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

The Painting of Rooster

Part Five of a Seven Part Series by Bette Largent

Fail to Plan - Plan to Fail

We are still in the planning stages of Rooster, Levi and Bud. We know now they will be pinto's or paints and will have trapping colors in blues, greens, and gold. We now must look at their assets and their liabilities, or what areas we want to emphasize and what areas we want to diminish the attention to.

Rooster, money side
Rooster has great muscle confirmation, detail, flowing mane and saddle size with a unique saddle shape. There are double straps from the saddle flap instead of the normal center strap. The jewels are either damaged or missing. The eyes need to be replaced as well.

Levi is a style transition horse for the manufacturer. The previous style which is very similar in body shape has the floating pillow saddles. Levi's saddle is attached, and the body is longer. It has a great shape to the head and neck which is in the star-gazer position with a short, almost roached mane. The eyes and jewels are also going to be replaced.

Bud is the most unusual of all. There are great lines in the body muscles, especially in the movement of legs and hips. It has a top-knot of mane that is held back with a carved ornamental band, hence his body name. This top-knot had been painted a bright yellow instead of the mane color. The curl of the mane is outstanding. The blanket also wraps around the body and becomes one piece on the non-romance side. Again, this is very unusual.

The eyes have been carved on the figure. These rare top-knots were some of the first figures carved on carving machines. Not in the design's favor was the elongated saddle design, perhaps for multiple riders. Nor is it considered an asset to have the large, square head with the rounding snout, or Roman style nose. We will endeavor to minimize these areas in how we place the spots on the face and the color of the saddle. It also has the beginning of the traditional Herschell-Spillman laid back, small ear.

The next step is to plan the "theme" of the 3 figures. Paints or pintos are a common breed, often romanticized in historical paintings of the West. As Rooster has such outstanding lines, he will be the most glamorous of the three with a golden mane in honor of Illions, and painting flourishes with metallic gold accents resulting in a more Coney Island style.

Levi with be a cowboy pony with paint in levi or jean colors and top stitching in traditional orange and green leather-suede blanket. Bud will be our little Indian pony, with a leather look to the blanket bringing it forward in the composition. The lighter line in comparison to the bottom plain blanket will give the illusion of great length to his torso. The spots on all three will either disguise their shortcomings or bring out their favorable points. In Bud, we will make use of the spots to make the jaw line appear more curvaceous.

In researching the black and white paint breeds, we discovered that they usually have blue eyes. As we know that our wooden species are usually painted realistically we begin to scour books, magazines, and the Internet for photos of the breed. It is much easier to paint a body if you have a photo or combination of photos to go by for markings.

The saddles will be dark faux leather. Rooster's saddle will have metallic gold to bring attention to it's lines. Levi and Bud will have dark blue leather to minimize the lack of traditional saddle shape. We will keep all trappings fairly simple as we are working with large spots that grab your attention. This is very similar to wearing a wild flowered shirt with plaid shorts . . . busy!

Just as fine artists "in training" visit art museums and galleries and often practice their art by painting reproductions of the Masters right down to mimicking the brush strokes, you can visit museums and operating carousels to learn the techniques and styles of others. Many carousel museums have hands-on programs where you can take classes or volunteer to assist in restoration, carving, and painting. Operating carousels in original paint are the equivalent of a museum experience.

Any carousel that can be visited and any time that can be spent studying each individual figure as to color choices and method of application is good for your own project. There is nothing like the physical experience to see the nuances of application compared to photos and books. Plus, where else can you learn technique and style and whirl in circles to the music of a merry-go-round!

Museum sites:

The Sandusky Merry-Go-Round Museum, Sandusky, Ohio

The New England Carousel Museum, Bristol, Connecticut

Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, North Tonowanda, N.Y.

International Museum of Carousel Art, Hood River, Oregon

Dickenson Historical Society, 1901 Parker, Abilene, Kansas

C.W. Parker Carousel Museum


This museum is now under construcion, but should be partially open by the summer of 2004. When complete, this museum will have an 1850 Primitive Carousel on display, as well as two operating Parker machines!

The NCA archives (which are now operating and available in Leavenworth, KS) will be moved to the museum when it's complete.

Carousels in Original Paint:

Kit Carson Carousel, PTC # 6, Burlington, Colorado

Glen Echo Carousel, Dentzel, 1921 Glen Echo, MD

Weona Park, Dentzel, 1900, Pen Argle, PA

There are many carousels located in museums, and all carousels ARE operating museums of American Folk Art! Be sure to visit and research one nearby or go "carouselling" and visit them all. To view a list of operating carousels, click here.

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

Click to order

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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(c) 2004-2022 Gary Nance
unless otherwise noted.
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