Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sketches From Life

gesture drawing in conte of my horse, Scottie

Fall always goes by so quickly that before I know it, it's Christmas. Before any more time escapes me, I did want to update you on the latest from the studio in this brief post. So, here goes. 

Since my last post, I've been busy getting ready for and then going to Deer Camp with my husband at the old homestead and now with preparations for Thanksgiving. It's also time to plan ahead for Christmas and begin those preparations. 

In the meantime, Scottie turned up lame once again with another hoof abscess; his third in less than a year! The vet has put him on another supplement in hopes it will boost his immune system and keep him healthy over this winter. I also ordered and put to use new blankets for him. He now has quite a wardrobe of blankets for any weather to come and has been wearing them for the past month. All the old geezers at the barn are now blanketed, and so far the former juvenile delinquent, J Willie, has not managed to damage them. J Willie is finally growing up!

The  image at the top is one I did during the summer. It's a gesture drawing in conte of Scottie when I turned him out  briefly in a paddock by himself. He was constantly moving, so this was done in something like 15-20 seconds before he moved too much to go on. 

Most of what I do at Deer Camp is go through old art magazines while my husband is out in the woods hunting. Since I'm perpetually years behind on reading these magazines, I have no shortage of them to go through. I personally don't find the "how I did this painting" articles at all useful since all artists work differently. But there are other business and studio tips articles that are useful which makes it impossible for me to throw out these magazines without going through them.  

Our cat, Molly, sometimes lies down next to me on the couch while I'm reading, and this year I tried to do some sketches of her, too. But, every time I moved to a good spot to draw her, she got up and moved, too. So, I was reduced to doing some quick gesture drawings of her. Like Scottie, she only gave me mere seconds to get down enough information to be recognizable. Below are two pages from my sketchbook. They are crude, I know, but at least I made the effort! And, already I've rediscovered the value of doing sketches from life and want to get into the habit of daily sketching. Or, maybe weekly. 

Last night my riding buddy, Ann, and I had a good ride in the arena.  We have new footing which makes it much brighter, less dusty and softer under foot. I was delighted that Scottie seemed in really good spirits, was eager to work and moved right out without much urging. Perhaps he's now been on the supplements long enough to really benefit his joints and all his body systems. It's very encouraging that maybe this winter will be better than last year's and a reminder to keep him on the supplements from now on. 

We rode to some new age Christmas music which was fun and kind of magical.

When I'm at the barn, time just vanishes, and I treasure all those moments with my horse and barn friends. Last night I was the last to leave the barn. When I turned off the lights and stepped outside, it was pitch dark. I looked up into a sky filled with stars in every direction. There are no annoying yard lights out there to intrude on those moments when you feel that connection to the entirety of the universe. 

I just love those magical moments!

Gesture drawings in charcoal of our cat, Molly

Gesture drawing in charcoal of our cat, Molly

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Weekend in the Museum

"Tribute to Glory" work in progress, oil on canvas

I spent four intense days last weekend attending two workshops at the Dennos Art Museum in Traverse City, and I couldn't be happier about it. 

As I may have mentioned, the Society of Animal Artists opened its annual show at the Dennos in September, and I looked forward to seeing that show for months ahead of time. It was not a disappointment when I saw the show for the first time. In fact, I was awed!  In fact, I went through the show a total of three times and saw new things in the work each time. 

The SAA only accepts the best of the best animal artists for membership, and their shows are outstanding. Many of the top wildlife artists are members or exhibit in their shows: artists such as Robert Bateman, Al Agnew, Guy Coheleach, Nancy Howe, Brian Jarvi, Jan Martin McGuire, Bart Rulon, Suzie Seerey-Lester and Morten Solberg were some of the big names whom I recognized.  But there were many more, including several equine artists, and Michigan was well represented by artists Anni Crouter, Kim Diment, Rod Lawrence, T. J. Lick and Rick Pas. 

The show is curated for a variety of subjects, mediums and artists from various geographic locations. Although there were quite a few African animals, there were animals from around the world, domestic animals, birds, amphibians and a few bug paintings and sculptures. Sculpture was well represented with quite a few really outstanding pieces. The one which I found particularly touching depicted a baby elephant and its mother paying their respects to an elephant skull. Their emotions are palpable as they lovingly reach out to touch a dead loved one. 

The favorite painting of many in one of the workshops was a large painting of a Mexican wolf by Flint artist, Anni Crouter. We got to meet Anni and her veterinarian husband when they stopped by the workshop. My favorites are too numerous to list individually, but I was impressed by  a couple of stupendous scratchboard works, a painting of a cape buffalo coming out of a grass fire and Kim Diment's painting of African elephants crossing a river. 

As for those workshops, I discovered on my second visit to the museum that two of the local artists in the show were each giving a two day workshop: Rod Lawrence in painting animals and Kim Diment in drawing animals. The price was too reasonable to pass up, and I was thrilled at the opportunity to work with two exceptional wildlife artists. 

Rod's workshop was first. Having taken another one from him in the past, I knew that his workshops were very unstructured, and so I planned ahead what I wanted to work on and what I wanted help with. I took the painting of Glory the palomino since I was kind of stuck as to how to proceed and how to get the palomino color I wanted. I worked on that the first day and got this far with Rod's help. (see above)

On the second day, I took the painting of our cat, Annie, and got a good start on it. I had gotten as far as the underpainting and was looking for help with doing her soft long fur. I worked on her back and some on her tail but didn't get any farther. 

