Posts Tagged ‘horse’

Equestrian in Fall Foliage, December 17, 2010

December 17, 2010

Equestrian in Fall Foliage

Here is a large 18 x 24″ watercolor I began over a week ago.  It’s been difficult finding quality time to paint, trying to close out the fall semester at school.  My wife Sandi is riding her horse Andante just as the leaves are beginning to turn in south Fort Worth, Texas.  Most of the foliage at the top is poured from bowls onto the wet paper that was previously masqued, then treated with salt and a spray bottle, along with plenty of tissue-blotting.  For the first time, I’m introducing the color aubergine into the shadows of the bay horse–I’ve never before known for sure how to shadow this guy.  I think this is going to work.  I did a plein air sketch of the pair of trees behind the fence, several weeks ago while we were on location.  I also took several digital shots of Sandi and Andante.  Now I’m hoping to combine two photos to create this landscape.  Hopefully I can finish this one by Christmas.

Thanks for reading.

Fall Colors in the Horse Country, November 27, 2010

November 28, 2010

Fall Colors in Horse Country

Saturday morning found me waking to temperatures in the upper 30’s.  Sandi had a riding lesson scheduled in south Fort Worth.  Since it was the first time to take her horse trailer out, I decided to come along to offer an extra set of hands for some of the details of loading a trailer and helping get the horse in and out.  Once we arrived, I found the world to be extremely bright and clear with sunlight.  Sandi got her horse prepped for the lesson, and I photographed her and Andante riding about the pen, stretching and loosening up.  By the time her lesson appointment arrived, I looked around for something to do.

These trees were “calling out” to me from the time we arrived on the property.  The incredibly bright yellow and orange leaves against a dark forest just would not let go of my imagination.  The sight of leaves falling between that dark space of tree cluster and bare ground also raised my ecstasy.  I walked around, looking at this site from three different directions, all the time trying to talk myself out of the commitment to a plein air watercolor.  I felt rusty, out-of-practice, uptight, not ready.  All of this added up to the “dance of avoidance” Ian Roberts writes about in his Creative Authenticity. I knew that, like Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth before me, there would be rewards waiting if I would just respond to the call.  But I was overwhelmed as I continually gazed at the complications–the masses of fall foliage, the dark forest behind, the bald, dirt ground beneath, the shadows spinning out from the trees and their gnarled trunks.  I felt there were just too many details to chase, and I felt tired.

I pulled out four unfinished watercolors, along with the 8 x 10 photographs I had taken of the subjects.  Nothing moved me.  I took out my digital camera and photographed the scene before me repeatedly, trying to convince myself that I could do a better job working from the photographs and inserting a grazing horse beneath the trees.  I knew that I would not do that, however.  Trees from photographs just don’t “do it” for me.

I even contemplated reading; I had a whole bag full of books.  I even thought of writing in my journal.  But I knew I would live with regret if I passed on this opportunity, and Sandi’s riding lesson was going to take up an hour.  So I sat, and looked, and thought–and finally drew out my watercolor block and sketched in the tree trunks and fencing.

Next I pulled the Super Nib Masquepen and began to dot in the hundreds of leaf clusters and falling leaves, along with the pipe fencing.  Once everything dried, I laid in a quick Cerulean Blue sky.  Fortunately the steady cold winds were drying out the surface of the watercolor block quickly.  Quinachronine Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson and Sap Green were the predominant pigments to help see me through the fall foliage.

I was pleased at my overall draughtmanship on the gnarled tree trunks.  I mixed plenty of Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red, Winsor Green and Ultramarine Blue to come up with my blacks and grays.  An HB pencil also aided me in drawing in the tree bark, along with some help from an 8B Derwent watersoluble pencil.  The tree trunks came together quite quickly.

I felt pretty lost on the shadows across the dirt, so I used more of my black and gray mixings from the colors listed above, and swirled them about on the dry paper with my “ugly brush”–a real staple for me.  My “ugly” is a flat sable that I cut diagonally and then used an X-acto knife to pull out some of the bristles, leaving a jagged chisel-looking brush for my foliage, weeds and tree bark.

I’m really delighted that I responded to this opportunity, instead of passing it by.  I was really taken by what Annie Dillard referred to as the “tree filled with lights.”  I could not get over the beauty and splendor of the bright, bright sun reflections coming out of those brassy-colored leaves.  And to think that I almost passed on this to read instead.  I recall Nietzsche talking about how “positively wicked” it was for a writer or scholar to spend the prime time of the day reading–lost in other men’s thoughts–instead of producing one’s own.  I’m grateful that this day was a day that I decided to create.

Thank you for reading.

Working at Lubbock Poolside, August 14, 2010

August 14, 2010

Sandi riding Andante at Greenwood Farms

How remarkably blessed I’ve felt during our vacation which will have run about twelve days, once it ends tomorrow night.  We left Colorado yesterday, and arrived in Lubbock, Texas last night.  Sandi’s daughter has just purchased property west of town and is developing an equestrian facility.  Sandi joined her early this morning, allowing me to sleep in for the first time on this entire vacation (always fly fishing, plein air activity or itineraries to get one of both of us up early each day!).  After sleeping in, and enjoying the exercise facility at this Holiday Inn, I have now relocated at poolside, where the enormous sky-lighting gives me great quality of plein air light for re-working some watercolors in progress. 

