Monday, December 24, 2012

2012 - Much to be thankful for.

As I look back at my work year I realize how well my career recovery is underway from the travails of the recession. Here goes...

It's been a year since opening the studio on Beekman St. The Arts District has also suffered mightily but signs of improvement abound. Michael was able to stir interest in another First Friday Art Walk which will be repeated in the spring (the Art Walk he singly organized in Ocala still continues and is smashingly successful). I'm so grateful to have street presence and have the support of friends who believe in me and my artwork. The studio makes it possible to participate in various art events throughout the year. Yes, I work very hard to market myself and cannot rely solely on walk-in traffic, but the studio has proven itself necessary over and over. It's about street cred.

A great gig came my way last January with the commission to paint six greyhound fiberglass forms. My new client used the artwork to raise money for greyhound rescue. And what a fortuitous meeting! He saw my fiberglass horses in Ocala and took the trouble to find me here in Saratoga. What a fascinating, generous and easy to work with client who made my struggles with acrylic paint a bearable challenge. Angels come in all disguises.

Getting my children's book finished and published was a milestone. 101 Whinnying Riddles for Horse Crazy Kids is listed on and has sold very well. My book partner who wrote the riddles, Dale Sue Wade is brilliant and supportive. I made lots of mistakes but learned well about self-publishing. I'm even open to repeating the venture. In color next time.

I was invited to show at the spring exhibition at the American Academy of Equine Art in Lexington, KY. Always an affirming endeavor.

Creating and nurturing business relationships is more vital than ever. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame hosted a book signing for me during the race meet. It's important to form alliances with those who share similar focus, passions and who also work hard to promote these principles.

Yup, there were some low points in the year to mention briefly but not dwell. The cancellation of the Inaugural Saratoga Steeplechase Festival for which I was the poster artist was a big disappointment and also hit me in the pocketbook. The state take over of NYRA stole some of the magic from the race meet and left many of us drained and uncertain of the future. However, the recent meeting of the new board of directors produced direction for positive change, especially during the upcoming 150th Anniversary to be widely celebrated. And I'm grateful to still be an artist vendor at the world's most fabulous race track. We remain hopeful.

The lack of interest in equine art here in Saratoga after the race meet has been a blessing. It has compelled me to spread my painterly wings and do some flying. While it's often frustrating, it's also a great challenge to experiment and grow. The interest in my "new" subjects has been reassuring.

I have amazing clients and am thankful for all who supported me throughout the year. You all know who you are and I'm so grateful for you interest in my artwork and career. Next week, Michael and I will sit down and make plans for 2013 with renewed enthusiasm. In the meantime, I wish you all a

Merry Christmas and Peace and Prosperity in the New Year!

With lots of love,

Monday, December 03, 2012

Go to the Light

I've been fortunate to gypsy around the country with my horse-trainer husband Michael. As I scrutinize contemporary masters to expand my subject and, in the process, hopefully improve my painting skills, I've become so mindful of the light in all it's glorious lumens.

Now I'm in the north country and it's...oh so different. As winter encroaches, the sun is a diluted watery thing that mostly hangs out behind a veil of clouds. And not for long! It drops behind the tree line before 4:00 pm which makes for a very short day (and in summer the opposite makes for little time to star-gaze). With a rare, clear sun, the light produces long shadows all day long. Weird.

3:30 pm
Michael has asked why an artist would want to plein air paint here in December. Everything's brown and dead, he observes. Well, everything is more like resting and it's about a sense of place. The weak light is particular to this region at this time of year and I'm enjoying the seasons (even though snow still...STILL!... eludes us).

Holsteins, oil on canvas, 16"x20"

Because I sold the first little cow painting unframed and still wet, of course I had to paint another. It was overcast but I wanted to color the cloudy sky. The bare trees in the background say winter even though the grass oddly stays so green around here freeze after freeze. I added a slight indication of shadow to add dimension even though there were none and used a palette knife to create the hay in the mud. The cows are brightly lit in an un-sunny way.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Graffiti and Other Masterworks

As I fumble around my paint box, flummoxed and forlorn, I wish I had begun my young painting career as an illegal street artist, stealthily stalking substrates off limits.

Okay, that's enough of that. There's a lot of luck in this game...serendipitously finding yourself in the right place, in perfect timing and landing in the company of some very, very helpful people. Talent and ability are often secondary. Frustration abounds for the workaholics (me) who take themselves way too seriously (me) and continuously bang their exhausted heads against the graffitied wall (me).

