Monday, October 15, 2012

"Luna" - A Wolfie Web Special

A lot of times I'll be working on projects here in the studio, and I'm unable to share what they are because it's "top secret".  Usually, it's just a realistic paint prototype, (read: yet another brown horse) or the annual "Beautiful Breeds" ornament, or some other little thing.  But, every now and then, I get to try  something totally new!
Breyer's Web Special, "Luna".  Photo copyright Breyer.
I've had the opportunity to work on two unique projects this year that are outside of my norm.  One is still under wraps, but the other was just revealed today!  This is Breyer's latest Web special.  It features artwork of wolves running on the side, and the coolest part is when you turn the lights off, the wolves glow in the dark.
Glowing effect on "Luna".  Photo copyright Breyer.
This concept was my creation, and I'm so grateful that Breyer was willing to give it a shot when I proposed the idea to them.  I have always been fascinated by anything glow in the dark.  When Breyer released their "Merry Widow" model years ago, that featured a glowing spider web on the side of a horse, I thought it was fantastic!  I couldn't believe the brightness of the glow that was actually part of the plastic itself.  So bright and vivid! The only problem?  Black widow spiders really freak me out.  Especially when they show up in your studio now and then.  (True story.)

Breyer soon followed up with "Cryptic" another amazing Halloween horse who was lightly painted to look like stone, but when the lights turned off, he revealed a glowing skeleton.  Now, this guy I couldn't pass up.  It's a stone horse during the day, and an anatomy lesson at night!

However, as a fanatic of all things glowing, I know that glow does not have to mean "creepy".  I don't want to save my glowy stuff for Halloween!  There are lots of gorgeous glowing things out there that we can enjoy year round.  And one of my loves is wolves.  As a teen, I used to draw them a lot, almost as much as horses.  Sadly, you'll just have to take my word on this, because most of my early drawings have been lost through various moves, and most of it has disappeared.  This is all I could find that featured wolves:

Cartoony "animation style" wolf sketch from around 1992.

Wolf design notepad from printing class, 1990.
I had this idea of running wolves on the side of a horse, and with some of Breyer's newer technology using decals, maybe, just maybe, it could actually work?  The idea was that the horse would have paint in all the areas *except* where the decal art lies, so only the wolf scene itself would glow.  At night, the horse would disappear, and only the running wolves would remain.

For the art, I decided to go with one of my old faves: scratchboard.  It's crisp, sharp, and reproduces beautifully.  Now, as I started the sketch, my original vision had to be modified.  Initially, I had wanted BIG wolves running in a pack, wrapping all along the side of the horse I chose - the dynamic "Ruffian" model.  There was just one thing I hadn't figured on.  The intense, bulging muscles and deep detail on this mold.  When I laid my first drawings on the side of the horse, the art became distorted.  (Aha, so THIS is why there is no muscle detail on the "Trail of Painted Ponies" horses.  Duly noted!)  

I wasn't about to give up, however.  I had a vision of wolves on Ruffian, and gosh darn it, that is what I was going to make.  I had to adjust things somewhat, and try to find the few smooth areas on her body and build the scene in "parts".  At this point I came up with the idea of breaking up the artwork into segments.  The wolves looked lonely isolated all by themselves on the barrel, so I added bits of scenery here and there on the neck and body of the horse.

The original art, oversize.
Reduced size photocopies to check for any distortion.
Make the drawings fit the "smooth" areas of the horse.
At that point, I had my scratchboard black and white.  And we were ready to go with a black and white horse, if I wanted to stop there.  But, it just didn't seem to really look "finished" to me.  Sorry, I need some color!  Back to the drawing board . . .

I made photocopies of the wolves on heavy cardstock, and misted color over with my airbrush.  It still kept a lot of the crisp detail of the scratchboard, but it did add a little interest, with a muted hint of color:

Last, I had to tie this new tinted art into the body of the horse.  Hmm.  What to do?  Brown earth with green trees?  Eh, I've done enough brown horses already.  Let's have some fun!

First, I cut out my colored wolf photocopies to mimic the finished decals:

Then I did a quick, impressionistic scene on the side, painted in midnight blues and purples, that kind of tied the wolves into their environment. To mimic the finished result, I took photocopies of the art and taped them to the horse, so we could get a rough idea of how it might look when finished.  Much better!

Rough prototype of glowing Wolf concept.

Looks good even from different angles!

When I made the art blend with the sculpture, the wolves have a 3-d effect.  

There is so much more I would have loved to do with this paint job, and I am excited about all the possibilities this kind of technique might offer for the future.  However, at this point, I had worked on this paint job alone (including 2-D art) for over two weeks.  And we honestly didn't even know how this would go in production.  Could this even be done?  It was time to wrap things up and see.

When I was sent word that the concept was going to actually work in production, I was so excited!  Sometimes these fun ideas have to stay just "ideas" and many concepts never make it to collector's hands due to unexpected problems.

I'm so glad this one actually worked, and I truly hope you are just as happy with the results as I am.  At last, a glowing model for any time!  I will display this one proudly on my shelf, 365 days per year.  The spot for this beauty in my living room has been cleared off, and is ready.  I can't wait to see it in person.