A few days before leaving on vacation, I accompanied Sandi to Greenwood Farm, an equestrian facility west of Weatherford, Texas.  It was a blazing hot Texas day, and I chose to stay in the shade for the most part, while Sandi sweated out the activity of riding Andante in a clinic involving jumping.  Before they left to do their thing, I photographed them several times.  Then using the laptop to view an enlarged photograph, I drew Sandi and Andante as carefully as I could.  I did not like the backdrop in the photograph, so I went out onto the property and found what I thought would make a more suitable backdrop for inserting the equestrian subject.  I finished most of the foliage en plein air and then left the rest of the composition unfinished while we vacationed in Colorado.

Now, at a Holiday Inn poolside in Lubbock, I have taken this painting back out and spent considerable time this early afternoon rendering Sandi and Andante in color, tweaking the backdrop of foliage and adding some foreground color.  I’m really enjoying watching this take shape.  Maybe I’ll get it finished before the day is done.  Sandi just phoned and they will be picking me up for dinner at 7:00–about four-and-a-half hours from now.

What a splendid day, getting to work outside my hotel room in natural light, yet still inside the building (thus avoiding one of those disgusting 105-degree days–ugh!). 

Thanks for reading.

“Nocturne” to be Published Soon, July 9, 2010

July 9, 2010

Nocturne

I just received the good news that my painting of Nocturne will be published in the August issue of the Lone Star Horse Report.  Nocturne was a 23-year old Welsh Cob stallion belonging to a friend who boards my wife’s horse and gives her lessons in dressage.  We were all saddened when he had to be euthanized last year.  This painting of him was my first attempt at painting a horse.  I still miss him every time I go to watch my wife ride, and am thrilled that his memory will be published with this image next month.

Fox Hunt now on the Greeting Card, March 7, 2010

March 7, 2010

Jennifer in the Hunt

Signed-and-numbered limited edition giclees are being made from this image.  I’m hoping they will be ready in time for Thursday’s Art Festival in Hillsboro.  I’ve just finished preparing the 5 x 7″ greeting card, blank inside, with the following caption on back:  Here is my first attempt at painting a fox hunt with hounds.  Jennifer Stewart (the artist who designs my website) submitted to me a magnificent photo made by her husband Bart.  This painting is also my first “poured” painting, where I poured the watercolor pigments directly onto the wet surface to create all the accidental details of the foliage.  The major challenge of this composition was to capture the beauty of the fall foliage without taking the focus away from the magnificent equestrian subjects.  The last item I painted was the hounds, and again, I hoped to give them just enough definition to distinguish them, without taking the focus away from the subject.

Finished my first “poured piece.” February 19, 2010

February 19, 2010

Jennifer in the Hunt

Glad to sign off on this one finally.  Thanks to all of you who have continually offered encouragement and affirmation.  I feel very satisfied with this.  The only finishing touches I added were myriads of branches and limbs in the foreground corners, along with dropped in colors to suggest sparse leaves and blossoms.  I’m happy with the way the alternating warm and cool colors created this sense of mood.  This is my first attempt at poured watercolor, and I’m already looking forward to my next try.  I think I’ve opened a new dynamic after years of pursuing the same trademark style.  We’ll see where it leads.

Thank you very much for reading.

Closing in on the Finish, February 18, 2010

February 18, 2010

Jennifer in the Hunt

This painting has had an incredibly long gestation period.  I can say that about my more successful watercolors, and hope I’ll be able to say it about this once it’s complete.  From my website (www.recollections54.com) there are a number of works that took months to complete, even years when the work would lay dormant for several months, untouched.  This is especially true of “Blues on the Corner.”

Jennifer Stewart is the one who created and maintains my website.  Two of her horses are in this composition, and her husband took the photograph (which incidentally has been published–thankfully, he has given me permission to paint from this published photograph).

Those of you who have followed my blog know that this is only about the fourth or fifth time I’ve painted a horse, and the first time ever that I have painted hounds.  All of this gave me pause, to say the least, and the reasons for this lengthy “gestation” process include anxieties, quitting, spending weeks and months staring at it, painting-stopping-staring-pondering, second-guessing, doubting  . . .  I think you know what I mean.  I could never have pushed this painting out quickly.  It contains too many firsts, and the more improvement I saw in the process of creating this, the more I hesitated to take the next step–you know, the paralysis that stems from the fear of blowing it.”  After all these years, it’s funny (or pathetic) to see how timid and tendentious I can be with watercolor.

So.  Today I went with my wife to Lyndon Acres in Burleson, Texas.  She stables her horse there, and was in the mood for a ride.  I set up my studio under the trees and poured watercolor all over the top two corners to enrich the dark greens of the foliage, being careful to apply plenty of masking fluid before the pouring.  After I got it home this evening, I peeled off all the masking fluid, picked up the brush, and restored the feathery foliage to the dark green areas.

