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.