Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Forget Economic Recovery, What About Image?

Horse racing is my passion. As an equine artist, it's my precious muse. I worked almost thirty years in the industry beginning as a hot walker of course, making my way up the ranks to groom, pony girl, exercise rider, assistant trainer, trainer and owner/breeder - to real jobs in the racing office as program production coordinator, clerk of the course and placing judge. The first time I got on a horse in 1968 at Lincoln Downs almost created a national scandal. Race trackers know what I'm talking about.

I tell you this so you know from whence I speak. Horse racing is in a sad situation. Yes economically, but also from a self-induced bad rap. As I listened to the not so subtle snipes quipped during the Eclipse Awards on Monday night, one has to wonder what it will take to bring my beloved sport back to respectable legitimacy.

Let's see. Steroids. Milkshakes. Cobra venom. Eight Belles. Rick Dutrow. PETA. Questionable synthetic surfaces. Drug violations for Asmussen, Pletcher, O'Neil, Mullins et al. Our beloved Jack Van Berg told a congressional sub-commitee: “It’s chemical warfare out there." Ouch. Of course he's right but I'll tell you that EVERYONE is responsible. From the owners who place extreme pressure on the trainers to produce, to the vets who research the next undetectable in their basements, to racing management looking elsewhere. And all the shysters in between.

What does this mean to me as an artist? A good portion of clients purchasing my artwork are not associated with racing or even horse racing fans in particular. They tell me they love the action and color. Recently, their response to my latest paintings is (politely) : "I'm not into horse racing, do you have something available in foxhunting? (or hunter/jumper, dressage, polo, western, reining, driving, paso fino, arabs, pintos, farm scenes and all the rest)

As I diligently ply my trade - working long hours in the studio daily, finally making inroads with various race track marketing departments, creating the next innovative dynamic - how do I respond to all this? I'm a painter attempting to portray the beauty, power, speed, excitement and every other adjective to describe the extreme commanding force that is horse racing.


On a lighter note: my client informs me that her champion western show horse is legs only steering. Keep your hands still. The artist attempts to keep her hands still...

western horseThe added bulk is from advancing age, not steroids. Honest.

"His comment about the industry’s movement to eliminate drugs and become more transparent was well received." - quoted from Paulick's live blog regarding a statement made by Jess Jackson.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thawing, Not Chilling Out

Last week was crazy. Guests. Very cold weather. Power outage during very cold weather. House freezing. Inauguration. My b-day. More very cold weather.

For my birthday, I planned a day of beer and subs on the river. However, the thermometer read 25 degrees in the morning and even I'm not that tough. Been living in Florida too long - I just don't do cold anymore.

Plan B sent me to Gainesville to visit the Harn Museum of Art at the University. Warm inside. Diminutive but impressive as small museums are, this one possesses a surprisingly respectable permanent collection. It includes a nifty little sculpture by Nevelson as well as Rodin and Lachaise. Paintings by Monet, Bellow, Burchfield, Hassam and Soyer took me aback.

I was mesmerized by three Herman Herzog's as I didn't realize he had spent so much time painting in Florida. His landscapes are a bit nineteenth century academic, but stunning nevertheless.

herman herzog"Florida Sunset" oil on canvas, 25"x19", Herman Herzog

"The view is loaded with Light, Light, Light, ever changing and so wonderful in its myriad colors." - Candace Faber

Thursday, January 22, 2009

OoHA Goes National

I almost forgot to post this bit of news. Featured in the February issue of Art Calendar is an interesting article about renewed interest in artists salons. It's authored by art marketing maven Alyson B. Stanfield of and includes a portrait of our salon, Out of Hand Artists. We've gone national!

artist salontop, l. to r.: Carlynne Hershberger, Kelli Money Huff, Jessica Miller, moi, Mary Verrandeaux, Moe Hahn. bottom: Lorna L. Effler, Nancy Moskovitz, Merrill Anderson, Margaret Watts, Jackie Shindehette

Alyson provides structured guidelines to assist artists in organizing a salon and starting the conversation regarding marketing and business. The plan is available free at Of course I highly recommend it - we're entering our third year together. Our salon has evolved into a strong group of professional artists who network and support each other in every imaginable manner. The exchange of ideas is priceless. Our vision:

We are dedicated to elevating the value of art and artists by recognizing our work as a business and ourselves as entrepreneurs.

