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Part 1 |  Part 2 |  Part 3 |  Part 4 |  Part 5 |  Part 6 |  Part 7

The Painting of Rooster

Part Four of a Seven Part Series by Bette Largent

I can teach you to see. You will teach yourself to paint.

Rooster - Before
In order for any instructor to teach you to paint, they must first teach you to see. They will then demonstrate a "technique" which is the method in which the paint is applied and the tools used to do so. However, the manner in which the paint is applied will be individual to you, it will be your "style".

This is done in the same manner that was used when you learned to write. You were shown how to hold the pen, perhaps the position of the paper, and a "style" of writing was placed in front of you. You copied and you practiced until you had achieved the skill. And yet, no one person's handwriting is the same. Your personal "style" is infused into it. The technique of writing with ink bottle and pen and the "style" copied of years past is unique to it's age period.

This is also true in painting carousel figures. In years past, the paint was applied by brush, stippled, tole painted, blended much differently than it is today. Today's painters often use the new technology to air-brush on the paint. Although not historically correct, it is merely their "technique" of application. The final appearance is merely their "style".

Rooster - After
In my work, I may do "inpainting" to restore a historical carousel figure in original paint. This is done by matching someone else's style by replicating the exact brush strokes and color. I also paint new or historic figures that have a totally different criteria. The customer may prefer the original technique of application and style, historic style and an entirely new color scheme. Or they may want a truly "original" style, that which is my "style".

Levi - Before
The painting of Rooster was done in this manner. No original paint colors were present due to a complete stripping during a previous restoration. We proceeded to do research and apply other criteria in relationship to the overall composition of the entire carousel to select the colors for Rooster.

How we picked the colors!
The research revealed that the North Tonowanda manufacturers who had created the figures on this mixed machine had a tendency to place horses on a row in the same color. They would however, in the later period, stagger the head position to give more movement. Due to the variation and sizes of all the horses and zebras, we first measured each animal, then placed in on our chart by size, by color, by style, and by age. The middle little horse on Rooster's row was a favorite in his black and white pinto body color.

We now had the body color for the row. Since Rooster would determine the color, we also chose to use his colors as our trapping theme. Levi would be painted pretty much in the same colors as when he had arrived. We placed Rooster on the outside due to his size and the fact that he had been a pinto. We placed "Bud" on the inside due to his trapping colors on arrival, and his rare little top knot.

Levi - After
For safety and maintenance purpose as required by the amusement ride industry, these positions would be painted on the inside bridles. Row 3 - O, for outside, M for middle and I for inside. A theme was selected for this row. Levi's blues would be painted to appear like blue denim with Western style stitching, Bud would be more of an Indian pony, and Rooster would be the "show" of the row. All would have "dark" leather saddles, with Bud picking up the golds used for highlights on the other two and his predominate trim color would be a dark, forest green.

Bud was considered by some as the ugliest pony on the machine. We felt this was not entirely fair, he was just the most unusual and had some really good assets. We were going to make this little pony a knock-out! We assessed all their assets, none of which were the large saddle area outlined previously in yellow. We would work to de-emphasize these large saddles on all the figures. Rooster was rare in that there were no rump or chest trappings. He was going to look pretty homely for a carousel figure unless we did some treatments that really made his trimming outstanding.

Great care was taken to research the history of this little machine. All our work was also documented with one copy going to Wheaton and one copy to the National Carousel Archives. This research is very important for future work on the carousel, for information that may assist it in getting future funds for future restoration, and perhaps, for a historical status of some kind. This historical information and or designation will often save a carousel in jeopardy. Actually, this publication of the series on restoring Rooster records it now on the World Wide Web. This is an added source for others' research. Your reading it and remembering it adds even more sources. Thank you!

Smithsonian - on site - confirmation of its operation on the Smithsonian Mall with copies made of documentation, contract, etc. (ticket stub found inside Rooster also confirms this)

National Carousel Association Archives - by mail - Color photos of the carousel during the Mall period, census information, previous restoration documents and notes, newspaper articles. Confirmation of missing menagerie and chariot.

Herschell-Spillman Museum - two onsite visits - for style, history, method of manufacture

Merry-Go-Roundup - published by NCA - various articles of all companies in North Tonowanda and styles. Special emphasis on documented article by Brian Morgan.

Hershell-Spillman catalog, circa 1917. Actual photos of all styles of carousels, many of which are on the Wheaton machine.

Fairground Art - Weeden, Ward (out of print) 2 photos of carousel taken during period of operation of Smithsonian Mall.

The Art of the Carousel - Fried (out of print) photos of factory, including one photo of an exact horse matching the horse on the machine.

Paint the Ponies - Manns, Steven, Shank - numerous references including signage, horses in original paint, body styles.

Art of the Carousel - Dinger - same as above

Carousel Art - Swenson (out of print) issues on chariots, zebras, and body styles.

Carousel News and Trader, Loucks publisher, INDEXED - used for a myriad of confirmations of styles, age, paint, previous condition and value.

Bud - Before

Bud - After
Word of mouth, net-working, sniffing the trail, and deja vu. A good path for a researcher, you betcha! Through this I found photos of the previous owner. (His love for band organs accidentally led me to a friend of mine who had worked for him in the 70's.) These clues and others led me to the MMDigest site and the Defunct Parks site on the Web. I announced my search to the NCA group at their Tech Conference. A month later came a copy of an article by Mike Kitner in the Musical Bos Society International. It was a reprint of a series carried on this very site (carousels.com). I had not seen the forest for the trees. I had read some of the articles, but not all of them. I had missed a VERY big clue.

All of this implants a concept of painting, believe it or not. We will go into Rooster's, Levi's and Bud's painting in the next part of the series. Study the photographs!

Part 1 |  Part 2 |  Part 3 |  Part 4 |  Part 5 |  Part 6 |  Part 7

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Bette Largent is a professional carousel horse restoration artist from Washington State, and the author of Paint The Ponies, a guide for those who are interested in learning the art of painting carousel figures.

Click Here for information on ordering her book.

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