November 26, 2008

Between Friends

While we were on the cattle drive in Gunnison, us ladies brought up the rear of the heard, chasing stragglers and pushing the tiring cows and calves forward.
We had about 450 cattle in the herd, and they were stretched out over a mile on a dirt county road. We could barely see the front of the herd, where Shane and his collie were working.

I like the way this image captures the moment. One of the things my art does is illustrate relationships- relationships between animals, between humans and animals, and between humans. For many women, relationship is incredibly important, so in colors every aspect of their lives. This image is a great example. Nora and Lolly are good friends, and really enjoyed chatting as we worked and drove the cattle.

The painting itself is done in livestock marker (very appropriate!). It's one of the first that is more of a landscape with lots of things going on in it. I'm happy with it overall, but I feel like the figures aren't as well executed as the rest of the painting. The human figure is my weak point, and I need to continue to work on it. I think that overall they are ok, but they just don't have quite the same loose flow that the rest of the painting does.

November 18, 2008

Ruby & the Roan Mare

One of my girlfriends invited me on a cattle drive outside of Gunnison, CO the weekend of halloween. There were five of us "City Slickers" (all horsewomen, but with little or no ranch experience) who came up from the Front Range, and two men who lived on the ranch. It was great spending a weekend with a group of people I didn't know, in a place I'd never been and very isolated (45 minutes to the nearest town).
Riding back to the ranch after the drive, I saw tons of bones and skulls, which I love to collect. (I was only able to stuff one skull in each saddle bag, so I had to go back!)

That evening as we were sitting around the dinner table, I announced that I was going to go find and collect the bones the next morning. The foreman, Shane, asked how I planned on getting the bones back to the ranch. I said, "I don't know, but I'll figure something out." He offered to hitch up his team and we could all go for a wagon ride, and get my bones! It was perfect!

The team consisted of two VERY big girls, one who's name was Ruby and the other didn't have a name. When Shane first hooked them up, Ruby was wild and belligerent, she almost broke the traces and singletree. Once he got them moving forward she settled right in. It soon became obvious who was doing all of the work, because the poor roan mare was sweating like crazy, and Ruby was

barely warm. Shane kept poking her in the butt with a stick, which helped for a few strides. When we were going up or down a hill, the roan put all her weight into the harness, and Ruby just trotted along, slowing down every time she felt the weight of the wagon. What a stinker!

I took tons of photos, which I'm beginning to use in my artwork. I did two small (5"x7") scratchboard pieces of Ruby (black horses are fun to do scratchboard of). The first is called "Back to Work", which is why she has such a worried expression on her face. The second is "Break Time" (of course, Ruby's favorite time).

November 13, 2008

Splash and musings

The only time I've noticed horses so completely comfortable in each other's space is in mother/daughter pairs. I love this image from a photo of Luna and Wenona playing in the water. These two weren't even worried about laying down practically on top of each other. The other day I noticed that same comfort level as Ana was leading the two of them to the grooming area. They were side by side, bumping into each others' bellies and butts. I decided that I want to train them to stay that close together in the arena so I can try 'riding' both of them at the same time, standing on their backs. I'm sure I'll end up on the ground, but sounds like too much fun to pass up!! (I promise I'll wear my helmet, Mom!)

This piece is scratchboard/gaouche, 10"x12". I've submitted it to the Old West Museum juried "Spirit of the West" show, along with "Something in Motion". Wish me luck!

One thing I've noticed lately is that I've been very focused and on task. in the past when I've worked alone, I've had a really really hard time keeping myself focused, but the last few months have been realy easy for me to do so

November 03, 2008

Something In Motion

I concieved of this piece when my daughter Katie showed me a drawing that she did of a unicorn, and the flying mane on the withers reminded me of a bird lighting on the horses back. The idea swam around in my head for a few days, and within that time a small flock of magpies began to visit the farm every morning when I was feeding. I began noticing magpies everywhere, crossing my path while I was driving, outside my home. I decided that I needed to put a magpie on the back of the horse in my painting. But, I thought, I've never seen a magpie on a horses back. Usually the little black birds (I think starlings or maybe grackles) hang out with horses.

Within a few days, I picked up a brochure about a wild horse sanctuary in South Dakota, opened it up, and there was a photo of a magpie on a horses back. A few days after that, I walked out of the goat barn at the farm and there was a magpie perched on the butt of a new pony who just moved in the previous day.
It was all so serendipitous, and it reminded me of a concept in a book I'm reading called "Hanta Yo" about the traditional life of a Lakotah tribe a few hundred years ago. Their concept of god or life force was very holistic, it could be summed up in the phrase 'something in motion'.

