Saturday, 26 June 2010

Genie -- The First Sculpt

As I half jokingly mentioned in an earlier post, back in the day when you were customizing a pony you worked with what you had.  I distinctly remember designing a custom unicorn to be made in the G1 Posy pose, then being terribly upset when it dawned on me that it was an Earth Pony pose, not a unicorn.  I don't believe I gave any serious thought to trying to create a horn myself.

Later, however, some more experienced customizers, Woosie foremost among them, began creating customs with the addition of sculpted parts.  It was amazing what she did with with clay.  Naturally, I eventually worked up the nerve to try some sculpting of my own.

Genie was my first attempt.  It's only a small sculpt, the genie's lamp symbol, but it's a start.  The symbol was made with Sculpey clay, which has to be heated to be cured.  Rather than risk melting the pony in the oven, I immersed the body into boiled water instead, which works just as well for small amounts of Sculpey.

Genie was made from a stained Blossomforth, fully repainted.  The painting on this pony was a bit of an issue.  Most of it went fine, but painting the lamp became a problem.  I was using Testors brand paint for the gold parts of the pony.  Although it adhered fine to the vinyl on her legs, it refused to adhere to the Sculpey and kept peeling off.  I finally had to give up and got some Reaper Master Series gold paint, which worked just fine (although by that time I'd lost some of the detail I'd sculpted into the lamp because it was clogged up with bits of gold Testors paint.  The hair is DH Black Magick and Sunlight.

Genie was made for Baginslover in the 2008 MLPArena Disney Custom swap.


Blue Sakura

Blue Sakura was an experiment with colour.  I wanted to try a custom done entirely in one colour (excluding the white and black used in her eyes.)  She was made from a G3 Dream Blue II (I think) so her body colour is original.  Her eyes and symbols were entirely repainted in Reaper Master Series acrylics.  The design for her symbol was inspired by the design on a tea cup (which was also done in blue, but only one colour.)  Her hair is DH Daiquari Ice, Mermaid, Water Nixie, Bobby Blue, Forget-Me-Not, After Midnight, and Arctic Frost.


Night Rose

Night Rose was my 47th completed custom.  Originally, she was made with the intention of selling her.  Although I had plenty of compliments on her, no one was of a mind to part with their money at that time.  I imagine that if I were to offer her for sale again I'd be able to move her, but instead I decided to "retire" her, so she's remained in my collection.

Night Rose was made from a bait TAF Milky Way.  Her body was fully repainted, as were her eyes.  Her symbols were painted freehand, using the design on a dinner plate as inspiration.  All the painting on her was done in Reaper Master Series acrylic paint.

Her hair is Dollyhair Black Magick, a blend of Sea Nymph and Poison Ivy and a blend of Heart Throb and Cherry Pie.


And Then There Were Ponyvilles

By this time, I had discovered that I had a talent for painting minute details and tiny symbols (and taking eye strain to the next level.)  The customizing community had discovered that Hasbro's new MLP line, Ponyville, could be customized.  Time to take it to the next step.

For those of you not in the know, the Ponyville line is made of hard plastic with molded hair and is about 4 cm tall.  They're actually a lot of fun to work with but they do require a steady hand, a tiny paintbrush, and a lot of patience, especially when working on the eyes and symbols.

Mostly I've done re-creations of full-sized Hasbro ponies, both G1 and G3.  I've done a few original creations as well, but I do find that working on such a small surface a bit limiting to creativity.  It's easier to copy a design smaller than to create a design on a 1 cm canvas.

Here are a few of my early Ponyville customs, known generally as "Chibis" in the community (chibi = the Japanese word for little.)  Enjoy. 


Monday, 14 June 2010

Of Swaps, and Holiday Ponies

With my 29th custom I got into custom swaps.  The idea behind these swaps is to pick a theme, to send in your specific preferences within that theme, and to create a custom based on your partner's preferences.  You then send off the custom you made and wait to receive the custom that your partner made in return.  It can be a really fun and rewarding experience.

Little Flurry was made for Ponyluv in the Ponyfinders Holiday swap of 2007 (not actually a custom swap, this was a gift swap in which I chose to include a custom.)  She was made from a DG fakie, painted with blue and silver snowflakes and given Dollyhair (DH) Moonlight and Bobby Blue.  She's a simple design.

Frosty is a bit more complex, and was made for the Arena Xmas custom swap of 2007.  She was given a gradient dye on her muzzle and legs.  Her hair was DH Cherry Pie, Sunlight, Poison Ivy, and Bobby Blue.  Her symbol was repainted, as were her eyes.

Heart's Flight was made for the Arena Valentine's Swap of 2008 for Midnight Echo.  She was also given a gradient dye to muzzle, ears, and legs.  She was rehaired in DH After Midnight, Fairy's Breath, and Virgin Snow.  Her symbol and eyes were repainted as well.

Candy Hearts was also made for a Ponyfinders gift swap (Valentine's obviously) for PrincessFireFly.  She was also made of a DG fakie given new eyes and symbols, and new hair in DH Virgin Snow.

 (see more of Elf's swap and Holiday customs on her DA page.)


