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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label art. Show all posts

January 17, 2016

Would You Like A Portrait Of Your Horse?

I think of most us would answer yes to that question!  But when I decided to draw one for my friend as a christmas present, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out.

Growing up, rarely a day passed when I wasn’t drawing horses with swirling hair & prancing legs (although I didn’t figure out how to draw joints until adolescence, so lots of Gumby-impersonators) in school notebooks, event bulletins, margins of coloring books, anything with a blank space.
The Not-Riding Lessons

When I was 13, mom started dropping me off at evening art lessons once a week.  My teacher, Anneliese, fascinated me:  a German artist, perhaps in her 60s, she had exquisite murals of horses & forests painted on entire walls of her tiny house in a tiny town.  A small room in the back, crammed with 3 rows of easels, her rolltop desk, & a large drawing table, was her classroom/studio – you’d never have guessed she had works hanging in the Library of Congress.

First drawing from class, 1991, "Football Geese," hee
She was a whole kingdom to a kid with an already over-active imagination, complete with royal commandments.  Her master brush was her sceptre as she enforced her edicts:
  • Thou shalt begin with the Strathmore Drawing pad, one Castell 4B pencil for base sketching (made in Germany…so also permissible for dressage), & two extra-sharp Eberhard Faber Ebony charcoal pencils.
  • Thou shalt complete the following subjects:
    • Landscape
    • Still life with fruit
    • Flowers
    • Birds
    • Linear perspective
  • If satisfactory, you may then choose your own subjects (asking “can I do a horse now?” every week will not speed up the process).
It may seem strict, but it was all mixed in fun with her big glass jar of German hard candies, a ridiculous little Maltese who made everyone giggle, her own easy laugh, & the class (nearly all adults, I was the youngest) who all helped each other.

Yes, Hello Kitty sharpener!
Anneliese passed away around my freshman year of high school.  I kept drawing here & there, took a few art courses in college, but life piled up.  So as I dug through boxes, unearthing the Strathmore, now old enough to vote AND drink in the US, it had been a decade since I’d done anything more than doodle on conference programs & meeting minutes at work.

Like Riding A Bike?

Art does have its own muscle memory, same as riding.  My hand & eye still knew equine curves & shadows, but I’d never attempted a portrait before.  Because they’re hard!

You’re not just replicating a horse, you’re trying to capture one unique horse.  Pencil had always been my wheelhouse & animals the subject I understood best, but infusing a drawing with a huge equine personality was a leap I hadn’t successfully made.  I did have a very helpful ingredient on my side:  love for the subject & his owner.

Gotta start somewhere...
Only one way to find out, though.  And worst case scenario, I could make a pact of silence with Mr. Shredder & no one need be the wiser.

So I took a deep breath & laid down some landmarks with the 4B.  Time for the moment (er, hours) of truth.

The heady mix of challenge, excitement, & even catharsis stirred up memories that smelled of graphite, turpentine, the wood-paneled studio walls, heavy archival paper.  You know how you can hear your trainer’s mantras in your head in the warm-up ring?  I could still hear Anneliese’s heavily accent in my pencil strokes:
  • You can always make ze shadows darker, but never sacrifice your highlights, nein.”
  • Pencils, they must never be allowed to get dull!  Sharpen!”
  • The eye, it is everything.  You finish the eye last.”
I’m pretty happy with how it came together – the hardest part was keeping the secret until I could finally pin down friend for the handoff.  I wish I could have framed it properly for her, alas, that always seems to require money!  But I at least found a mat & frame to hold it temporarily, to avoid smudging & so I wasn’t just giving someone a piece of paper.

Here you are then:  Texas Pete, compatriot & favourite riding buddy of Solo’s, a mischievous Polish Arab whom we suspect is actually a monkey with hooves.  Sorry that sucky people who steal things for money cause giant watermarks & low-res photos.

Forgot to take photo before under glass
Le Finale

January 24, 2014

Speaking Of Survival

Because we all need a giggle.  Well, and it's true.

January 23, 2014

On Love, Loss, Survival, And Sharing

No such thing as too much Cuna-love
I'm tired.  And I get all weird and philosophical when I am tired.  So consider yourself warned. 

This time of year, it would take about three or four of me to do my job, so at some point, my brain switches off for a while and wanders off on its own.  My heart has been with Aimee as she grieves for her premature goodbye to the amazing Cuna-fish.  I know we are all grieving with her.  I have also been glad that she found Courage (and kept his prescient name); from the first time she emailed me his picture, I knew he would be his own kind of special.

It was magical watching the two of them somewhat reluctantly discover each other and then, as they cautiously began to lean on each other, take off on a fantastic trajectory.  I know I said it many times to Aimee, but it always made me giggle, because she had found her Solo, that red horse with an enormous heart and an opinion to match who changed my life forever too.

