June 24, 2011

AAEA Workshop Day 5 - Faces

I really had the best time all week, the time just flew by. What a privilege it has been to learn from Kathy Friedenberg (below). I have long been an admirer of her work and have always hoped to be able to attend one of her workshops. Her pieces are not only accurate, but so dynamic and alive! Click on her name above to visit her website. Her work is so inspiring!

And not only is she a great artist, but a great teacher as well. She understands the anatomy and how it changes with the movement of the horse and is able to explain it so clearly. I only wish I was able to absorb it all more quickly.

I did make significant progress on my piece throughout the week. I can see how years of customizing models has given me some exposure to the equine form. And I appreciate my human anatomy class, if for nothing else to help me remember the names of muscles!

We focused on heads for our final day and mine is still very, very rough. I find the clay I'm using, Classic Clay, to be a bit sticky compared to the Apoxie I use to customize models. The texture of my entire piece is very rough and I found it difficult to work in detail, which is fine while blocking in the structure. Kathy taught us not to sculpt with our fingers, but to use our tools for a more professional finish. Of course, bronze sculptures have a very different surface desired than do resin sculptures.

I'm not completely sure how to proceed after this point. Of course, I need to finish the head and refine the legs. My proportions are pretty good and I'm happy with the head and leg placement finally. I think I might try putting the whole thing in the freezer for a bit to stiffen up the clay before trying to work on the detail and smoothing out. I've heard Goo Gone can be used for smoothing, so I might give that a try. I'm still a far way off from finishing this piece, but I do have every intention of finishing him. He is in the suspended stage of the extended trot, so will require acrylic pegs to stand. And I really have no idea how I'll go about getting a hard copy made once I reach that stage! Oh well, that's a long way off yet. We will be moving next week and then I will be back into real life school, family and work.

I hope you have enjoyed the journey with me. If you ever have the chance of attending a workshop with the American Academy of Equine Art, I highly recommend it. This is the second workshop I've attended and I find them to be an amazing experience for the aspiring equine artist.

June 23, 2011

AAEA Workshop Day 4 - Foundry Tour

One of the best parts of attending a workshop near the artist's home is the ability to visit her favorite foundry. We had the immense privilege of a personal tour of Laran Bronze with Larry Welker, one of the owners. They are established in a wonderful, old building in Chester, PA. All of the employees are artists and wonderful people. After going through the myriad of steps it takes to produce a bronze, you will understand why they are so expensive. And every step along the way requires skilled labor. I will try to recap what I learned, but forgive me if I leave something out.

After the clay sculpture arrives, it is gradually covered with multiple layers in a kind of rubber substance. This will capture all of the detail in the original clay sculpture. Above you can see how it is brushed on. On the sculpture below it was airbrushed on and drips off, repeated multiple times.

The rubber mold is than covered in a plaster-like casing, which is then cut apart into multiple pieces. The pieces are bolted together to receive the wax. The wax is poured in and swished around on the inside and then the excess is spilled back out on the floor to be reused after it is cooled. The purpose is to create a hollow wax version of the sculpture. A solid-cast piece in bronze would be too heavy and expensive, so the wax mimics the end result they want to achieve in bronze.

I believe this is Allen showing us how the vents and sprues are created in the wax casting. There are pieces cut out that will be cast separately that allow him to vent to the inside, leaving less clean-up work. If the original clay was cut into pieces for ease of mold-making, it is often reassembled at this stage. Any pieces not reassembled at this stage, will need to be reassembled in metal.

Once the wax sculpture is prepared, a specially formulated casing is created around the wax. First it is dipped in liquid, then in sand. Because of the hollow nature of the piece, the sand is blown and the sculpture dipped into it. This allows for an even coating. It takes four hours to cure, then the process is repeated as many as a dozen times or more.

This is an example of the finished mold with the addition of some chicken wire in later coatings to add strength. The wax sculpture is inside this shell. I have no idea what it is.

The next step is to heat the wax to something like 1400 degrees in less than a minute. Larry explained that you have to cause the wax to melt before it can expand or else it will crack the casing and it will not be able to hold the molten metal.

Once the wax is melted away, which they recycle by the way, the outside casing is ready to have the molten metal pored in. Above Larry is showing us a brick of bronze, which has a special blend to allow for long-term outside exposure. They also do aluminum castings.

The final step is to add the patina, which is brushed on, then blow-torched to set. The patina reacts chemically with the metal.

I am just blown away by the skill that the people of Laran Bronze have to recreate sculptures. And if that weren't enough, they also offer 3D scanning and enlarging/shrinking. Above Chris is digitally capturing the sculpture.

After they have the image scanned, they can recreate it larger or smaller in foam with this machine that cuts it precisely. Some artists will then sculpt a thin layer of clay over it, but it is possible to use a high density foam that can then be painted as the finished product. Amazing.

But that wasn't all we did today, Kathy brought in a real skull and a cross-section of a real forelimb. You don't get to see things like that everyday!

There wasn't much time for sculpting today, but this is where I was this morning before our trek out. I have been playing with the headset and the stride, going back and forth. After this evening I am pretty content with the leg placement, if I can just keep them from moving! Hard to believe tomorrow is the last day...