"Princess Anne" oil on canvas

Rod showed us some of his work, including an unfinished painting of elk, and explained his working methods. He also gave us some insights into painting wildlife, gathering references and getting our work to be accurate. 

The second workshop with Kim Diment was more structured and I learned quite a bit, even though some of the drawing information was no more than review for me. The room where we worked contained two large mounts: one of a polar bear and the other of a musk ox. Much of the first day was lecture and us doing contour drawings of one or the other. I chose the polar bear since there wasn't much to see of the musk ox except a lot of long hair. The day ended with us doing ten minute drawings of the animal of our choice from eight different points of view around the animal. The drawing below is #7 for me. 

polar bear contour drawing from a mount

On the second day we learned about working in pen and ink, pencil and charcoal. We each worked from a reference photo, transferred the image to our paper and drew it in one of the mediums. I found a really nice photo of a red fox in my swipe file and chose to do it in pen and ink. Kim was very pleased with my drawing as am I. 

The two workshops were over much too quickly, but I do feel energized by them and am eager to finish the two paintings which are now well underway. It was a huge help to have received so much encouragement from artists as outstanding as Kim and Rod. And it was great to work with other artists and feel that creative energy flowing around the room for four whole days! I do hope the Dennos will schedule more workshops in the future. 

"Red Fox" pen and ink
This was drawn from a copyrighted photograph from an old issue of Natural History magazine and was done as a learning exercise only. I do not intend to sell or display it except possibly in my own home. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Back To The Drawing Board

It has been back to the drawing board and also back to Square One this past ten days. 

I thought I was all done with twice daily trips to the barn since Scottie's lump has shriveled up to almost nothing, and I did have a week to myself. But, a little over a week ago, Scottie came in for breakfast very lame in his bad leg. We thought he had reinjured his tendon, so I resumed twice daily trips to the barn to cold hose his leg. The vet came out two days later and quickly diagnosed him as having another hoof abscess. She dug out a hole on his sole to let it drain and wrapped it and left directions for me to change the wrap every 48 hours or so. Since then I've been going to the barn daily to check on him, give him some sympathy and rewrap the hoof. As of yesterday, he is doing much better, and I'm hoping to stay home more again. 

Meanwhile, I've begun one new painting and am doing the preliminary work for another. These two are destined for the benefit auction for Second Chance Ranch and Rescue next month. I've got to hurry to get them done! The first will be a painting of our cat, Annie, which we lost three years ago. She was a beautiful cat, and this should be an appealing painting. I'm doing it in a quick, loose style like I've done the smaller paintings lately. I like working that way. 

The second painting is of two barn swallow babies, and I'm working from one of the photos I took at the barn. I had to do some work in Photoshop to compose the painting, and now I'm trying to figure out the Photoshop settings to  get a good print out of the photo. Yesterday was a small triumph in that I was able to use my big color printer for the first time with the new computer. I had to download a driver and was afraid that none would be available for this old printer, but there was one for the new intel based Macs. My Epson 2200 was a popular printer, and there must be a lot of them still chugging away. 

At the top you will see the photo of Annie that I'm using for the first painting. The canvas is toned, and I'll begin the painting today or tomorrow. Below is the reference photo for the second painting. The lighting and color aren't perfect yet, so it still needs some tweaking. 

It feels good to have new works started, and I'm also anxious to get back to work on the other three which were begun months ago. I'll keep you posted. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How I Spent My Summer

Sketches of my horse, Scottie, from life

This past summer was certainly a busy one, and I am ready for a slowdown now that Labor Day is out of the way. Real Fall weather arrived with the holiday, with cool days and cold nights, and we even had frost in some local areas the past two nights!  

It seems as if much of my summer was consumed by twice daily trips to the barn to treat my horse's lump issues. As you may recall, Scottie had grown a huge, hard lump on the edge of his jawbone back in July which we thought was an abscessed tooth. But, a visit from the equine dentist ruled that out. 

Since my last report, the lump began to recede and then blew up again when he went off the antibiotics. To make a long story short, a second vet saw Scott, opened up the lump with a bigger incision and took tissue samples. He went  back on antibiotics, and I resumed twice daily trips to the barn. Fortunately, the tissue samples did not show any cancer cells or infection of any kind and I was allowed to discontinue the hot compresses and pulling off the scab each day to allow for drainage. Since then the lump has shrunken once again. I hope it's for good this time! 

The thinking is that Scottie got a sliver under the skin on his jaw at some time which festered into an infection. After nearly six weeks on antibiotics and the draining, it is presumed to be gone now. Good riddance, I say!

My trips to the barn were often rushed in an effort to keep up with all the rest of my duties, but I did manage to do some sketching one day while Scottie was in the cross ties. Sketching from life is not something I'm used to doing, but at least I made the effort and share my humble efforts above. 

On another occasion, I was lucky to get some good photos of baby barn swallows that were just learning to fly and hadn't acquired much fear of humans yet. They are gone now, but I have the photos to work from for some new paintings. I learned that the mornings are really lovely at the barn and plan to go out to ride then, take more photos and do some sketching and painting in the morning light. 

