Saturday, April 5, 2014

New Horse Painting, "#64"

New Oil Painting of an Event Horse

It is Day 7 after surgery, and I’m itching to get some work done. Mobility is very limited - hopping around on one foot using a walker is very tiring I’ve discovered. The walker is my main mode of transportation since the wheelchair won’t fit most places in the house. 

I have two canvases toned and ready for drawings to be transferred to them. This is the second large image planned for one of the canvases. It’s an image I’ve long wanted to paint but haven’t because an artist friend painted a very similar image first several years ago, and I didn’t feel right about doing my version so soon after hers. But now the time is right. 

Shown is the outline drawing waiting to be gridded and then transferred to the canvas. The working title is “#64” until I can come up with a better one. The horse is a chestnut eventer, and the photo was taken at a three day event in downstate Michigan about 2002-3. Something in this photo speaks to me although the image isn’t particularly dynamic or dramatic. Maybe it’s the lighting or the gesture. Whatever it is, it’s enough to get me excited about painting it. 

Tomorrow’s challenge will be to enlist my husband to help get out materials for doing the grids and getting the image onto the canvas. There are just some things in the studio that I can’t reach right now. My drawing table is in the attic, but I have a small portable drawing board which should work nicely for the gridding. It also has a rule attached to it to be sure the grid is square. 

I will share as work progresses. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"The Twilight of My Years"

Reference photo for "The Twilight Of My Years"
In a few days I'll be having surgery to correct a crooked leg that is causing all kinds of problems the older I get. Age is catching up to me, very much against my will. I won't go into the gory details except to say that it won't be pleasant and recovery will be a long process.

I took this photo of my horse, Scottie, two years ago when he was very sick and loved it the moment I saw it onscreen. He and I seem to be following a similar path in our senior years. He recovered from his bad sinus infection, a consequence of Cushings Disease and is now on medication to control the Cushings. But, he still has chronic hip issues and worsening arthritis in his neck. He doesn't always get around very well.

This past year for me has been one of a string of issues with shoulders, hips, knees and ankle. I don't always get around very well, either.

I loved the wistful, pensive look captured on Scottie's face in the photo. It's as if he's trying to see into the future to see what's ahead for himself. I'm feeling very much the same way as I contemplate the aftermath of this surgery. Therefore, now seems the appropriate time to paint this image and try to capture what we are both facing in our "twilight" years.

Tomorrow I'll transfer the drawing to canvas, and after surgery I'll have plenty of time to work on it. I've always envisioned this to be a fairly large painting (for me). It will be a 24x20 oil on canvas, and I have hopes of it going to a museum show later this year.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Buried Treasure; Two Old Horse Drawings

"Jesse Darkstar" Appaloosa Horse Drawing

In the process of going through old art records today I came across two preliminary drawings that I did for portraits way back in 2001 and couldn’t help but think, “Gee, these are better than I remember them being!”. 

It was my custom to do a value study for a color portrait before beginning the final portrait. The purposes were several. First off, the preliminary drawing gave me a chance to see how the line drawing would look when rendered as a three dimensional object. Next, it would reveal any awkwardness or disproportions that might not be evident in the line drawing. Thirdly, it would establish the values in the image. And, finally, it was emailed to the client for either approval or needed changes. 

At top is the preliminary drawing for a portrait of Jesse Darkstar, a blue roan Appaloosa. I had to change some leg positions and other things from the reference photos, and the drawing helped to be assured that the image worked over all. Below is the final pastel portrait. 

"Jesse Darkstar"  Pastel Horse Painting

This next drawing is of King, a thirty year old Quarter Horse who was still being ridden and shown. This drawing is softer than the first because it was done on layout paper rather than drawing paper, and layout paper has a smoother surface. 
"King" Quarter Horse Pencil Drawing

And finally, here’s the final pastel portrait of King. 

"King" Quarter Horse Pastel Painting

I did a little work on the painting of Glory earlier in the week to enlarge her eye. But at the moment the eye is more than a little creepy looking, so  I’ll wait to show you progress on that until it’s in a more acceptable state. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Rouse Simmons, The Christmas Tree Ship

watercolor and ink painting of a schooner

The Great Lakes are known for violent storms during the month of November, and they have claimed many ships and lives over the centuries as a result. The Edmund Fitzgerald, immortalized in song by Gordon Lightfoot, is one such very famous ship. Another is the Rouse Simmons which was famous in her day as The Christmas Tree Ship. 

The Rouse Simmons was a 123 foot three masted schooner which sailed the Great Lakes from its launch in 1868 until it sank in a violent storm on November 23, 1912. Known as The Christmas Tree Ship, it was one of several ships which annually carried Christmas trees from the northern Michigan woods down the length of Lake Michigan to Chicago where they would be sold and some distributed to the poor. 

