Sunday, October 14, 2012

Life Drawings At the Barn and Other Fun Adventures

"Girls Play Too" polo oil painting in progress

TIme really got away from me this summer, and now two months have passed since my last blog post. I can’t say that I have a lot to show for those two months; one would think I’d been busy accomplishing many things but sad to say, I didn’t. One thing I did manage was a couple of sessions adding early color to the polo painting above. It’s still sitting on the easel waiting for my return and admonishing me to get to it. Maybe I will some day soon. 
pencil sketches of horses in pasture

However, this past summer pretty much turned into a repeat of the previous summer on the horse front, but I did manage to  spend some time sketching the horses in the pasture and arena a couple of times. It’s pretty obvious that I haven’t quite caught on yet to drawing grazing horses which are constantly in motion. Life Drawing didn’t prepare me for 5-10 second “poses” as the horses moved from one grass clump to another. I did several sketches of the horses and then gave up and sketched the pastures instead. Perhaps the trick is to use the horses only for partial reference and fill in the rest from memory. It’s worth a try next time. 
pen and ink sketch of horse dozing in the arena

My horse, Scottie, was laid up most of the summer with one hoof abscess after another until we finally decided to treat him for Cushings disease. It suppresses the immune system which would explain his persistent jaw abscess last summer and the multiple hoof abscesses over the past year. We began his medication in July and also put shoes on him which has so far resulted in no new abscesses! (knock on wood, of course)

He was dealing with the last hoof abscess when his nose started draining a nasty, thick greenish glop. Three courses of antibiotic and three months later, it seems to be subsiding. Now we are treating him for a very bad case of Scratches or greasy heel as it’s also known. That, too, is now responding to daily treatment, and I’m hoping that soon I won’t have to trek to the barn every day and will be able to resume some regular riding. We missed a whole summer of trail rides which I think we both missed. 

I was all signed up to take a painting workshop from Colleen Howe in September, but she had to cancel it, and I’m quite disappointed about that. I hope they ask her back next summer because I’ll sign up again if she comes. 

Like most of the country, we had a very dry summer this year with almost no rain. That meant lots of watering, and for the most part, my plants came through the drought in pretty good shape. Maybe I’ll show you some flower pictures next time. 

That’s about all for this post. It’s time to head to the barn again to sit on the dirty aisle floor, pick scabs off my horse’s ankles and slather on the salve that is healing the fungus infection. Ah, the joys of horse ownership!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Reiners By The Bay

I have to admit that I’ve always been an english rider at heart, ever since starting riding lessons at age ten. Back then it was huntseat, but in more recent years I took up dressage. 

I have, however, always loved the Quarter Horse breed. In fact, my own horse is a very atypical Quarter Horse much better suited to the english riding disciplines than to the life of a cowpony, but he has that wonderful QH gentile, laid back personality. I’ve never had lessons in riding western although I do know the difference between direct reining and neck reining and that western riders ride with only one hand on the reins. And, I know all the parts of western saddles and other tack. I watched a lot of westerns when I was a kid in the 50’s after all. 

That’s about the extent of my western riding knowledge so when I went to the Reiners By The Bay show two weekends ago at Flintfields Horse Park, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or when the best time to go was. A check of the website revealed only a list of classes with unfamiliar designations and no explanation as to what those designations meant. 

Unfortunately, I chose to go on Sunday rather than Saturday because of the predicted high heat, and that turned out to be a mistake. All the good (upper level) classes were on Saturday. The Sunday schedule had promised a full list of classes, but when I got there in late morning, only two classes remained; both for green horses and riders. 

Ah well. It was a learning experience if nothing more, and after checking out the light direction and accessibility to the ring, I lucked out by standing next to a woman who was there with reiner friends and was friendly enough to  clue me in to a few things. 

Maybe it was the fact that these were green horses doing the required movements awkwardly and slowly, but I suddenly understood the opinions of non dressage enthusiasts about watching dressage. Once you’ve seen one or two horses go, you’ve seen it all and the rest is pretty boring. 

