Thursday, December 18, 2008

Letting Go...


2000 - 12-17-08

You brought such joy yet suffered so much.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bravo! Horse Prints Again!

To my great delight and profound relief, a two year ordeal of sorts has now come to an end. I'm now able to offer all of my horse prints again and two new ones as well!

As reported in earlier posts, my computer hard drive turned up its toes two years ago without so much as a warning gasp. Since I’d been using an outdated operating system (Mac OS 9.5) it seemed like a prudent time to upgrade and have the latest version (OS X) installed on the new hard drive. That meant that almost all of my old software also needed to be upgraded, including Photoshop, which I use for working with images. I bit the bullet and ordered Adobe Creative Suite CS2 which includes Photoshop along with several other software programs for designers, artists and photographers.

I immediately ran into a big printing problem that has left me dead in the water for the past two years. It seems that the new Photoshop is far more complex than the old, and there are now many more choices of settings than there had been in the old version in order to print something - like my home made reproductions of artwork. The odd thing has been that new images taken with my digital camera print just fine, but the older images, like my reproductions and business cards, came out very dark with over saturated colors. Since I’d only been printing a few of each image at a time, it wasn’t very long before I sold out of the more popular images which ultimately decreased sales since there were fewer images to choose from.

I asked for printing advice online and got a little but never had the time, until this past week, to really crack open the Photoshop books and just try different settings. To make a long story short, I made what turned out to be one key change in a setting and was gratified to find that the old images now printed much better. After many experiments with different settings, adjustments to the image files and many test prints, I was finally able to match my old print images and have now printed some out to replenish inventory. The wind is back in my sails, and although it may be too late for Christmas sales this year, there is at least the increased possibility of future sales in the new year.

I owe it all mostly to the rush to produce a reproduction of “In My Dreams” which I talked about last time. I’ve now added it to my inventory along with the image you see above. Now offered as a limited edition reproduction, “Khatrina”, is an older oil painting that has always gotten a lot of attention on the website and in note card and mini print sales. Arabian images are always popular, and I hope that will prove true for “Khatrina” as well.

The final step to get the ship moving at clipper ship speeds was to revamp the “Prints” page on my website, which I completed last night. It now matches the new design, and all of the prints, minus a few poor sellers, are now available for purchase online once again. Perhaps in these desperate economic times, people will be tempted to spend a little for a lovely horse print to brighten their walls and their moods in place of new saddles or riding boots.

Having spent quite a bit of time reading my Photoshop books over the weekend, it turns out that my solutions weren’t necessarily the “correct” ones, but they work for now and I’m very happy with that. I can learn about calibration and working spaces and profiling later. The big thing is that I can now offer some of my most popular images for sale as reproductions again.

I call that an early Christmas present.

Friday, December 5, 2008

It Happens Every Time

Just when I think I'm caught up with all the urgent projects, jobs and obligations, something new and urgent pops up to send me back to Square One. So it was this week.

I had left for Thanksgiving vacation with all the bills paid, laundry done, financial matters under control and Bard just a whisker away from being finished. I had been concerned about the winter weather and all the driving we had to do, but the weather cooperated, even for our whirlwind one day trip from northern Michigan to southern Michigan to have Thanksgiving dinner with my mother in the nursing home (where meal portions are designed for Lilliputians).

Finally, I thought, Life was under control again.

But that was not to be. The week went something like this....

A planned trip to the barn was aborted when my car developed a squealing noise and the Check Engine light came on. I carefully did my errands in town and limped back home and called the garage to arrange an appointment.

I received a call from my mother's nursing home wanting me to sign some papers which were then faxed to me. She had recently been in the hospital for 2 and a half days, and they required her to sign new admission papers to the nursing home! What followed was several phone calls, some of them heated, requesting to know why this was required and questioning various parts of the papers. I didn't get satisfactory answers, so I called some local nursing homes to see what their policies were and found they were different. To make a long story short, it was frustrating, took a bunch of time out of my days and ended with me passing the buck to my brother-in-law who has power of attorney for my mother. It seems that I couldn't sign the papers for her after all! Sigh.

The biggest new urgent matter arrived in the form of an email on Monday morning requesting a print of a painting that I hadn't made into a print yet. The man wanted it for his daughter for Christmas. Trouble was, I didn't have a good photo of the painting and wasn't sure I could create a print that would print properly. But I was game to try since it was an image that I'd thought about turning into a print anyway, and What the Heck! It's Christmas season, and I sure could use some sales and a new print to take to the gallery.

I got right to work and was able to take a really good photo of the small painting and set about adjusting the colors and cleaning up all the boo boos that always show up in photos but aren't visible on the real artwork; things like dust spots on the lens and little smudges in the pastel that the camera always magnifies. By zooming way in and using the clone stamp tool with a small brush size in Photoshop, I went all around the outside edges of the horse and rider and tidied them up. The original is a small pastel that was done as a color study for a larger painting, so I hadn't been really careful about keeping edges sharp.

While I was at it, I better defined the mare and foal in the background and made some adjustments to the girl's clothing. All of that took me one whole day.

Then the real challenge came; getting the thing to print properly. After consulting my Photoshop book and another book on digital printing, I changed a color space setting and made a test print in a small version. It was amazingly close to the screen image! Hooray!!

Many test prints later, after trying various differences in settings in Photoshop and the printer driver and different sizes for the print, I finally had an image that I was happy with. That took me another whole day, with interruptions. The final step was to print out the image on the expensive fine art stock and then to make a few extras for the gallery and to sell online.

In the end, what started out to mess up my week of finishing Bard ended up to be a positive thing. I now have a new print to add to my collection; the first in several years! The above print will very shortly be available from my website. The title is "In My Dreams" and it was created for all the little girls who dream of galloping across wide fields on beautiful horses.

And in addition I got a big approval from my client for Bard's portrait which is always a major "Whew!!" moment. It just needs some final touches and it will be done.

On the other hand, we won't talk about how, in all the hubbub of the week, I forgot the farrier was coming today when I made the car appointment and consequently failed to meet her at the barn at the appointed time. But all's well that ends well. She couldn't make it anyway, and we connected later and arranged for another time.

You would think that after all these years of living I would have figured out that there's no such thing as being "all caught up". Something always comes along that demands your immediate attention just when you think you can finally concentrate on some pet activity that you have difficulty fitting into the schedule. It happens every time. And sometimes that's a good thing!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bard - Scottie To The Rescue

As I said last time, I didn't have a good reference for Bard and ran into trouble modeling his shoulder. After going through my horse's photo album (he has his own, just like my kids), I found one good photo with sunlight coming from the correct position and was able to use it to help me place the highlights and shadows on Bard's shoulder and neck. It even shows Scottie with his head turned similar to Bard's pose. I still ran into trouble, though, since Scottie's shoulder is more lean than Bard's. After several phone interruptions and one angering phone call in particular, I got disgusted, wiped off all I'd done to that point, and started over. The second attempt went better and soon Bard had a believable shoulder, complete with highlights.

I finished up for the day by adjusting the neck, painting in the mane and adding more highlight to the head and then called it a night. All that's left to do now is repaint the background, which I'll do today. Then I can put it aside to dry, sign it and wait until it's dry enough to varnish.

Thanksgiving will be so much more pleasant knowing that Bard is at long last finished and can go to his owner next month.