Speaking of which, I have committed myself to creating two paintings for a benefit auction for a farm animal rescue that our vet has established; Second Chance Ranch and Rescue. It's less than a month away now, so I must begin painting immediately! And, I'm really looking forward to painting for this really worthy cause. Normally, I don't donate art, but I do make a few exceptions for local non profits. 

Also on the Art front, I delivered two pieces of art to the Jordan River Arts Council for their upcoming exhibition, The Dog and Pony Show. "The Green Team" and "Kentucky Dreamer" will both be in this show which runs from September 11 to October 7. I got a sneak peek at some of the entries, and it looks like a good show. 

I have more to share from summer activities, but that's all for now. Perhaps I'll have a new painting to share with you next time. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day Tripping The Leelanau

Black Star Farms mansion
My daughter is visiting this week, and for the past two days we have been out gallery hopping. On Tuesday we went up M22 on the Leelanau peninsula to Suttons Bay and beyond. 

First we stopped at Black Star Farms and had lunch at the Hearth and Vine cafe which is well known for its scrumptious pizzas. I knew of this farm before it became Black Star because it formerly was a boarding and training facility. There are still horses boarded there and naturally I had to check out the barn and the horses. We peeked into the old barn and visited a few horses including a huge warmblood who appeared to be on stall rest. He must have been close to eighteen hands tall!   

Next we drove into the village of Suttons Bay and visited four galleries. I was most impressed by Treeline Gallery which has an excellent selection of art by many local artists and others in a cheerful, well lit environment. The owner was also very personable, friendly and enthusiastic about her artists. 

From Suttons Bay, we continued north to Tandem Ciders where Tina bought two bottles of excellent hard cider. That was her goal for the day. 
Suttons Bay park

On our way back down M 22 toward Traverse City we stopped at Gallery 22 which is a co op gallery. It has a very nice mixture of paintings, jewelry, glasswork and other artisan works. When the owner found out that I was an equine artist, she expressed interest in my work and gave me an application for participation. Whether anything comes of this is yet unknown, but it's definitely an exciting prospect. 

Yesterday Tina and I made our way down Front St. in Traverse City, feeling very much like "fudgies", the local term for summer visitors who tend to buy fudge. Meandering down Front St., we checked out many shops including the excellent Horizon Books, Evergreen Gallery, Spice Merchant and Art And Soul Gallery. 

Our next destination was Building 50 in the Grand Traverse Commons. Formerly a state mental hospital, this beautiful old building was built in 1885 and is in the process of being repaired and renovated into shops and living facilities. We checked out Gallery 50, a few shops and Black Star Farms tasting room where Tina got some wine. 

On the way home, we drove up US 31 north to a farm stand and got some fresh corn, tomatoes and the last of the sweet cherries. We ate the corn when we got home, and it was delicious!

Every time I visit galleries I feel twinges of envy of the artists who are in them. And I think to myself either, "I'll never be good enough to get in this gallery" or "I could do work as good as this if I just devoted more time to painting again!" 

Last night I had a hard time getting to sleep because I was still excited from all we had done over two days of day tripping, and my brain was on stimulus overload. Clearly, I don't get out enough. Tina's visit has been just what I needed to shake up my complacent world and get me moving in new directions. 

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Back In The Saddle

Scottie's Abscess

Last night we went on our first trail ride in six weeks, and it felt awfully good.  Ive been going to the barn but just not riding much. Between the awful heat and humidity weve been having and then Scotties lump issue, I havent ridden in almost a month. 

Three weeks ago, Scottie developed a lump on the lower edge of his jaw that sprouted almost overnight. It was hard and as large as my fist, and I suspected a tooth abscess, especially since hed had a lump in the same spot a year ago that wasnt nearly as big. The vet was called, and she concurred. We arranged for an equine dentist to come out this past Friday to do something about the tooth and see what else may be going on. 

In the meantime, I went to the barn twice daily to apply hot compresses to his cheek, and Scottie was put on antibiotics. The vet had tried to lance the abscess with an 18 gauge needle, but it only drained a llittle bit and then closed up. The following night, I brought along my husband the human dentist. With a small scalpel, he cut into the cheek tissue and got it to drain a little more. To our amazement, Scottie stood perfectly still for this procedure and only gave a small flinch at the first cut. After that the lump began to go down ever so slightly and has continued to drain. 

Scottie had not been seen by an equine dentist in over ten years. I depended on the clinic vet who does the Spring checkups and shots to let me know if he needed anything more than a routine float and she hadnt. Up here in the hinterlands of Michigan, we dont have a lot of equine specialists and no equine dentists, so we had to call one to come from downstate. As luck would have it, he was here for the week, so we got him to squeeze Scottie into his schedule. 

I was very impressed with Steve Shaver of Equine Dental Services. He espouses a natural horsemanship approach to equine dentistry and doesnt have horses sedated unless theyre particularly afraid and unruly. Scottie was neither, even though the vet came along just in case. 

An examination of Scotties mouth revealed that he had no abscessed tooth. In fact, his teeth are in excellent condition for his age (26), but the molars did have sharp points on them from uneven wear, and they had worn a sore on the other cheek. Working quietly and gently, Steve floated Scotties teeth, removed a hook on a front incisor and removed tartar from his canines.  Scottie was an excellent patient and even seemed to appreciate the treatment to alleviate his mouth problems. 