My railside shooting companion did tell me that this show was a nationally sanctioned event and that they hoped to make it an annual show. I do, too, because I’d love to watch the upper level horses perform their spins and sliding stops in more dramatic fashion. 

I was informed that reiners are both very friendly, supportive of one another and noisy in voicing that support during rides. 

Dogs go to reining events, too. This is an interesting looking canine, don't you think? 

Some of the entrants were all dolled up in fancy clothes like you see in western pleasure classes with matching saddle pads. 

One of the required movements consists of going fast around in a circle three times in each direction. 

But the really exciting movements in reining are the spin, here executed in slow motion 

and the sliding stop. I have been told that the rider must not haul on the horse's mouth to get the desired fast sliding stop, haunches down and front feet walking to a stop. 

I'm pretty sure this is frowned upon, but after all this is a green reining horse. 

All in all, the camera performed perfectly, I learned a lot and am already looking forward to next year's show. Plus, I did get some great shots to use for paintings and saw some handsome cowboys, cute girls and pretty horses. 

That made the day very worthwhile. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Day at Horse Shows By The Bay

I didn’t go to the Olympics, but I did go to Horse Shows By the Bay two weekends ago to watch the hunter/jumpers and shoot the Grand Prix event of Week Three in the big ring. It was hot. It’s always hot at HSBB, but not as hot as many areas of the country are experiencing in this record breaking sweltering summer.  So, I went prepared with sunscreen and a floppy hat that wouldn’t interfere with the camera. It’s become my photo shoot hat for any outdoor excursions. 

At any rate, I arrived a little early and had time to wander around doing some random shooting in the various rings (there are five) and in the barn area. Much to my disappointment, the small and medium ponies were all done, and the leadline class never materialized. But I did witness the awards photo op for one of the pony divisions, apparently a tie. (see above) Aren’t these two little girls cute? How about that hat? One can only guess that the co-winner was not too keen about sharing her award as she’s looking pretty glum. Such is horse show life with kids, I guess. 

A well turned out hunter on the way to a class. I'm a sucker for these types of head shots. 

Get a load of this tiny girl on her big horse. I took lots of photos of her in the warmup ring, and she was having the time of her life, grinning from ear to ear the whole time. Was it her first show? Did her big sister let her ride her horse? Whatever the situation, she handled that big guy with no problems. 

Now to the other extreme. I like a flashy pinto as much as the next person, but this girl is "going to need a bigger horse" next year. 

I'm always on the lookout for dogs at the  horse show and always find a few. This is one photogenic dog of the day. 

The warmup ring can get quite crowded as this one is. They all manage to get around without any crashes, all doing their own things. Did you know that the rules of ring riding are similar to rules of the road for cars? 

Betsy Van Dyke did a dressage demonstration before the Grand Prix event of the day as she has in past years. Here she and her mount are demonstrating the piaffe, a trot in place. 

Having solved the camera problem of the dressage show, I was ready for some fast action, and that’s just what I got in the Grand Prix ring. In fact, more than I bargained for. Here are a few jumping shots for you. 

Over the "water jump" with a high vertical. 

I'm not a jumping person, but I believe this is called a triple oxer. 

Jumpers tend to be hot and show a lot of intensity and "go". 

This may have been the most challenging combination on the course, an in and out with only one stride between jumps and over an oxer.

It happens sometimes. As horsemen, we all know the risks and choose to take them. On this day one of the young riders lost her balance over a jump and had a bad fall; bad enough that the ambulance had to be summoned. It took forever to arrive as she cried and screamed in pain. It was unnerving to all of us spectators. Since I felt myself beginning to fry in the sun, I chose to leave when they loaded her in the ambulance. I found out later that she had broken her arm. 

The camera performed perfectly in its inaugural debut at a horse show, and I got one killer shot during the jumping. That makes the day very worthwhile in spite of the fallen rider. 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dressage By The Bay, 2012

Working Trot, Intermediare musical freestyle
Last Saturday I took my big camera and headed for Dressage By the Bay at Flintfields Horse Park near Traverse City, Michigan. It’s just a twenty minute drive for me, and this show is the first of a five week group of shows through the month of July and into August. 

