Live Show Quality (LSQ)
A Handy Reference for
Identifying Authentic Competitive
Customs and Artist Resins
LSQ Guidelines By
The primary mode of competition in our
community is the live show, where models are exhibited in an up-close,
personal inspection and compared against its fellows on the table to make
the placings. In order to compete successfully at a live show, models are
expected to be what is called “Live Show Quality” (or “LSQ”)
and I’m sure you’ve come across this term when perusing sales lists or
LSQ should be an assurance of a required standard, no such standard
exists in consensus. Indeed, the past few years has seen such a boom in
the participation of model horse showing, that the resultant confusion
about what constitutes
LSQ has become prevalent and destructive. In fact, the term is so
grossly misused today, that many showers, particularly new showers, are
inadvertently purchasing or creating work that falls short of the unspoken
competitive standard and not finding the success they desire.
In an effort to alleviate the problem,
this guideline has been compiled to identify and define all the points of
LSQ for evaluation of a model during the creative process and
before a purchasing decision. Furthermore, these points are based on this
essential definition of
Realism-based workmanship so skilled
and thorough that close personal inspection by those expert in superior
realistic workmanship are pressed to find fault in the creative or
technical aspects of the piece.
Nonetheless, these definitions are wholly
my own opinion, yet have served me well in both the creation and judging
of successful model horses for over fifteen years. So whether you agree
with them or not, these definitions do serve a relevant and useful purpose
that may help you reach your goals and sharpen your insights. Also, these
points are divided into two categories, The Essentials and The Optionals.
The former are those points that are mandatory whereas the latter are
those points that are open to debate and will depend on your own personal
decisions. Furthermore, this guideline is intended to apply only to
Customs or finished Artist Resins, and is not intended to apply to
Original Finish or China models. It is encouraged that those heavily
involved in these types of models compile
guidelines tailored to such interests. And, finally, it must be
mentioned that, at present, our community tolerates some contradictory
standards, which have been noted for you to consider. Nevertheless, since
this guideline is based on my opinion, my own perspectives are emphasized.
The common denominator of The Essentials
is realism, because fundamentally, realism is the principal element of
LSQ. Without a doubt, the more
realistic the model, the more potentially
LSQ it is. Topics presented are, as follows:
• Custom Corrections
• Reserved Rights
• A Healthier Philosophy
Anatomy is the physiological structures of
the equine, based on
biology, evolution and genetics that
define the genus Equus. Therefore, a
model should be as anatomically truthful
as possible to be
LSQ (also referred to as “realism”, “viability” or partially as
the “ABCs”, meaning anatomy-biomechanics-conformation). Anatomy includes
all the physical structures authentic to a real horse, as follows:
Truthful characteristics of the
skeleton, musculature and flesh
Factual biomechanics and physics
Symmetry of the body, particularly with
Believable treatment of hair and horn
Correct rendition of veins, moles,
wrinkles and other such details
Faithfulness towards equine behavior and
Accurate secondary sex characteristics
Reliable age characteristics
Any other facet of sculpture that would
convey a realistic depiction of the living
In short, if a real horse has it, so
should the model, as accurately as possible. Undeniably, there is no model
horse that can be truly
LSQ if the sculpture itself isn’t as realistic as possible,
even if all other points are superior. Nevertheless, realism is a
difficult property to describe or teach since it depends wholly upon the
perception of one’s “eye” and depth of one’s understanding, which is
developed over time with diligent research, analysis, observation and
artistic exercises. Consequently, if one isn’t aware of equine anatomy
well enough to identify accuracy, it’s recommended that independent
research or seeking the advice of learned participants be initiated. And
beware, some pieces can be deceptively convincing, yet still be
significantly flawed, so it’s good policy to objectively scrutinize each
Remember: Factual anatomy is the
Sculpted areas should duplicate the look
of what they’re representing as convincingly as possible, such as flesh,
horn, hair, bone, sinew, etc. However, some artistic leeway can be
afforded to hair since it’s so open to artistic interpretation, although
sculpted hair should always be convincingly and skillfully rendered.