Consider Basquiat...then Banksy...and now KAWS aka Brian Donnelly. If I were a street artist like KAWS, Macy's would ask ME to design a colorless balloon for the big day (I'd call it Buddy) and I'd have MY few minutes of fame on the CBS Sunday Morning show. Cool, huh?

And for the record, I absolutely adore Banksy and his artwork. I'll never, ever be this cool. Damn.

Just sayin',

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Made in the U.S.A.

One of the hot issues of the recent political campaigns dealt with the outsourcing of American jobs to cheap overseas labor markets and the resulting unemployment it created here at home. I care about this. A lot.
Not to be morose, but I ask you to consider: as you stand in line at the big box store craving the latest version of that electronic gadget, try to comprehend the fallout produced by the overseas manufacturing company who has installed safety nets to save the leaping miserable. Okay, that's extreme, but it bothers my conscience and, to be quite frank, I believe we are either part of the problem or part of the solution. It may seem overwhelming, but we can do our small part to contribute to the solution in the next several weeks of holiday shopping.

Buy local. Purchase merchandise from a small shop in your area. You'll be appreciated, enjoy attentive service and you'll be supporting a business that very likely cares about it's employees, offers a better product and stands behind it, pays American taxes and contributes directly into the local economy.

It's difficult to find products made in America but not impossible.

My mugs - proudly made in America by Americans!
My mugs and coasters are manufactured in the U.S. The coasters are from a company in Virginia and my mugs are created at a company in Texas. Heck, even the mug itself is American made. Yes, of course it costs more but the product is of excellent quality, survives hundreds of trips through the dishwasher and microwave, and you need not be concerned with dangerous toxins mixing with your morning beverage. Oh, and the lovely images on the mugs and coasters are created by THIS American.

Even my oil paints are made in the U.S.A. and my book is printed in America.
Think red, white and blue, baby!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Genre to General

After the race meet ends, Saratogians express little to no interest in equine art, especially horse racing. Either they've had their fill of it during the summer, aren't particularly inclined toward the sport, or it reminds them of huge crowds, insane traffic and the hopelessness of obtaining a dinner reservation.

So, what's an equine artist to do? Many of my peers are expanding their artistic repertoire in the wake of the stifling recession that put the kabosh on more than a few thriving careers. Experimentation's necessary course of action has produced these recent inventions:

Islands of Lake George, oil on canvas, 8"x10"

Simplify has become my new mantra and the word loops over and over in my head. Here, I'm playing with atmosphere and pushing the color expression. I feel like I want to re-work the value of islands to bring it closer to the air and water.

Lobsterman, oil on canvas, 11"x14
From my now infamous Maine vacation, I awoke early on the shore to observe the laborious hauling and inspection of lobster pots. The canvas ground is a cool, light yellow mixture of cadmium light and yellow ochre. The background was a wash of  pthalo blue and white. I was going to work in some water action behind the boat but decided to simplify and left it as is with the yellow showing through. It may not work but it was an interesting decision for me.

Sherman Farm, oil on canvas, 8"x10"
This plein air piece is a feel-good stretch. It was rendered quickly and simplified as it was only in the upper 30's outside. I've been studying landscape painting and pining to be good at it! It may be a matter of practice, practice, practice - or not. I've got a long way to go before I make friends with the greens. Whatever, it's good to get out and paint directly from life. A great help has been Landscape Painting by Mitchell Albala.

Untitled (as yet), oil on canvas, 22"x24"
I simplified these brushstrokes with a deliberate unsure back and forth blending like I caught myself doing in the landscape pieces. It has an abstract feel to it and I'm especially pleased with the composition. Thrusting, powerful bodies in space...gee, that's familiar.

I feel like I'm starting over in some respects. It's uncomfortable and although it's interesting to try new subjects, I'm not very secure regarding my motives and direction as an artist. After a couple of decades of branding myself as a "dynamic equine artist", where am I going with this? Will I still be able to apply an aesthetic of striving for excellence, a dialog of visual communication and convincingly convey my ideas in paint that will translate    

It's good to step out of the box (I guess),

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Illustration vs. "Art"

We visited the Norman Rockwell Museum recently, specifically to see the Howard Pyle exhibit. Surprisingly, it was quite crowded but evidently the throngs were there for the Rockwells. The galleries in the rear of the museum containing the Pyle paintings were almost deserted. This left lots of room and time to intimately savor.