As I was working on this painting, as it 'popped' for me (really came to life and excited me) I decided to call it "Something In Motion".

Believe it or not, as I was finishing this painting, the magpies had congregated in front of the motorhomw where I've put my new bones from my trip last weekend. I hung several skulls and bones on the fence outside my window. As I was working I looked up and saw a bird perched on top of one of the skulls. I wish I had a camera!!!

The finished piece


This is a fun series of photos of the portrait I'm doing of Beau for Tomi. I used chalk pastel on a board that had a lot of tooth to it.

I started out by sketching in the shapes and filling in color areas, rubbing and blending the colors into the board.

I continue to fill in the color areas, getting more detailed with the shadows and highlights, defining shapes and details.

Then started working the details with the hard pastel, not blending it but using the edge to define lines and shapes.

Viola! The finished drawing.

October 27, 2008

this week...

lots going on. I'm working on three pieces. One is another cattle marker on black canvas (such as The Itch and Tails), of a horse standing in water with a magpie on it's back, the other is a gouache/scratchboard of Luna and Wenona playing in the water (similar style to Wenona Wallowing), and the third is a portrait of Beau, a gelding who belongs to wonderful Tomi who helped so much with Grandmere when she was boarded at Heart & Soul.
I've also decided to submit a body of work to the Denver County and City building curator, if I'm accepted the work will be hung for two months next summer in the downtown building across from the capital. I've also decided to sign up for booth space at the local winter festival, to sell my caps, bags, prints and cards and horseshoe vignettes. I'm going to make a lot of warm glass pieces as well, some to be mounted in horseshoes and some to be ornaments. They will have the horse and woman figure incorporated in them, of course!
And lastly, I made a spontanious decision to join a friend on a cattle drive in the high country this weekend. Her friends have a ranch in Gunnison, and they need help driving the cattle out of the mountains down to the ranch for the winter. My horses haven't been trained to work cattle, so I'll take my favorite saddle and borrow a horse. I've never done this before, should be very FUN! And I hope not too cold, but I'll pack the long johns and chaps for sure. I'm planning on taking LOTS of photos along the way, hope to paint other women and their horses at work.

October 26, 2008

Horses are Mirrors

Here's a fun project I put together rather spontaniously when I had some of my summer photos enlarged. I've been slogging this antique window frame around for years (it was from my mom's old house in LaPorte, Colorado) knowing that some day I would find a great use for it.

Seemed perfect to put the mirror in the last frame, because with my mustang 'girls' it is all about relationship, and that is what I encourage people to think about when they spend time with them. That is, how does the horse reflect what is going on for the person who is standing there in front of it? Therapists are using animals and horses to do a lot of this sort of work, the horses allow people to let down their guards and it is often easier to explore feelings and reactions with an animal than it is with another human.

I'm not sure what I"m going to do with this yet, definately enter it in a local show when one comes up that seems appropriate.

October 22, 2008

Mon Mere, 11 years later

It is so nice to have my old girl, Grandmere, with us at the farm. I have boarded her away from home for a few years now, and it is so good to have her back close.

Here's her story, that I wrote in 1999...

"The dreadful realization that I might have made a big mistake hit me the day the farrier came to trim my newly adopted mare. She pinned her ears back and struck at him repeatedly. My heart sank at his parting words. "Some day that horse is really going to hurt someone." What had I been thinking when I brought her home? All I knew about her was that she was 10 years old, most recently used as a broodmare, and had been on the track at some point in her life because of a tattoo in her lip. It was also very obvious that she had been mistreated -- even abused -- and hated people.
Her previous owner had been a racehorse breeder in Florida. When she passed away, a sister inherited the herd. A legal dispute left the animals half-starved and neglected before finally being shipped west. The sister gave almost all of them away to good homes with the condition that they never be exploited or used for profit. No one had adopted this 15.3hh chestnut mare with a foal at her side. When anyone approached them the mare bared her teeth, flattened her ears and swished her tail in warning.
The first time I met the mare, she stood serenely as I came near. She allowed me to stroke her neck, and then the shy foal. I knew then that the three of us were destined for each other. During our first few weeks together, I spent many hours just sitting quietly as they became familiar with my presence. They soon approached me on their own terms.
It was only after the farrier's warning that I realized the danger and enormity of the situation. I doubted my own abilities as a horsewoman, but not once did I doubt the mare's heart. After a few months, her sour, crusty exterior melted away. Beneath it I found an incredibly sensitive horse whose capacity for love I would never have imagined. Of course she tested me, and at first I had to be quite firm with her. But we slowly gained one another's trust, and I always treated her with dignity and respect. One day I walked into her stall while she was lying down. She let me kneel next to her and caress her face. She barely stirred, and I realized the depth of the trust that had grown between us.
That was one-and-a-half years ago. The other day we went for a ride around the neighborhood, and her daughter began to call frantically when we disappeared from sight. She threw me suddenly, and wheeled toward home. But then she stopped. Instead of heading back to her filly, she stood quietly and waited for me to get up and wipe the astonished look off of my face. I swear she was laughing. I wrapped my arms around her head and laughed too, and we went on our way without looking back."