Click on Bard's image to see it on my website. The other image is the reference I used of my horse Scottie. That's my daughter holding him.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bard-Entering the Home Stretch

Although the light was better, yesterday was somewhat of a frustrating painting day. The problem is that I don't have good reference for Bard's neck and shoulder in sunlight from the right angle. The main reference was taken on an overcast day so does not have good highlights or shadows, and it's the highlights and shadows that give the horse his form.

Anatomy books are only so much help because what you see on the real horse or a photograph doesn't correspond to the superficial muscles. That's because the underlying muscles and bones also make up the form: the lines, curves, dips and bumps that one sees on every horse if you study closely. And every horse is just a little bit different from every other horse.

So, when working from poor references, one has to rely a lot on knowledge of anatomy, past memories of observations and knowledge of where the highlights and shadows would fall when the light source is coming from a specific direction. Sometimes you just have to "wing it" and try various things until the image looks right. Unfortunately, I never reached that point yesterday and gave up when it was time to watch "CSI".

So, today's version is not quite there yet. The shoulder definitely needs to be redone, and the neck needs more highlights. I may just draft one of my Breyer model horses, a stocky Quarter Horse like Bard, to show me where the highlights should be for the next time I paint. Until then, I'm letting the paint dry. It wasn't quite dry enough in places yesterday which meant the former layer lifted off as I painted over it even though the layers are fairly thin.

Still, I have the satisfaction of knowing that the painting is entering the home stretch, which is always a good feeling. As usual, click on the image above to see a larger version on my website.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Painting and Tweaking - Bard

We've had incredibly gloomy weather for the past week or so which has made photographing Bard difficult. But today is quite a bit brighter (although the wind is howling and the snow blowing), and I was able to get a good photograph of Bard without the easel light, making for more even lighting over the canvas.

Last Friday before I left, I managed to squeeze in 45 minutes of painting time and threw a light coat of paint on the shoulder and neck. The purpose was twofold. First to reach a color tone that was closer to the head and second to add another layer of paint so that there would be the same number of layers, roughly, on all parts of the horse.

This week I've tweaked the head a little more and am now working on the neck. Yesterday the light was so low in the studio, even with all the lights on, that it was hard to work, so I didn't do a whole lot. I hope to get much more done today as soon as I finish this post.

In case you're wondering, Bard is not a particularly overweight horse. He has a cresty neck because he was a stallion for the first 6-8 years of his life. It's hard to believe that this docile, mellow horse was once a snorting stallion. He does definitely "come to life", however, out on the trail sometimes since he LOVES to go for trail rides and gets impatient with a slow pace.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Whole Lotta Tweaking Going On!

So much for best laid plans.

Despite my best intentions, and because of some necessary business phone calls, I was not able to progress to Bard's neck and shoulder today. However, I did spend the whole painting time tweaking here and there, correcting and adding more highlights and also his forelock. The good news is that I'm calling the head finished. I've reached that point where my artist intuition tells me that if I tweak anymore, I'll just muck things up.

I'm quite disappointed that I wasn't able to get farther today, but the hardest part is at least done, and next week I'll have plenty of time to continue. I was momentarily tempted to just keep painting until late evening, but that would have meant postponing the packing until tomorrow and that would have delayed my departure for Atlanta until way too late. Besides, it's not a good idea to paint when tired. It can be decidedly counter productive. So, Bard will just have to wait until next week.

You should be able to see a bigger difference today. Adding the forelock changed his look quite a bit. His forelock always seems to be a bit disheveled, so that's how I painted it.

Again, you can click on the image above to see a nice large version on my website.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Peppermint Kid Update

There was no progress on Bard yesterday due to an allergy attack that leveled me for the day and required an afternoon nap; something I never do unless I'm sick or exhausted. Cleaning out closets and drawers brought it on due to all the dust stirred up.

But, today was another story. After a run to Traverse City for an appointment and a stop at the Goodwill to drop off former closet inhabitants, I was able to get in an hour of painting before dinnertime. Click on the image above to see a larger version of today's progress on my website.

I was quite happy with today's progress. As you can see, Bard now has a real eye. I also did some more resculpting of his face and added some lighter highlights. They will need another application to bring them up even more, but they're good for now and serve as a guide for the final touches. They were mostly dry brushed on which proved to be too subtle, so next time the application will be heavier.

Tomorrow I plan to paint most of the day and hope to have Bard pretty much finished before we head for Deer Camp on Friday. By the time we return, he'll be dry enough for the final touches and a final background layer.

Today's photo was again taken using the easel light, so the lighting isn't even and has washed out the upper half. Perhaps I can get a better one tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Peppermint Kid Again

Last week was one of those weeks when you meet yourself coming and going.

I gathered together note cards and prints to take to the gallery, wrapped and inventoried them and rushed up there just before closing time on Thursday so that she would have them for the weekend. I did get another print colored but didn't have time to scan it, so you'll just have to wait until I color another one to see how they look. It did look nice, and I hope it sells - and quickly, too!

Attempts to print more business cards were nothing short of frustrating and were not successful. The images in the new software were all pixelly, so I gave up on that until later.

On another day, I had my teeth cleaned, got my overdue allergy shots and took the board check to the barn. No visit or grooming this time since I was in good clothes, didn't have my knee brace on, and the horses were wayyyy at the far end of the pasture and down the steep hill.

Tuesday was taken up with standing in line to vote and watching the election coverage and returns. "We" won, but really the whole country won because now we can go forward under new leadership and new ideas.

Did I mention a haircut fit in somewhere?

There were also last minute preparations for the meeting with our financial guru, laundry, groceries and preparations for our trip to Ann Arbor to see my mother in the nursing home and our daughter who has a new job. After the financial meeting on Friday, we said good bye to the cats and headed south. Fortunately, we had good driving and a good visit because on Sunday it started snowing. Monday morning we awoke to snow on the ground, our first of the season, and the definite look and feel of winter in the air.

Putting all that behind me, I got back to work on Bard, aka The Peppermint Kid, yesterday and made some progress. He may not look very different, but take my word for it; the red is toned down. I found a recipe for "his" color in a book and found that it worked quite well. By mixing cadmium orange and viridian green, I got a nice yellowish brown tone. By adding in some cadmium yellow light and raw umber and white, I had all the highlights and shadows I needed and managed to redo his face by bedtime. I remodelled parts of his profile, made the eye smaller and the cheek fuller and think that he now looks more like the real version. His head still needs more work, and I'd like to finish his eye today before proceeding to the neck.

Over all, I'm pleased with the progress and hope to finish Bard up this week or next at the latest.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Plan Ahead!!

Something about Bard's painting has been nagging at me, and I've been reluctant to continue with it until figuring out just what. I knew his head was not quite right but couldn't put my finger on just where it was wrong until I printed out some of the reference photos last weekend. In studying them for what must have been the 24th time, I noticed for the first time that he has a dip and then a convex curve to his nasal bone. "That's it!" I shouted to myself. It was a Eureka! moment. In comparing the painting to those photos, the difference was at last visible.

The other thing that's been bothering me is a nagging feeling that the color in the photos wasn't accurate, so on Thursday I took my prints to the barn and compared them to the real Bard. Yup, they are way too red. Bard is more of a dun color without dun factors, which means that his coat is more brassy and gold than red and orange. Boy, was I glad then that I hadn't continued with the painting, because it would have meant painting him all over again!