It was on just such a trip that it last set sail from Thompson Harbor, Michigan on November 22, 1912. Despite warnings that a big storm was brewing, Captain Herman Scheunemann (known fondly as Captain Santa) hoped to make one last run to Chicago before the storm hit. It was a fateful decision that cost 17 men their lives. The blizzard soon caught the Rouse Simmons in the open waters of Lake Michigan where gale force winds blew and ice formed on the riggings and the Christmas trees stacked high on her deck. This made the ship top heavy, and she was lost off of Two Rivers, Wisconsin on the 23rd, or so it is believed. 

A rescue effort was made by the life saving station at Two Rivers Wisconsin, but the lake was too dangerous, and the Rouse Simmons couldn’t be found. She had last been seen at the Kewaunee Life Saving Station earlier in the day flying a distress flag, with her sails torn to shreds and lying low in the water as the wind and waves battered her about. 

The Rouse Simmons, The Christmas Tree Ship, is a legendary ship of the Great Lakes which faced the fierce gales of November and was lost with 17 lives. The wreckage was found in 1971 off Two Rivers, Wisconsin. 

It is rumored that her ghost still sails the waters of Lake Michigan. 

Many years ago at the beginning of my career, I did a series of drawings of Great Lakes ships which had been lost for a gentleman who was a big enthusiast. This painting is a version I did for myself. It is rather crude, but I intend to one day create another version of this great ship with the fascinating history. 

You can read more about the Rouse Simmons here;

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Glorious Glory; A Horse Painting Update

Here’s an update on the Glory painting. 

I have finished Glory herself except for the mane, forelock and eye and some touchups once the background is finalized. She is coming along nicely, and I’m very pleased so far. 

It’s always nerve wracking to paint when I haven’t been for a long time and my self confidence suffers terribly the longer it goes on. But, what I’m finding with Glory is that I’m going a lot on instinct. That tells me that I know a lot more than I think I do and haven’t lost much ability in the intervening time. 

In other words, I’m better than I think I am. And not as good as I’d like to be. 

For that matter is any artist ever as good as she’d like to be? 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Holiday Horse Print, "Scotch Bar Lochinvar"

"Scotch Bar Lochinvar" limited edition  reproduction, $35

What with the holidays and all, this is a busy time of year. No matter what my good intentions are, it’s not likely that I’ll get in a lot of painting time. So, it occured to me this morning to actually do something rash and shocking; promote my prints for sale! I have plenty of them, after all, and they make wonderful holiday gifts. So, here goes. 

“Scotch Bar Lochinvar”, 13x15.5 inch limited edition reproduction on archival stock, $35. The subject is my own handsome horse, Scottie, in his much younger days. The print is a good size and looks wonderful matted in a wood or metal frame. 

It can be ordered directly from my website AND Free Shipping in the USA! Order it here, but please let me know if you have any difficulty ordering.

While you're on the website, check out the rest of the prints available here;

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Real American Hero - My Dad

Captain Dean C. Baker
2nd battalion, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Division (Spearhead), VII Corps. 1943-1945 

My dad wasn’t a hero in the Audy Murphy sense of the word, but nevertheless he was one of the many true heroes during the bloody battles of World War II. He won a Silver Star on the battlefield for “Gallantry in Action” and a purple heart for a shrapnel wound. 

As a journalist, my father could have chosen to serve his country during World War II within the Army newscorps, but he didn’t feel that was fair to all those who would be fighting on the front lines. Even though he had a new wife and two adopted daughters and another on the way, he chose the infantry. 

That’s the kind of man my dad was. 

The HBO series Band of Brothers has special meaning for me because watching it is like watching my dad fighting his way across Europe during the last years of the war. He landed at Utah Beach on D Day plus three as part of the 3rd Armored, the Spearhead Division, which lead the fight across France into Germany. Somewhere in France is where my dad earned his silver star. The award reads; 

“Lt. Baker’s platoon was given the mission of advancing in a field for the purpose of drawing enemy fire in order that their positions could be located”. 

“Rather than submit the entire platoon to enemy fire, Lt. Baker volunteered to perform the mission and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, advanced across the field in the face of heavy enemy small arms fire, thereby causing the enemy to expose their position.” 

“The courage, determination and personal bravery displayed by Lt. Baker was an inspiration to his men and reflects great credit upon himself and the military service.” 

That was my dad alright; always putting others before himself. Shortly after that, he was promoted to Captain.  

On April 11, 1945, the 3rd Armored Division liberated Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp near the town of Nordhausen. This was a work camp connected to the V2 rocket development where the prisoners were literally worked to death or left to die on their own. As my dad told it, the stench from the rotting corpses and the crematories was so great that the townspeople had to have known what was going on there. The townsmen were forced by the allies to remove the bodies of the dead and bury them in mass graves. The few remaining pitiful prisoners were treated by allied medics and evacuated. 

Toward the very end of the war in Europe, my dad was in a traffic accident and severely injured. He spent many months in hospital, and when he finally was reunited with his family, he wore a thick brace on his back. I was two at the time and was very afraid of this strange man with the odd shape. 

My dad was the only member of his original company to return alive from the war. 

My dad receiving his Silver Star medal on the battlefield from General Maurice Rose. Not long after that, General Rose was killed by a German soldier.