Grandmere and I have come a long way, through the odessy of my life, divorce, having two children, losing and finding myself, growing into a mature woman. Grandmere's daughter died over three years ago. I had vowed to always keep them together, and the loss was hard on her.

She has taught me so much about myself and about horsemanship. I now share her with my dear friend, Barb. I think Grandmere has more to teach us about aging gracefully (she's 21 but you'd never guess it from watching her racing in the field with her new friends) and how to live well. And of course, I'm very excited about including her in my paintings and drawings. She's come full circle back to me, and we continue to look forward as the circle continues.

October 16, 2008


The piece is from the photo I posted earlier of Luna's arched neck with her BLM brand. I started a scratchboard of it a long time ago (probably a month) and have been working on it off and on, and I just haven't been happy with it. Pieces usually don't take me this long. Either they 'pop' for me somewhere midway through (come to life, and I get really excited about them) or I leave them if they are just not doing it for me.

But this piece has been calling me back to it. It has been too 2-D, I haven't been able to give it depth and lead the eye through it. (I really should have been taking pictures of it as I went along to illustrate the process.) Yesterday I thought it was almost there, I even signed it (usually that's my ritual for wrapping a piece up and letting it go). But then I got to looking at it, and there were several areas that I still wanted to change and adjust. Usually if it has gotten this far and I'm still not happy with it, I realize that I need to start over. Looking at the finished piece, there are several areas that I would do differently if I were to start it over. But I think I'm over it, I don't want to start all over again. It's a neat enough photo that I just might come back and do it again someday, but not soon.

The name I gave the piece "Transformed" is about Luna becoming more than her 'label'. It kind of reflects the changes and transformations I've been going through, becoming something more than what is expected of me, revealing a depth that doesn't need to be recognized to be legitimate. It just is.

portrait of Kathy's mare

I finally finished Kathy's portrait! Last Christmas I donated a gift certificate to a fundraiser at a barn I board Grandmere at. The gift certificate was for a pet portrait, and Kathy, a speech therapist who had worked with one of my daughters' riding therapy program, won the certificate in a raffle. The only photos she had of her mare were with her fuzzy winter coat, and from a distance. This summer Kathy got some great photos of the mare, and I finished this portrait up within a week.
I hope Kathy is happy with it, I think it turned out really well.

primal horsewomen

I finished these within the last week, I've been working on them off and on for a few months. They are livestock marker on canvas, 18"x24".
The intention behind these pieces was to be lighthearted and whimsical, using colors and shapes to convey the feelings of peace and calm and yet potential for power. I wanted to convey how I feel when I'm around my mares.
I'm going to use them to make a set of greeting cards, and the originals will be exhibited and sold as a set.

Studio Moving

Now that I finally have the RV moved to the new farm, I no longer feel scattered. The moving itself was an adventure. It has a broken fuel line which I haven't gotten around to fixing, so a friend helped me to tow it with his big pickup. We jury-rigged a tow bar and a lot of chains, and off we went, with me driving close behind in my little pickup (with the instructions to stay really close in case the tow chains broke so the motorhome wouldn't roll away). Fortunately we only had to go a few miles! Talk about an adrenaline rush.

For the past month we've been building fences and fixing and cleaning, getting the new place ready, and between this and moving my stuff and the horses and the RV, I haven't been feeling very focused. This coming Saturday we'll move my old thoroughbred mare from her 'retirement' community, and I'll finally have all of the horses and everything in one place, close to my house. Whew.

I took a couple of pictures of the motorhome to give people an idea of my workspace, here they are. I'm planning on making a little yard on the side to keep my big stuff (horseshoes, driftwood and such) and also that the goats can hang out in while I'm working.