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.

October 10, 2008

yay! another 1st place

I decided at the last minute to enter "Wenona Wallowing" (see a previous post for the story of its creation) in a juried art show here in my city, and after a lot of problems with my frame and hanging mechanism, I finally got it submitted. I almost decided to give up because of the technical problems I was having.
I got a pleasant phone call when I was out catching the horses in their new pasture last week. To draw a picture...
this is their new, 30 acre pasture, and I've been using lots of cookies to convince them that letting me catch them is preferable to running free on seemingly limitless grass and visiting with new horsey-friend neighbors. So I'm surrounded by three cookie-seeking sets of lips attached to 1,200lb. bodies, and I answer my phone.
"Hello?" (as I hold the phone between my shoulder and head, trying to rid myself of the last cookie/magnet, which disappears between who knows who's lips)
"I just wanted to congratulate you on winning the mixed media catagory in the art show..." all I could think of, standing there amongst the swirling horses, was that the horses were the ones who deserved the credit, because it was them that I painted and them that inspired me. What a great moment, it felt triumphant, but not in an egotistical way. It was a feeling of being in the flow, like that is exactly where I belonged at that moment, and no where else in the universe.
At the reception and gallery opening the judge, Susannah Vandyke, did a great job of touching on why she chose each winner in each catagory. My catagory was mixed media, because I did this piece on scratchboard and with gouache (it's like an opaque watercolor). Here's what she had to say about this piece,"appealing subject matter gets exciting treatment with arrangement of values and colors, masterful drawing ability. A real gem."
I'm definately feeling inspired to continue to enter pieces in competitions. I think this is a good venue for me right now, rather than exhibiting several pieces in galleries.

September 20, 2008

1st place in mixed media

I entered the painting, "The Itch" in the art show at the National Women and Horses Expo. I was informed this week that it won 1st place in the mixed media catagory.

(see July posting "the itch" for the process of the creation of this piece)

September 19, 2008

Lots of Updates!

Now that the girls have gone back to school this fall, I've found myself as busy as ever. And to think I was worried that I wouldn't have enough to do now that I'm not homeschooling them!

We're moving the horses to a new facility because ours was bought by developers (Boulder County's agricultural land is disappearing under a plauge of suburban neighborhoods). Rather than moving to another boarding facility, myself and a small group of fellow boarders have leased a 30 acre pasture and we are building fences and loafing sheds. I bought a pair of nigerian dwarf/pygmy goat kids the moment I had fencing and a barn ready for them- I've always wanted goats! It's been keeping me busy, I can't wait to get the horses moved, and my 'studio on wheels' (the retrofitted RV) to our new facility. I'll be managing the facility, but most of our boarders will be doing self care so I'll still have time for my art.

I've been volunteering for The Mustang Center (, helping to create printed material for their big fund raising event "Mustang Heritage Day"- I'll be (wo)manning the arts and crafts table in the children's activities area. Fun!

I haven't done very much artwork for a month or two, but have started a scratchboard piece in the last few days. I want to have at least three new pieces to submit to an international show in October. Here is the photo of Luna I'm using for my newest piece.

UPDATE: The scratchboard piece I've been working on from this photo isn't making me happy. I'm frustrated and stuck with it right now, I think I'll put it aside and come back to it with fresh eyes.

August 14, 2008

Primal Horse/Primal Horsewoman items

Some of my clients have been asking about more caps, and the new handbags series that I'm working on. I'm posting a few photos here, not all of these will be available as they are sold, but this is a good idea of what the items look like. If you are interested in purchasing one, call or email and I'll let you know what
I've got in inventory.

Horseshoe vignettes

One of the projects I worked on last week were my vignettes. I should have a lot of these in inventory by the end of the fall. (Some of the vignettes pictured are no longer available.) If you're interested in a particular color of horse let me know. I'm also planning on welding some of these together to make three dimensional stands, so the artwork can be displayed on all sides.

I ended up buying a whiskey barrel full of old horseshoes at a farm auction this past weekend. Now I've got enough shoes to keep me painting for years.

July 20, 2008

Dichotomy and Wallowing

I've noticed myself swinging between extremes in the artwork I'm creating. This really should come as no surprise to me, since in all other aspects of my life I tend to do the same thing, and I seem to be a living dichotomy. (Division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups.)

I've settled into a rhythm of working on one piece at home and one piece in my studio. At any given time I find that I'm working on one big, loose painting, and one small, extremely detailed one. In a recent post I mentioned that it wasn't my 'style' to do really tight detailed stuff, but I'm finding that it is, indeed, part of my style.