But physics and life demand that for every meteoric rise, every explosion of love, there must also be a fall back to earth.  Joy by definition cannot exist without its polar opposite, sorrow.  Sometimes we all wonder if having and adoring these incredible partners is equivalent to signing a contract for heartbreak.  I certainly did on that fateful day in 2011 when I realized Solo's journey to our 3DE was over.  

I suppose in a way it is a non-negotiable bargain, but at the same time, your heart cannot be broken by something unless you love it so much that it is a part of you.  Almost three years ago (which is hard to believe), I had to say the same goodbye to my beloved Smokey-dog.  She was not in constant pain, but I knew that her old body was worn out and it was only a matter of time before she injured herself, so I made the decision to spare her that frustration and loss of dignity.  Dr. Bob, well-known to Solo and Encore, helped me let her go; even though he assured me that I was giving her a great blessing and that she led a wonderful life, it didn't make it any easier.

We both climbed Table Rock when she was 15!
It still brings a lump to my throat, thinking of that day, of driving home alone with breathless sobs because all I could think was how  much she hated being left behind.  For months afterwards, I would catch myself listening for the jingle of her collar or I would almost see a glimpse of her around the hallway corner before I remembered she was gone.

But she visited me in dreams; she was warm and happy and I got to hug her in a furry silence filled with love and peace.  And the gifts and lessons and memories she gave me during her life are still carried in my heart every day. 

Thinking of losing Solo terrifies me, although I know that it is inevitable since the damn creatures won't agree to outlive us, selfish beasts that they are.  At the same time, the idea of never having met him just makes me feel...empty.  Imagining the last 7 years of my life without all of the places and adventures we shared, even the arguments, compromises, and the disappointments (ok, maybe we could have skipped a FEW of those) along the way -- how much poorer a life that would have been.  The doors that he opened, the confidence he gave me, the lessons he taught:  Solo didn't just make me a better rider, he made me a better person.

I will always miss them both.
Some of you know that my life mantra is "Nothing lasts forever."  And it has gotten me through many seemingly impossible times.  I unexpectedly lost the person who made Solo a part of my life, but I am still here. 

It applies to good things too, as even the most perfect of moments, loves, and partners are only ours for a while.  Nonetheless, I have learned to hold each of them as a treasure, no matter how fleeting, and I would not voluntarily give up any one of them to spare myself the grief.  Because that doesn't last forever either. 

So I try to collect that love and then pass it forward, because in a funny, completely unscientific way, sharing love does not reduce it, but rather multiplies it.

I will let one of my favourite poets sum up my own rambling attempts:

I would like to believe that when I die that I have given myself away like a tree that sows seeds every spring and never counts the loss, because it is not loss, it is adding to future life.  It is the tree's way of being.  Strongly rooted perhaps, but spilling out its treasure on the wind.     -May Sarton

May 8, 2013

There Is More Than One World Class Feature At Southern Eighths Farm

I already knew I was lucky enough to have ridden and worked at an eventer's mecca where nothing is ever done halfway.  However, since I spent most of my time here...

The So8ths fire station, oh, I mean, green shed (this is only half of it)
...feeding our loyal volunteers and officials, I didn't get to see much of this:

Erin K. performs the Training & Novice tests  for the "What Dressage Judges Look For" clinic

Dressage judge and President of the Ground Jury Sue Smithson examines Goldie's bum in the 1st horse inspection.

Dr. Debbie watches a competitor jog on the evening prior to dressage day.
What I had noticed in my golf cart wanderings was a guy and a chainsaw, hard at work on a tree trunk in a field corner next to the "shed."  I drove by one morning and discovered this fallen log was in the process of being ressurrected as an exquisite work of art.  You can imagine my squeaks of delight as I found that it was just the most recent project in a wildlife sculpture collection the likes of which I have never enountered in all my art snob perusings.

I later learned that this marine panorama was born of the talents of Randy Boni, whose works of chainsaw prowess grace locations literally around the world.  He and his twin brother were both born blind due to cataracts and he only regained his sight through surgery in his late 30's, which makes these beauties even more unbelievable.  When I finally had a few minutes to stop and chat with Randy, I met an incredibly humble, thoughtful man and we proceeded to have an amazing conversation about art, passion, love, opportunity, and the magic of having animals in your life.  Even though he is afraid of horses himself, he has a deep appreciation for their poetry of motion and heart and his sister is a dressage rider.

It became a treasure hunt around the farm as my mule buzzed through the woods and I collected quite a basket of wonders, each more alive and fantastic than the last.  All of them were commissioned by the farm owner for the sheer pleasure of seeing them and each tree from which they were carved has a story of its own.  They fit perfectly into the rolling woods of the facility, as if they had always been there.

Ducks take flight above a school of fish on the hill above the water complex.