Another view. I clipped him a few weeks ago to make him cooler so he looks a little wierd
My husband came along, and the two dentists chatted and compared equine to human treatments and kept the vet and I entertained. My husband was especially interested in the  oversized equine dental tools and remarked that Scottie was a far better patient than some of his own and that his mouth smelled a lot better, too. We got to stick our arms in Scottie's mouth to feel his teeth which was kind of awesome. 

In the end, the dentists assessment was that Scottie may have bitten his cheek which caused a piece of hay to be imbedded into the cheek tissue which led to the abscess.  It seems to be resolving now, and we are resuming normal activities. 

While Scottie had that lump and a possible abscessed tooth, I didnt have the heart to put a bridle on his cheek and a bit in his mouth. But last night I decided it was time to get back to riding. Ann, Kathy and I went out on a lovely trail ride on an evening that was very comfortable. Since we stayed in the woods, the flies werent bad at all.  In order to stay in the woods we had to go down the steep hill, and although I could tell Scottie was stiff and sore in the hind end, he trucked down that hill with relative enthusiasm, only stopping now and then to grab a mouthful of leaves. He was obviously enjoying the trail ride as much as I was. We stayed out until almost dark, coming back up that steep hill to the barn, resting every so often, and Scottie was in good shape when we got back. 

Ahh, its good to be back in the saddle again!

PS Be sure to watch Steve's video!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Grass River Adventure

Grass River, Bellaire Michigan

Over the Fourth of July weekend we had a bit of an unplanned adventure that fortunately ended well. Our grown kids were up for the weekend, and on the Fourth we decided to take a boat ride up the Grass River in our aging boat which is something we only do every few years. Most of the river is pretty wild; in fact, it's part of a natural area that has been preserved from development. The river connects  Lake Bellaire and Clam Lake where we live, and it takes over an hour to traverse the whole length which is a no wake zone to prevent damage to the shoreline and vegetation. Because it connects the two lakes, boat traffic can be heavy at times, and since the river is narrow, it is tricky to navigate. 

On our way up the river to Lake Bellaire,  we passed a couple of muskrat houses and almost ran down a mother mallard and her two ducklings who insisted on crossing the river right in front of the boat!  The river was quite busy with boat traffic, but at times, with no boats visible, you had the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere with no civilization for miles. 

When we were almost at the end, the boat began to run roughly, so we turned around and headed back home, crossing our fingers that we could make it. The further we went the rougher the boat ran until finally it quit altogether. After a short rest it started up again but soon quit again. This scenario repeated three more times until it finally quit for good just as we got out onto Clam Lake. Fortunately we were close to shore and were able to hail someone in a nearby cottage who happened to be a friend of my husband's. He towed us home where we were very relieved to arrive. 

Hard as it is to believe in this day and age, none of us thought to take along a cell phone. By the time we got to Clam Lake it was dinner time, and all the boats had headed back home, so we were pretty much alone on the lake. And the marina down the lake had already closed, so we felt fortunate to have been rescued.

In spite of our misadventure, we enjoyed most of the trip up the river, enjoying Nature at her finest. It was a gorgeous sunny day with perfect temperatures for a leisurely boat ride. Some water lilies were in bloom and we also saw  flowers that looked like some sort of wild irises growing along the edge of the water. I took along my cameras and got a lot of photos that might turn into paintings some day. Bald eagles also inhabit the Natural area, but we didn't see any on this day. 

Here are some more photos from our trip. 
Our boat, a 1974 18 ft. Sea Ray and my son, Dan

water lily and reeds in the river
All decked out for the Fourth of July
This family of mute swans greeted us when we arrived home. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Lay, Lady, Lay" or The Chicken Dilemma

Mystery Chicken - Henry? Henrietta?
For some reason, a Bob Dylan song has been running through my head all day; the one that begins,  “Lay, lady, Lay”. Maybe it has something to do with the chicken that has adopted our getaway home in the woods and the dilemma that this poses for us.

You see, a week ago yesterday we drove over to mow the lawn and found this chicken hanging around the yard. He/she was afraid of us but clearly was used to humans. Where did “it” come from? Why had it adopted this particular house that is so far from the road and on the edge of a vast woods? How long had it been there, and how had it managed to survive all the predators in the woods?

As we left, we checked the neighbor’s yards along the road but didn’t see any evidence of chickens or chicken coops and fully expected that the chicken would be gone when we returned for the weekend on Friday. Wrong! He/she greeted us not long after we pulled in and unloaded the car. Over the next two days it gradually became less wary and let us get closer and closer. In fact, it was very curious about our car and kept checking it out. That makes us wonder. Did someone dump it off “out in the country” like so many morons do with cats and dogs? And was it hoping our car would take it home?

I managed to snap some decent pictures of him/her (there is disagreement among my chicken raising friends as to what sex it is) and hope to do a painting in the near future. But, now we’re wondering what to do about this chicken who has adopted us. Should we feed it? Provide some sort of shelter for it? Capture it and rehome it?

I’m not too keen on the latter since neither of us has any experience with chickens. Perhaps I’ll consult our vets to see what they suggest. Or, we could call Animal Control, if there is such a thing in that oh so remote county. 