I've spent a lot of energy trying to disown that part of myself (and in art school I was informed that being tight and detailed was 'wrong'. Except, of course, in graphic design, where it was essential). I'm a Virgo, but never felt that I could relate with her. Here's Virgo's definition- meticulous and reliable, practical and diligent, intelligent and analytical, fussy and a worrier, overcritical and harsh, perfectionist and conservative. Well, as much as I don't want to own a lot of that, I can see those traits come out in myself from time to time. And I'm learning that it is OK to be those things, even though I've painted a picure of myself in my mind as being pretty much the opposite of that. So by embracing that 'dark side', and welcoming it into myself, I can be a whole person.

I digress. This piece is from a series of photos we shot of the horses one day in the pond in their pasture. They were showing off and hamming it up, the more pictures we took the more they pawed and rolled in the water. They stopped when I stopped taking pictures. I used a 5"x7" (!) clayboard and painted the basic shapes and colors over it with gouache, and then scratched away the highlights (much like black scratchboard). Then I layered some colored highlights on it. I was very intimidated by the idea of doing water, because it is hard to make it look 'real'. But it took on a life of it's own, and I felt that I was just revealing what was already there in the board.

July 19, 2008

This weeks projects

This week I completed "The Itch" and started on two new pieces. I've noticed that most of the stuff I've been doing is horizontal, and I wanted to create a piece that was vertical. I've also wanted to continue to work with and experiment with gouache, a medium I'm fascinated with but haven't mastered. So I did a piece of Wenona's face, using abitrary color. I ended up trying to put as many colors in the piece as possible.
I've done several other watercolor and/or gouache studies in the past few weeks, none of which I've felt compelled to post.

The next project is a painting I've been wanting to do for some time. I want to do more pieces with women and horses together, but I find that I am intimidated of doing the human figure, unless it is stylized. I had my daughter take some pictures of me on Luna, so I could study the body and how it forms and shapes around the horse.

There were a few decisions I had to make about the painting as I worked though it. I had a general vision in my head of how I wanted it to turn out, but as always, I trusted that it would be involved in its own evolution, and give me the answers I needed as I work through the process. As I began to ponder what I was going to call it, the idea of a kelpie kept coming back to me.
A kelpie is a magical horse who emerges from the waves of the ocean and tries to seduce people into riding it. Once they get on it's back, it runs back into the ocean and the person is lost forever. Appearently, if you can get a halter on a kelpie, it will do your bidding. As I was riding Luna in the photo, she kept inching deeper and deeper into the water, and I had to pull her back around and out of the water, because I was afraid she was going to try to roll in the water (which she did after I got off of her). I decided to erase the halter from the picture and have the figure just grasping the mane, so that, if one knows what a kelpie is, the painting tells it's own story.

This painting, like "The Itch" and "Tails" is done in livestock marker (or cattle marker) and oil pastel. These are basically like giant oil pastels. They are for marking cattle and livestock, so they are very permanent, but oily and mallable before they dry. Fun!

I finally got photoshop after several years without it.. this was a cool image I made, by layering the finished painting at 50% over the photograph.

Here's the final painting...


The past few days have been an artistic whirlwind. I've got one project going on in my studio at the barn, and another here at home. It's been so hot recently that I don't spend more than a few hours at a time in the studio, so I decided to set up a project here at home as well so I could continue working, and not have to drag everything back and forth.
I've started to feel a little bit manic- every spare minute I'm not taking care of the girls, I'm painting. I swing back and forth between house chores/caretaking and my paintings, and by the days end, I can't seem to slow down and unwind. I can't fall to sleep and my head swims with ideas about what I'm working on.
In the past when I've gotten manic like this, I've just run myself into the ground, then burnt out and run into a slump of unproductivity. This time I'm seeing the warning signs ahead of time, and am trying to put on the brakes a little, so that I don't burn myself out and loose all of the wonderful momentum I've got going. Now I purposely stopped working by late afternoon, and have decided to take breaks in the form of a few hours here and there, or maybe a short trip into the mountains next week.
I'm feeling some resentment and frustration about having to take care of the girls at the same time I'm working on my art, being regularly interrupted, and having to stop working to make lunches or dinners. My mom has been very supportive and helpful, taking the girls a few times a week. And my older daughter (11 years old) has made a point of keeping herself busy and giving me my space when I'm working, for which I am very grateful, and proud of her for being so thoughtful. This has been an ongoing struggle since the girls were born, so I've gotten used to it, and I don't let it drag me down like I used to. I just keep moving forward. I did write a blog about this a few years ago...
In the past year or so I've grown and matured, and have finally learned how to find more balance in my life, or at least be concious of the need to do so.