Furthermore, sculpting should be consistent in skill, texture and style;
harmony and uniformity are essential. Inappropriate bumps, lumps or other
incongruities are undesirable, and indeed, the artist shouldn’t have
“dropped the ball” with any aspect of sculpting or appear to have fudged
areas or “winged it”. And for Customs, it’s paramount that altered areas
be consistent in style, skill and texture to the untouched original
plastic areas and so smoothly executed that it’s indistinguishable where
the original ends and customization begins. Truly, a good customizer is a
good mimic, and the more minimal the custom, the more important is
mimicry. And, finally, the overall piece must be skillfully designed to
avoid any awkwardness or oddness that would “stop the eye” and inhibit a
credible and beautiful duplication of a real horse. So, in short, all
work should appear confident, skilled and
deliberate, as though the artist
meant every step.
LSQ sculpting or customizing must always be a realistic
and artistic asset to the overall
piece, never a liability.
The “devil is in the details” and they do
LSQ, absolutely. Details include ligaments, tendons, veins,
nerves, capillaries, whisker bumps/moles, chestnuts, ergots, wrinkles,
eyelashes, shoes, clenches or any other aspect of a real horse the artist
saw fit to instill in the sculpture. Overall, the details should be
truthful, precise, skillful, convincing and reveal the artist’s powers of
keen observation. Details can be poorly done however, and often are, such
as the following:
Shoe jobs that are incorrect, such as
those that exhibit unawareness of the farrier arts, glue-on shoes of the
wrong size and shape or those that are not flush with the bottom of the
Nails located on the wrong parts of the
hoof wall, being at the quarters rather than towards the toe
Veins, capillaries or nerves that do not
follow the anatomical blueprint or don’t appear fleshy
Wrinkles that are hard looking and
contrived rather than appearing fleshy and soft
Whisker bumps located on the wrong areas
of the face
Chestnuts of the wrong texture or
located in the wrong position
Remember: If a real horse has
specific details, so must the
Prepwork is the initial treatment of the
model to provide the “canvas” for painting, and should be meticulous and
thoughtful. All surface imperfections caused by the molding process or the
initial stages of sculpting should be removed so as to appear they never
existed in the first place. However, evaluating prepwork can often be
based on a gradient, meaning
that your own levels
of tolerance can be a factor. Nevertheless, it’s a good
rule of thumb that the better the prepwork,
LSQ the model, and so should lack these issues, as follows:
Mold flashing: These are raised or
depressed rims or edges that outline areas of the body where the mold
pieces met to cast the piece.
Seals: On plastic Customs, this is the
manufacturer identification stamp, often found on the inner thigh or
groin. However, on Artist Resins, all identifying information, such as
signatures, dates, titles, numbering, etc., should remain intact.
Pinholes: Small pits the size of a
pinhead, or smaller, often caused by a molding process that lacks
adequate use of a vacuum chamber.
Divots: Like pinholes, but larger,
sometimes up to the size of a pea.
Pits: Like divots, but larger.
Bubbles: Air bubbles that have only
partially erupted from the surface, and can be small or rather large.
Gouges, Scratches or Scrapes: Areas that
suffered careless sculpting or damage from the casting or cleaning
Sandpaper marks: Little scratches where
inappropriate rough sandpaper was used for prepping.
Pilling: Small bits of material in
places of detail or complexity (usually manes and tails), that aren’t
consistent to the surrounding areas. They are either caused by careless
sculpting that neglected to smooth them out or by problematic casting
that compromised the mold.
Pock marks: Areas that bear a patterned
bubbled texture, often caused by problems during the casting process or
primer that rippled because of faulty application.
Mismatched seams: When different mold
parts do not meet evenly along their seams, one side of the sculpture
will be collapsed inwards or protrude upwards along the seam. Also, when
different mold parts “slip” past each other, causing asymmetries, often
most obvious in the face. And the more askew the mold seam, the worse
Channels: A strip of the surface that
lies deeper than the surrounding area, sometimes following a mold seam.
Not to be confused with intended fleshy qualities.
Ripples: Sometimes an artist will
hurriedly coat the original in gesso, which leaves
grooves, ridges or ripples on the surface that are reproduced when
cast. Not to be confused with
intended fleshy or coat qualities.
Razor Swirls: Sometimes the casting
medium behaves strangely, leaving razor thin, swirling grooves randomly
over the model.