Autumn Harvest

Autumn Harvest is a pony that I'd designed waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in 2003 or thereabouts but didn't get around to making until 2007.  I'm glad I did wait, because she turned out so much the better for it.

Her base was a Sew'n'So.  Her symbol and eyes were repainted and her hair was rerooted using Dollyhair nylon hair in Poison Ivy, Mango Tango, and Cherry Pie.  I love how her symbols turned out.  I'm so pleased that the shading and blends worked out so well.


Rainbow Echos

The challenge: create a custom that represents what the MLP Collector Online community means to you.  That was the theme of the custom pony contest put up to celebrate the MLPArena's fourth anniversary in 2007.  Rainbow Echos is what I came up with.

Rainbow Echos's main symbol is the G3 MLP symbol (chosen because the Arena started up around the same time as the G3 ponies first began to appear in stores.)  The rest of her symbols are the phrase "My Little Pony" in various different languages.  I polled the board asking people how to say My Little Pony in their own languages.  I've forgotten now all of the languages that are represented on her, but some are German, Greek, Italian, and French (both the Canadian "Ma Petite Pouliche" and the France "Mon Petit Poney.")  All her symbols were done freehand.  I did
my best to replicate the font used on the
MLP packaging.

Rainbow Echos' hair is based on the G1 Rainbow Ponies hair colours, but not an exact match.  I chose instead to go for darker versions of the colours, to give her a more bold look.  Her ribbon is a streamer, to celebrate the Arena's birthday.  (You can see what I mean when I say that by this time I was putting more thought into my customs, eh?)

Rainbow Echos came in second in her category of the contest, behind a custom made by AeraCura named Rainbow Memories.  She was a pink pony with the Original 6 G1 Collectors Ponies painted on her as TAF symbols.


Snow White Queen

The custom that I view as my first "professional" level custom is my 26th completed custom, Snow White Queen.  She is based on the song of the same name by Evanescence.  She was made for the "music theme" custom contest at the Memphis MLP Fair in 2007.  I really took my time with her, chose the design, worked on her over a few months.  Three years later I'm still really happy with how she turned out.

I see this custom as a turning point.  I began to take my time with customs again.  I worked hard on designing them before I started.  I worked hard on the execution of my designs.  I paid more attention to my painting technique, trying to create smoother finishes with my paint and attempting smaller and smaller details.  She's also the first custom on which I used Dollyhair nylon hair, the same material used on the original ponies.  And I really started to see customs as a viable form of artistic expression.  Oddly enough, this is also when I started pumping out more customs and becoming more confident in the finished products.

Snow White Queen came in 2nd place in the judged category and 3rd place in the people's choice category of her contest.


Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Early Customs Part III

After the Valentine family customs I was really starting to wonder if I should continue customizing.  I was really quite happy with my early customs, but the more recent ones just hadn't turned out as I'd hoped they would.  But I decided to try once more, slowly this time.

I decided to try customizing G3s, which were still fairly new on the market, but by now showing up in second hand shops.  I'd try a series of 4 element ponies: fire, air, earth, and water.  I decided to look on this series as a reboot, a chance to learn and relearn some of the basics of customizing.

Comet (fire,) Skyshimmer (air,) Sprout (earth,) and Nami (water) helped me to expand my customizing horizons.  That sounds so cheesy.  But up until this point all of my customs had been, basically, based on Hasbro ponies.  Not always specific ponies but the basic look.  A TAF unicorn should have hair of one colour, with a narrow stripe of another colour because that was what Hasbro TAF unicorns looked like.  I really felt that my customs should look like Hasbro ponies and not deviate from that pattern.

G3s, on the other hand, didn't have that standard "this set looks like this" pattern that was so obvious in the G1s.  It gave me the opportunity to think outside the box, so to speak, and to try out some new looks.

Two ponies in this set were dyed, with varying results.  Two were rerooted using skipping rope fibres, one using hair donated from another MLP, one kept her original hair but had stripes dyed into it.  All three had their eyes retouched, but I still wasn't up to a full repaint.  One symbol I did using glitter gel pens, but the others were painted.  Overall, I was quite happy with them when I finished them, and I'm still pretty pleased with how they turned out.

Ok, so they don't look like much of a departure from the norm, but trust me, they did get me thinking about customs in a new way.  There would still be a few more customs that I wasn't really happy with the end result before I really found my footing and took my customizing to the next level.

More on that next time...

(see more of Elf's early customs on her DA page.)


Early Customs Part II

At about the 10th custom I'd created I reached a point where I had so many ideas running around in my head that I just needed to get them out.  If I'd been smarter I'd have sat down with my sketch book and just sketched them out and set them aside to work out at my leisure.  But I was far too excited about customizing for that, I wanted to see my ideas come to life and I wanted to see it right away.  This, of course, means that the customs I created at this time ranged from ok to meh to holy crap I can't believe I'm signing my name to this.

Daisy Chain, for example, falls into the "ok" category.  She was made of a bait Seashell with bad stains and discolourations on her body and puffy paint in her hair.  The body repaint is not my best work (the fact that I never sealed her has not improved the quality of the paint job in the years since.)  I probably should have ripped out her original hair and rerooted her, seeing as it's rather dry.  Instead I just took the shortcut of cuttng out the puffy paint.  But I still love the interconnected TAF design of her symbols.  I actually love it so much that I'll most likely recreate this custom at some point in the future.