After consulting the online class schedule, I decided to go late in the afternoon for the musical freestyles. There were three classes of musical freestyle: young riders, Intermediare and Grand Prix. Each class had only a few riders in it, and the weather didn’t cooperate much as it got a bit cloudy about the time I arrived. Not the best lighting for photography, but whatcha gonna do? The sun did come out briefly, and those photos were some of my best for the day. 

In addition, I chose a bad shot to shoot from since the boards for the dressage arena often cut off the horses' feet, as above. Next time I'll know to shoot from a different spot. 

I hit another snag with my camera when it wouldn’t shoot continuously at its usual ripping pace. It had been working fine when I tested it at home, but of course it didn’t at the show, so I didn’t get the action shots I had hoped for except for a few by happenstance. 

Heading for the warmup ring, Dressage By The Bay
I had some time to kill before the musical freestyles began, so I took a stroll through the barns area and got some good shots there. I love to do those candid behind-the-scenes shots as well as those in the arena, and sometimes they can be more interesting. Here are a few of the shots I got with some notes on each: 
I couldn't pass up this beautiful photo of a very wet horse at the wash rack with his young owner 

Grand Prix musical freestyle, stallion and rider

This Friesian was a crowd favorite with his high action, winning his class, too.

This handsome fellow was a handful but had beautiful movement and won his class
I was a bit disappointed that the show seems to have shrunk in size since I last attended 2-3 years ago. It’s hard to understand why the dressage riders aren’t coming up here for the show since the facility is top notch and management is getting very high ratings from the hunter/jumper riders who come up for three weeks of Horse Shows By the Bay. The Traverse City area is beautiful and has many summer activities to tempt the riders during their down times, including the wonderful Grand Traverse Bay beaches and boating activities. 

Enjoy the photos, but please remember that they are protected by copyright, so please do not copy without asking permission. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Mare In Question; A Bit of Unplanned Excitement


Life has been very busy again of late. 

Scottie developed yet another hoof abscess last month and that entailed more daily trips to the barn to soak and wrap his foot. I have also been cleaning out flower beds and generally preparing them for the new growing season. Thanks to our early warm weather back in March, everything is doing extremely well and growing fast. I’ve already planted some annuals and have new perennials to add to the beds to fill them out. But first, a few perennials need to be moved to better spots, and I’ve been trying to figure out where to put them before I tackle the new plants. 

Our kids were both home for the Memorial Day holiday weekend which required that I clean the house, something I don’t do as often as I should. We had a nice visit even though the weather didn’t cooperate, and then it was back to the usual routines. 

Male barn swallow
I had just started riding Scottie again when he came up lame yet again, so now it’s back to the barn daily for foot soaks. Just the other day I took my big camera along and managed to get some pretty good shots. The barn swallows are back, and a pair of adults obliged me by sitting still on the fence while I took their pictures. When I looked at them on the computer, I was amazed by the beautiful irridescence of the feathers on their backs and heads. What great paintings they will make! I was disappointed that the shots weren’t more sharp and am wondering if maybe I need to upgrade to a better zoom lens for this camera. Or, perhaps I needed a tripod. 

This photo is of a little bird which was hanging around Mikey as he grazed. This bold little fellow got daringly close to Mikey’s mouth in this shot, and I figure he was waiting to grab any insects that Michael might have scared up while cutting the grass. What a brave little bird!

Mikey's Bird
As for the photo at the top, it is of the mare in question, a big rawboned Hannoverian mare named Mellissa. She is currently in heat and has been smitten by J Willie who is in another pasture. He seems equally smitten with her, even though he’s a gelding, and the two of them have been calling to each other constantly. Well, Mel doesn’t really ever neigh or whinny; she bellows. 

As I was bringing Scottie out of the pasture gate later that same day, Mel snuck up behind us and barged through the gate and headed for the driveway. This mare is nearly 17 hands and is a bit of a tank. There was no stopping her! My heart went into my throat, fearing she would take off down the drive and into the road. But she swerved off to the side to have a rendevous with JW. Quickly I put Scott in cross ties in the barn and grabbed Mel’s halter. But when she saw me with the halter, it was clear she had no intention of being caught and took off at her ground shaking big trot. I managed to block her from the driveway and maneuver her back toward the barn door where she thankfully took the bait and trotted in. Then I heard the sound of a cross tie breaking. Oh No! What had she done to my horse?!