I had planned to do some plein air artwork over the weekend, but the weather was so abysmal that I stayed inside and went through old art magazines instead. It was cold, rainy and very dreary, but I enjoyed the luxury of having the time to read articles and cut them out to save. I’m only about five years behind in reading my magazines, you see.
flower bed, June 2011
Much of my time lately has been spent in gardening, and the yard is really looking nice this year, thanks to all the rain and cool weather we’ve been having. The new plants that were put in last year are really filling up the new flower beds, and some have already begun to bloom.  It makes all the hard work of the past few years finally seem worth it.

I will share more in future posts as the summer progresses. But, that’s all for now.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Treasures In The Attic

"Beach Run" circa 1983
This Spring has proven to be very busy. There is always lots of yardwork to do, cleaning out of flower beds and planting new flowers and moving a few which didn’t fit where they were. But last weekend, I took a break from that to do a project which has needed doing for years now.

My kids (both in their thirties) were home for the weekend for Memorial Day, and I took advantage of the opportunity to draft some help with the job. While my son ran the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, my daughter, Tina, helped me clear out, clean and rearrange the attic. It’s a small space and had become so full that you could barely get through the door!
The studio full of attic discards

The door to the attic is in the studio supply closet which meant that a lot of what we took out ended up stacked in the studio and the adjacent room. Here is the studio with only a narrow path from the attic to the door. The library was equally crammed with attic rejects: mostly baby furniture, toys, children’s books and odds and ends.

Among the  treasures we unearthed from the far reaches of the attic was the painting above. It was done in 1983 when I was still in art school. I don’t remember having any help with it, but the influence of my painting courses is obvious in the  thick brushwork and unblended color. I did not have a photo to copy but made up the horse and background from memory and possibly a few reference photos to get the pose of the horse right. Well, sort of right, that is.

I’d been wondering what became of this painting, and there it was, covered with 20 years of dust in an entirely unsuitable environment for storing a work of art. Sadly, this is where many works of art end up when they are no longer treasured by their owners - or artists. Aside from the dust, it’s in remarkably good condition. It  is an oil painting on canvas board, which just goes to show that cheap canvas board is still capable of standing up to the extremes of heat, cold and unregulated humidity.
"Almost Home, Hunter Pace" circa 2007
The other thing it shows is how far my art has advanced since 1983,  and that is where its value lies. Compare it to another galloping horse painting, “Almost Home, Hunter Pace” (above) which was completed around 2007. By comparison, “Beach Run” is an embarrassment! The best part of the painting is the piece of driftwood in the foreground. For years I meant to repaint that awful sky but never got around to it. It’s just as well because it’s one of those paintings we artists call a “learning experience” which no amount of reworking will improve.

Another treasure I found in the attic was a shoebox of toy horses from my childhood. They’re smaller than I remember them; only about  two inches high; and there aren’t as many as I wish there were, but I’m happy to be able to hold them in my hands again and find them a better place to  live out their  “retirement”. Dusty and Cigarette and Blaze are now  resting on my dresser until I find a suitable spot for them. I don’t remember what I named the metal mare and her foal. Niagara, perhaps? That’s where they were purchased; at a gift shop at Niagara Falls.

After Tina and I had swept out the attic and moved things around, she and son Dan went through the toys and books and picked out what they wanted to keep for themselves. After they had left with their childhood memories, I spent portions of this past week cleaning the items to be rehomed. The Barbie dreamhouse and some doll furniture went to my husband’s hygienist’s two little girls who were thrilled with them. The baby furniture and other stuff went to Goodwill in Traverse City. They do so much good for the homeless that I’m only too glad to donate to them and be rid of what we no longer want.

I still have a bunch of toys to wash and books to vacuum before they are donated, but the studio is now almost cleared out. Before I can do any artwork, it will need a good cleaning. And once the Spring yardwork is completed, I will be free to get back to some artwork!  I have new references to work from and I will share some of those in my next post.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Art Show Online and Spring Activities

Things have been hopping around here since I last posted, but that’s nothing new. My daughter came up for Easter, and we went out for brunch to a restaurant we haven’t been to before, the Blue Pelican in Central Lake. We highly recommend it. In fact, we went back there for Mother’s Day.

I got all dolled up for Mother’s Day and had my husband take the above photo of me out on our deck.  The photo I”ve been using for publicity/promo is now over ten years old, so it was time for something more current. It turned out pretty well, if I do say so. 

If you’d like to take a look at the invitational art show where my work is in Wisconsin, the show is now online. The title is “The Horse In Art”, and it’s a pretty impressive show! I am very honored to be among such talented company and very grateful to have been invited. Do take a look. 

Two weeks ago we opened up our getaway “cottage/cabin” in the woods, and I dug up a bunch of daffodils which were hiding in an old flower bed where no one would see them. Two poppies were also rescued from obscurity, and in the following week, I planted all in various places in the home flower beds. It’s the wrong time of year to be planting bulbs, but if I had waited until Fall to dig them up, I probably wouldn’t be able to find them, so it was now or never more or less. Hopefully we will enjoy their blooms next Spring since they seem to be settling in well in their new homes.

Meanwhile back at the barn, we have resumed our weekly trail rides. So far Scottie has been doing very well and is obviously very happy to be going out again. On our last ride Thursday night, I took some photos and will share a few with you here. The leaves had barely begun to open up, but the air was fragrant in some areas with what we think were wild honeysuckle and at others we could smell wild leeks. Trillium carpeted the forest floor as well as other Spring flowers.

