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.