June 22, 2011

AAEA Workshop Day 3 - Fore!

Day 3 of the workshop (see Day 1 and Day 2 in the previous posts) focused on the front end of the horse. Above Kathy is demonstrating how the elbow pops out when the leg is flexed. The horse modeling for us today is a 19 year old part-Mustang. It is fascinating how horses are put together. She pointed out that the lack of muscle below the knee and hocks allows for greater efficiency and contributes to the athleticism of the equine (as opposed to the elephant, who does not have the equivalent of elongated phalanges that the horse does).

She also brought in some bones for us to study. Above is the hock joint. I am fascinated by the angle of the joint, which allows for the movement of the stifle around the barrel. This is why the hind leg is not on a vertical line from the hip to hoof when viewed from the back. Very cool to see the actual physiology in the joint itself.

We also got to watch the farrier work a bit. You could really see the stifle pop out from the barrel when he drew the leg up - just look at the rotation of the hock and the stifle popping out in this extreme position:

I only managed to get pictures mid-day, but I brought the piece home to work on after the kids go to bed. He did manage to get his forelegs on before I brought him home. I am still trying to get the headset and stride right according to my reference photo, which is not the photo seen in the bottom picture.

He is still very rough. I am resisting the urge to try to smooth and add detail until I have all the structures correct.

June 21, 2011

AAEA Workshop Day 2 - Hinders

Day 2 focused on the hind end. (see Day 1 here). Kathy is demonstrating the range of flexion on the real thing. These horses at Thorncroft are so patient with us flashing our cameras every which way. This kind fellow allowed me to take pictures from below, behind and above without blinking!

Here I am mid-way through the day. I added a temporary base to stick my wires in so that I could work on the legs. Biggest lesson today: I need to learn some serious anatomy! Kathy is a wonderful teacher and really knows her stuff. With a deft flick of her tool, my lumps and bumps now look like a believable hindquarter! I really like her approach to block things in by muscle groups, I just need to understand them better.

By the end of the day (okay, about 2 hours later as I got a little distracted after lunch taking pictures in the barn), I've at least blocked in the lower limbs. Not sure what to do with the hooves since the ends of the wires are stuck in clay for stability... But I am glad to say I am happier with my egg from yesterday!

June 20, 2011

AAEA Workshop Day 1 - Egg with Sausages

This week I have the privilege of attending an American Academy of Equine Art workshop with artist, Kathleen Friedenberg. It is being held at Thorncroft Equestrian Center, in Malvern, PA, where they offer therepuetic riding. All of the horses and ponies, like the one above, have been donated to the program. I am thrilled to take this workshop with Kathy!

I will try to document my experience here, so come back every day this week to see the progression of my sculpture.

Before the workshop, we were given instructions and asked to prepare the armature. I used Apoxie sculpt to firmly attach mine to the T-joint. It is wise to err on the side of too much wire, then too little wire.

Kathy gave an informative lecture, complete with slides, over-viewing proportions, bony landmarks, movement in the joints and all kinds of juicy tidbits. She then instructed us to make an egg shape for the ribcage using our sausages (rolled bits of clay). This is what mine looked like half-way through the day. My egg shape kept filling out the more I worked on it.

Here we are at the end of day 1. He is starting to look more horse-like, but there is a long way to go. I still haven't even perfected my egg yet...

June 19, 2011

Land of Little Horses

LinkAlso during our visit to Gettysburg, we stopped by at the Land of Little Horses. It's a neat place with lots of animals - pygmy pigs, goats, calves, chickens, peacocks, rabbits, turkeys, alpacas, a couple exotic cattle breeds, and more. Lots of equines, from minis to a Shire. They do some breeding, but I spoke to one of the helpful workers (below) and she said many were rescues (all of the dogs were from the local shelter) or were donated.

They had some fun attractions, including a mock western town complete with saloon, general store and country church. Here is Andy in jail. They also had a nice playground that was near impossible to get him to leave.

And of course, the very important pony rides.

Audrey getting and giving some pony love.

They sell feed pellets and nearly all of the ponies
and minis were very good with little fingers. Just look at
that face! Some were quite the characters, banging
and carrying on until they got their hand out.

Audrey fell in love with this big chestnut.

They put on a half hour performance, complete with llama kisses, a piano playing pig and some pony performers. This trio performed at liberty. It was a memorable visit and one I would highly recommend if you're ever in the area.

June 18, 2011


These pictures were taken off of a reproduction of the Cyclorama at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum. I didn't even try to take pictures of the original without the flash, but I probably should have tried. It was very impressive in person, not only in size, but also in detail and emotion. Unfortunately, these are dark and the only ones that came out clear. My camera gets blurry when I turn the flash off.

There is a nice drive around the battlefields and numerous monuments have been erected. These bronze reliefs were on monuments for some of the cavalry corps. The cavalry played a significant role in the Battle of Gettysburg.

Inside the museum, there was a nice display honoring the "Horse Soldiers". Here are several shots of the display. I was thinking of all you great tack makers out there when I took these.