Each sculpture changes depending on your viewing angle.

My trusty mule gives you a sense of scale.

The detail is incredibly lifelike and there is a sense of motion barely paused.

Perhaps my favourite, this fantastical scene of lions and wild boar sits up by the shed.

On the off side, beautiful leaves shelter this emerging fellow.

The boars seemed ready to leap off running.

This large totem lives down by guest stabling.

Endearing details, like this hound and raccoon, bring even more to each work.

Eagles, owls, and a pileated woodpecker keep watch at the top.
Every piece has its own energy, including the fox and hound scene that graces the main barn, which I showed you before.  On the latter, the hounds were actually modeled after Jasper, the farm's own charming Walker hound.  Rather unfairly, I now want a piece of my very own, but short of the Prince of Nigeria actually coming through with his promise of millions in gold, I fear it will never be.  Despite my deprivation, though, I have a distinct feeling that my chance encounter and conversation with such a gifted, unique, and brilliant individual was a gift of its own.  Take a few minutes and watch this fantastic video of Randy at work and it quickly becomes clear how much love and pride he instills in each masterpiece.

Still to come:  another great individual you want to give money to!  The end of your lame horse worries!  And how to open a beer with a chainsaw (why wouldn't you?)!

December 1, 2012

The Artful Equine

Commissioned Portrait by Tony O'Connor
By Tony O'Connor (Ireland)
I am a self-admitted art snob.  I was educated to within an inch of my life & my mother made sure I was cultured whether I wanted it or not, LOL.  This is an excellent thing -- unless you are poor.  It's kind of like drugs:  once you have an educated aesthetic, bad art physically hurts you (and oh my cod is there a lot of it out there), but you can't afford the good stuff.

Note to my mother:  rule still stands, my walls are full, don't get any ideas!!!! 

What the heck?  This is not about horses!  You protest.

But it is.  Because I'm going to give in to my aesthetic lust and give you a self-indulgent artgasm (these sentences are getting dodgier and dodgier...) of incredible equine works that are outside of the well-known pieces such as
Let The Beauty Begin
Horse porn for your walls (oh, I'm going to get so many hits from that sentence):
Neptune's Horses by Walter Crane
Neptune's Horses by Walter Crane (1892, England)
Deux études partielles d'une tête de cheval bridée, sculptural study by Edme Bouchardon
Deux études partielles d'une tête de cheval bridée, sculptural study by Edme Bouchardon (1698-1762, France)
Rough translation of that title:  Two Partial Studies of a Bridled Horse's Head.  There, now I finally feel like that 7 years of French was good for something!

I bet you didn't know Degas (1834-1917, France) has a huge body of equestrian work -- sculpture & paintings of racehorses.  My favourites are his studies:
Three Jockeys
Three Jockeys
A horse study
A horse study
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640, Flemish) was best known for his hyper-saturated, detailed depictions of mythology & battle & has always been one of my favourite classical artists.  He had a great talent for capturing the powerful energy of a horse in motion or standing still.  Some of his lesser known works:

Equestrian Portrait of the Duke of Lerma
Equestrian Portrait of the Duke of Lerma
Saddled Horse
Saddled Horse (c. 1615-1618)
And before I leave the masters, I have to include this one for the title alone.  By Francisco de Goya (Spain), who is called both the last of the old masters & the first of the modern painters, known for his studio portraits & scenes of the wealthy:

A Woman And A Horse, Let Someone Else Master Them
A Woman And A Horse, Let Someone Else Master Them (how can you pass that up?)
Contemporary Artists
Stallion I by Ricardo Vargas
Stallion I by Ricardo Vargas
Weathered Equine I by Norman Wyatt Jr (VA)
Weathered Equine I by Norman Wyatt Jr (VA)
Baroque Horse Series III: II by Heather Theurer
Baroque Horse Series III: II by Heather Theurer (western US)
Hanging in the Balance by Heather Theurer
Hanging in the Balance by Heather Theurer (western US)
Horses At Leisure by Yunlan He (Beijing)
Horses At Leisure by Yunlan He (Beijing) - K, I confess I bought a print of this, it wooed me.
Desert Kings by Karen Dupre (CA)
Desert Kings by Karen Dupre (CA)
3 Stewarts by Joseph Zbukvic (Australia)
3 Stewarts by Joseph Zbukvic (Australia) - a newly discovered favourite
Morning Work by Joseph Zbukvic
Morning Work by Joseph Zbukvic (Australia)
Definitely check out Zbukvic's other watercolours; he is truly a master of this very difficult medium & his paintings took my breath away.

If I had a bottomless pit of money, I would build an entire wing of my house to be my own personal art museum (perhaps it would extend off of my fantasy library), one wall of which would be a mural painted by Sarah Lynn Richards (I requested one from her years ago at Rolex and she said, "Sure!" but I don't think she works for free) & oh, the treasures it would hold...