Of course I should have planned ahead, printed out those photos sooner and taken them to the barn months ago. But I didn't for a variety of reasons that we need not reveal here. It's best not to go there. Now that I have things figured out, I'm eager to get to painting again, but the next few weeks are really chopped up with appointments, meetings and a trip to Ann Arbor. I've resigned myself to the idea that I'm just going to have to paint in little bits of time whenever I can fit it in and not worry about paint drying too fast or any of that. Bard has been on the back burner far too long as it is. He needs to be finished and out the door so that I can get back to other artwork and finally have some new finished works to put up for sale.

Speaking of which, sales this year have been particularly dismal what with the economy problems and all. It's been quite a long time since I took any prints or note cards up to the gallery in Central Lake which was pretty much out of all of my work, so yesterday I gathered some prints and note cards and then did something I haven't done for several years. Back when I was doing booth shows, I hand colored some of my early black and white prints, and they sold really well. It occured to me that now might be a good time to try that again. Above you can see the results of a hand colored version of my print, "Gotta Scratch". It took me about an hour to layer on the colors with colored pencils while watching TV, and I plan to do many more of these for holiday sales for the gallery and for my website.

In the past I hand colored another older print which also sold well. When I get one done, I'll show that one to you, too. We artists are doing anything we can think of to offer something new yet inexpensive to our collectors in these dismal economic times when everyone is cutting back and waiting to see what the future brings. This is definitely something I can do until I have new paintings to offer. The hand colored prints will be offered at a slightly higher price and offer something that is one of a kind for a very attractive price.

Hopefully, it's a win-win for artist and collector and a good plan for the days ahead.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fall Photo Shoot

On my walk around the pond I captured these scenes and many more inspiring ones. Here is the pond in early morning light. It's grown up a lot around the edges, the water has dropped and the fish are gone, but it still is a lovely place at any time of year. At one time it was clean enough to swim in, but not anymore.

Some of the most striking scenes I captured were backlighted, like these maples along the edge of the driveway and pond. But, even when the clouds came over, the trees still seemed to glow, like the maples below. I could see them from the kitchen window and from the family room and enjoyed them all weekend long.

The little town of Atlanta nearby is about as small town as you can get and still be called a town. I remember one year we took the kids to see the Fourth of July parade down the main street. It consisted of a few floats, some 4H kids on horses and the high school marching band. The band had no uniforms, and the parade was so short that they went by, turned around and came by again! In the past thirty years, it hasn't grown much of any, but at least there's a nice grocery store now and a much better fair grounds than our county has!

A Weekend Getaway

We spent a long weekend at our family getaway near Atlanta, Michigan this past weekend, but before we left, I caught site of the scene above from my studio window. Five swans came out of the early morning mist, the sun shining on them like specters of the lake. They spotted me in the window and immediately swam over looking for a handout, which I know better than to provide.

After loading up and saying goodbye to the cats, we headed for Atlanta on another spectacular day of warm sunshine and fall colors. Saturday dawned sunny, warm and still so I took a walk around the pond with my camera and captured as much as I could for memories and paintings to come.

My parents-in-law bought this property in the 50's for hunting, but the family gathered here frequently over the years for holidays and snowmobiling, and eventually the folks retired here. We spent our honeymoon here and used to take long walks in the woods before kids, so it has a very special place in my heart.

When they first bought the property, this is the shack that the folks, my husband and his brother stayed in when they came up to plant and tend the hundreds of tiny pine trees that were planted on the bare hills. A pond was dug and stocked with fish, and not too many years later, a mobile home replaced the shack. It was added to over the years to accommodate the growing family of wives and grandchildren.

The years have since taken their toll on the old shack whose additions have now fallen down or caved in. It has a melancholy look now as if it holds memories of much better days and people whom we can only wonder about. Such abandoned shacks are pretty common around the northern Michigan woods, and one always wonders what stories they could tell about their former inhabitants. Now they are left to the skunks, raccoons and other wild creatures who find bits of shelter in their dilapidated ruins.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Remembering Bo

We are having absolutely spectacular fall weather here in northwest lower Michigan; warm, sunny days and cool nights which have brought out equally spectacular fall colors. We are nowhere near peak color yet, but it's a good color year with the brilliant oranges and reds of the maples contrasted against the dark evergreens and golden yellows of our beech trees and poplars. It's been a bumper year for beechnuts, so the squirrels are again busy bounding about in our yard gathering their harvest for the winter.

Thankfully, we have no apples, so that means no deer to browse on my perennials and shrubs. On the other hand, that also means no apples for us, which means I had to buy some for the first time in three years!

Unfortunately, I'm stuck in the house looking out while continuing to work on gathering financial information for our advisor guy; made all the more urgent by the financial crisis in our world. Ugh! I've been adding up our monthly expenses and wondering how everything got so much more expensive so quickly.

In spite of also nursing a sore throat and headache, I did manage to get outside yesterday to give my car a very overdue interior cleaning. I felt a little sad while doing it because I was washing the last of Bo's muddy paw prints off the back seat and vacuuming up his hairs from the cargo area. We lost him two years ago this month, and yes, it's been that long since the car had a good cleaning!

I still miss Bo. I remember the joy this small Lab mix pooch brought to the family for nearly 16 years after we rescued him on a freezing December night from a household that had banished him to the yard with no shelter from the cold and wind and very little human contact. We were just going to take a look at him that night in response to the ad in the paper, but when my husband saw the conditions he was living in; tied to a tree and shivering; there was no way he was going to let that dog spend another cold and miserable night in that place. Bo eagerly hopped in our car with not even a look back as our kids showered him with attention.

In the first 24 hours we had him, he had to be shoved out the door to go potty because he was so afraid that he couldn't come back in. We got him as a companion for our German Shepherd, and they bonded immediately. Bo thought he was in Heaven and showed us every day how grateful he was. He and Daisy became best friends and spent hours playing in the big dog yard until Daisy became too old and crippled to enjoy the rough housing.

Bo had a habit of tuning you out when his attention was focused on something. If he got loose, he would take off on a dead run out the gate and into the road. Most likely it was this propensity that caused him to end up a stray on the doorstep of the family that took him in, so one of his nicknames became Hobo Joe. More often we called him Bobo. We could never trust him to be on the loose, but around the house he wanted nothing more than to be at your side - or Daisy's.

Bo never did get over his dislike of the cold or isolation, and after Daisy died he became strictly an inside dog.

Well, now I've digressed. The two photos at the top are views from my studio. Our lake is quite narrow and long, and on a still morning like this one, the fall colors are reflected in the water, adding to the brilliance of the scene. I love the view from my studio window, and one of these days I'm going to paint it.

Speaking of the studio, poor Bard is languishing on the easel as I work on these financial figures. It will take two or three days in a row that I can dedicate to painting in order to finish him up, and so far I haven't been able to put them together. I'm determined to finish him by month's end, however.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bard; Toning Down The Red

An email to my client did confirm that I'd gotten Bard a little too red. So, I let him dry a good long time and got back to work today.