I'm a major fan of Howard Pyle. If historical accuracy is sketchy, dream it up and make us believers. And do a stunning job while you're at it with a maniacal imagination, rule-breaking design and excellent painting skills. So moving to finally see the actual paintings I've drooled over in picture books for years. The Flying Dutchman is over-the-top for diagonal thrusts creating uneasy motion:

Do you think I'm NUTZ about this painting? The Coming of Lancaster. It's almost a religious experience, a pilgrimage of sorts, to see the real brushstrokes. Adore this horse. In the olden days it was called a piebald (think Caravaggio's Conversion of St. Paul) and the depiction of his watch eyes (blue) is perfect. The expression is priceless and it's haughty posture which mimics the rider - magnificent. We have arrived to save you.

And yes, this amazing painting was there as well: The Mermaid. Wisely, a bench had been place before it for those of us who couldn't peel our eyes away:

The art snobs have always looked down their noses at illustrators. Nevertheless, one must be a superior draftsman and accomplished painter to create this kind of imagery. Their drawing skills are phenomenal and I find tremendous inspiration in this traditional genre. Pyle's imagination speaks to me, urging me to step out and express my own inventiveness.

Norman Rockwell, whose very American art is quite rooted in...well...Americana, interprets the joy of commonplace and home. However, he bravely goes out on a limb to express social injustices and causes he believed in at a time when it wasn't cool. This is so powerful...especially in 1964: The Problem We All Live With.

Here's another painting I couldn't pull myself from. The composition is uncanny with cropped faces lining either side of the canvas leading you to the turkey focal point. I was so mesmerized, I forgot to read the gallery card. Is that Rockwell's self-portrait smiling out at us from the lower right? Freedom from Want.
I have great respect for Rockwell. What technical skill and talent! It's just that I resonated to the Pyle's in a way that I find so stimulating.

Let's all go to drawing class...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What I Did on My End-Of-Summer Vacation

I'm having a difficult time getting back to work. Vacationing on the Maine coast was so relaxing and inspiring that I'm beginning to understand the term "retirement." Michael and I brought all our own food and camped as close to the shore as possible - twice we woke up to lapping waves right on the beach.

Acadia National Park

Although Acadia National Park possessed stunning scenery, we were turned off by the commercial aspect. Buses dropped off tourists at all the choice scenic locations and it got so crowded I couldn't even set up to paint. Two days of that annoyance and we were off to explore a bit further south.

Harbor at Stonington
Artist studios and galleries were flagrantly abundant. Every town, and I mean every one of 'em we visited hosted several art galleries. In the outskirts, signs that appeared to be county or town appointed indicated individual art studios located down this or that road. Even dirt roads. Which begs the question: how can so many artists and galleries survive here along the Maine coast? Is it that lucrative? Do they stay all winter or leave for warmer climes?

The highlight of the trip was taking the boat over to Monhegan Island. With equally stunning scenery as Acadia, it's understandable how the island has held a long tradition as an artistic destination. It was almost a religious experience as I payed homage to the artists who have painted there for generations. There they were: all the subjects, scenes, landscapes and seascapes that have been painted by some of the greats...right before my eyes.

Artists at work.

Teel Island, owned by the Wyeth family, on the way out to Monhegan.
The bluffs of Monhegan Island.
Sigh. I've got to get back to work sooner or later. After all, paint is paint and a muse is a muse.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Trouble in Paradise

I meditate every morning. If I can shut off the incessant chatter in my brain and get truly quiet...that's when inspiration manifests.

After an exhausting and challenging summer as an artist vendor for the entire Saratoga meet, I'm heading to the Maine coast for a few days. My lodging of choice is to camp. I want to hear it, smell it, taste it and feel way of returning to my source.

Working hard is my nature, and the series of events we encountered made me grateful for dogged perseverance. It wasn't just me. Last May the State of New York took the helm from NYRA leaving a beautiful ship tossing aimlessly with no clear course of direction. By the end of the meet I could hear the weariness in the voices of most everyone. My wish is for this Grand Dame to return to her former glory, rejuvenate her beauty, integrity and pride because Saratoga is special and elite and so many of us, past and present, love her dearly.

When the Inaugural 2012 Steeplechase Festival at Saratoga was cancelled I could only imagine that the organizers were swept up into the chaotic maelstrom that was the Summer of 2012.