July 14, 2008

The itch

Both Luna and Wenona get udder and belly rubs when we catch them and put them in their corral each day- it is much stronger reinforcement for coming in than a cookie or a pat on the head. It has become a ritual. Usually I'll lead Wenona into the corral with the halter, and Luna will follow. As I stand there with the gate open, Luna will stop outside of the gate and lower her head, as if to say "I'm staying out here." As soon as I start to scratch Wenona's belly, Luna comes rushing in, stopping right beside Ana and stretching out on her tippy toes in back and front to expose as much belly as possible. Ana and I spend the next five or ten minutes rubbing bellies and udders and scratching all over, and get reciprocal rubs with the extended upper lips of the horses if we put our hind ends within range. This is reciprocal grooming- horses do it all of the time with each other. Luna never nips, but I have to watch out with Wenona sometimes because if she is in particular exctasy, she looses control and the teeth get involved.

This morning Ana and I went out early to let the horses loose in the pasture for a few hours of grazing. No matter how hungry she is, Luna has gotten into the habit of hanging around for an udder rub even though the other two horses wander away into the pasture. Today Luna hung back for "the treatment". Wenona started to head out, but turned and came back, which irritated their pasture mate, Fire. I thought Wenona wanted a rub too, but rather than stopping and lifting her leg for her rub, she circled around us, curving her body around me and walking by several times. Fire was ready to go out, and not pleased about what was going on, so she started kicking at Wenona, which she stopped quickly when I took a menacing step toward her. Wenona was inviting us out into the pasture with this tight circling behavior, and with a pain in my heart I had to decline, because I was on 'human time'.

This snapshot of Wenona asking for a scratch has inspired me to do a painting. I lover her stance and the motion of the mane and tail, and the shadows of the gate. I'll post the artwork as it comes along.
In this painting, I'm using livestock markers and oil pastel on a black gessoed canvas. I love this medium! The final piece- this photo doesn't do it justice.

Luna Eclipsed

The other day at the art supply store I walked past the scratchboards. I haven't done a scratchboard project since art school. Something about the medium is very appealing to me, even though I tend to avoid details and perfectionism in my art. It is incredibly satisfying to coax an image out of the black background, using a minmal number of scratches and lines to convey shapes and emotions. It is the opposite process from most mediums, rather than adding color, on scratchboard you take it away. To me it's like solving a problem. I have to think backwards, and use the empty spaces to 'tell the story' rather tan filling them in. And I also get a lot of satisfaction out of the minute details, which, as I said, is usually against my nature.

So I decided to do something refreshingly different, stretch a different part of my brain, and I bought an 8"x10" board. This project felt like it drew itself. It only took me half of a day to complete it.

Horse butts


Last week I asked Ana to sponge the horses off and I took a series of shapshots of them standing by the shadows of the panel gate, coats gleaming in the glaring sun. I was amazed how, in the photos, the blue of the sky actually reflected off of their wet black coats. One shot I took was of the mares from the rear- I love their black and white curly striped tails.

I liked most of the shots quite a lot, as studies or compositionally. Trying to decide which one to work on first, I kept coming back to the one of their butts. I thought, who is going to want to see a painting of a couple of huge horse butts? I heard a little voice in my mind, my mother's voice,

"Why would you paint that?"
"Who wants to see their butts?"

At that point I decided, very deliberately, to paint them to thumb my nose at my inner critic, and make a bold statement that I didn't care what anyone thought, I was doing this for me and out of my creative drive rather than what others wanted or expected.

When horses don't want to talk to you or if they want to show you their indifference, they turn their butts to you. Couldn't have been more appropriate.

Ironically, Mom came over the evening I was almost finished with the painting. I really debated showing it to her- even though I am a grown woman, and we've never completely agreed on our taste in art, there is a little girl in my who wants her approval. Right before she left I handed her the photograph.

"Horse butts." she stated.
I pointed across the room to the painting.
"Oh. "
"Why are their tails curly?"

Somewhere inside, I felt my little girl droop like a hot flower. Soon Mom left, and after the door closed I started laughing. In my mind my little girl started dancing and giggling, with a growing awareness of a new sense of freedom.
I'd like to add an addendum to this post. This painting was a turning point for me. Since I did it, I have really lost my need for others' recognition or acceptance of the artwork I'm doing. This has freed me up tremendously, not only in my art but in other aspects of my life as well.
I'd also like to add that my mom was always my biggest fan, encouraging me and believing in me when I didn't believe in myself. Her influence was a gift then, and continues to be so as I learn to trust my own inner wisdom.