My first attempt at correcting his color wasn't successful. Naples Yellow is too light. After wiping that off, I tried another mix of Yellow Ochre and Naples Yellow. I scumbled this mixture over his whole head and ears. It did tone down the red but also flattened the image, taking away some of the contrast, but since I need to paint another layer over this one to make some other corrections, that will be fixed later.

Then I decided that it would be best to scumble over the neck and shoulder with the redder mix so that the two areas would blend better. That worked out quite well, and now he no longer looks like a horse with a badly sunburned face! His color needs to be corrected further, and for that I think a trip to the barn, with canvas in hand, is in order. When I compare the painting to Bard "in the flesh", I will be better able to tell how to correct the color to get it to match more accurately.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Return of The Peppermint Kid

Now that the book work is again caught up, I'm getting back to work on Bard's portrait.

A few weeks ago, you may remember, that I painted the background in greens, blues and yellows. After living with it a while, I realized that the background color was too intense and was competing with the horse for attention. What to do?? Remembering that the way to dull down a color is to mix some of its opposite into it, I decided to use cadmium orange to do the job. The opposite of green on the color wheel is red, but I didn't want to turn the green any darker and thought that orange might be a good compromise. It worked like a charm! After painting Cad orange over the whole background, I took a rag and wiped off all but a very thin coating. Voila! The background was put in its place, and Bard was again the center of attention as he should be.

Yesterday I began the main layer of color on Bard and managed to finish his face except for his eye. Bard is a lighter sorrel than my horse, Scottie, and I tried not to get him too red since I knew that Scottie's color would be very much in my mind. Unfortunately, I think I did anyway. My husband had taken the laptop with him for the weekend, so I couldn't set it up next to the easel while I painted. Instead, I had to run back and forth between the big computer down the hall and the painting, looking for details and the correct color. Not the best of working situations by any means, so next time I'll print out a few of the photos to use at the easel if I don't have the laptop to use.

As usually happens to all us artists, today I can see several changes and corrections to be made, so after this layer of paint is dry enough, I'll go back and make all the corrections and make Bard's head less red by glazing some Naples Yellow over it. That should do the job.

In the meantime, you can see that his head now looks more substantial than the rest of him as the paint is built up. I'll move on to his neck and shoulder for now and hope I can match the two areas later.

Bard has been in the works for a very long time now, and I'm anxious to get him finished up and to his owner before another holiday rolls around.

On another subject, I cannot let this day go by without recalling that it was 19 years ago today that I bought Scottie, my second and most beloved horse. He was a dream come true and came along at just the right time in my life to help pull me out of a very dark time. I truly owe him my life, and he has brought untold happiness to me ever since.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Part III; Art Thieves Exposed!

Finally, we come to the last installment on copyright violators; the naming names part.

My encounters with art thieves have been varied.

The first happened a few years after I designed a logo for my husband's business. Amazingly, an unrelated business just down the road adopted the graphic portion of the logo and used it in promotional materials and a magazine ad for their business. The business and the magazine got a Cease and Desist letter from our attorney. No more ads appeared.

One of my images appeared on charms being sold on ebay. I submitted a Vero form.

A visitor at a horse expo told me that she had found another artist down in Ohio who had copied one of my images. Unfortunately she couldn't remember the artist's name.

A needlepoint dealer had taken one of my images (and one from an artist friend of mine) and turned it into a needlepoint pattern and was selling it. We notified her web host and then her. She removed it and promised to destroy the pattern. Amazingly, on her needlepoint blog, she makes a big deal out of not taking images without permission, so it's obvious that she knew better but didn't think she'd be caught.

Just last month, we found a website that was offering clip art horse images that included one of my images and another artist's. Before I could notify him, he removed my image and a few others. Obviously HE knew which images he didn't have the rights to.

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled onto this artist's website who had copied one of my drawings. Notice that he even admits to having copied drawings from websites! As a musician, he should know better.

And, finally, there have been several encounters with kids. In the two cases below, they were exposed by others who recognized my artwork or recognized that the child had not done all that artwork herself. I figure that this negative exposure on the internet is a lesson learned that these kids won't forget. And, hopefully, it will wise up other kids to not do the same. Take a look;

Lauren Shelley Dreamer

Lauren Shelley Little Inspector

Youtube video Dreamer

You may wonder how we artists ever find our own work that's been stolen, given the vastness of the internet. Well, for one thing, the equine art community watches out for each other. Most of us are familiar with each other's work and notify each other if we find an image somewhere that we don't think it should be. We also have a formal online group that acts as a watchdog for equine artists and photographers, The Equine Arts Protection League. Many thieves have been exposed through member efforts, especially on ebay. I've also found several just by checking my stats and looking at the search results. The image search results are really helpful in turning up copies of my artwork, such as the pencilweb one above.

So far as I know, the Chinese haven't yet deemed any of my artwork attractive enough to copy. I don't know whether to be insulted by that or grateful. Grateful is probably the best choice for now.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Part II; Who Are These Art Thieves?

The image above was stolen and sold as a needlepoint pattern.

Art thieves on the internet come in several varieties. They range from petty thievery to outright art fraud crooks. At the lower end of the scale are the kids who post our artwork on websites, sometimes claiming it as their own and sometimes just displaying it with no credit given to the artist. Unfortunately, some of the websites that they post it on, such as Webshots, allow visitors to order prints of any images they find on the website. Thus they are taking income away from artists who may very well be selling prints of that same image.

The next tier of art thief is the older artist who ought to know better who copies our art and presents it as his/her own original art. But by far the bigger threat to artists' livelihoods come from those enterprising web mavins who steal our images and offer them on products on their own websites - or offer prints of them. Usually, the copyright notice (which most of us are forced to place on our artwork) is carefully and skillfully removed to protect the guilty. When caught, they usually claim that they found the art on a free clip art site or got it from someone else who said it was okay to use. Yeah, Right.

I happen to know about one such particularly brazen individual who was so blatant in stealing artwork and so defiant toward artists when she was caught that she is now being prosecuted by the federal government for fraud, among other things.

Ebay has become both the boon and the bane of many artists. It has become a favorite outlet of the top tier of art thieves; the Chinese art factories. They copy the artwork of other artists in assembly line fashion, reproducing hundreds of copies of the same painting. Then these copies are sold in the United States as originals to Walmart and other discount stores and at those "starving artist" sales in your local community. The "artists" are paid starving wages, all right; by our standards at least.

If you've ever bought a painting at one of those sales, you now know that you didn't help to support a starving local artist; you helped to support the Chinese government!

Next I'll share with you some of my own encounters with art thieves young and old.

Part I; A Primer On Copyrights

Something we artists battle continuously on the internet is the problem of people taking our images and using them for their own purposes. There seems to be this widespread belief that if an image is on the internet, it's copyright free. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Amazingly, this belief is held by artists as well as non artists!

Let me spell out the most important facts for everyone to understand about copyright law.





If you don't know anything else about copyright law, know these four facts.

How do these facts translate into everyday living?

They mean that my artwork is protected by copyright from the moment that I make a mark on a sheet of paper or canvas. If you want to paste my painting onto your website to decorate it, you have to ask my permission. If you want to copy my drawing, you have to ask permission, and you cannot claim that your copy is your own original work of art. It is not; it is a copy. If you want to use one of my note cards to decoupage onto a wooden box, you have to ask permission. If you want to use one of my paintings on t shirts and sell them, you must ask for a licensing contract for the right to do so. I will rent to you the right to use that image on specific merchandise for a specific period of time, and in return you will pay me a royalty for the right to do so.