But I survived, I got through it, and this week I'll be meditating to the sound of crashing waves.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Catching Up on a Dark Day at Saratoga

We're almost two weeks into the race meet here at Saratoga.

For my artists peeps: imagine working a weekend art festival times six weeks. It's a challenging grind but worth every minute. Double the pleasure as Michael and I attempt to keep the studio open during normal visiting hours. It's amazing what can be accomplished with determination and drive. The trick is to stay healthy by eating well (not easy for Michael) and getting enough sleep (not easy for Sharon). Fourteen to sixteen hour days are the norm.

My little riddle book is selling a bit. I haven't had the time to properly promote it but think I'll have a better chance come the holidays. We've received a positive review on where you can also purchase via the link on the sidebar to the right. A reminder: I'll be at the National Museum of Racing on August 23rd signing copies from 10am to 1pm.

I managed to finish the artwork for the program cover of the 2012 Inaugural Steeplechase Festival at Saratoga a few days before the meet began. Posters are available. Here's the original painting followed by the poster designed by graphic artist extraordinaire Maria Miller here in Saratoga:

So luvs, if you don't hear from me much this summer on this blog, know that I can be found by the horse path across from the jockey silks room at the Spa. I'm having the time of my life!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Got a Horse Crazy Kid?

The book is published!

My multi-year project of illustrating the equine-related riddles for children that were written and compiled by my book partner Dale Sue Wade is complete. In hindsight, the drawings were a respite from my usually formal painting. The goofy, silly me was given free rein to have fun and revel in the fact that I'm a fairly decent draughtswoman (yes that's correct, I looked it up). I'm learning to accept and honor the positive aspects of me. It takes an entire lifetime.

In a few days the book will be available at Extended distribution will take on countries across the pond and translations will occur: ¿QuĂ© tipo de caballo de Picasso se prefiere?

A bit of a snafu has occurred in transferring the files to Kindle but that will be handled later. Call me old-fashioned, but I still love the tactile experience of holding a book in my hands and thumbing the pages while inhaling the aromatic scent of ink.
Dale Sue is an educator and wasn't satisfied with the just the riddle and it's accompanying answer. She's compelled to teach and harnessed the riddles as a learning opportunity. You'll find puns, wordplays, idioms and homophones plus a history lesson or two thrown in for good measure.

Got a horse crazy kid and need a little gift? You can pre-order at the publishers website here. It's only $9.95 and I promise you'll love it as much as your kid. Think of me when you chuckle at the nonsensical drawings.

Drawing on life and love,

Friday, June 22, 2012

101 Whinnying Riddles for Horse Crazy Kids

Three solid weeks. That's how long it took me to format the children's riddle book I've been working on for years. Why now? An offer from the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame for a book signing during the Saratoga race meet was incentive enough to pull the project back to the front burner. Again.

Being a painter, my knowledge and understanding of publishing software is limited. A very old version of Quark, 5.0 to be exact, somehow keeps getting transferred over to the next generation of computers in our office. After a brief frustrating struggle, I downloaded the trial version of the latest QuarkExpress 9.0.

It was easy to import the text and images and compose the pages. However, the entire book had to uploaded to the publisher in one pdf file and that's where the insanity began. My book partner, Dale Sue Wade (who wrote the overly clever riddles that only children can solve), my VP of Sales, Research and Accounts Receivable (Michael) and I decided to self-publish. After intensive research, we chose CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Many, many revisions and several hair pulling sessions later, the book is in "review" as of this writing. I felt like I was trying to build a mansion with toothpicks, the toothpicks being my lack of knowledge about anything book creating.

Revisiting the ink drawings did put a smile on my intense grimacing. Humor me as I share this ridiculous drawing with you:

What do you say to a horse when they sneeze?

101 Ways to Drive a Horse Artist Mad,

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Please! Don't Go!

Experiencing a couple of unsubscribes last week has me wondering. Perhaps I've not painted a race horse in awhile, but this is a great gig for me and has me leaping out of my oil-equine-big canvas-wild eyed box. I know some of my friends are getting a kick out of my documented struggles as I gunk up acrylic paint while ruining good brushes and misting water on anyone who passes too close.

Or, maybe I've not been clear regarding the greyhound project. The subject of greyhound racing can elicit assorted opinion as I've discovered...some of them rather passionate. So, let me explain.

