Originally published August 22, 2016.
Each custom I attempt involves a little more sculpting, both additive and subtractive, than the last. It is both exciting and challenging to tackle a project a little more complex than anything else you have done, but it's the secret to growth.
This girl has been just that, both exciting because she is my first jumping custom and challenging because her neck presented all sorts of proportion and biomechanical problems.
Drastic customs in general are challenging, and to help you with your's, I'll walk you through some tips with today's post. Consider this walk-through a sort of mini tutorial.
Step 1: Never Be Afraid to Dive In
Make a plan. Grab your reference, mark out your cuts and areas to resculpt, and then just dive right in. If you aren't fearless, all you will acquire is a desk full of half-finished or, worse yet, barely attempted customs.
Step 2: Always Be Open To Criticism
Sometimes you can become too focused on your work. I emphasized the back and spinal position so much that it came as a surprise when fellow hobbyist's pointed out the extreme awkwardness of her neck. But I'm so glad they spoke up and glad I took the time to rework her because, as these next few photos show, I was headed down the wrong track.
Step 3: Don't Get Comfortable With the Reference
Good reference is a must for every custom project, but never trust it. Why? You'll miss things. I got so caught up with the length of my mares neck that I never saw the other problems until fellow hobbyists pointed it out. Even, even then, it took a while to get past "but it's the exact same length as the reference!" to realize that the problem was actually the shape of the muscles.
Reference is great, but don't get so focused that it leads you astray.
Step 4: Never Be Afraid to Remove What You Started
The other problems with the neck? Too thick and the muscles over emphasized. Make friends with your sandpaper!
Step 5: Know That Every Project Has Its Growing Pains
Sometimes ugliness is part of the process. I have never rescultped this much of the head (it was almost an original sculpture at this point), so I put on more clay knowing I could always sculpt it down to the correct size later. But until then, she looked a bit mule-ish!
Step 6: Always Check Your Work From Multiple Angles
This is a big one. After all, our works aren't flat. They need to look good from every angle to be realistic. I had a 3D professor constantly remind us of "multiple reads," reminding us to ask ourselves how did our work "read" from multiple angles. Hold up your custom, spin them around, take photos, whatever you need to do to check proportions and details.
Kristen Taylor (Williams)
The author and model horse customizer.
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