Monday, August 31, 2009

Conquering the Hummingbird Syndrome

I’ve given up being frustrated about not doing any artwork and have given in to the notion of just concentrating on catching up with five, ten or more years of a backlog of record keeping and unfinished projects. Along with reorganizing my art files, I’ve sorted through over ten years of time cards and thrown away a good portion of them. After spending days looking for lost art sales records and reconstructing sales records that were lost when my hard drive died three years ago, I’ve sorted through piles of insurance policies and yearly updates to keep only the most current.

And, the list goes on.

We’re also getting our finances in order for my husband’s impending retirement, and the main burden of that falls on my shoulders. In this economy and financial market, worry about whether or not we will have to live like paupers in retirement has been upper most on my mind for the past several years. Thankfully, we’ve found a new financial advisor who is steering us in the right direction now and helping us to make the difficult decisions. Things are beginning to look up.

I can’t help but comment on the emotional toll my mother’s lingering decline had on me over the past three to four years. Being so far away was frustrating and guilt inducing since I didn’t visit her as often as I THOUGHT I should and wasn’t able to be there on a daily or weekly basis to make sure she had adequate care. Fortunately, she was in a very good facility, but like all of them, they were understaffed. Now that she’s gone, I feel great sadness at her loss but also great relief that I can now get on with my life without holding my breath for the next crisis phone call.

This morning as I was doing my usual Monday morning ritual of filling in the planner schedule for the day and my task list for the week, I decided to try something different. There are so many things to be done around here that I tend to flit from one to another from day to day as each calls out to me. An acquaintance of mine calls this the Hummingbird Syndrome, a common malady for women.

So, this morning I made out a rough schedule for each day of the week and pencilled in to do some art on Tuesday and Saturday. My hope is that by scheduling certain tasks on certain days, I’ll avoid flitting from one thing to another like a hummingbird, never making much progress with anything. And, I’ll finally get back to some artwork!

Last week I hung this painting on the wall in my daughter’s room. I painted it for my mother a few years ago. It was done from a sixty year old black and white photograph of me when I was five and a flower girl in my uncle’s wedding. The medium is oil and the size is 18x14 inches. I’m quite proud of this painting since it was a departure from my usual equine subjects and because I managed to design the background from very little reference materials. It is not for sale.

Well, by tomorrow night or Wednesday I promise to show you what I’ve accomplished in the studio even if it’s just a drawing update. It’s very exciting to feel that I’ve finally made enough progress with everything else that I can set aside some time for art, however small.

Talk to you soon!

PS. I would love to have more followers to my blog. It really helps to know that people actually read this blog and enjoy seeing my art. You can sign up in the column to the right.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Off With Their Heads!

Yesterday I looked at my Polo By The Bay photos again and found far too many that looked like this one above. They reminded me of the Queen from Alice In Wonderland who sentenced everyone to the same fate. “Off with their heads!” she declared imperiously. Only for me these decapitations weren’t deliberate. I have no idea why the camera was aimed more at the dirt than the riders, but there you have it.

This photo shows another of my problems when shooting; I tend to tilt my head so that the arenas look as if they’re built on hillsides. Oops! Never the less, it’s fun to go through the photos again and this time take note of my shortcomings as a photographer as well as to relive the joy of being there. I must remember next year the things I did wrong this year and try to correct them before they occur again.

This was only the second polo match that I’ve ever seen live. My very first exposure to polo happened when I was eleven years old. At that time, my father supplemented his meager University salary by working for newspapers in Detroit in the summer. But that year he took a job at The Milwaukee Journal which meant that we had to move to Milwaukee for three months, and I had to give up my friends and riding lessons for the summer. We lived in an apartment in a big city which was a culture shock in itself for me. I was not a happy camper and let everyone know it.

Probably to relieve my moody, unsocial behavior, my parents took me to see a polo match one Saturday. I was totally enthralled! I remember spending a lot of time around the ponies who were waiting for their turn in the next chukker and studying their unusual tack. The following summer, I made this polo drawing when I was twelve. My horses were a lot better than my people back then as you can see.

My summer in Milwaukee wasn’t all bad. We went to the zoo several times where there was a new baby giraffe and some zebras. And one of my father’s colleagues at the Journal had a daughter my age who was also horse crazy. Our two families got together frequently, and we even went horseback riding a couple of times. I wonder what ever became of my summer friend, Carolyn Sonneborn? We lost touch long ago.

Even though I’ve been busy doing everything but art this summer and making substantial progress in clearing away a lot of clutter and updating records, I picked out this photo to turn into my first polo painting. The rider was warming up his pony before the next chukker, and this photo shows a quiet moment before the non stop action began on the field again.

The question is, what medium shall I use? Oil or pastel? Stay tuned for updates.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Polo By The Bay

It couldn’t have been a more perfect day, which almost made up for missing the dressage musical freestyles the day before. You see, Mother Nature had thrown me a curve ball by remaining overcast and rainy until shortly before the freestyles were going to begin. By that time, it was too late to clean up and drive the half hour to the show grounds.

But the day of the polo match was beautiful, and I headed to the horse park in the morning with plans to catch the last few dressage halter classes and then wait for the polo match. As luck would have it, the last class was ending as I headed down the wooded horse path to the lower rings. Three fiesty Friesians came up the path at me, so I respectfully stepped off the trail and grabbed a few shots as they approached and went by.

That meant that I now had over two hours time to kill before the polo match was scheduled to start. I looked around for the polo ponies and spotted the trailers arriving and unloading on the other side of the upper rings in an area that was accessible. So, off I went to take photos of the ponies lined up beside the trailers.

Then off I went to the Grand Prix ring where I found some shade beside a VIP tent and sat down to wait. While there, I surveyed the best spot from which to photograph the action, and when the crowd began to arrive and fill up the bleachers, I moved down to “my” spot for the rest of the wait. I had the good fortune to sit next to a very friendly young couple from the Detroit area, and we struck up a conversation. That helped to pass the time until events in the arena began.

First up was a dressage demonstration by local rider Betsy Van Dyke riding Cantana. She explained what dressage is and demonstrated the various movements and then did a bit of musical freestyle - which almost made up for yesterday. Above you see Cantana doing two tempe changes, and below he is doing an extended trot.

Once the dressage was over, the polo match began. While the ponies were warming up, the basics of polo were explained to us, and we learned that we would be watching arena polo which is played on a much smaller dirt field and consists of four chukkers (or periods of play) versus the seven chukkers that are played on a much larger grass field. After each chukker, the riders switch to fresh ponies because the action is non stop, and ponies get worn out fast.

In this contest, Team Elmers (a local asphalt and excavation company) was pitted against Turtle Creek Casino and Resort. The ponies and riders were provided by Meadowview Polo Club of Grand Rapids, but most of the riders were either members of the Michigan State University or University of Michigan polo teams. It may not have been high goal polo, but it was definitely fun to watch and challenging to photograph.

Below are some of the many shots I took during the match.

The action was over much too fast with Turtle Creek Casino winning by two goals, and we spectators reluctantly packed up our stuff and began the long trek through the ring area to our vehicles. The horse park seemed desolate compared to the hustle and bustle of earlier weeks. The viewing tents had been taken down, the potted flowers removed, the rings groomed and even the fencing around the rings was gone. Staff was in the process of taking down all the tents in the barn area as well. It was a little sad to realize that eleven months will go by before Horse Shows By The Bay returns. I wonder what improvements will be made in the intervening months? What new shows or horse events will be added to the yearly schedule at this horse park?

I can’t wait to find out!