Missing parts: Sometimes areas do not
cast properly and end up missing on the cast, such as ear tips, hoof
parts, mane/tail tendril ends, nostril rims, etc. They need to be
recreated so as to be unseen, sturdy and match the original intent.
Tear-outs: When a mold is damaged
internally, an accidental fill at the site
of the damage will
occur in the castings. These tears usually happen in
complicated, tight areas of the
sculpture and when cast, often manifest themselves as uncharacteristic
pools or blocks of resin.
Imprinted remnants: Sometimes accidental
artifacts are left on the model, which can get reproduced when cast.
Such things include fingerprints, pet hair, dollops of unintended clay
or other foreign matter.
Primer flaws: Primer should be
appropriate for the material and be applied smoothly and evenly. Primer
flaws include drips, ripples, bubbles, pock marking, wrinkling or
anything other than what is smooth and even.
Reinforcement wires: These are often
used for resin casting in the legs or hair tendrils and sometimes
protrude through the resin surface. If they are not filled over, they
can leave an inconsistent patch of smoothness, surrounded by a thin
ridge where it meets the resin.
Sprue: A channel through which resin
flowed to fill the mold during the casting process. Left intact, they
appear as resin sticks or branches radiating from the casting and are
usually removed in rough cleaning (those castings that are not rough
cleaned are called “raw castings”). The most common sprue is on the
belly, and is usually seen as a coin sized circular area, if removed in
rough cleaning. But a sprue can be used in additional areas, and be
particularly deceptive on manes or tails with complex tendril design, so
take care to know the original intent of these areas before prepping.
Cracks: Cracks are partial breaks and
can occur around areas of fill or those that are particularly delicate
or vulnerable, often around pressure points or areas of load stress.
Those that are repaired should be done so as to be unseen, sturdy and
match the original intent.
Breaks: Breaks are when a piece of the
model becomes detached from the rest of the body. Those that are
repaired should be done so as to be unseen, sturdy and match the
Lifting: Lifting occurs when the fill
material releases its hold on the model’s surface and raises up, either
just a little bit or a lot, sometimes in large chunks. This can occur
with improper preparation of the model’s surface or improper care or
storage. Lifting requires repair by an experienced person skilled in
such matters, and those that are repaired should be done so as to be
unseen, sturdy and match the original intent.
Bloating: If a plastic model is allowed
to get hot, the plastic will soften and the air inside can expand,
causing it to bloat up. Can be directly linked to lifting.
Style: Each artist has a unique
sculptural technique so it’s essential to be aware of it to determine
what was intended and what was an “oops”. On Artist Resins and minimal
Customs, it’s important to remain faithful to that technique because
inconsistent surfaces created by thoughtless prepping are undesirable.
Remember, good prep work is invisible, melting into the style and
technique of the sculpting. Consequently, it’s good policy to
choose pieces that
are compatible with your own creative techniques and
collecting sensibilities, rather than
changing it to suit your own, particularly on Artist Resins. Much of an
artist’s methodology is closely entwined with the interpretative
accuracy and quality of the final product, so alteration of that tends
to diminish the piece, often dramatically. In any case, artistic
technique can include such things, as follows:
The surface texture characteristic of
an artist’s interpretation. For example, some models have a rougher
surface whereas others are mirror-smooth.
The sculpting approach typical of an
artist’s methods. For instance, some artists have a “slashier” or
“blobbier” sculpting approach while others have a more blended style.
The degree to which the artist
interprets clinical biology into
sculpture. For example, some
interpretations are sharply delineated or “skinned” looking while
others are softer and more naturalistic.
The level of observation infused into
the artistic intent. To illustrate, some artists infuse a high degree
of precise detail into their work while others choose a more
generalized, almost impressionistic, interpretation.
Judgment Calls: There comes a time where
careless sculpting technique or interpretation will require a judgment
call on your part to let it remain untouched or be corrected. Granted,
the issue isn’t a pressing one with plastic Customs, but can become a
real ethical question when regarding Artist Resins. Nonetheless, it’s
very important to not confuse carelessness with artistic style because
you risk an injustice if you do.
Remember: If a real horse doesn’t
have it, neither should the
model, yet keep in mind artistic
interpretation and style.