Monday, June 13, 2011

Appaloosa Adventures

Hey there!

Zowie- did May really fly by without me posting anything?  I guess I got really carried away by BOYCC!  What a weekend that was.  I had so much fun seeing old friends,meeting new faces, eating very well, and oh yes- playing with shiny ponies! 

For today's post, I thought I'd get a little more technical and discuss some of my methods for finishing ceramic horses in a particular appaloosa pattern.  This sort of blanket/near-leopard pattern is one of my favorites, as it has so much scritchy, fiddly detail!  And when I was asked to do this kind of pattern on the bisque Callahan from last year's sale (I know- I'm woefully behind!  I do have some good excuses...), I was happy to oblige.

For anyone new to this blog or my work, I generally work in low-fire earthenware (with the piece being initially bisqued to cone 04), with layers of underglaze paints, and finally finished off with a top coat of clear, fired-on cone 06 glaze. 

Let's get started. I did not think to take pictures of my very first steps, but they are easily described, and pictures of them would have been pretty boring!  Step one was to mask off the mane and tail and airbrush a thin layer of white over the M/T (it helps me to clean up the edges & do a little scritching at the hairline when white goes on before any other color). Next, I sprayed black over that, in a gradient pattern, according to my reference photos.  Then the masking got removed, and everything was tidied up.  Another bisque firing at this point sets the underglaze paint, makes it a little sturdier, and helps me not to risk rubbing it as much when I proceed to other parts.

This I have a photo of- I painted the spots!  It is hard to tell from the photos, but this horse is a dark bay so again, according to my references, I painted either dark brown or black spots by hand.  (Ooh- he got a layer of white airbrushed first!)  I went over the brown spots twice, as the brown isn't always as opaque as the black.  You can see the points of the horse, along with shaded areas along the back are black, and the middle areas are brown:

Now, because the hand-painted spots are rather sturdy, I didn't bother re-firing him at this point.  I spimply moved on to the body shading.  Using dark brown and black shades of paint, I sprayed in a very direct manner, the areas in which I wanted some color.  I had to use a very light hand airbrushing the barrel, as I did not want a lot of contrast here- I wanted it to be subtle, so the pattern would appear faintly.  He ended up like this:

He's not too exciting yet- that comes with the scritching!  I made his roany, ticky pattern starting with an x-acto knife, in the areas where I wanted sharp detail.  After that, I lightly touched some of the areas with a bit of sanding sponge, and followed that with 2 different types of eraser.  One type was a Stanford white plastic (vinyl) eraser that came in handy stick-form.  I could sharpen it to a nice point with an x-acto (though it being rather soft, I had to do this quite often!).  Sometimes I use an old typewriter eraser too (it holds its point longer), but I wasn't sure where mine was at the time!  For *very* soft detail, I used a rubber eraser, formed into a point. 

Using my white plastic eraser, on the blanket, I went around each of the spots to leave a characteristic "halo" around each of them, and at the same time I exposed the white of the blanket:

Here's what the glamor side looks like, with most of its scritching done (I left the sock masking on as long as I could to help it from getting dirty from scritch-dust that tends to stick to the tape residue left behind!).

Now for a close up of the head.  The white plastic eraser was helpful in removing paint to get that mottled-skin effect.  I will be going back in with hand-paints after he's been bisqued again, to keep him from looking too stark there. 

What next?  Rinse and repeat!  I tend to work on one side all at once, before moving to the next.  Here's a photo of the start of side two.  He's actually all finished with scritching now, and currently in the kiln.  When he comes back out and I begin the hand-detailing process, I'll take more pictures and continue on with Part II of this series!  Thanks for reading, and feel free to ask if you have any questions.



  1. Amazing! I had not taken the time to read this post until today, and I so appreciate your sharing how you achieved all this spotty goodness. As you know, I love learning about your work.

  2. Thanks, Mel! I thought folks might be curious about what was involved.