Whew, what a wonderful week I just completed. My week in NJ with the Breyer company was everything I hoped for and more. I was honestly kind of nervous about successfully painting any Breyers, because it was more than a year since I used their special paint and it does take time to get back up to speed with it in the airbrush. And I was nervous about hosting the sculpting workshop!
Fortunately everything worked out very well! Even my flights from Denver to Newark were on time. I arrived at the Breyer company headquarters in Pequannock first thing Tuesday, where the VP of Marketing, Stephanie Macejko, gave me a tour of their brand-new corporate offices. And what a pleasant and great-looking workspace they have designed! It is a huge thrill to be allowed to peek into their model horse archive room. It is like a library, with shelves filled with samples of all their molds in all the colors they came in, including some prototypes and test samples!
We then drove over to their other facility in Wayne, NJ, where they have their warehouse and painting department. This is where their painters design and produce colors on their horse molds, and their staff also paints most of the very limited editions. They have amazing talents with the airbrush, I must say. You have to have excellent control to paint those fine details collectors want these days!
I got right to work. I had approx. 20 hours to paint at least 4 models and I wanted them to be of the highest quality. But by the end of Tuesday I was in a minor panic because I only had completed one horse and part of another!! It took me a couple hours to get my airbrush trained to spray the paint. The stuff is acetone-based, and literally dries on the needle of the airbrush if you spray too slow. Which you need to do when painting any sort of fine details like dapples. Which is what is wanted of course!! So I had to keep fine-tuning the mix of chemicals you add to the paint, to thin and allow it to not dry out. The horse that ended up taking most of Tuesday was a heavily dappled Cleveland Bay mold with the loose mane. I was going to paint it a lightly dappled grey with the russet/gray mane tail, like a “mulberry” andalusian. (There’s probably an official name for this color but I can’t think what it is. It is my all-time favorite horse color!) But my airbrush kept spitting tiny specks of paint at first until I got the hang of things, so I ended up having to paint it darker with more dappling overall, to cover up those mistakes. Fortunately that worked and it came out just INcredible, if I do say so myself! I was painting this horse for myself and wow I still can’t believe I own him. Here he is:
After I was done with that one, I managed to get the base coat done on an overo chestnut “Smarty Jones” mold, and then they closed up for the day. I had to run right back to my hotel and change, because Stephanie was taking me out that night for a splendid dinner at a real “Sopranos” style Italian restaurant. I swear it really was the whole Soprano family at the table across the room, hee hee.
Wednesday morning, I was standing tall in the painting department at 7:30 am. I needed every hour I could get that day, so I am glad their workday starts early. I proceeded to paint my other personal-holy-grail on the Cleveland Bay, a interference (color-shifting) metallic blue/teal tobiano pinto! ! ! That one went much faster, no dappling! Just careful layering of color. The interference color shift was achieved by adding Pearl-Ex metallic powder to the existing metallic blue factory paint. I had brought my own jars of it with me, for just this purpose. You never quite know what you’re going to get, because each type of powder interacts with your base paint in different ways. If you’re a painter, you have to try the stuff, it is so fun! Anyway, here’s a photo of this horse, I couldn’t be more excited about him:
The rest of the day, I managed to paint a “Lady Phase” mold to a varnish roan appaloosa:
And a “Keltic Salinero” warmblood to a light dappled grey:
Those two are the ones I am going to sell, when I get their Certificates of Authenticity from the Breyer folks, to “prove” they are genuine factory painted test colors. I need to get better photos of their details. Stay tuned to this blog for sale announcement.
I also completed a sentimental mold choice: a “Western Prancer” in a sort of greyish-green with interference-gold metallic tobiano pinto. When I was a kid I owned almost every color produced on the Western Prancer, and thought it would be fun to see it in a “decorator” color. I could only bring 4 horses home and I decided to leave the Smarty Jones and the Prancer. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get photos of those! They’ll remain in the Breyer archives as test colors, and maybe they will produce models in those colors someday. (The Prancer’s color is kind of ??? so I don’t think that one will come out in the product line…! It would be cool if they gave it away as a prize at one of their events or something.)
On Thursday I went back again early in the morning to finish up all the small details on the 6 horses, like eyes, hooves, etc. I was done by 9am and had a free day. I drove about an hour south to where we used to live, Monmouth County, NJ. Paul and I moved there right after we got married in 1983, and we lived there for 8 years. In 1991 Paul got the dream-come-true paid job relocation to Boulder. But I still have a lot of sentimental affection for our first home as a married couple. I drove all around the area and looked at our first apartment, our first condo, and our first house! All in a stunning fall backdrop. The weather was gorgeous and the leaves were beautiful. I had a great Italian lunch (I ate practically nothing but Italian food the whole week, because we don’t have very good Italian here in Colorado) and then drove over to have a look at the ocean at Sandy Hook, the closest beach to where we used to live.
Friday I spent the day with the Breyer “Velvet Rope” event tour, tagging along with one of the groups as they toured the two facilities. I also picked up my 4 models, now with their glossy finish added. Here’s a photo of me in the painting department with the horses:
Then I drove down to the VRE host hotel, where I hosted a 1 1/2 hour workshop on sculpting. Everyone got one of Breyer’s sculpting kits, which comes with a batch of Sculpey clay and a little horse-shaped wire armature. I had also brought the little Morgan horse sculpture that I have had in the works this past year, to demo how that kind of clay works, compared to the Sculpey. And show how much better it is to work on a sculpture attached to an armature stand, so you can use both hands. (Honestly, I could not do a thing with Sculpey. It is very rubbery and I couldn’t carve or detail it at all.)
So we all sort of hung out there and manipulated our little “pink” horses together, and there were many people who did a better job sculpting than I did with it!! I decided that I am not a good teacher for sculpture or any art for that matter. I find it difficult to give tips or suggestions on how to approach the work. It is completely intuitive for me, and I don’t have any “method” at all. I “just do it”! But everyone seemed to have a good time anyway, even if I didn’t give out any hugely useful or inspirational insights!
That evening, Breyer gave a costume party for all the attendees, with cool Halloween-themed model horse prizes and party favors on all the tables. I had my times mixed up for some reason (probably because I was so tired from all the activity all week) and I got there a half hour late! Everyone was already seated and eating! So I couldn’t find a table with any fellow collectors that I knew to sit with. They had to put me at the Breyer staff table in the front corner of the room, which didn’t have any of the cool decorations or the models. Oh well, everyone who works at Breyer are so fun and friendly and were a pleasure to work with, so it was fun. I was sorry that people didn’t get up and mingle more during the evening, and I ended up being a bit of a wall-flower, again because I was feeling too tired and “peopled-out” at that point to make the effort! I am no kind of social animal to begin with, so honestly any event like this where I am constantly meeting and talking to people becomes exhausting. And I always end up with a sore throat, because I normally don’t talk that much here at home!
I was so glad to be home on Saturday night. Of course being 5 days from Paul and the Boyz is hard, and as much as I like (and need) solo travel like this every so often, I always end up wishing I was sharing the experiences with them. Being a loner only goes so far!
Anyway, back to REALITY! I picked up my air compressor today and I am looking forward to the fact that I have nothing on my work calendar for the next several months but glazing all chinas, all the time! !