As I ran into the barn aisle, I saw both horses at the far end. Shutting the door behind me, I approached them and grabbed Scottie and then opened the gate into the arena as Mel bellowed for JW yet again. She willingly charged into the arena which abuts JW’s paddock and leads out into the big pasture. Whew! She was contained!

A quick assessment of Scottie revealed no damage to his body nor did he seem the least bit upset. But his halter hardware was broken and one cross tie lay over his neck just behind his ears. In thinking about it, I’ve concluded that when he saw Mel coming at him down the aisle, he must have reared back and broken loose on his own in an attempt to get out of her way. 

At any rate, I’m just very thankful that none of us were hurt and that I managed to put Mel back where she belonged so that we didn’t have to chase her through the woods or along country roads. That bit of excitement is enough to last me for a long time! 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Out of My Comfort Zone

10 minute figure drawing

Life Drawing, Layman’s Definition; drawing naked people. 

Life Drawing, Artist’s Definition; exploring the human form through drawing the live, unclothed figure in various poses, paying attention to anatomy, proportions, volume, soft and hard edges and the play of light across the figure. 

That pretty much sums up what any good equine or animal artist does as well, except that you have to deal with fur and feathers.  So when I heard about a two day life drawing class being held at the Dennos Museum in nearby Traverse City, I jumped at the chance to attend.  The instructor was Mary Guntzviller who is a well known local artist and an excellent teacher. 

It had been twenty eight years since I last did any life drawing back in art school, but I do remember learning a lot in those classes. Even so, the thought of doing life drawing was way out of my comfort zone! 

I arrived at class the first morning with a great deal of trepidation but was soon put at ease by Mary’s relaxed teaching style. It seems I wasn’t the only duck out of water, so to speak, with little or no experience at life drawing. 

Our models consisted of two males and a female who each modeled during one of three sessions. We worked at easels and used mostly very large sheets of newsprint. We were admonished to fill  the whole sheet and use our shoulders as pivot points for our drawing arms to prevent us from getting too tight with our drawings. Our medium was vine charcoal with some use of graphite sticks and pastel for shading.

We started out each session doing gesture drawings while the models changed poses every 30 seconds. Yes, I did say 30 SECONDS! We were taught to start with a  stick figure and then to build the body on that - if you had the time to get that far! A quick wipe off of the paper between poses was all we got. The purpose of this is to teach you to look for just the gesture of the figure and not for details; grab the basic movement and form of the figure as fast as you can before you can think too much about it. 

These little stick poses can be very graceful. 

The final gesture exercise was to draw the volume of the figure using spirals. 

Spiral Man, charcoal on paper
From there we progressed to ten minute line drawings using  a pencil to measure the proportions of the body and the angles of the figure, just as you often see artists do as they hold a pencil out at arm’s length toward their subject. It’s amazing how much your mind can fool you about proportions. What you THINK you see, isn’t what you see at all! 

20 minute figure drawing, charcoal
And then we progressed to longer poses of 20- 40 minutes which gave us time to add some volume to the figures by adding shadows and defining the form by indicating bones and muscles. 

30 minute figure drawing, charcoal and graphite
The most challenging of all were poses which required us to draw the foreshortened figure.  In other words, drawing the figure with the body or parts going away from or toward you. Your mind can REALLY play tricks on you here! 

exercise in foreshortening
30 minute foreshortening drawing, charcoal and graphite
But the exercise I enjoyed the most was one using a light and a dark pastel to indicate the form of the model using no lines. On the first try, the lights were turned off, and the only light we had to work by was the floodlight on the model. It was impossible to get too fussy with the figure this way, but I couldn’t resist doing some blending  of lights and darks to create more than the required two values. This turned out to be my best effort of the three drawings we did. 

volume study, pastel
I found the class to be both exhilarating and exhausting. I was definitely way out of my comfort zone! However, the benefits to my art are probably enormous. I can apply what I learned and practiced in this class to drawing horses and other animals from life, and when I have to put a human in my painting, I’ll have a better understanding of human anatomy and how to render it. 

