Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Echo", a Horse Drawing

"Echo" a Quarter Horse Mare

Drawing from the photograph

I saw a woolly caterpillar in the barn aisle the other day, and that is a sure sign that Fall is here and winter is on its way. 

Usually, Fall is very busy at our house as we batten down the hatches preparing for the snow and cold ahead: taking water craft out of the water for winter storage and cleaning out the flower beds, preparing for the holidays and other sundry things. This year is no exception and is shaping up to be even busier than normal after what was a busy summer. 

For one thing, we took our cat, Molly, downstate to a cat clinic for radiation treatment for hyperthyroidism. She has been on medication for two years, but it was no longer working. It has been traumatic for both us and poor Molly since she had to stay at the clinic for four days and is now in quarantine at home for a week. The treatment itself is very safe, but she was stressed to the max just being taken away from home and "abandoned" by her people and now isolated from all of us in her room alone. She came home very thin and totally exhausted but is now doing fine if not very lonely. 

In spite of the hubbub, I started a new drawing the other day. Not a sketch but an honest to goodness drawing of a Quarter Horse mare that I wanted to finish in colored pencil. I will probably also use the drawing for an oil or pastel painting of this mare and her foal, a painting that I've long wanted to do. 

The drawing was done freehand using the photograph above. I didn't do any measurements to start with, and when it was done, I found some problems. Hunting up my calipers or dividers or whatever you call the thing, I used that to measure the proportions of that particular horse, using the head as the basic measurement by which all others were compared. One head equals the length of the neck and also the width of the barrel and the length of the forelegs to the fetlocks and so on. I traced the original drawing onto a sheet of tracing paper, making some adjustments as I went. This is just the first tracing. I will do another over the top of this one because there are still several adjustments to be made. 

When I'm satisfied with the drawing, I'll trace it onto a good sheet of paper and finish it with colored pencil. That can serve as my color study for the larger oil painting. For that I will add a foal and a background. The foal photo I'd like to use has lighting opposite to what is in the photo of Echo, and I'll have to change it to match the mare by doing some sketches and a value study before proceeding to the painting. 

It feels very good to be tackling a brand new image with challenges to overcome and having the confidence to do it. 

Echo was a former ranch horse who became a broodmare and a trail horse. She is still very much missed by her family. This will be her tribute. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

"Impromptu" Revisited - A Horse Head Drawing

"Impromptu" a horse head pencil drawing

Saturday, September 12, 2015 was an exciting day for us die hard Michigan fans. The University of Michigan has a new football coach, as almost everyone in the country knows, and yesterday was Coach Harbaugh's debut in the Big House where he once played on that same field years ago. 

As a native of Ann Arbor, child of a professor and University graduate, my roots with Michigan football run deep. Many is the time, from a youngster through college and into adulthood, that I cheered on the Wolverines and sang Hail To The Victors within the awe inspiring walls of the Big House on crisp Fall afternoons. The stadium truly lives up to its name. 

On this particular Saturday I chose to revise this little drawing while watching the game. It was done back in July, if you remember. It had been an exercise in drawing a horse head using no reference whatsoever except my own knowledge of and experience with horses. But, I wasn't completely satisfied with the results, so on this day I gathered pencils and erasers and set to work tweaking here and changing there as I cheered on the Wolverines. 

Unfortunately, the paper support only allowed minor tweaks and very little erasing. For that reason, the drawing is now as good as it's going to get. It's better but there are still changes I'd like to make while keeping to the exercise of using no reference. Perhaps I'll throw a sheet of tracing paper over it and rework the outline and create a completely new drawing from that. Perhaps in colored pencils this time which is a medium I haven't used in many years now. 

Meanwhile, Coach Harbaugh got his first victory in The Big House, and the great tradition of Michigan football has been revived. 


Friday, September 4, 2015

Labor Day and Summer's End

The fence line flower beds all weeded and mulched

Whew! It has been a very busy summer! 

After a year of total neglect, I did finally get all the flower beds cleaned out, the annuals and a few new perrenials planted and the beds all fertilized and mulched. What a job! 
I did some sketching but not much else in the art department. Our house is not air conditioned, and sometimes it just gets too hot in the studio. Those overhead studio lights really heat it up. 
My horse, Scottie, is doing well at the moment. He did have a bout of mild laminitis in July so we’re now keeping a close eye on him and his feet and will remove him from his beloved grass if he goes lame again. He had a very good checkup with the equine vet dentist last month. She was very pleased with his weight gain and over all condition considering his worn down teeth and chewing difficulties. 

Riding The Pines trail with a friend
We went on trail rides when it wasn’t too hot, and Scottie was eager, enthusiastic and tired less than he had last summer. All are good signs that he has fully recovered from his terrible sinus infection of three years ago and that his Cushings disease is under control. 

Back on the home front, we’ve made a big change in our lives. We just bought a 23 year old pontoon boat to add to our “fleet” of water craft. We had an old one years ago when our kids were little. We had a lot of fun on that boat with our kids and relatives and friends. It wasn’t much to look at, had no built in seating, but it did have an outhouse on the back. During a lean time we sold it. 

In the past couple of years, the kids and I have realized how much we missed that old pontoon boat, and now that we have the dogs, a pontoon boat will be much more practical and comfortable for all for taking the pooches with us out on the lakes. My husband was persuaded, and we lucked into finding a really nice used pontoon boat on Craig’s List at a really good price within our meager budget and not too far away. The owner, an older gentleman from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan was downsizing and was motivated to sell. We snapped it up as fast as we could and hauled it home two weeks ago. 

Thummbelina, our new/used pontoon boat
After some maintenance work by my husband, we got it in the water and are all eager to enjoy it this weekend. Beautiful Torch Lake is just a short boat ride away, and the weather is supposed to be great for the next two days. 

Another project I’ve undertaken this summer is to copy my mother’s Life Stories from printed sheets of paper onto my computer. I will compile them all into a book of sorts and plan to give them to anyone in the family who wants a copy. Talk about a trip down Memory Lane!  Some of the stories I’ve heard all my life, but others are brand new to me and very revealing about my mother and her unique life. 

I am a convert to writing Life Stories. It’s just too bad that more people don’t do it because so much family history is lost forever otherwise. I am writing down some of my own memories and experiences and will take another writing class or two this Fall. 

One of the reasons I’m looking forward to the end of summer and the  passing of Labor Day is because the next project on the agenda is to begin sorting through all the old photographs of my parents’ and putting them into albums. I figure that is a perfect companion project to the writing and copying of stories.  

Perhaps my mother’s book will be “illustrated” with old photographs from her past.