It was a very nice ride.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day Two; Ancient Egyptian Chariot Horse Sketch

Just a short post today to give proof that I actually did a little art yesterday.

Having wasted most of the day on Facebook, I didn’t get to any art until evening. I wanted to sketch an Egyptian chariot horse since I’ve long been fascinated by that ancient culture. I spent about half an hour looking through a thick book on ancient Egypt that I picked up from the bargain table at Borders, but only found one picture of chariot horses, and it was too small to see many details. So, I just went with memory of other pictures I’ve seen.

The sketch took another half hour or more with lots of erasing to get proportions right. I didn’t worry about being accurate with tack and just enjoyed the process of sketching like I used to do as a kid. Obviously, I’m a little rusty so a lot more sketching is in order. But, it was fun, and that’s the important thing; learning to just enjoy the process again instead of enduring the drudgery of getting the image “just so”.

For now that’s enough.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cat Painting Update and Ice Bergs

ice remnants on the lake
 Isn’t it marvelous that Spring is finally here?! The ice went out of our lake yesterday morning when there was a stiff breeze, so now we have open water again. Actually, the ice is usually broken up on a windy day or two in the Spring and just blows east down the lake from us. The marina to the west helps the process by going out in boats to make waves. This year they posted a short video on their Facebook page showing them using a boat as an ice breaker in the marina area. The ice was pretty thin by then so no danger to the boat.

The first photo is of an “ice berg” out in the lake in front of our house. I took the photo early this morning while the lake was still. It won’t last long with the warm temperatures as the lake waters warm up.

I feel so lucky to live on a lovely lake with all of its wildlife!

Now that gardening season is back, I decided that it’s time to get back to exercising; something I’ve managed to neglect all winter. After walking on the treadmill, I did my “legs and back” exercise routine, and later in the day went for a short spin on Scottie. This morning I had a hard time getting out of bed! Ack! But, if I keep it up, the stiffness will go away.

In addition to exercising daily, I’ve set a goal for myself of doing some artwork every day this week, even if only for an hour. This is in hopes that both goals will become established habits if I keep them up long enough.
"Annie", 6x6 gallery wrapped canvas oil painting
I managed just an hour yesterday on the little cat painting I started a while back of our kitty, Annie, when she was young. Most of the time was spent setting up and deciding what colors to use and then mixing paint. So, I was limited to working on just one ear and the forehead markings before it came time to clean up and leave for the barn. Otherwise, I would have painted longer.

Please note my painting setup here. I came up with this brilliant idea a while back when I noticed some scraps of pegboard out in the garage. Even though I’ve looked at those scraps for years, THAT day the thought struck me that they would be perfect to use on the easel to hold small paintings and paintings whose edges need to be painted. I’d been trying to figure out a solution to this problem for a while now since I’ve been working on smaller canvases lately. How DOES one paint the edges of those gallery wrapped canvases without getting your fingers in the paint?

I had my husband cut a couple of pieces to fit on the easel and cleaned off the garage grime. Yesterday, I used one of them to hold the Annie painting, and it worked great! As you can see, the painting is resting on pegboard hooks. It can be moved from side to side to get at the bottom of the canvas, and I can set the painting at a comfortable working height. In fact, I might just expand this for use with larger paintings, too!

Now, why didn’t I think of this sooner!?

I’ve just had a chat with my gallery owner (Adams Madams, Central Lake, Michigan) who has requested that all her artists replace their pieces which have been in the gallery for a long time with new artwork. She is readying the shop for the coming summer season when the summer residents and visitors will be returning. She tells me that she gets visitors from the Horse Shows By The Bay people each summer as they explore the area when they’re not showing. These people have money to burn, so that gives me incentive to get some horse show pieces done to put in the gallery during the four or five weeks of the show. A series of small paintings of horse show dogs would be perfect as well as some leadline class photos of toddlers on cute ponies.

Ah! I’m getting super inspired!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

An Equine Art Show and Getting Framed

"The Green Team" Belgian horse painting, oil on canvas

The last few weeks have been kind of a blur what with getting artwork sent off to a show and finishing up income taxes and all the usual daily activities.

First of all, I took a break from  painting to complete the income tax information and deliver it to our accountant. That is always such a relief to get that out of the way, but I still had plenty to do before I could relax and get back to painting.

When the Belgian painting was dry enough I signed it and then proceeded to spend a couple of days trying to get a good photograph of it and not succeeding. That’s a major disappointment as I really was hoping to offer it as a new print image. I had trouble getting both the horses and the trailer to look right. One or the other would be close to the painting but not both in the same image. I finally gave up and varnished the painting vowing to spend some time learning more of Photoshop so that I can isolate areas of images and change them without changing the whole. That is one of the beautiful things that Photoshop can do.

Next I took the painting to McMillen’s Custom Framing in Traverse City to be framed. The owner, Todd McMillen, and I go way back. We were in art school together many years ago, and his friendship is the only one that has survived from those magical days. Todd went on to get a four year degree from Kendall School of Design in Grand Rapids while I made a failed attempt at being a freelance graphic designer. But that is ancient history.

At any rate, Todd helped me select what turned out to be just the right frame for  “The Green Team”. I can’t believe how much that frame has enhanced the painting! You can see it above. At the same time, I took the drawing, “Kentucky Dreamer” in to have the mats replaced. I framed it myself years ago, but the mats were never quite right. Again, Todd’s suggestions were right on the mark. The drawing looks SO much better in its new mats.
"Kentucky Dreamer" Thoroughbred colt drawing

Good framing makes a world of difference in how well any work of art looks, and the professionals like Todd know what they’re doing.

