Monday, April 12, 2021

The Creation of "Bella"

"Bella Il Maré-Determination"
Currently on exhibit at The Small Favors 2021 show
in Philadelphia, PA

The creation of "Bella" went through a wild transformation.  I started documenting her creation and early on hit some snags.  From measurements being incorrect, to the paper armature giving me issue in the muzzle, she quickly became a difficult piece to work on and I was determined to see her to fruition.  In the end, I was extremely happy with her final outcome. Her acceptance into the "Small Favors 2021" exhibit was amazingly exciting for me. 

As this exhibit is coming to a close, I wanted to share the documentation.  She was very much like a mare throughout, but she eventually gave in.

She was sculpted using cone 6 white stoneware, which is a very lovely and creamy clay for both hand building and wheel throwing.  I have used both Amaco and Mayco commercial glazes on this piece. 

Here is her transformation:

Starting to build the clay around a paper armature.

Getting things in their proper place.

Adding bone and muscle structure.

Very excited about the idea and flow, so I 
added a mane prematurely.

At this stage I have captured the "spirit"
of the drawing, but thinsg are off so I start
taking measurements and they are very off.

Off with her muzzle!

It took many tries, but the piece 
started to feel and look better.

Refining all the changes.

Adding seashells and a windswept mane to
the bottom.  The piece was now at the "leather hard" stage
and I could carve and smooth to my heart's content.  

The finished sculpture.

The other side.

Close up of the glaze effect around her base.  I was thrilled when I opened the 
kiln and saw this all came out as I had envisioned 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Rock It!

Dot painting warm ups

It's day 2 of NaMoPaiMo and you're watching everyone sharing their first layers of paint on their ponies, but you're still staring at your prepped pony. You're physically ready, but mentally something has it's grip on you. You just can't seem to start. How do you combat this mental struggle? 
Rock it....or craft it....or just doodle it out!
Sounds silly at first, but if you were a musician, even a beginner, the routine of warming up with playing simple scales would be the very first thing you would do with your instrument.  If you were competing in a sporting event the very first thing you would do before the competition would be to stretch so your muscles would warm up and be fit and ready for the sport. 

Creating art is no different in that you need to warm up your mind and hands so they are working together for you. Some days, they just don't want to work together and they need a little push.  The simplest way to give your instruments of art the push they need is to just doodle with paint or a pen.  The act of pushing around paint on a surface that has no emotional value to you, gets juices flowing without any expectations.  

Simple paint lines on paper.  Warm ups

Now, you may find that after 15 minutes of pushing paint about on paper hasn't done a thing for you.  That's ok.  Some creative blocks take patience and consistency to undo sometimes.  Come back the following day and create your lines on paper with no expectations.  Start adding paint to inanimate objects like found rocks.  The paint lines or dots are a commitment, but the object isn't pulling at your heart strings.  

For me, the dots on rocks helps a great deal and I find I get lost in the joy of the process.  This act of "doing" usually results in wanting to do more as the creative juices fire up in the brain.  The moment you feel your brain "fire up"  is when you should jump in and begin your horse.  

Ultimately, it's about enjoying the process and we have to warm up first and remind our brains that the process will be fun.

Cheers to a great month of NaMoPaiMo fun and discovery! Go forward and rock it!


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Oh NO! They Are Out Of Soup!!!

Prepping the ends of a cabbage
for the "freezer bag".

I had the great fortune of spending most of my summers with my grandmother who was a teenager during the Great Depression. I spent endless summer days with her learning how to plant and weed a garden. I learned how to turn a little bit of flour, water and egg into noodles and pierogi dough and she showed me that the simplest of items could turn into amazingly yummy desserts with just a little elbow grease and love.

These lessons proved to be helpful during my college years, and during the "working in the rat race" years and now, the lessons she taught are coming in hand as the world is experiencing a virus that is halting so much of our lives and what we take for granted.

In the last few days I have read more than a dozen people expressing their nervousness online about the lack of canned goods on the store shelves. In particular, they were stunned by the lack of soups and soup stocks for sale. The cans and boxes had all been purchased leaving the shelves bare and in hearing the panic in their posts I felt maybe it might be useful to share what I learned from gramma.

I will be honest with you, the thought of buying canned soup from a store shelf is a horrid thought to me. Spending hard earned money on boxed stock is a NO GO for this gal. For me, its homemade or nothing.

Ok, I heard a few groans as I mentioned the word, "homemade" in the last paragraph. I know, no one likes to fuss, and anything "homemade" seems to have a fuss about it, but this soup stock isn't fussy, and as we have nothing but time TO fuss, why not give this simple veggie stock recipe a try. Honestly, you already have everything you need to make it. Sadly, you're probably throwing all that you need away.