Falling into the "meh" category would be Stardust.  The original sketch for this pony wasn't bad.  Very little about her execution, however, went well.  She was made from a Streaky who had a drastic haircut, symbol rubs, and some discolourations.  She was my first attempt at dyeing a pony, and it didn't go well.  I used a container that was too shallow, which resulted on her sitting on the bottom, which resulted in splotches of dye on her body rather than a nice uniform colour.  Well, she was going to be a TAF pony anyway, we'll just cover those with her symbols.  Ah but the symbols...too impatient to paint the details on then add glitter, I once again turned to shimmer gel pens.  Well, they turned out pretty well, but not without a lot of smudging and touching up prior to (and during) the sealing process.  Her hair was donated by fakies, resulting in crusty dry hair.  I do like the colour, however.

Finally, as an example of the "really not great" category, is Valentino (I should point out at this juncture that my camera is quite forgiving of these customs.)  Obviously, Valentino is a reimagining of the Hasbro white baby Valentine pony.  He was made of a Steamer with serious pony cancer, regrind, and other body discolourations.  His hair was also extremely dry and frizzy, but his body was rock hard and, at the time, I was not equiped to deal with removing and rerooting the hair.  He was given a full body repaint (which actually turned out not too badly) but here was where I made my mistake.  I dyed his hair red after the body repaint.  Naturally, this lead to blotches of dye getting on the nice, white body.  Some I was able to remove, but some stained.  That's why Valentino's symbol has an extra little pink heart over the big red one.  Other stains are still fairly obvious in person.

Valentino, and in fact the whole Valentine family (Valentine and Li'l Hugs & Kisses,) were a bit of a wake up call.  I realized that I was rushing too much through the customizing process.  It's no good rushing to see the finished product when you're not happy with that product because you've rushed too much.  After this brilliant realization, I began taking more time with my customs, planning them out better and working slowly.  Just as I was beginning to think maybe customizing wasn't for me after all, things started to turn around.

More on that next time...

(see more of Elf's early customs on her DA page.)


Early Customs

Back in the day, when I started customizing, we didn't have any of these new-fangled rerooting tools, nylon hair, or air-dry clay. We also had to walk 30 miles to school, uphill both ways, through a snowstorm. ;P

Seriously though, although I wasn't exactly one of the first customizers on the block, I did start in on the hobby back in 2001. I was using craft paint, fake hair pulled from other MLPs, dolls, or *shudder* fakies. It never even occurred to me to consider sculpting wings onto a unicorn or anything of the kind. My customs were basic designs. They were good designs (I still think so) but the knowhow, the professional materials, the shared knowledge just wasn't there.

As I said in a previous post, I spent months researching customizing before actually making a start on my first project. By this I mean I spent months reading up on techniques and tips on other peoples' MLP websites. I didn't get involved in the message boards until 2003, and at that point my customs took off. But I digress, the purpose of this post is to show off some of my earliest work.

Some of my earliest customs were made as gifts for my closest friends.  They were also experiments in full body repaints, gradient painting, and rehairing with found materials (specifically hair from a weird scrunchy and fibers unraveled from a skipping rope.)  A lot of thought went into them.  The designs were solid.  Overall, I'm still quite pleased with these earliest customs.

Things went pretty well for awhile.  I wasn't always completely thrilled with the results, but I chocked it up to a learning experience.  I tried a Mom and Baby set, the Sunblossoms.  Again, the idea was solid.  The execution wasn't quite up to snuff.  Put bluntly, they gave me nothing but problems.  The first coat of paint peeled and cracked, I had to scrape it off and start over.  I wanted to do a Twice As Fancy (TAF) symbol, the stencils I made were messy to work with and didn't lay flat on the body, resulting in smears and touch ups (and producing results nowhere near the identical symbols I was hoping for.)  The body paint peeled and cracked again when I tried to reroot the hair.  The hair itself was a pain, dry and crunchy hair from a donor fakies that has only gotten drier over time.

Then came the inevitable desire to re-create a Hasbro pony.  But I didn't just want to copy a Hasbro pony, I wanted to make the design my own.  Quicksilver was born, complete with backcard story, to be a "friend" to Moondancer (but not "Daddy Moondancer.")  Full body repaint, rehair with doll hair, symbols drawn with glitter pens, eyes touched up with an artist's pen, micro glitter glued to his back and feet.
Now, don't get me wrong here, he's still one of my favourite customs.  But, I can also look back and see him as a turning point in my career as a customizer...a turn for the worse.  This is an example of a custom that would have been better executed if I'd had more patience.  I rushed through the body repaint, resulting in an uneven job with brush strokes.  I made the symbols using gel pens (which are prone to bleeding and smudging) rather than taking the time to paint them.  The same goes for the eye touch ups.  This custom is the first one where my impatience to see the finished product overrode my desire to do the best job I could.

More on that next time...

(see more of Elf's early customs on her DA page.)