My next challenge was to set up a new Fedex account (which was an ordeal in itself) and box up the two pieces of art to ship to the show. My shipping boxes were in the back part of the attic, and to get to them I had to move a whole lot of stuff that was in the way. The result was a mini  reorganization of some of the “junk” up there to make a path.

It took me close to a day just to pack up the art and make sure it was sufficiently padded against any rough handling. I did battle with Fedex again  when attempting to fill out and then print the shipping label and the return label.  All was finally completed, and last Friday we delivered the box into the hands of Fedex. Now I’m hoping that it makes it to the show on time and in one piece - or two pieces in this case.

So now I can formally announce that  “The Green Team” and “Kentucky Dreamer” were accepted into the invitational art show, “The Horse In Art”  to be held at the Seippel Homestead and Center For the Arts in Beaver Dam Wisconsin. This invitational show runs from April 17 to June 5, 2011 and is sponsored by the Beaver Dam Area Arts Association.

From what I hear of the other artists who will be exhibiting, I am humbled to be hanging along side their art. And the bonus is that the woman who is interested in buying “Green Team” also lives in Wisconsin not far from the show. She may buy it there which will be a win win win all the way around for her, for me and for the show.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Finished Belgian Oil Painting

detail "Meet The Green Team" oil on canvas
 To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I finished an oil painting today with the working title, “Meet The Green Team”. You may remember this painting from previous blog posts. It’s been around so long that it’s almost an oldey moldey.

I’m totally elated to finish this painting for several reasons. It’s been “under construction” for almost seven years! I needed to finish it to send to a show next month. And, someone is interested in buying it! She lives in the same state where the painting will be going to the show which should allow her to buy it at the show if she can make it there.

This painting also represents a milestone of sorts for me besides being the first major work of art that I’ve completed in several years. I really challenged myself with this painting by making some significant changes from the reference photograph. As you can see in the reference below, one of the horses is a bay and both horses are sweaty  having just finished participating in a horse pull. I wanted to paint a team of Belgians so decided to change the bay to a sorrel and elminate the sweat from the horses. I didn’t care for the rusty trailer so decided to change that, too. One of the reasons it took so long to finish this one is that I ran into problems because I didn’t have good references for what I wanted the horses and trailer to look like. It took a lot of revising to get it to its finished state.

reference for painting
Finished painting, 12x16 oil on canvas
Next on the schedule will be finishing the taxes so they can go to the accountant, and then it is back to painting again. “The girls” are waiting to be finished: “Glory” and “Girls Play”.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Horse Paintings Progress Report - Deep In The Uglies

Mute Swans in winter

“Ugly” doesn’t really apply to the above photo, but I thought you might like to see what we’ve been enjoying in our beach this winter. For the first time ever, my husband installed a bubbler in the water last December in an effort to keep the ice from shifting our dock. The neighbors did the same thing, and the result  has been a nice large open space of water. It didn’t take the ducks and swans long to find this open water, and they come every day to feed in our shallow beach area. I took this photo on a rare sunny day when the swans were here.

This graceful pair of swans had five cygnets at one time last summer, but by fall only one was left. Now they are alone again and will no doubt have more babies this coming summer. Their presence is a reminder that Spring WILL come eventually!

Tribute To Glory first layer of color
Meanwhile, I put the first layer of color on the Glory painting, and it is now officially in the Ugly stage when one wonders if the painting will  EVER be pretty. But, this is only the beginning and, rest assured, it will improve. I hope. So far I’m not sure I like the green background so will play with that in Photoshop to see if I like something else better.

Girls Play Too background color layer
I decided to do the background for Girls Play Too first, and this is my first attempt. It’s also in the Ugly stage and will need much more work. Look closely and you’ll see that I painted over the horse in a few spots in order to get the background smooth. After taking the picture, I cleaned the green off the horse. At this early stage, that isn’t a problem, but later on I’ll have to be more careful because some colors stain whatever you paint them over and leave a slight color tint behind no matter how much you rub or soak the area.

That’s it for today. I’ve now made the executive decision to not try to finish these paintings for the show as I had originally planned. There are just too many interruptions in my days to be able to paint long hours or even to paint every day. I also have to finish the taxes yet and get them to the accountant pronto. So, I’ll be finishing the Belgian painting and will send that with one or two older works.  Sometimes I get overly ambitious and bite off more than I can chew, and this is one of those times. I never seem to learn. Sigh. 

BUT, on the positive side, I have two new paintings well under way that I am eager to finish. And that is a very good thing!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Starting Over - Polo Painting

"Girls Play Too" Polo painting on Belgian Linen
 It never pays to be in too much of a hurry.

Here is my second painting that I hope to have done in time for the invitational show. I had to start it over because the first time I didn’t give enough attention to placement of the horse and rider on the canvas, and they ended up too high.  I was able to scrub off the line drawing with Gamsol and salvage the canvas which is a good thing because it’s Belgian linen.

The second time around, I took more time moving the drawing around on the canvas and even using matboard corners to check how the painting will look when it’s framed with the rabbet overlap hiding the edges of the canvas. I’m much happier with it now and think I got the placement just right. 

