Cute stuffed toy horse looks very familiar

What's more fun and lovable than a life-size painted horse that resembles a colorful, furry stuffed toy? How about a real stuffed toy that resembles one of the new Horse Fever painted horses. That's exactly what Arnette House has created with the approval of MCA. Cuddly's sponsor, Arnette House, had this toy horse MADE IN THE USA! They look fabulous! Here's a photo of one of these fun loving horses hangin' out on the bales of straw by the studio. There's a whole herd of these cuties waiting to bring smiles to anyone young at heart... just in time for the holidays!

some details...
  • he's cute and cuddly
  • about 10" long though he insists he can reach further
  • made in the USA
  • only $15.00
  • all profit goes to support Arnette House, Inc.
  • can be purchased at Arnette House (352) 622-4432, and very soon at the main office of First Avenue Bank, on the "S" curve in Ocala, where Cuddly is on display 
Arnette House, Inc. offers emergency shelter services, non-residential counseling services, group homes and an Independent Living Program to youth and families in our community.  They will be opening a Therapeutic Group Home within the next few months.

Help support Arnette House with this fun keepsake toy. -pw

[UPDATE] The stuffed toy horses are also available at the Brick City Center for the Arts at 23 SW Broadway St., Ocala. The Brick is the home of MCA. 352-369-1500 for more info. -pw 

[UPDATE 2] The Horse Fever Auction raised $208,000 for MCA and local charities. Cuddly has a new home at Heaven Can Wait farm! -pw  


Cuddly on the web

Here are a few more links to Cuddly and the other Horse Fever 10th Anniversary artists and their magnificent horses. Maps are also available at Brick City Center for the Arts, downtown Ocala, home of Marion Cultural Alliance (MCA). Thanks to Tammy Griffin for shooting the great studio shots of the finished horses. -pw
More of Paul's Horse Fever photos (link) check back for new photos
MCA's Cuddly listing (link) plus the rest of the new herd
ocala.com Cuddly listing (link) at Ocala Star Banner online
google Horse Fever Map (link) interactive map plus list of horses


Tool tips for painting a bulky life-size fiberglass horse in the studio.

It's all too easy to collect fancy art tools that don't get much use. Here are a couple I got plenty of mileage out of working on the Horse Fever public art project this summer.

First the low tech. I'm fortunate to have space in my studio to spin Cuddly, my horse, so I built a low platform on casters to let me turn any side to the light at the north window. My wraparound design had Cuddly moving frequently. The fiberglass horse weighs only 135-150 lbs. but anything that helped it turn effortless, and turn, and turn, and turn at all hours, was a blessing.

Lighting the bulky horse required more ambient light than I normally prefer in the studio. I needed to bottle some sunlight. Cuddly would ultimately be on display outdoors so I wanted to paint in northern light as much as possible. Though I absolutely love the quality of light from the 4700K Solux lamp I've used for years, I didn't want to add a bank of hot halogens. I had recently read Aaron Westerberg's blog (see links below) about a special Philips 5000K fluorescent bulb he uses in his studio. These bulbs turned out to be a great solution for lighting Cuddly after hours.

You might be wondering about this odd photo. It's no Photoshop trickery. When painting you often want to back off and view your progress from a distance. The horse is big. My studio's no warehouse so I found a great alternative to walking out the door for a more distant view of Cuddly. Alvin makes a 3" reducing glass that looks like a magnifying glass until you look through it. Everything looks further away. It's not a dramatic reduction at 2x but enough to be useful. Mine came from Daniel Smith art supplies. It should be really helpful when I'm up close stippling a pen and ink drawing and want to quickly see how the values look at a distance.

Where did I find the bulbs... The Philips F32T8/TL950 4' T8 bulbs can be bought online by the case. If you only want to pickup a few locally as I did call Besco Electric Supply in Leesburg, 800.541.6618. The T8 size is designed for a modern electronic ballast. Don't waste your $$ on the daylight bulbs at the hardware chains. They only sell 5000K with a lower color rendering index (CRI). It's not the same 900 series phosphors that make this particular Philips bulb so special.
Besides the normal art supplies here are a few things that helped me get the job done; inspiration, a plan, occasional sleep, a supportive family, AC to beat the Florida summer heat, plenty of water, lots of coffee, ice cold Yuengling Lager, more water, more coffee, great tunes filling the studio (RIP Steve Jobs), and a ball of string. -pw


10th Anniversary Horse Fever - Cuddly Revealed

Today's the unveiling of the new Horse Fever herd! These new horses are in celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Horse Fever, a widely popular Marion Cultural Alliance public art project responsible for raising over $1.2 million for the arts and 27 local charities. There will be a public unveiling today, Sept. 29th, starting at 6 pm featuring several of the anniversary horses on the Downtown Ocala Square. All of the new horses should be in place around the community in time for this weekend. If you want a sneak peek at the horses, sponsors, artists' inspiration and an interactive map to track them down, go to ocala.com's Horse Fever feature page (see links at end of this blog post).