January 17, 2011

Solo Makes A Friend

Back in November, I promised you some pictures.  Pictures of Solo greeting Mr. Glowy, a fantastic prize that you helped me win for creating the most amazing yard art imaginable!

I always follow through! Eventually.

Solo greets Mr. Glowy in the customary equine fashion.

Oh, great Solo, I prostrate myself before thee! Thy greatness is even greatness-er (what can I say, flamingos don't have great grammar) than I could have imagined. Oh, please, won't you honour me with your acceptance of my humble pink self? I glow in the dark!!

Uh, ok, lighten up, lil pink dude. It's not a big deal, sure we can hang out. And my prostate is fine, thanks for asking though. 

And so it was that two great creatures came to befriend one another. Forever united in crime awesomeness, they survey a better world.

November 29, 2010

No, Actually I Have No Shame Whatsoever

None, none at all, really.  I want a glowy yard flamingo.  It calls me with its glowiness and sparkle.  So....

Vote for me!

I am entry #3 with the purple unicorn. All you have to do is click the little link below the thumbnail pic.

If you vote for me, you will automatically get a better dressage score at your next horse show. Solo promises. And you will get to see a picture of Solo and a glowing flamingo. Because what could be cooler than that???

August 21, 2010

We're Famous!

Or at least infamous...

The kind folks over at Horse and Wildlife Gifts have done a feature post on WAFS in their series of highlighted horse blogs!

I may have fallen victim to a squeal of excitement!

While you are over there, definitely check out their wide variety of horse and wildlife art -- I often found myself wishing for a sack of money to fall through the ceiling while browsing their collection of artists. Everything from sculpture to home decor to jewelry to wall pieces to ooh and ahh over. Grab a glass of wine and cruise the gallery from the comfort of your couch!

For now, Solo and I are off to continue Operation Belly Burn while we try to fend off the hordes of autograph seekers which are now surely going to flock us wherever we go...right?

January 19, 2010

I Ride

Written by an 87 year-old woman (who still rides) and had this to say about women & horses:

I Ride

"I ride. That seems like such a simple statement. However as many women who ride know it is really a complicated matter. It has to do with power and empowerment. Being able to do things you might have once considered out of reach or ability. I have considered this as I shovel manure, fill water barrels in the cold rain, wait for the vet /farrier/electrician/hay delivery, change a tire on a horse trailer by the side of the freeway, or cool a gelding out before getting down to the business of drinking a cold beer after a long ride.

The time, the money, the effort it takes to ride calls for dedication. At least I call it dedication. Both my ex-husbands call it 'the sickness'. It's a sickness I've had since I was a small girl bouncing my model horses and dreaming of the day I would ride a real horse. Most of the women I ride with understand the meaning of 'the sickness'. It's not a sport. It's not a hobby. It's what we do and, in some ways, who we are as women and human beings.

I ride. I hook up my trailer and load my gelding. I haul to some trailhead somewhere, unload, saddle, whistle up my dog and I ride. I breathe in the air, watch the sunlight filter through the trees and savor the movement of my horse. My shoulders relax. A smile rides my sunscreen smeared face. I pull my ball cap [I interject: HELMET!] down and let the real world fade into the tracks my horse leaves in the dust.

Time slows. Flying insects buzz loudly, looking like fairies. My gelding flicks his ears and moves down the trail. I can smell his sweat and it is perfume to my senses. Time slows. The rhythm of the walk and the movement of the leaves become my focus. My saddle creaks and the leather rein in my hand softens with the warmth.

I consider the simple statement; I ride. I think of all I do because I ride. Climb granite slabs, wade into a freezing lake, race a friend through the meadow, all the while laughing and feeling my heart in my chest. Other days just the act of mounting and dismounting can be a real accomplishment. Still I ride, no matter how tired or how much my seat bones or any of the numerous horse related injuries hurt. I ride. And I feel better for doing so.

The beauty I've seen because I ride amazes me. I've ridden out to find lakes that remain for the most part, unseen. Caves, dark and cold beside rivers full and rolling are the scenes I see in my dreams. The Granite Stairway at Echo Summit, bald eagles on the wing and bobcats on the prowl add to the empowerment and joy in my heart.

I think of the people, mostly women, I've met. I consider how competent they all are. Not a weenie amongst the bunch. We haul 40ft rigs, we back into tight spaces without clipping a tree. We set up camp. Tend the horses. We cook and keep safe. We understand and love our companions, the horse. We respect each other and those we encounter on the trail. We know that if you are out there riding, you also shovel, fill, wait and doctor. Your hands are a little rough and you travel without makeup or hair gel. You do without to afford the 'sickness' and probably, when you were a small girl, you bounced a model horse while you dreamed of riding a real one."