There is a fifth point about copyright that is important to remember.


See numbers one and two above. The only works of art that are not protected by copyright are those that have fallen into the PUBLIC DOMAIN.

There are also misconceptions about what is the PUBLIC DOMAIN. It is NOT artwork that contains no copyright notice or signature. It is NOT artwork that appears on the internet. It is NOT artwork and photos that you find displayed in Facebook or MySpace or on Webshots or Smugmug or any other photo display site.

Artwork in the PUBLIC DOMAIN is artwork whose copyrights have expired or whose copyright holders have released it into the PUBLIC DOMAIN. You can assume these days that a copyright has expired only after the artist has been dead for 70 years. That would mean that any artist who died after 1938 would still have valid copyrights held by his or her heirs.

And finally, one last point to remember which has to do with your own copyrights.


This means that all of your family photos that you post on the internet and all of your writings are also protected by copyright. No one else may use them or display them without your permission.

Be aware of your rights, and respect the rights of others. Ask permission!

Friday, September 5, 2008

More About Le Cadeau du Cheval

A few more words about the mural project, "Le Cadeau du Cheval" from Mural Mosaic.

A couple of the Equine Art Guild members who were able to attend the unveiling ceremony were kind enough to share their photos with the rest of us, and after seeing them, all I can say is "Awesome!". You really MUST spend some time looking at each of the panels. To do so, just click on the individual panel and you will be taken to a page where you can view that panel larger, see who painted it and read any story that the artist wrote about it. For instance mine is here.

I've posted an image above of the whole mural which may give you a better idea of its scope and what it's about. Thanks to artist, Twyla Wehnes for sharing this photo, and remember that it's protected by copyright and cannot be copied or used without permission.

Finally, I'd like to thank Phil and Lewis and Paul for inviting me to be a part of this incredible project. And also a thanks for the thrilling feature of my panel on Youtube.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Horse Gift Unveiled!

Well, this is it; the day that we've all been waiting for! Today the Mural Mosaic latest mural, The Horse Gift, is unveiled at the Spruce Meadows Masters.

You may recall that a few months ago, I was immersed in creating a panel for this grand project; one of many artists to be invited to create a panel. When put together, the panels form a large image of a galloping horse, while each panel is also a unique work of art celebrating the horse. There are some incredible works of art in this mural, so be sure to take the time to click on each one to see a larger version. Mine is located on the right opposite the horse's muzzle.

We've been told that prints and books will be available of the complete mural.

Although I've had grave misgivings about perhaps not having understood how to create the panel to fit into the mural whole, seeing it all together goes a long way to erase that fear. I am very proud to have been invited to participate as one "of the world's finest equine artists" and look forward to what grand events may ensue as a result. The touring schedule has still not been published, but it's very possible that this huge mural may come to a horse event near you. If it does, I urge you to see it in person for an unforgettable experience. I only hope that I can do the same.

Friday, August 29, 2008

An Un-Conventional Drawing

While watching the Democratic National Convention last night, I grabbed a pen and a sketch book and created this drawing. Right out of my head with no references whatsoever. I know, I know; it has faults. Lots of them. But the point is that I did it and didn't stress over it! In fact, I had a wonderful time just letting the creativity flow.

I used to draw this way all the time as a kid which is a lot of how I learned to draw. I didn't do endless correcting with tracing paper like I do now. If the drawing didn't turn out well, I set it aside and did another. And after that another and another. I had piles and piles of drawings, many of them in ink like this one. At some point, I started keeping the best drawings and did that for many years. In fact, I still have those old drawings going back to when I was about 5 years old. The smaller ones are in a box, and the larger ones are in my flat files. I talk about that in my website biography. You can also see some of my old drawings there and on this page of my website.

When I go through those old drawings from my childhood days, which I do periodically, I'm struck by how much life and energy they have. In fact, they have a lot more life and energy than some of the work I've done in recent years which I've labored over to get so exactly correct. I guess that's the difference between the two. The drawings I did as a kid were done with such joy in the process and love for horses that total accuracy was secondary. I drew whatever I wanted to at that moment and whatever fantasy was in my head.

That is not to say that I didn't strive to improve my drawing skills. I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't.

The thing is that over the years, creating art has become more and more about the end result and less and less about enjoying the process of creation. Creating for the market and chasing sales pushed aside the little muse that spent so much time on my shoulder as a little girl. I want her back! I want to recapture that joy of creation without worrying about whether the eyes line up or the head is too big. I want to become that horse crazy little girl again and lose myself in drawing for hours on end like I did last night.

That's why this drawing is important. I finished it about the same time that Barack Obama finished his acceptance speech, and then I realized that I'd hardly heard a word of what he'd said! That's what I'm talking about.

So here is my un-conventional drawing which I've titled, "Did Someone Say Cookies?" I love the inquisitive expression on this horse's face, crooked eyes and all.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back On Track

The news about my knee wasn't nearly as bad as anticipated. The x rays looked good, so the conclusion is that I must have torqued it wrong and over stressed it with all the gardening. And, I have been reminded in a very painful way that I need to get back to doing my exercises. But, at least I can walk normally now.

After this little interlude, I managed to finish mulching the flower beds which was the end of the urgent gardening for this summer. Pictured above is one of the new flower beds; the same view as in an earlier blog post but this time with plants and mulch. The plants are so small yet that they don't show up much, but, trust me, they ARE there: heuchera, ferns, lavender, fox glove, shasta daisies, bee balm, dusty miller, Asiatic lilies and some snap dragons. Oh, yes; and a new lilac bush.

In the middle of this area, you can see a bare space. That's where the old driveway used to be, and it's all hard packed gravel, going down at least a foot or more. I gave up on it for the time being so it will remain an eye sore until we dig it out and put in some good garden soil. Since the gas line goes through this area, we have to be very careful about digging.

My plan is to install edging blocks all along this bed to keep the grass and weeds from creeping back into the beds. We bought them on sale last year. I'm also using some plastic landscaping edging along the fence for the same purpose. Where it's already installed, it has done a nice job of keeping the weeds and grass at bay.

Around the maple tree in the background we plan to install a tree ring of more landscaping blocks that match the ones in the beds up close to the house. Smaller ones will be used for another tree ring around the flowering crab tree which is in the foreground above. These two rings will function to give some unity to the landscaping, connecting the house beds to the fence area along the road.

Last night I was finally able to get back out to the barn and even managed a short ride. One of the other boarders had just finished riding Scottie and turned him out, so he wasn't exactly enthusiastic. And, all of my riding muscles have now atrophied, so they need building up and some major stretching. Needless to say, the ride didn't go particularly well, but it was still good to get back on my horse and enjoy some social time at the barn.

The photo below is of the two of us before I turned Scott back out. He looks a little odd because I'd put the roll on fly repellent around his eyes and on his nose to give him that war pony look. He's also a little miffed that I wasn't allowing him to graze, and it took some coaxing to get his ears forward. By that time the shadows had advanced to put us in shade.