It never pays to be in too much of a hurry.

I used the same underpainting mixture on this painting as I did for the Glory painting  but applied the paint much more thinly which is more my usual method. The underpainting will now dry for a few days before I begin the color layer.

I’m using a photograph I tood two years ago at the Horse Shows By The Bay demonstration polo match. Most of  the players were Michigan State University students using a borrowed string of polo ponies. I’ve loved polo ever since my parents took me to a match the summer we lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin when I was about eleven. This was only the second match I’ve seen and I thoroughly enjoyed it and took a ton of photos. More paintings will come from them.

Since I really don’t know that much about polo, I went online and looked it up to check that the details would be accurate for tack, the field and the rider’s dress. All of the players had some kind of face guard on their helmets at the match I went to which obscures this rider’s face. I found online that not all polo players use them, so it was eliminated from the painting. I also took some artistic license with other elements of the photo. What you see is kind of rough, but rest assured the final painting will be polished and colorful.

I’m really excited about this new painting and can’t wait to get back to it. Meanwhile, I’ll put some color on the Glory painting which will really bring it more to life. Time is short, and I must hurry along. But, not too fast. I can’t afford any more mistakes that delay progress.

And so it’s back to the studio for me!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Tribute To Glory" - New Palomino Oil Painting

I’m somewhat of an expert on Things That Can Get In The Way Of Painting. Everything else always seems to be more important, urgent or compelling. Or, I avoid the studio because of that Fear Of Failure thing: wasting time on Facebook or forums or trolling the internet in pursuit of things I don’t really need but must find Right Now.

One of those Things the past three weeks has been a project to go through 40 years worth of business and household records in order to take them to a company that shreds documents for businesses. I suppose it started with the end of the year project to evaluate the past year and prepare for the upcoming year which meant going through last year’s records. It was necessary because we had run out of space for storing records!

Once that project was completed, I felt the need to go through my mother’s papers in an effort to consolidate them all in one box  which could be put away in the crawl space until the day comes when it is safe to discard them. It was quite a chore since some of them were pretty disorganized and scattered in three different places, but now that project is also done.

I’ve become a big believer in Feng Shui, and getting rid of all those old records and getting my mother’s papers consolidated and out of sight has gotten rid of a lot of negative energy in the house and especially the studio, I’ve found. Just for good measure, I took all the piles of unfiled papers off of my studio desk and put them in my son’s room to deal with later. Walking into the studio to see a clean desk has really helped me feel much more positive, hopeful and energized about getting creative again.

And just in time, too, because I have a show coming up in April and needed to get some new art done. The first piece I picked out was a photograph of a palomino mare which was my horse’s best friend when I bought him. She was also a favorite of mine. Like so many  horses, she came to the barn with some history. For some reason we couldn’t fathom, no one liked her at her old home. She  was starved for attention when she arrived, and we were happy to oblige. With kind treatment and care, Glory soon thrived. She could be a little ditsy at times but was otherwise a sweet gentle mare.

Although Glory was a Quarter Horse, she had a bit of a dished face, and this photo of her, which shows it, had always appealed to me. What you see above is the painting to date in the underpainting stage. She looks kind of like a dappled gray in this version but that will change when the color is added.

Glory’s new job was as a broodmare and occasional riding horse. Sadly, she died foaling several years later, and so this painting is my “Tribute To Glory”.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Horse Paintings: One Old and One New

Happy New Year Everyone!

Now that the hubbub of  the holidays has come and gone, I’m more or less settling in for the long winter and hoping to get going in the studio again. The end of the year analysis is over, and my only real goals for this year are to focus on artwork and getting more fit and more healthy. Maybe this year it will actually happen!

This past week I spent time adjusting the image of the oil painting above titled “Remembering Willie”. It’s a small painting of my childhood horse that I plan to use in an ad in Horses In Art magazine. Since I was having problems getting a good print out of it, I finally (after four years!) took the time to read in my Photoshop books about the proper settings for printing to my desktop printer and for working with images destined for commercial print publication.  To my surprise, it only took about a day’s reading and experimenting to grasp what the proper settings needed to be, and the image has now been sent off to the magazine for the Spring issue.

Solving this problem is a big load off my mind, and now I’m sorry I waited four years to take the time to tackle it. There is still much more to be learned about color correction in Photoshop, so I’m going to continue working with the books and the program this winter while I have more time.

Just before New Years, I arrived at the barn for our Christmas party to find my horse standing in the aisle surrounded by  humans with his leg wrapped up. He was lame again, feeling sorry for himself but definitely enjoying all the sympathy. Long story short, this time it turned out to be a hoof abscess and he is now well on his way to soundness. So, I’m hoping to start riding again this coming week. Oddly enough, there were so many horses lame at the same time at the barn that I don’t think anyone has been riding much this month. It will be very good to get back with my barn buddies and get my riding workouts in again.

I’ve picked out reference for a new painting and begun the preliminary preparations so that I can start on it this week. The subject is a palomino mare that was my horse’s best friend when I first bought him. She was a favorite of mine, too. Here’s an ACEO I did a few years ago from the same reference photo, and I was so pleased with how it turned out, I’ve wanted to do a proper painting of Glory ever since.

Also waiting on the studio wall is the Belgian painting that I really MUST get back to and finish.

And that’s all for today.