I thought about organizing a salon for two years. My advice is do not take that long! Reach out and make friends with other artists. You don't have to always be alone in the studio.

"I'll lean on you and you lean on me and we'll be okay." - Dave Matthews Band

Friday, January 16, 2009


New painting started. It took me two days to draw the complicated composition. All those legs in front of and behind, all those bodies both horse and human, stacked up one after another. My inspiration is from a photo I shot at the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga last summer. I'm not so sure it's wise to take on an intricate composition like this when I'm under various guns to produce lots of paintings.

thoroughbred artoil wash on canvas, 24"x48"

Remember in the film "Pollock" when Lee Krasner screams at Pollack: "Paint! Paint! Paint!" Michael has adopted that line and made it his own. Standing in the doorway of my studio, he proclaims variations on the original such as "just paint it" or "you can paint anything" or "are you painting yet" or "is the painting finished yet" or "the painting just doesn't feel right" or "you've got paint on your face".

jackson pollockThank goodness for profoundly committed partners.

"The complexity of yourself being poured into the painting is the issue." - Elmer Bischoff

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Paintings Finished

The finished farm scene I started:

equine art"Marion County", oil on canvas, 30"x40

horse racing art"Duel", oil on canvas, 26"x20"

Every once in awhile, I revisit a favorite thematic element - how the eye focuses on action. We can "see" an entire scene such as a horse race, but we can only concentrate our sight on certain areas briefly. In fact, it's fleeting. Edges appear sharply and then blur, colors intensify then fade into the background. Our sense of observation is challenged by the speed of the movement. It's difficult to focus on detail as shapes converge then explode.

"Perceptive observation is seeing with your brain, feeling with your eyes, interpreting with your heart." - Robert Wade

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Horse Stuff

It's my business to schmooze with my peeps whenever the opportunity arises. It was all horse people this week, beginning with a visit to Signature Stallions owned by William Schettine on Saturday. They were announcing the homecoming of Chapel Royal.

signature stallionsHe's a hunk of racehorse and a cool character to boot. I inquired the handler as to his blase disposition amidst the hoopla. The reply was "he's always this way". Hmmm, mellow is he?

Then it was on to the dreary mid-winter sale at OBS. We knew it would be dismal (he's not president yet) but it's a chance to see and be seen. The powers that be granted me permission to hang a painting with accompanying info at the entrance to the main sales ring. Makes me happy.

ocala breeders salesIt should have been called the low-end mares of Adena Springs sale. For value, I'd consider them a ginormous bargain considering who the mares were in foal to. If only I had a pocketful of money and a bigger back yard. Here's one of many A.S. barns with all the mares in a row awaiting inspection.

thoroughbred maresA good friend informed me that this is not a dappled gray, but rather the coloring is referred to as "marbling". All these years and I did not know that. This beauty looks like she just stepped off a carousel.

dappled gray
Somewhere along the way, maybe at Jamestown, America decided the sales figures were going to matter more than the product. - Steve Johnson

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Why Celebs Despise the Media

John Travolta and his family live about a half mile north of us in an exclusive fly-in community. As Michael traveled to our little country post office this afternoon, he was besieged by the media lining both sides of the road.

Here's our local TV stations, camped at the gates, descending into the lowly depths of tabloid journalism:

jumbolaire estatestravolta
One would think respect, dignity and privacy would be in order during this time of insurmountable grief.

Where grief is fresh, any attempt to divert it only irritates” - Samuel Johnson

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Dynamic Canine Paintings

As I've mentioned previously, I received more doggie commissions this recent holiday season that ever before. Go figure. I hope I don't have to change my brand to dynamic canine artist.

Are you aware of some of the canine paintings executed by notable artists of other specific genres? A few examples:

Perhaps a precious pet of can-can companion...

Toulouse-Lautrec Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, "Touc, Seated on a Table", c. 1879-1881

Or, the pet of a secret lover...

John Singer SargentJohn Singer Sargent, "Pointy"

And one of my favorite canine AND equine British artists:

Sir Edwin LandseerSir Edwin Landseer, "A Toy Terrier Looking Out of a Kennel", c. 1837

Forgive me, but I often think George Stubbs should have concentrated his talents on dog paintings instead of the horse. This one, exquisite...

George Stubbs, "King Charles Spaniel"

George StubbsSharon Crute, "Chihuahuas", oil on canvas, 16"x20", c. 2009

"My little dog - a heartbeat at my feet." - Edith Wharton