Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Whiskey Miracle Pony Sculpture...

Meet Whiskey the Miracle Pony!  He has had quite the journey.  He survived living with a broken, locked, and fused jaw for over ten years!  He braved surgeries and fought through kidney failure.  He has quite the remarkable story.  CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page.

Now that I've introduced you to Whiskey, let me tell you a little bit about what I've been up to.  I was commissioned to create a piece based on Whiskey.  I happily accepted and started working.

What I came to discover, fairly quickly, was that this was going to be a much bigger job that I originally thought it'd be.  (Seems like the ongoing theme of my life.)  In any event, while I have ridden a horse a few times and am fairly familiar with their general shape and silhouette, I didn't know the first thing about actual horse anatomy.  Most of the things that I sculpt are fantasy-based, so there's a lot of room to play when it comes to proportions and structure.

Creating a likeness based off a beloved animal... well... that would prove to be quite the challenge.

So, it's not just enough to know about horse anatomy, it has to be put into action.  Horses are somewhat visually top-heavy and balance on four sturdy legs... that are very slender and long in comparison to the powerful weight of the rest of the body.  The problem with that is that when working in polymer clay, you simply can't just make legs and bake them and have them stand up.  Polymer gets extremely soft and flexible while heating and the poor horse sculpture would topple over.  So an armature is necessary.  With a lot of pieces, a simple wire armature is all that is needed.  However, twisted wire wouldn't cut the mustard for this piece.

I ended up covering the wire armature in solder.  Giving the piece internal strength, the solder reinforced the joints and points of connection, while remaining somewhat flexible and movable.

Once I had the armature ready, I drilled holes in the feet and planned it out how it would sit on the base... which was another interesting process.  Originally I wanted to put him on a petrified wood slab, but when I went to drill it, it cracked.  So, I opted for a more forgiving medium.  I bolted the armature down with some micro-bolts.

Then, I fleshed it out with aluminum foil to create volume and musculature.  I next covered the piece in layers of polymer and roughed out the shapes and added detail.

Now, this is where it also becomes tricky.  Whiskey is a living, breathing, very distinctive animal... that, to be honest, doesn't look the same in any picture.  The early pictures show him with shaggy hair, later ones with huge shaved portions, later post surgery pictures include big changes to his facial anatomy, and changing colors with the season and the camera lighting.  It wasn't easy coming up with a sculpt that combined everything and created an overall impression of Whiskey.

I tried my best and think I came up with something that captures the spirit of the brave pony.

The next challenge was the paint job.  In theory, it should be easy... right?  Actually, no, it's not that easy.  Horse hair has an almost reflective quality, with a healthy sheen that makes black look like toasted chestnut.  I wanted to capture that iridescent quality without actually painting it iridescent.  So I built up layers and washes and brushstrokes and more layers.  I think I did a fair job.  It's not exact, but I think that I'd need to invest in an air brush to really get that horse-hair quality.  Either that or work in thinner washes in oils.

Whiskey has a very particular crooked smile.  I went about making tiny teeth and filing them down and aging them and setting them.  Not all that easy!  I wanted to capture the energy of his face without rendering it too detailed.  I did want to keep the sculpture on the more whimsical side.

I also encountered a problem with the eyes.  The more I baked them, the greener they got and the smaller they looked in the head.  Whiskey has very distinctive blue eyes that are almost a periwinkle.

To address this, I had to build up layers of liquid polymer and paint to create the new eyes.

 As with most things in my studio, the longer they stick around, the more I start to nitpick at them.  I decided that after I had changed the eyes, that I didn't like how they looked now.  They popped out a little too much.

The solution to the eye-popping was to create some patches and carefully add on material.  Since I had already painted it, this became someone problematic and I had to work around that.  I also had to repaint the face, which I think turned out better. I smoothed out some of the texture, and I think that helps dramatically.
Here it is!  All done!  Well... maybe!  Even though I sealed the base, I might go back and embellish it or stain it and make the grain pop a little more.  I also might stamp the name and add it.  But here it is, as it is now... mostly done.

If you're curious to find out more about Whiskey, CLICK HERE.  Even though Whiskey has made great strides, there's still a long road ahead for recovery.  Unfortunately, these procedures are very expensive and they require them to do fundraising events to help pay for these operations.  If you get a chance, make sure to attend one and show your support for this amazing creature!