Going out of one’s comfort zone once in a while is a very good thing. And, I’m already looking forward to any other opportunities to do life drawings that might come my way. I wonder if my husband would be willing to pose...

40 minute figure drawing, charcoal and graphite

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Never A Dull Moment

Lamb oil painting on linen

It seems like there’s never a dull moment around here. Just when I thought there would finally be plenty of time for painting, Scottie developed another hoof abscess. 

But, I did work on the lamb painting a little bit more, adding the first layer of color to the lamb, mostly white, but also defining facial features and shadows. This should give me a good base for further adding more color and definition in my next painting session. 

I’ve also been giving some thought to the polo painting and have decided on some of colors for the leg wraps and rider’s shirt. Still to be determined are the saddle pad and helmet colors. After that I can proceed with this painting, and I’m really anxious to work on it. 

As for Scottie, I’ve been making daily trips to the barn again to soak and dress his foot, and I think the abscess has now begun to resolve. The vet was out on Monday and drew blood to test him for Cushings disease again since he has such a long, wavy coat. She is pleased with his appearance and condition this Spring versus how thin he came through last winter, and she gave me some advice on conditioning him over the summer. 

While waiting for her to arrive, I got busy with the clippers and clipped his lower legs, hocks, jaw line and belly. I also tidied up some of the trace clip I did in March during the hots spell we had, so he looks a lot more like himself now and less like a stuffed pony. The vet referred to his “poodle cut”, but Scottie and I don’t care. 

There is a bison farm on the way to the barn, and last Saturday I had the good fortune of having the camera with me when there were some bison in the pasture next to the road. Better yet, they were fairly close to the fence, so I stopped and took a few photos. Two cows, two yearling calves and a bull obliged my picture taking with only curious looks. I wasn’t sure whether to expect a charge or not and didn’t want to trust the flimsy fence to stop it, so I didn’t get too close. Maybe with a little luck, next time there will be some newborn calves to photograph. 

This weekend I will be taking a two day class in life drawing at the museum in Traverse City. Much fun is promised, and I’m very much looking forward to it. I haven’t done any life drawing since art school many years ago. Maybe I’ll share some of my drawings next time. 

Here is Scottie with his poodle cut. His mane seems to be getting lighter, and I’ve noticed that there are quite a few gray hairs in it now. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spring Lamb - New Oil Painting

"Spring Lamb" oil painting study on linen panel

The week before last I managed to get back in the studio and started a painting of one of the lambs that we photographed on our Easter trip. I didn’t get very far, but it’s a start. Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, and I’m setting it aside to work on another painting in progress from last year, the polo painting.  

The lamb painting will be just a simple study. My intention is to capture the freshness of Spring and the renewal of Life that it brings. I also want to experiment with getting a lot of non local colors into the painting which should be fun working on the lamb’s almost white coat. You can see a lot of colors in white in Nature if you really look. 

“Local Color” for you non artists refers to the color an object appears to be: grass is green, the sky is blue, a fox is reddish orange and black, etc. But, local colors contain all sorts of other colors too if you look closely, and artists can take artistic license in adding them where they don’t exist in Nature in order to create a richer, more interesting painting. 

It’s been so cold and windy that I pretty much lost interest in doing any gardening, but the plants are progressing slowly so I mustn’t put that off too much longer. Another tulip has bloomed, but none of the daffodils even have buds on them which means we’ll have to wait until next year to enjoy their happy little faces. And to paint them! 

I have big plans to get outside and paint this year, even if it means just around the yard or from the deck overlooking the lake. I did sign up for a plein air painting group through the Parkside Arts Council, though. It will meet once a month all summer and should be fun to be out with others. Doing some painting in the yard will give me a chance to do dry runs on using my french easel and figure out what works best for transporting supplies. 