My last step tonight, before posting this and heading to bed, was to pour deep plum colors all over the lower right corner (after applying plenty of masking fluid).  I have sprinkled heavy quantities of salt into the drying pigment, and I’ll find out in the morning how that worked out (I like what it did to the lower left corner lavender wash).

Anyway . . . thank you for reading, and I hope you’re getting as much fun out of this as I am.  I think I could be just a few days away from finishing it (if I don’t get interrupted.  Arrrgh!  The daily life cycle of a schoolteacher).

Accosted by a Stallion, February 1, 2010

February 1, 2010

Tack shed from Ranger, Texas

Just finished teaching an evening class in Logic.  Still have stacks of work to do for tomorrow’s Advanced Placement Art History.  But, a promise is a promise.  At all costs, I will strive to post my art with commentary every day of 2010.  This is about the only New Year Resolution I have yet to break.

I am posting something from my files of memory lane.  My wife Sandi, our friend Kat Duke, and I traveled to Ranger, Texas in 2008 on a scalding hot summer day–triple digits.  Her grandfather has property there and raises quarter horses.  Our only “plan” that day was to look for inspiration so we could write in our journals, create poetry, essay, write songs for our guitars, and just (to borrow from Kerouac and friends) enjoy some “kicks.”  We just hadn’t anticipated the kind of “kicks” awaiting us.

While walking across a seemingly boundary-less pasture, we were suddenly accosted by a very handsome stallion.  The first response of this magnificent beast was to turn his rear toward us and poop a large pile.  I thought this was O.K., but the ladies warned that he was marking his territory.  I was alright with that too.  The drift that I was not getting was that the three of us were not “invited” guests.  We casually walked away from him and he followed, closer and closer and closer.  Sandi would turn from time to time and gesticulate with her broad-brimmed sun hat, and he would wheel and turn and gallop away, but only for a short distance, and then would return.  This uneasiness persisted for what seemed a lifetime, as I thought we would never get to a fence–and he just kept coming, every time with more aggression.  Finally, the fence arrived, we were over it, and he seemed calmer without us.

Once the stallion incident was behind us, I came across this tack shed, that Kat’s grandfather built himself.  I loved the sight of it, the dark interior, the smells emanating from the mixture of heat, Texas dust and horse residue.  I took several photos and made some quickie sketches in my journal.  Once back at my studio I decided to add this Chesterfield King cigarette sign I photographed that was tacked to the outside of a restaurant in Creede, Colorado.  I also decided that the white-hot cloudless Texas sky was kind of boring, so as a last touch, I darkened it for a more overcast look.

Kat has moved on to Seattle to continue writing songs and living out the life of a folk singer.   We all miss her in Texas, but the Pacific Northwest is now much improved, having added her to their population of creative spirits.  Her mother purchased this original watercolor from me this past Christmas.  I’m delighted that it has found a home with its rightful family.  So, my heartfelt thanks goes out to Kat’s mom for the purchase, to Kat for all the memories and music together, and above all, taking us to Ranger, Texas for an unforgettable day of experiences.

Bring on the Hounds, January 31, 2010

January 31, 2010

Bring on the Hounds

Well . . . this is the first time I’ve attempted to watercolor hounds, and I must say it’s giving me quite a challenge.  I spend more time staring at the photographs than painting.  The foreshortening is always a problem for me, but more than that, the trick of making predominantly white hounds emerge from a sunwashed dusty trail often leaves me scratching my head.  I am enjoying the challenge, and hope all will end well.  I have considerable time invested in this experiment, and it has plenty of firsts–my first attempt at pouring watercolor pigment onto the damp paper, my first attempt to paint equestrians, my first attempt at hounds–I guess this entire painting is a first attempt!

A Cold Day for Painting Outdoors, January 27, 2010

January 28, 2010

Nocturne

Texas is expecting an arctic storm about any moment now.  The temperatures dropped sharply late this afternoon (while I was out painting in the field!).  Finally had to give it up.  For those of you following my “Hunt” watercolor, I finally began rendering the hounds in the foreground today.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll have enough of them finished to post the picture afresh.

While I painted at Lyndon Acres today, I was continually distracted by a rescued thoroughbred on the neighboring property running like the wind.   He does that a lot.  I used to laugh to myself every time he did it, but now it brings sad recollections to the surface.  The watercolor sketch now posted is the very first time I ever attempted to render a horse in color.  His name was Nocturne, a 23-year-old Welsh Cob stallion with a mane that was fairy tale-length.   His black coat used to show so many amazing colors under a hot Texas sun, that I just couldn’t sketch him enough (in pencil) and photograph him.

Last year Nocturne had to be euthanized.  The day after he died, I went through my collection of photos, selected this one, and gave him my best shot.  He was a magnificent stallion, and I miss seeing him poking his head over the fence for me to walk up and scratch his muzzle.  The reason I brought up the thoroughbred next door is because of the hilarity of him racing like the wind in days gone by.  Every time he passed by, Nocturne would charge the fence, arch his neck and rear and kick.  Typical stallion.  As if to say, “Not in my neighborhood!  Stop buzzing my fence!”  I always laughed at his bravado.  Magnificent.  I miss him.  So, here’s to you, Nocturne.  Thanks for the memories.