When the two of us are side by side, he looks pretty big, but in fact he measures a "mere" 15.3 hands. I'm only 5 ft 1 inch and shrinking, so to me he IS a BIG horse!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bard Goes Green

When I pulled out the time sheet for Bard's portrait, I was shocked to see that it's been three months since I last gave him any attention. It had been my intent to work on him at the same time as the Mural Mosaic panel, but the panel paints dried so fast that I was able to work on it every day. With a short deadline, I just kept going until the panel was done.

So, here is Bard with a fresh new background. Using bristle brushes, I tried to keep the brush strokes loose and mixed some of the pigments on the canvas for a varied, leaf-like look. Bard just LOVES to go trail riding, and I'd like to give the background the look of the deep woods that we ride in where he loves to go.

The hues are a little more intense than I'd planned, and since I managed to scrape some paint off with a finger nail this morning, I'll do another layer after I work on Bard again. If I'd been back more in Painting Brain, I would have added a touch of cadmium orange to the greens to dull them down a little for a more realistic look, but I can do that in the next go round. I was also a little concerned that the values might be too close, but when I walked into the darkened studio last night, Bard stood out from the background just fine.

I must say that after all the pondering I've done about what to do with his background, I like this a lot. And after all the gardening, it's good to be painting again.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My Sweet Gelding

Earlier this week, after a day of thoroughly cleaning a bathroom, my bad knee stiffened up and has been very painful since. I suspect that weeks of gardening took their toll and the cleaning binge that involved lots of kneeling and getting up were the last straw. I suspect a torn meniscus is going to be the diagnosis.

At any rate, yesterday I visited the barn to deliver the board check and a bucket of psyllium, not intending to ride but hoping to at least visit a little with my horse, Scottie. Since the horses were all in the arena seeking shade and relief from the flies, I grabbed his halter and ever so carefully managed to sort him out of the herd and put him in the cross ties. To my relief, I managed this feat without being mobbed and knocked down as I hobbled painfully amongst them.

Usually, Scottie is very eager when being led and tends to lead me rather than the other way around. He's either eager for apple wafers from the grooming box or eager to rejoin his pals. Not yesterday. When he saw me limping toward him, a look of concern came over his face, and as I walked him ever so slowly down the aisle, he matched his steps to mine and kept his head right at my shoulder.

Scottie's one fault, if you can call it that, is that he's very impatient in the cross ties, paws a lot and swings his hind quarters from side to side, sometimes right into me. He's forgotten his manners around humans since I've been riding so little. But not yesterday. He stood quite still as I limped around him cleaning his feet and grooming him and only moved away from me, never toward me.

By the time I was done, the rest of the horses had left the arena which usually would have made him even more eager to rejoin them, but not yesterday. As I led him slowly down the aisle to the gate, he again kept his head at my shoulder and took halting steps so that he wouldn't go ahead of me. For him it was step, pause; step, pause; step, pause.

I can only conclude that Scottie knew I was hurt and was being protective of me. That really warmed my heart and caused me to wonder, as I do every time I come to the barn, why I don't come out more often to ride this very special horse.

The same thought goes through my mind every time I sit down at the easel or drawing board; why don't I do this more often? Why do other things always seem more urgent than riding my horse or creating my art? It doesn't help any that many other artists experience the same aversions to creating their art. The reasons are as varied as our unique life experiences, I suppose, and yet somehow the same.

I know personally that the reasons go way back into my difficult childhood. There was teasing and bullying at school because I was different; "that girl who runs around like a horse all the time". There were other serious issues at home. I'll just say that my relationship with my parents, and particularly my mother, has always been a rocky one, right up to the present. Even 94 year old, bedridden old ladies can still manage to push buttons with a few words or tones of voice!

As my mother approaches the end of her life and goes through the process of evaluating it, I do the same and try to make sense of our relationship; trying to remember the good amongst all the negatives and then find some balance between the two. It's a painful process and takes a lot of energy away from doing things that bring me joy. It's time for that to change.

Since gardening and heavy duty house cleaning are for the moment out of the question, this is the opportunity to get back in the studio and resume work on Bard's portrait, so long neglected now. While I do that, I'll be working on resolving the reasons that I find it so difficult to allow myself to spend time doing the two things that mean the most to me in my life: spending time with my horse and spending time creating art.

If Scottie is capable of showing compassion toward me, surely I am capable of showing myself some compassion and allowing myself to "indulge in" my two greatest loves: my horse and my art. After family, of course.

The artwork above is titled, "In My Dreams" and shows Scottie in his youth. The photo below is Scottie as he is today at age 23.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Curses! Foiled Again!!

Felled by a few grains of pollen! Or was it a few mold spores?

I have severe allergies, and despite allergy medications and shots, periodically I get sick. It's like having the flu; aching all over, lack of energy, sinus headache, scratchy eyes and throat. Oddly enough, I rarely get all stuffed up like most allergy sufferers which might explain why it took 12 years and 5 doctors to correctly diagnose my problems. Some thought I was just depressed and needed to go on anti-depressants, but fortunately I refused.

But, I digress. Last week while madly digging away in the dirt getting my perennials planted, I noticed my energy waning away each day to the point that by Thursday I had none. The consequences of this are that I missed going to Horse Shows By The Bay on Friday and missed the first-ever polo game in NW Michigan! Needless to say, I was disappointed and moped around all evening while the match was going on. But, the news reported that there are plans to make the polo match an annual event, and HSBB will be back again next year. By then, the yard landscaping should be complete, and I will have more time and energy to visit the show. So, all is not lost.

In the meantime, I'll select an image from a previous HSBB to begin a new work of art which will violate my only-three-works-in progress-at-one-time rule, but rules are made to be broken, right? Besides, Bard is close to being finished.

Since I still had a few photos left to shoot on my compact flash card, I decided to take some photos of the cats this weekend to use them up. Annie, our long-haired cat, needs to be clipped again, and her coat is at just the right length to be very photogenic right now. Normally, she grows a large mane, like a lion, and the hair on her sides grows so long that it hangs down making her look like a yak. Since she has digestive problems as it is, a long coat which makes more hairballs is very bad for her. So, I clip her a couple of times a year. Then she looks like a skinned rat for a while, and our other cat hisses at her.

Above is a photo of Annie who is camera shy and gets very self-conscious when photographed, so you have to shoot quick! Below is an interesting shot of Molly. A good title for that one is "Kitty In The Window".

At any rate, the last of the plants and shrubs are now in the ground, and I can get back into the studio while the weather does whatever it wants outside. With only a little bit more mulch to put on a few more beds, the gardens will be in shape to handle the heat and dryness that usually comes with August weather.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Horse Shows By The Bay

On Sunday I dragged myself over to spend some time at the big "AA" level hunter/jumper show, Horse Shows By The Bay in Acme, Michigan, just outside of Traverse City. This is its fifth year of existence, and it gets bigger and better every year.

Of course it was hot, but there was a nice breeze blowing, and by going as much as possible from one patch of shade to another, I managed to put in a couple of hours without collapsing. There is a lot of walking at this show, especially if you are going back and forth between rings to catch action at certain times, and I was grateful that my bad knee and back survived without too much protest.

I wore my floppy canvas hat which worked great for shooting and was pretty cool as well. I ignored the fact that I look pretty dorky in it, and only ran into one person I knew; my barn owner who already knows that I'm a dork and a little odd.