In the meantime, I’ve been busy going through hundreds and hundreds of photographs from my camera cards, throwing out the useless ones and sorting the rest into folders by subject. They are all backed up onto CD’s now, and next I tackle the project of setting up Time Machine on the new computer so that it can back up regularly without me having to do any of the work. Since I haven’t yet backed up this new computer (from last summer!) it’s a task I don’t dare put off any longer. 

On the horse front, I’ve been riding regularly, and we’ve gone on a couple of more trail rides. Scottie is going so much better on these last few rides that I ‘m very encouraged about riding this summer. I was afraid that he woudn’t be able to handle trail rides anymore, but if I continue to ride regularly and build his muscles back up, I’m hopeful again. 

"Kaia" six week old German Shepherd puppy

There is a new dog at the barn now. The owners have a six week old German Shepherd puppy, and I’ve been able to get a few good shots of her. Here’s one of them. Such a sweet face! I hope to be able to do many paintings of little Kaia as she grows up and becomes a beautiful German Shepherd, my very favorite breed of dog. 

That’s all for today. I must get back to figuring out this Time Machine thing so that I can rest easy again. Hasta la Vista! 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Little Lambsey Divey

Spring lambs on the farm

 We had a pretty nice Easter this past weekend at our house. Both of our adult kids were home with their new cars, and now Mom doesn’t have to worry about them breaking down on their long drives home. 

On Saturday we took a drive over to the old family homestead near Gaylord to see how the place had survived the big storm of a few weeks ago. All was well as they didn’t get the heavy snow and wind that we did. Because it was so much colder inside the unheated house than outside, we ate our picnic lunch beside the pond and then drove around the two tracks looking for wildlife. We flushed two partridges, but that was all. 

I was happy to see a poppy plant in the old flower bed which I had missed digging up last year. There were also some daffodils that were missed, so I’ll be digging them all up and moving them to our house some time later. 

My favorite part of that trip was when we stopped at a farm on the way home to photograph a herd of ewes and their lambs which were right up by the road. I got lots of photos, and some of them are good enough to turn into paintings or drawings. I can’t wait to paint one of those cute lambs! And what could be more perfect than lambs at Easter time!

For Easter Sunday, we all went to brunch at a local restaurant, and since it was another gorgeous sunny day, we took another drive afterwards over toward Lake Michigan this time. We managed to find Rex Beach, a beach on Grand Traverse bay that another artist had told me about, and I was thrilled to find that you can drive practically all the way to the water! I’m looking forward to doing some plein air painting there since it’s so much more accessible and at the same time more remote than any of the beaches we explored last summer. Since it was extremely windy and very cold, we didn’t linger long before retreating back to the warmth of the car and heading home. 
Rex Beach, Lake Michigan

When we got home, my husband took some photos of me outside and in the studio to use on my website and so forth. I don’t get dressed up and put on makeup very often so this was a good time to do the photos. The old photo on my website is about 20 years old now and needed to be changed for something more current. 
The artist, April 2012

Both of the kids have now gone home, the taxes are completed and waiting for our signatures and the house is clean (for a change). I am now looking forward to resuming daily activities and getting into the rhythm of Springtime activities. And, I’m determined to start back with some artwork again to refill my meager inventory of completed works. 

It was quite disappointing that the painting class I had looked forward to had to be cancelled for lack of interest, as was the acrylics class I’d hoped to take. Maybe when the snowbirds return for the summer, they’ll try again to fill those classes. I’m hoping so, anyway. 

After our record-breaking hot spell last month, it turned cold again, and all the plants that had begun to green up and grow went into a holding pattern waiting for the return of more warmth. This is the perfect time to get out in the yard and clean out the flower beds and plan where to move plants this year before they all get too big and in the way. I was pleased to see that the daffodils and tulips I planted last Fall have come up and some even have buds on them. So far we’ve had one lone yellow tulip bloom, but I’m hoping for more. 
The artist in her studio

A couple of weeks ago, Scottie and I went on our first trail ride of the year; a short one; but it felt awfully good to get out of the indoor arena. Scottie wasn’t as enthusiastic as I, but I hope that will change, and we can have another summer of good trail rides. He will be 27 next weekend, so every ride is a plus at this point. 

That’s all for this time. Be back in a week.