped inches from the front of a parked car.

At one playday, we had just crossed the line to start the timer for a run when Sil stopped dead for what must have been the longest wee in the world before breaking back into a flat-out run to finish the pattern.We must have set a record for the slowest run.

I remember one time during a practice run Sil's feet slipped out from under him during a top-speed turn and he fell. I was flung up onto his neck and we slid a good few feet on our sides before coming to a stop. We both got up, legs shaking, and he proceeded to nose me all over, as if he were checking for damage, before tucking his head under my arm for our walk out of the arena. We decided to call it a day after that run. Luckily my mom wasn't there for that one as even a good run made her nervous.

Sil was an absolute glutton and loved his food. He had been abused before coming to our stable and had some trust issues and was rather fearful of men. I wonder if his food issues came from the abuse, or were just because he was a pony. His favourite treat, when he could steal one, was a jelly doughnut, and he once knocked me off the bleachers in order to get his teeth into my Taco Bell taco, which was just all sorts of wrong.

He was a terrible escape artist and was always getting out of his stall and into the feed room. He once untwisted the wire holding his stall door shut, pulled out the door bar, unclipped the door chain, and unscrewed the lid on the sweetfeed bin for a royal midnight snack. On another occasion he opened the gate of the pasture and led a raid on the main feed room. Luckily neither he nor anyone else suffered any adverse effects from these adventures.

Sil could be a little touchy about other animals. He wasn't keen on dogs and we had to keep him away from the potbelly pigs which roamed the stable. I was in the barn once and heard a horrible shrieking, I looked up in time to see one of the pigs flash past the stable door, screaming its head off with Sil in hot pursuit, nipping it on the rump every few steps.

Sil's was always though of as ugly by most of the stable. He was odd, but I thought he was lovely. He was small, but he had a certain dignity in his bearing, unless he found something good to scratch himself on, then dignity was out the door. It was particularly funny when he would try to roll as he was a rather chubby pony and could never make it all the way over and would finish the session by scratching his belly on the ground with his lower lip hanging and his ears flopped to the sides like a sleepy mule.

Sil would always nip you on the rear when you'd pick his front hooves, and fart on you when you'd do his back ones. I taught him to shake hooves, which I soon learned to regret as he'd do it whenever he was bored or thought the treats had been too infrequent as of late.

He loved being washed, especially when I'd direct the stream onto his muzzle, and his favourite place for scratchies was in his ears, he even had a special, tiny body brush just for that purpose. He would stand with his eyes closed and lip dangling, practically purring, while I gave his ears a good brushing.

He retired to my aunt's place about an hour from our house around 1998, when I was in high school. He shared a pasture with a changing cast of goats, cattle, horses, and llamas. He particularly liked it when we would go for a ride down to the river. He loved going out to his belly and splashing vigorously, he never quite got up the nerve to have a roll in the water, though you could tell he wanted to, badly.

There was a billy goat out there who took a major fancy to Sil and when I'd go out for a ride, Billy would hustle Sil off into the underbrush, trying to hid him. When I would finally catch Sil, the goat would run along side, yelling, and trying to hook his horns around my foot to drag me off. He wouldn't stop until Sil gave him a good stiff kick in the head.

Sil died in the late summer of 2001, when he was around 15. I still miss him and have never formed a connection with another horse the way I did with him.

I have tried to include Sil's most distinctive markings in his little Magpie portrait, namely his anchor tattoo, bowling ball holes, start button, and that odd roan leg. The Welsh Pony mold perfectly captures his spunky, humorous character.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Hairing With Mohair - Part 2, Installation

Once you have the hair swatches made, installation is pretty straight-forward. The method shown below is for a closed shell. Open shell installation is the same as that for nylon hair, though you could get away with using PVA or Tacky glue instead of the hot glue.

  • Hair swatches (two of around 4-6 inches wide)
  • Scissors
  • Toothpicks
  • Glue (in something with a fairly fine point)

I call my glue applicator "The Squeezy Thing", which I picked up on a whim in The Range. After a lot of Google trial and error, I found similar products by searching "accordion bottle", "glue injector", and "glue squeeze bottle". The particular type I have I was mostly only finding on American sites, though. I remember having a whole basket of these in the late '80s/early '90s when puff paint ruled the kid fashion world.

The main trick to hair installation is trying to keep things dry. Too much glue and it will start bubbling up when you push your plugs in and can also soften the dry glue on the plug, causing your hair plug to swell, which makes it ever so much harder to jam the thing into a small slit.

1. Select a hair swatch and measure it on your horse's neck. The Magpie molds have a pin just behind their ears, so your swatch is going to stop there. I prefer having a bridle path, so this doesn't bother me.

Once you have a rough measurement of how long the swatch needs to be (it's okay to have it a little long, carefully cut down through the glue tab. Just cut through the tab, there's no need to cut any of the rest of the hair. Set your mane tab aside and pick up the left-over swatch.

2. From your scrap swatch, cut a piece around half an inch wide. Flip it over to the underside (the shiny, slick side) and put a dot of glue near one edge, just a tiny drop. Fold the hair tab in half, then fold it in half again (you don't have to use glue this time). Remember we want things to stay dry.

4. Set your tiny hair plug aside and grab your horse. Insert the tip of the glue applicator into the forehead of your horse and give a little squeeze. You want to lay a plug of glue just inside the hair slit on the head, trying to get a little on the inside edges of the opening.