My main reason for going was to shoot the toddlers in the Lead Line class. It was held in the new Grand Prix arena, and I was allowed to go down and shoot from the in gate so managed quite a few shots as the kids waited for the class to begin. They are SO cute on their spiffy little ponies! Some were so small that they hadn't a clue what was going on and didn't care; they just wanted their naps.

I was quite disappointed to find that this new arena is not photographer friendly. It sits down a slope from the rest of the show grounds, and spectators are limited to sitting a ways up the hill for the show jumper classes. So, that is not a good vantage point for getting photos of jumpers to use for paintings. It didn't matter much on Sunday because I had forgotten to put the long lens on my camera before I left home, so I didn't even bother going back to shoot the big jumper Grand Prix class. Instead, I wandered around shooting show scenes and a little of the hunter rings but the light wasn't good and most of the jumps too far away, so those shots didn't come out well at all.

On my way in and out, I took some shots of horses being bathed to get more references for wet horses if I need them as I did for the Mural Mosaic project. I didn't get down to the pony ring but hope to catch some of the ponies when I go back on Friday this week when the dressage show will also be going on. Last year the dressage and ponies were in adjacent rings, so I went back and forth for most of one day.

My one complaint about this show is that it's very difficult to find a list of classes so that you know what's going on in each ring at any given time. In the past I was able to plan out ahead of time where to go at what times to catch the action that I wanted, but not so this year or last.

By clicking on the image above, you can go to my website and see a small portion of the photos I took on Sunday.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Since finishing the Mural Mosaic project panel and shipping it off, I have kept busy nonstop.

First was a thorough house cleaning in preparation for our "kids" coming home to visit over the July 4 holiday. Daughter Tina stayed for over week, and we had fun visiting two nurseries and buying lots and lots of plants! I had far more plants than room to put them in! But that would shortly change.

My gardening project for this summer was to dig out new beds between the shrubs along the road, amend the soil and get some new perennials planted. My husband, thankfully, pitched in with the digging part, and now we only have three sections to go. The big push on this project was to get the really heavy work done before the heat and humidity of summer really hit. Late July and all of August tend to be very hot and humid (relatively speaking!) up here in recent years, and that whole fence line is in the sun most of the day. Our lot is quite wide; around 160 feet, so that's a lot of area to dig out grass and weeds, loosen the soil and mix in peat and good dirt to amend the sandy soil. My husband's reward? A lot less area between shrubs to trim by hand at lawn mowing time.

I'm happy to say that as of yesterday most of the new plants are now planted, if only temporarily in order to get them out of their confined spaces in pots too small for them. Some will be moved once the new beds are dug out and prepared. They all have perked up and look much happier in their roomy new surroundings.

The view above shows the yard and some of the new beds that go along the fence starting at the driveway. The tree in the foreground is a flowering crab, and the tree further back is our poor misshapen sugar maple which we hope will fill out better now that it's not growing amongst other trees. We will also be building a tree ring around it using landscaping blocks that we got at Menard's on sale yesterday. They are the same blocks used in the beds up closer to the house, so they will tie this area to the house area for a more unified look. We'll also put a smaller ring around the flowering crab, and the whole bed will have edging bricks along it to keep the crab grass from invading the new beds. They have worked well in the bed that I created three years ago that's hidden from view by the large Burning Bush you see above.

While at Home Depot to get more dirt earlier in the week, I couldn't resist buying these beautiful Asiatic Lilies which were on sale. I also bought a few more lavender in hopes that it will keep the deer from eating the lilies, phlox and other plants as they have in the past. The photo above does not do these fabulous lilies justice; they are a lovely deep magenta that looks like velvet.

Today I'm going to head over to Horse Shows By The Bay in hopes of shooting some photos of the leadline class and the showjumping Grand Prix that comes after it. If all goes well, I'll get some other show scenes as well. I'm anxious to see their new Grand Prix arena where all the highest level classes are being held. Fifteen hundred horses have been entered for the three shows over three weeks this year, and the show is gaining prestige and becoming a favorite of the show crowd because of our good weather, the closeness to Grand Traverse Bay and all of the fabulous things to do in this resort area.

Stay tuned for horse show pix tomorrow.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Poseidon's Gift; Finished!

It took some marathon painting sessions over the past few days, but I was able to finish the painting today and even signed it, the very last thing I do when I finish a painting.

To the strains of Mozart and then some Gershwin (An American In Paris), I repainted the bay horse and the gray, put manes and tails on the horses, finished the galleon and painted two wee horse heads out in the waves swimming for their lives to shore. I even painted water draining off the horses' bellies, and that may be the coolest part of the whole painting.

I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out after some grave misgivings earlier. In the end it came together and serves the purpose for which it was created; to be a part of the Mural Mosaic project.

This painting is probably the biggest challenge I've given myself to date. It required a lot of research to pull it off, required that I paint something I've never painted before; the ocean and waves on a beach; and required working from less than optimum reference photos. The composition is entirely my own creation. I had no photo to copy to tell me where to put the elements and how big to make them.

There were many times when I thought that I'd bitten off more than I could chew and wished that I'd chosen a simpler subject that wouldn't have taken so much time and effort. But now that it's done, I'm glad I had the courage to go so far out of my comfort zone and do something that would help me to grow as an artist. It isn't perfect, but it's the best I can do at this time in my development as an artist.

And that's all I need ask of myself; to do the best that I can do today.

Click on the thumbnail to see a larger view and a detail view of some of the horses.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Poseidon's Gift; Water World

It took me two days just to paint the waves and the ocean. There were many false starts as I laid on paint, wasn't happy with the results and wiped it off again to try something different. Working without a good, solid reference of large waves coming onshore proved to be challenging, but I did the best I could and can only hope that these waves are a reasonable facsimile of moving water and the power that they represent.

You'll notice that the bay horse no longer has ears. He will get new ones today when I repaint him. With luck, I should be able to finish the panel today and then do some touchups if needed tomorrow.

Click on the thumbnail above to see the larger image. I just couldn't get a sharp image of the panel, but when it's finished, I'll use the tripod and that should yield better results.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Poseidon's Gift; Making Waves

I haven't painted the ocean in over thirty years, so approaching those waves breaking on the beach has been intimidating to say the least. After searching on the internet for more wave photos and studying all the photos and gaining a better understanding of how waves break on the beach and how they relate to one another, I finally started painting the water. Oh, yes, and I redesigned the waves again.

The photos I gathered and studied and the book I read on painting the sea were invaluable. But when it came down to it, I had to figure out on my own how the light would hit the waves based on my light source and how the wave would integrate into the composition. In every painting there comes a time when you have to put aside your source material and just go with what you know or on instinct.

Last night I finished the first wave breaking and the foreground and was pretty pleased with the way they turned out. If I were doing this painting for myself, I'd do it a lot differently, so the wave patterns have been somewhat dictated by the shape of the panel (square) and the diagonal pattern that is supposed to be retained. The background waves look like a jumble right now, but they'll look better once I paint in the new ones.

Those purple clouds have been glazed over with light blue to tame them down, and I also glazed blue over the headlands to push them back in space. The clouds look overly red in this photo but are actually more of a bluish purple.

The most difficult part of the painting is now done; that first wave; so I hope to finish the water today, let it dry and then go on to put the finishing touches on the horses and galleon.