I am thrilled to have been picked out of 300 entries to paint one of the 27 anniversary horses. I hope you enjoy "Cuddly". He's painted to look like a giant stuffed toy! Look for him this weekend at First Avenue Bank on the "S" Curve, just south of Downtown Ocala. Cuddly's sponsor is Arnette House, an incredibly valuable resource for our community.

Arnette House, Inc. offers emergency shelter services, non-residential counseling services, group homes, Independent Living Program and will be opening a Therapeutic Group Home within the next few months.

Cuddly waiting to be picked up at my studio - headed for clear coating.

Stay tuned to this blog for more information about the making of Cuddly, more photos and other Horse Fever news. -pw
Ocala.com Horse Fever (link) 
Marion Cultural Alliance (link)
Arnette House, Inc. (link)


Giant Moths Up Close

In the cool, calm morning air this beautiful Antheraea polyphemus moth stayed still for quite some time on the exfoliated bark of a Crape myrtle tree.

The moth was shot using a 20mm Kenko extension tube with a 70-200mm zoom. With the tube you loose the ability to focus at any normal distance so it's not nearly as versatile as a dedicated macro lens. The tubes are hollow, no glass, but do include electrical connections for the lens to talk to the camera body. No glass means no degradation of the lens optics. There is a reduction of light reaching the sensor and stacking tubes lowers the light further while increasing the enlargement. For manually focused shots from a tripod the light loss is easy to live with.

Another option for using an existing lens for macro photography would be to add a close-up filter to the front of the lens. There's no light loss with the filter. There can be softening of the image using modestly priced filters. The filters can also be stacked for greater enlargement and, like the tubes, you are limited to close-up focusing. For the greatest flexibility a dedicated macro lens like the 180mm macro is an ideal choice. Here's another early morning moth, a luna moth, shot with the same setup. -pw


Current blog photo... Custom Glass Mosaic

My blog's current header photo features a blossom from our Camellia sasanqua 'Shishi Gashira' floating over a custom art glass mosaic my wonderful wife Renee created as a gift to my mother. The three Koi symbolize mom's three children. Small pebbles were incorporated to represent pieces of fish food floating on the surface at the center of the water ripples. The mosaic was done in the curved basin of a bird bath. -pw


RAW Developer 1.9 released

I've been pushing Mac users to try Iridient Digital's RAW Developer app for quite some time. They have been fast to add compatibility for new cameras and DNG has been well supported. It's incredibly good at what it does, getting natural, detailed conversions out of camera RAW files. Now version 1.9 runs as 64 bit with rendering speed improvements. Otherwise everything looks and seems to work the same on the surface.

With the feature set unchanged for so long I was hoping to be more excited when RAW Developer reached 1.9. Yes it's much faster. Still, Adobe's CS5 converter pans and renders to Photoshop slightly faster than the 1.9 RD. This is only a quick first impression looking at a few 20D files that should be easy lifting on a 27" iMac. The RD version history says higher processor core counts mean better performance with 1.9. RD pulls out better micro contrast detail but it lacks some seriously powerful non-destructive RAW tools in Adobe's converter that I am appreciating more and more. Adobe's lens distortion tools, adjustment brush, spot removal tool (super valuable) and vignetting tool are all missing counter parts in RD. That sounds like I'm advocating feature bloat. RAW Developer is a basic converter by design. Sure you can open in Photoshop to do these things later. That was my old workflow for years.

I'd still highly recommend RAW Developer when the finest detail matters. The price is far more attractive than Photoshop. The RAW Developer tool set seems to have stagnated. Maybe now that the code is 64 bit and the rendering speed is on par, Iridient Digital will advance the features or innovate. -pw
RAW Developer demo (link) 
my past coverage of RAW Developer (link) 


Spring blooms in February

Our redbud trees and loropetalum shrubs are bursting with pink color. The wild plum trees near the studio are smothered with clouds of white blooms. Even our Japanese Magnolia, which is always late to bloom, is starting to put on a show. The azaleas, spirea, dogwoods, fringe trees and native thorny haw trees are still waiting to see if winter is over. Our last frost date is typically mid March. With this early warm weather persisting the pawpaw flowers might start blooming before April. The small scrubby pawpaw plants seem to appear out of nowhere with unusual droopy blooms. Quite similar to an upside down Japanese magnolia bloom. Of all of the native flowers I tend to, I'm drawn to photograph the pawpaws the most. Each year a different pawpaw near the studio puts on the best show. Most are creamy white, a couple have burgundy blooms. Every shot feels like I'm seeing them in a new way. Here are a couple magnolia blooms from yesterday.  -pw
Ant climbing Japanese magnolia to watch sunset (link)
Japanese magnolia from above (link)