Next, insert your tiny hair plug, don't be afraid to just shove it right in. The plug is much longer than you need, so it's either trim it or tuck it away. Make some adjustments so the plug is pointing somewhat forward rather than straight up as this makes styling easier later.

After you've got the hair in, turn the model around and give your new forelock a little squirt of glue where the plug goes into the neck - at the back of the plug, behind the ears, not in the front on the face. This helps secure things.

5. Now onto the mane. Insert the tip of your glue applicator into the neck slit, starting just behind the ears. If your applicator doesn't fit, just press the mouth of it to the neck slit. Squeezing gently, draw a line of glue from the ears to the withers, wiping with a finger any glue which overflows onto the outer part of the neck. You want a healthy show of glue up to the edges as most of this will get pushed inside.

Starting at the base of the neck, insert your mane plug by sliding the tip into the neck slit. As you can see, my plug is a little long, that's okay, you just apply a bit of gentle pressure along the plug and sort of wrinkle the excess in. This makes your hair a little fuller, but not too much, as a thick mane is difficult to style.

If you are working with smaller plugs, simply poke them in one after another, working from the base of the neck up.

Use a toothpick to gently push the plug in, making sure that the glued part of the plug, or "scalp" as I call it, is fully within the shell. Resist the urge to wiggle or style the hair just now. Set the model aside and take up your other hair swatch.

6. For the tail, take your other hair swatch, turn it so the shiny, smooth side of the glue is up (this is the underside of the hair swatch). Roll your hair into a fairly tight tube and measure the plug end against your model's tail hole. If it's a little large, and trust me, bigger is not better in this case, snip off a bit of the swatch and try again. It is easier to roll a small tab of hair into your tail plug if it's too small than it is to jam an over-large plug into your model.

7. Once you're satisfied with the fit, roll your plug out flat and dot some glue along the length of the "scalp" section (the dried glue part). Just dot it, you only need a little and we're keeping things dry. Roll your swatch up again, very tightly. I will often at this point pinch the end with a clothes pin and leave the plug to dry before going further with the installation.

8. Set your tail plug aside and pick up your model and glue applicator. Insert the tip into the tail hole and squeeze a good big glort into your model. You're not going to fill the shell with glue, but you want to build up a good plug just inside the tail hole, rubbing a bit on the inside edges of the mold.

Once you're all gluey, slowly insert your tail plug; you want to push the glue in, not see it bubble out over the dry hair. You may need to twist the plug a bit and press quite hard. Don't be afraid to be firm, but be mindful of your paintwork. Push until the "scalp" of the plug is completely inside the model.

9. Set your model aside to dry for a few hours and gloat over a job well done. Resist the urge to mess with the hair until it is dry! Go and make some more hair plugs or read a book.

Once the glue is completely dry, you can gently style the hair with a bit of water and strategic wrapping. This is the time, also, to do any trimming which might be needed.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Hairing with Mohair - Part 1, Making the Hair Swatches

Everyone has their own technique for hairing a model, this is the process I use.

  • Mohair (I buy mine from Horsing Around)
  • Glue (PVA or Tacky)
  • Rigid plastic sheet of some sort (I use take-away box lids)
  • Scissors
  • Something to spread glue - popsicle stick or plastic glue spready thing (you can find them in the children's art section in many stores)

1. Select your hair colour and remove it from the package. (At this point I get a larger zip baggie, peel the label off the bag the hair came in and stick it on the zip baggie and use that instead as I can never get the hair back into those tube baggies)

Grasp the hair hank firmly in one hand with the end dangling out. Pinch the end of the hair and gently pull out a small swatch. This allows the fibers to come apart in their natural lengths and reduces waste. Lay the swatch on the table and pull a few more, making a neat pile of hair. For me, I usually take five or six pulls for a mane or tail.

2. Leave your hair for a moment and get your plastic sheet, I like take-away box lids. Draw a line of glue on the surface; stay away from the edge or you'll get a mess.

3. Carefully pick up your hair pile, trying not to disturb the hair too much. Grasp it firmly and cut one end evenly. Discard hair scraps or save them for flocking material.

4. Separate the hair swatch in half. Feather the cut end out a bit so it's not in clumps and lay the cut end onto the glue line you just drew. Don't worry about pressing it down, just lay it on softly. Do the same with the rest of your hair.

5. Now the tricky part, getting things gluey. Carefully press your hand firmly down on the hair, near the edge of your plastic surface. Take your spreading tool of choice and start drawing it over the ends of the hair, pulling away from your hand, through the glue. Don't be afraid to press, you want to force the hair into the glue, saturating the hair and pressing it as flat as possible.

6. If you are wanting to add layered colours or stripes, repeat the steps above, placing the new hair on the existing layer. Add a few drops of glue to the top of the new layer, press your hand back down on the dry hair section, and spread the new glue through the hair.

7. Set the hair aside to dry. I like to use the radiator to speed up the process in the winter. You'll know it's dry when the glue goes clear.

8. Gently peel the hair swatch from the plastic. Don't worry if it doesn't come in one piece, it's not essential to have it all in one strip.

9. Cut the end of the glue tab off evenly. Leave a good half to quarter of an inch of glue all along the length of your swatch.

10. Finally, you need to lightly comb the swatch to remove the loose hair. I find a soft surface works best; your leg is always handy. You're going to lose some hair, so don't worry.