Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ramblings and Rants

It's a week after my exhibit in Lexington and I've processed the PSB (post show blues). With a few days to mull over the exhibit and attempt a business/exhibit plan for the immediate future this summer, I'm sort of stymied.

Phone contact with NYRA a couple of days ago has me questioning Saratoga plans. Although I've always considered road trips and out-of-state exhibits important, fact is they're also expensive. Vendor fees and lodging are not cheap, especially in Saratoga.

Racetrack attitudes are so out of touch with today's fan base and marketing needs, they sound as if they're speaking to me in 1980. As I inquired about my status as a artist vendor, and mind you, they've passed the buck and strung me along all year, the snippy answer was "we're a race track you know". Hmm...and also a business with a terrible image problem that's losing it's fan base like lemmings and doing nothing to attract a new audience. Did they notice the stats this past week of increased handles of ADW's (advanced deposit wagering) in Bloodhorse? So darn convenient to watch and wager on racing anywhere in the world 24/7 from the comfort of your living room.

Say what you will about Frank Stronach but he saw the writing on the wall over ten years ago when he speculated that racing centers would need to cater to the demands of an evolving clientele. In Lexington last weekend, I fielded the comments, concerns and observations of people who love my artwork but worry about the current state of horse racing. I did my best to defend and promote my business as I ALWAYS do.

Forgive me, this is turning into a rant but there is no other horse racing artist who elevates, upholds and furthers the cause of the power and beauty of the sport. It's my passion and my muse.

As I attempt to make sense of these antiquated attitudes, I wonder if my needs would not be better served right here at home. Is the grass greener elsewhere? Perhaps the answer is right under my nose!

"An artist's duty is rather to stay open-minded and in a state where he can receive information and inspiration. You always have to be ready for that little artistic Epiphany." - Nick Cave

Monday, May 18, 2009

High Hopes at High Hope

High Hope Steeplechase at the Kentucky Horse Park was a success on many levels. My booth was mobbed with art admirers all day and the opportunity to interact was priceless. Don't let this photo be an indicator, it was taken early right after set-up.

Kentucky horse parkMany people are hesitant to approach artists and engage in conversation about their artwork. Whether it's because they're unsure how to "speak art" or because the artist is intimidating (and some are downright scary), these outdoor shows are a chance to discover initial reactions.

The most frequently asked question was: do you paint from photos? I'm taking this question home with me to ponder an effective answer. The short answer was yes, sometimes. On the inside, I want to explain the long hours spent with anatomy books spread out on the studio floor, one crappy drawing after another, imploring Michael to pose into pretzel positions and the ultimate frustration - scraping the paint off the canvas to start over. Sigh. But then I'd sound like the tormented idiot stereotype and they would surely take flight. So, my answer was to describe various references, but a more interesting response is needed.

Oh, but when they tell me they feel as if they are about to be run over by one of my painted horses, my heart does a happy dance.

"For your information, I would like to ask a question." - Samuel Goldwyn

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jumpin' for Joy


If you're in or around Lexington, Kentucky this coming Sunday the 17th, it will be a great day of racing and tons of other enjoyable events at the High Hope Steeplechase in the Kentucky Horse Park. I'll be exhibiting in the Vendor Village.

I really cut it close on this one. Just painted the last of the gallery wrap yesterday and we leave tomorrow for Lexington. I'll pack it in parchment paper - no lint, little sticking. Impasto Liquin was mixed into my paint abundantly. Love that stuff, I squeeze it out onto my palette and it stays put like a blob of paint.

steeplechase"High Hope", oil on canvas, 24"x30"

There could be more expressive brushwork - guess my mind was on organizing for the show instead of feeling the sensation of going very fast over hurdles. However, I'm quite pleased with the vibrant color.

Talked to Chris McCarron this afternoon and he said he'd stop by if he had a chance. We're taking a box of "Hold Your Horses" along to give out in my booth. It's a promising new equine-themed magazine recently started up here in Ocala but it's going national quickly.

I'm so excited to be going on a road trip finally, it's like coming out of hibernation. Some of my best inspiration results from the boredom of those long hours watching the scenery go by. Go figure.

"What's your road, man?--holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It's an anywhere road for anybody anyhow." - Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Getting Ready for Lexington

It's a syndrome. The "just one more painting" cram for an upcoming exhibit. I'm referring to my show next weekend at the High Hope Steeplechase at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. Seems sensible to offer a steeplechase painting for sale at a steeplechase, right? The question is, will I get it finished in time...

steeplechase paintingin progress oil on canvas, 24"x30"

It's a bit tighter than I've been working over the past few months which means I'm getting bogged down in the details. You can see my chalk lines for the hedge behind the horse on the right and in the hurdle. Relevance to the locale seemed fitting, so I studied online photos of the Horse Park. No campers, trucks, tents or other diversions litter the infield of this pristine course.

For fun, a nighttime sketch:

oil sketch painting"Did You Hear That?" oil on board, 11"x14"

Each handicap is like a hurdle in a steeplechase, and when you ride up to it, if you throw your heart over, the horse will go along, too. - Lawrence Bixby

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Working Hands

Mine that Bird Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Look closely at this amazing photo of Calvin Borel being led back to the winner's circle aboard Derby winner Mine That Bird. He's dropped the reins in his lap yet his left hand still grasps firmly with a half cross while the right has put away the whip (or maybe still tapping a shoulder).

Hands are an integral, expressive element in my paintings. Rider's hands are literally holding onto over a thousand pounds of pulling, jerking, grabbing-the-bit horsepower. Tendons stretch, joints enlarge. Okay, you imagine that I study them endlessly, and I do, but here's a secret: almost every hand in every one of my paintings is Michaels'. Props keep company with art supplies in the studio - from helmets to silks. Tied to my storage rack is a set of reins that I coax Michael into taking a hold of, pull back hard, and make 'em gnarly (then sketch like mad)!

Hands from "Harrowing":

horse racingTwirling the stick.

Reaching for a new hold.

thoroughbred paintingGetting ready for the drive.

And, from the Farrier Series:

blacksmithClinching down the nails.

"Hands to work, heart to God" - symbolic Shaker saying.

P.S. I think Calvin should be designated the official ambassador of horse racing.

Friday, May 01, 2009

My Derby and Oaks Pick

chocolate candyAs much as horse racing is my passion and muse, my focus has been targeted toward maintaining the momentum in progress regarding my artwork. Recovering from the past several months of inertia experienced not just by moi, but most artists in general, let's say I'm back in the fray with nostrils flaring and a single-minded conviction to recoup success.

However, this is a blog about "horse racing" and the Derby and Oaks have crept up and are staring me in the face.

Freisan Fire looks like a monster and I'd love to see Larry take it. He's a fine horseman who sincerely loves his horses and deserves better than what came his way after last year's fiasco.

Michael galloped on and off for Jerry Hollendorfer during our California years. The Dorf's had several go's at derbydom including the 1996 attempt with Afleetaffair. Michael galloped that nice stake horse as well as Pike Place Dancer, winner of the Oaks the same year. They've kept in touch and have an interesting history, therefore I'd love to see Chocolate Candy take it. In fact, he should be a nice price worth a few bucks and a place in exotics.

I'm not a gambler in the pari-mutual sense, therefore, with racing in dire need of another hero, or, heroine, Rachel Alexandra is my pick for the Oaks.

"My filly responded to everything I asked for. And she runs on anything. I've always loved her." - John Valazquez, winner aboard Ashado for the 130th Oaks (2004)