At last the end is in sight! As before, click on the thumbnail above to see the larger image and read the story of the mural.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Poseidon's Gift; Purple Clouds?!

Here are the results of another two days of painting, and this thing is finally coming together. Click on the image above to see a larger view.

Why purple clouds? Well, one of the challenges of creating these panels is that we have to follow the patterns and colors that are on them while adding our own artistic interpretations of the horse to them. We are only allowed to deviate by 20% in colors and lights and darks. So, purple clouds were a better idea than northern lights in a tropical setting in the daylight.

They ARE rather purple, though, aren't they? When all is dry, I will glaze some blue over them to bring them into a more realistic realm.

Tomorrow I start to paint the ocean and am really looking forward to that!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Poseidon's Gift; The Painting Continues

I spent much of yesterday revising and correcting the bay stallion but did manage to get some of the galleon painted before we lost power last night.

A huge limb the size of a medium tree broke off in our neighbor's yard, fell into the road and pulled the power lines down with it. The odd thing was that we lost only half of our power. The studio lights went out, but my easel light stayed on, so I quickly finished up, rinsed the brushes well and packed away the palette for the night.

Today I finished the galleon and painted the middle horse, a nice rose gray. After beginning the third horse, I decided that his head is too big so wiped off what I'd painted and will begin again.

Nothing is set in stone at this point. There are still corrections and enhancements to be made to all, but they will wait for the next layers to be added. So, pay no attention to that odd left foreleg on the bay. It will be fixed in due time.

I'm getting very anxious to paint the sky and sea. The more I get done of the horses the more I realize that the contrast of the horses to the blue-green sea is going to make for a stunning painting.

In fact, yesterday I was studying cloud formations while leaving the grocery store parking lot and almost ran into someone! Oh, Dear!

Clouds are infinitely fascinating and infinitely variable. Just like the sea.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Poseidon's Gift; The Blood Bay Stallion

Yesterday was frustrating because I wasn't able to paint until late afternoon, but I kept at it until this horse was finished about 11:00pm. It was a challenge to paint a whole horse at such a small size, and I tried to keep my brush strokes more loose than usual and not fuss too much over every little bit.

This Andalusian horse is the main focus of the painting. I chose to make him a rich red bay because his warmth would be a good contrast to all the greens and blues of the ocean waves and therefore attract the eye. As usual, there are lots of corrections to make on him if the paint is dry enough. But, my goal for today is to finish the other two horses and the ship. Then I can go on to the sky and ocean.

I found the last time I painted that some of my alkyds had begun to dry in the tubes and become stiff, so I replaced those colors on my palette yesterday with oils of the same hue. That worked much better.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Poseidon's Gift; Let The Painting Begin!

During the past week, I came to the conclusion that the original pattern on the panel as provided by Mural Mosaic was intimidating me and holding me back. So, I decided the best way to proceed was to cover it over with a thin layer of paint using the local colors for my design.

After designing the waves and combining them with the horses, I traced all onto the panel and began laying on paint. Since time is getting short, I used my alkyds but found that they had become thickened over time and were difficult to work with. They were drying fast on the panel but also drying fast on the palette! I did manage to get a layer of paint over the whole surface and didn't worry too much about staying within the lines or putting in details at this early stage. So, the panel is very much in the Ugly phase right now.

After some advice from my artist friends who are also doing panels for this project, I've decided to switch to oils from now on since they seem to be drying faster than normal on these panels. I'm getting very worried about the time factor because the deadline is fast approaching, so I'll be painting many hours per day from now on and hoping for the best.

I'm not very happy with the waves so they will need to be revised, but first I'll work on the horses and get them to a more finished state before doing the background again.

Click on the somewhat neon colored thumbnail above to see a larger version and how I arrived at the design. At this point you don't see much of the diagonal lines that are an important element to incorporate in my design. Those will come later as I put in the clouds and details in the waves.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Barn Time and Happy Accidents

I spent last Friday afternoon at the barn because it was Spring Checkup day for the horses. It's always quite a social time, too, because usually we three boarders are there along with the barn owner, Shelley. As usual, Scottie was a gentleman for his shots and teeth floating, and I also had the vet do a chiropractic adjustment on him. This time there were no major issues found although his left hip was locked up and his ankles were stiff from a winter of bracing on the icy hillside which leads up to the barn in the winter turnout.

Afterward I rode for half an hour, and Scottie definitely had more spring in his step and was very responsive to my aids, clumsy as they are. I told the vet that my ride had been "cushy" compared to before. But now I'm the one who needs working on because I'm so out of shape for riding that I'll never be able to manage trail rides this summer if I don't do something about it. It's back to the exercise program that will also include more regular riding again. This past winter I basically hibernated and didn't go anywhere unless absolutely necessary. I guess I needed that time to regroup and recuperate after last year's unpleasant events.

And then there was the Happy Accident I discovered when going through the photos I took last week at the beach. We artists talk about Happy Accidents in our work which usually involves messing up what we intended to do but having it come out better but in an unexpected way. This time the accident was in my photos. I'd been aware of one lonely gull hanging around hoping for a handout, and in one photo (see above) he flew by leaving a lovely shadow of himself in the sand. You can't see him against the foam of the surf, but there's that shadow to betray his presence.

I probably won't use this in my Horse Gift painting, but it will have to go in some future painting for sure. Speaking of the Horse Gift painting, I'm coming along on that and have been designing my waves. With luck, by the end of the day I should have it all traced onto the panel and can at long last begin painting! With all this preliminary work done, I'm hoping it will practically paint itself.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Poseidon's Gift; The Horses

I live just a mile down the road from beautiful Torch Lake in northwestern Michigan. One day this week it was particularly windy, and I knew that waves would be higher than normal on Torch, so I grabbed my camera and headed for the beach to catch some waves. Surf's up! Reputed to be the third most beautiful lake in the world, on a sunny day Torch contains all the lovely colors that are in my panel. Besides which I needed more good wave references for the panel painting. The waves weren't as large as I'd hoped, but I got some excellent shots just the same which will help in studying wave action across a large body of water and waves as they break on the shore. To supplement those, a friend sent me some really large wave shots to use, and I'm reading a very good book on painting water titled "Painting the Sea In Oils Using Special Effects" by E. John Robinson. It is one awesome book!

Of course, the most important part of the painting will be the horses, so they were the next objects of my attention. First, again, I did research by going through my reference photographs and pulling out photos of horses walking toward the camera. I had quite a few to choose from and quickly narrowed down the possibilities to just a few. I also did a little research on the internet to find out the breed characteristics of Andalusians and their colors. In centuries past they came in more colors than today which gave me greater latitude to selecting the colors of my horses. Then the fun began as I sketched five horses in different poses and changed them from Arabians, Quarter Horses and a Morgan into Andalusians. They also had to be changed to look as if they were stepping out of water after a strenuous swim onto an unknown shore.

After the horses were drawn to my satisfaction, I made copies of them in different sizes, cut them out and tried different arrangements on a sheet of paper marked in the exact width of the panel which is a 16 inch square. When I found an arrangement that worked the best, I traced the horses and refined them further, adding flowing manes and tails that would follow the directional lines in the panel. Below you can see my horses as they will appear on the panel.

One final step awaits before I can begin the actual painting, and that is to plan the wave action which will be such an important part of the panel and the story.