Huge freezer bag full of veggie
scraps that are ready for boiling.

Big bag of veggie scraps.

Every potato you peel, every carrot you cut the ends off of and every celery end you want to toss, needs to go into a big freezer bag. That freezer bag is then placed in your freezer and every time you peel a carrot for a salad or peel potatoes for dinner all the peelings go into the freezer bag and held till the bag is full. Once that bag is full you can slowly boil all those peelings in a 8 quart pot of water for a few hours which creates a nice veggie stock.

That's it!

Seriously, that is how one makes vegetable stock. After about 2-3 hours of slowly simmering the peelings will be mush, but all the nutrient and taste will be in the now veggie stock. I like to add a little bullion cube (either chicken or beef, but veggie bullion can be added) just to give the stock an added boost of flavor.

After 2-3 hours of slow simmer the veggie peels can be removed and discarded. You'll be left with a delicious vegetable stock base for pretty much any type of soup you'd like to make and an 8 quart pot goes a long way. The liquid can be frozen and used later. From this point, the stock is the base for amazing soups. Add meat, add noodles, add more veggies for a wonderfully full and delicious soup.

So don't waste those peelings. Let them work for you in a delicious and easy veggie stock. If feeling adventurous, save shrimp shells (yep...dont discard those!) or lobster or clam shells in the freezer too and when a bag is full boil those up to make an amazingly homemade seafood stock. From there you can make an amazing bisque!

Did you buy a huge froze turkey cause that's all they had at the store the day you went looking for meat? Bonsai! You not only have enough meat to feed a small army you now have a turkey carcass which will boil down using this method to a simply decadent turkey stock soup. If you are throwing away your carcass after your meal you are seriously missing out on good food.

It all starts with the stock.

8 quart soup pot with colander
works great for making stocks from discarded peelings.

If you feel the stock needs a little "boost"
just add some bullion. One or two is perfect.

Me and my beautiful grandma
on my graduation day from Pratt Institute.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Old School Shoes

Solder wire of varying thickness
can be used for the project.

In preparing this article I realized that it's pretty simple to click a button and instantly buy a set (or several sets) of horseshoes for your model horses in a flash from an online source. Horseshoes aren't all that expensive and I would imagine they come pretty quick with shipping times being spot on these days. But, what if you don't want to wait for an order or more importantly, don't really have the money to buy them or you don't want to spend money on shoes?

This a good time to go old school.

Trace the horse's hoof
on white paper.

Bend the wire around
and onto the traced hoof outline.

Way back in the day we didn't have online sources to buy cool model horse...everything. We had to use whatever our dads or moms or caretakers had lying around in a cellar, work space, or kitchen.

I learned pretty early on that I loved seeing my studs with shoes on their hooves and I snagged a spare roll of my father's solder wire. As a matter of fact, with that worn out "Radio Shack" label on the one pictured here, you can tell Im still using the SAME wire I used as a kid! This stuff is fairly cheap and it goes a long way.

Where do you buy it? Check your local Walmart or Home Depot. Home supply stores will definitely have this item and I like to use the thicker wire and then cut or sand the shape down later.

Using a hammer and a brick
hammer down the wire.

Overall, the process is pretty simple.

1). Trace your horse's hoof shape out on a piece of paper.
2). Bend the wire over the tracings (this will also help you keep track of which shoe goes to which hoof) and cut.
3). Hammer the wire on something very solid like a brick. Do this carefully.

This wire will really flatten! You can see that in the photos, and it may be off-putting to many, but on this Halla custom it doesn't matter that there is excess on the bottom because it won't be seen. Now, if you do have a horse whose leg is raised and the underside of the hoof viewable, you will have to get creative and Dremel shape into the shoe. But, don't let it discourage you, this wire is very soft and it won't take long to get what you want visually.

4). After the shoe is flattened, use a glue such as Crazy Glue or Sinbad glue and adhere the hoof to the shoe. NOW, at this stage I let the shoe rest overnight, or at least for a few hours before Dremeling. If the glue hasn't set the shoe will pop off from the vibration.

The wire hammers easily
and flattens fast.

Glue the flattened shoe onto the
hoof using Crazy Glue or Sinbad
(as pictured).

All four hooves have
very large shoes.

Carefully Dremel the excess down.

Lastly, Dremel away all the excess. You can see I left a lot of excess, but I prefer to work this way so that the shoe is nice and flush against the hoof. Yes, the hoof may get damaged in this process of sanding, but it's easy enough to repaint. Lastly, add some nail heads and shine up the hooves with a gloss medium.

Your horse is now shod.

The end result looks lovely.

Time Warp

I think I went through a time warp. Last post here was from a year ago. How awful. Life has just been busy and my writing adventures have been done in private and quiet without public appearances. The one writing project is a hefty one weighing in at well over 20,000 words. That's a lot to say on paper. This project is also the main reason for me staying away from my blog. My silence probably have left those wondering if I had up and left for good or had gotten swallowed up by the fates. Neither. Ive just been real busy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

And....We're Off....With Instant Issues!

It's tradition here in my studio to start my NaMoPaiMo horse 2 weeks after the start of the event. I'm a bit of a procrastinator with my own projects and this one is no exception.

Part of my procrastination is not only gathering my thoughts on what I'm going to do and how to do it, it is also mixing the color in my head before I start, and clearing my work bench of pressing items so I can enjoy the process of creating my NaMoPaiMo horse.

My belief is if one isn't "in the moment" with art and enjoying the process, no matter how difficult a time it may be giving you, why is one doing the art? Seriously, one must always ask themselves that question if they are not having fun making art.

As is tradition, I started "Cerberus" 2 weeks late and as is also tradition I immediately had issues. The moment I put the first layers of acrylic on his body I saw I missed two areas while prepping. These were areas that needed attention quickly. In the past I've ignored such prep issues thinking I'd get to them "later" only to have them become bigger issues later. These were in crucial spots and they needed sanding. Once sanded, I was left with two huge white patches of exposed resin.

Two prepping issues sanded and smooth now.

So, you're probably asking, "Now what?"

A few of you might be in a similar situation and the first step is not to panic, but to remind yourself that as long as you can match the color you can cover it perfectly and hide the boo boo. This first step is key in hiding such a mark. Match the original base color and you'll never know.

For Pastels:
I water down gesso and apply to the sanded areas. Two or three smooth coats. If you find there is tooth left then take a very fine sandpaper and gently sand down just the gessoed areas to make it smooth. Wipe dust clean and then begin the process of pastelling from light to dark just in the marred areas till you reach the color of the rest of the horse. Keep adding dust till it eventually blends. This process is fairly lengthy with pastels, but it is totally doable. Have patience and don't give up.

For Acrylics:
The first thing I do is seal what Ive already painted in acrylics. Seal that good color up....boos and all. It's ok, remember, you'll be covering up the boo boos in no time and you want to protect all the good stuff you're already painted. Spray it and let it dry fully.

After everything is dry start mixing the base color and apply it directly ON the area that is good. (Remember the horse was protected so if the color you mixed isn't correct you can use a 50% rubbing alcohol to wipe the test brushstroke away without doing any damage.) Do this so you know you have an exact match of color. You may have just started painting and haven't mixed much of any color which makes covering even easier, but, if you are well into the painting production you will need to test match the color.

Once you have found the exact match then start covering up your boo boos. Start with light layers. The first layers won't cover. You will most likely need 10-15 layers of acrylics to hide the unwanted marks. If you are hand painting you will need to keep the layers watered down so strokes don't form.

The process will take a long time, but keep adding those layers. Eventually all the boo boos will literally disappear into the background. To speed up the drying process in between all those layers of paint, use a hair dryer.

Boo boos all covered and
the piece is ready for the next layer of color.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Dappled & Broken

Breyer's new "Malik"
sculpted by Sarah Mink. Customized and for Sale.

It's been a very busy week in my studio. Dapples have been the main focus this week as I completed two pieces. One dappled piece, a new Breyer Malik, is a grey dapple with lots of fading dappled areas. The other, a "Abrantes" resin, is a mulberry grey. Both were challenges and I walked away feeling as if I learned something new about color and patterning from each piece. One offered lessons on fading while the other offered lessons on individual hairing of the dappled pattern.

Malik is for sale. Click HERE for more info.

Abrantes Resin all dolled up.

More views of Abrantes.

Commission books are open.
Email at

The other time spent this week was on restorations, especially this foal. She was in a state of woe and it took about two weeks total to get her back together. This is probably the most breaks in one piece Ive ever encountered in the studio. The most difficult part of this restoration was figuring out what broken piece to adhere first! She is all better now.

Japan china before restoration.

Same china after restorations

Although my restoration books are currently closed they will be opening back up at the end of the month.

For more information you can visit my restoration page on my website: Restorations by Jennifer ODonnell Danza