I have a client who has commissioned me to paint several fiberglass life-size greyhounds. These art pieces are being auctioned off across the country to benefit various greyhound rescue groups. Be happy for me as the project has mushroomed into opportunities that neither my client nor myself foresaw. For instance, remember Waguar, the greyhound painted with the team colors of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars?

That number 32 was personally autographed by Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville's star running back. My client, who is an avid sports fan, not only experienced the fun of meeting the renown player but also went out to breakfast with him. Very happy client = very happy Sharon.

As a former race tracker I could be droning on and on about I'll Have Another's trainer and his drug issues or the threatened strike of NYRA's maintenance union right before the Belmont blah blah blah. But I'll spare you all that noise as I quietly create my own controversy...

It's a fund-raiser for greyhound rescue,

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Finished Chief Greyhound

This is an artist blog, after all. I've been remiss with my artwork updates amid the chaos of my website troubles.

Here's one of the last two greyhounds that I completed and delivered. In a previous post I shared some of the process of creating "Chief". Lots of research, kids, goes into fulfilling the requests of my client. However, I'm learning new things that make me go "huh" in an inquisitive way.

After finishing up this particular greyhound, I'm also understanding (finally!) how to handle acrylic paint. I have great admiration for artists who produce beautiful paintings with this plastic fast-drying goo that I've cursed during many a painting session. How do they do it? Check out my good friend Robert Stebleton who applies it with ease and agility. That's how they do it.

Four Indian Chiefs representing the Sioux (Oglala and Lakota), Nez Pearce and Cherokee, and seven clans of the Cherokee are represented. Also, lots of totems and traditional patterns.

Chief Joseph and Chief Sitting Bull were derived from historical black and white photos readily available on the web.

View from above looking down on the greyhound's head. The Eagle and Blue Sky are two Cherokee clans.

Potato Vine and Bear sometimes represent similar clans.

There is no word equivalent for goodbye in the Sioux language because it would break the bond of connectedness. Therefore, I'll meet you all again in the blogosphere.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Website Hacking Update

Google has removed the dreaded "Reported Attack Page"from my website and e-mail.

My biggest concern was losing the trust and confidence of the very people to whom I've worked so hard to create relationships. Clients, collectors, potential collectors, people who just like my artwork, my friends and fellow artists. I know if I landed on a page blasting that red-text warning, I would click away as fast as my spastic index finger could tap a mouse. That possibility was so disheartening - over and above losing several years of work.

Time to move on. I'm pleased with FASO, the website hosting service for artists, and I've put up a very simple site just to get back online. It's so easy even Michael is helping me. Not much design flexibility, however, did I mention I wanted to simplify? I'm determined to enjoy this.

Thank you to everyone who was supportive through this ordeal and I'm grateful for all who have stuck with me. Change of subject:

Oh no! It's Dave on the loose in the studio!

With relief,

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Horrible Hidious Heinous Hackers from Hell

At first I was furious. I took it as a personal assault. What sick, twisted freak would do this to an artist? When I clicked to my website, a window popped up stating "Reported Attack Page!". What the....?
After contacting Yahoo who has hosted my website since 2000, they proceeded to pass the buck to Google. When I finally reached a genuine human within the vastness, I was directed to a website that would provide step by step instructions to help. Uh-uh.

If you have a website and you've never authenticated it with Google, I strongly advise you do it now. Google does have useful webmaster tools but your site must be authenticated. How was I to know that? And...I can't accomplish that step because my site is re-flagged and I've become a whirling dervish.

So, I've been hacked. I pulled my entire site down, all 857 files and 27 folders representing six or so years of work for my designer Julie K and myself. I don't have time nor do I care to allot resources to rebuild from scratch in Dreamweaver. I've signed on with this site building service for artists: Fine Art Studio Online (FASO). I won't have the flexibility and control to appease this perfectionist, but the templates are clean, simple and showcase the art.

Please hang in there with me. I'll be back up and running ASAP.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

We're Jumping! Revised Steeplechase Schedule

The Saratoga race meet is my yearly golden show. With the entire scheme is place, we're building an impressive inventory for the six week gig. We'll be more than ready.

We plan events, shows and exhibits at least six months out. Which is why it's unusual that Michael would add to the schedule so last minute. The VP in charge of marketing, research and accounts receivable is busy readying for two more steeplechase shows while I paint to complete yet another greyhound.

Here's the revised schedule where I'll be set up showing my artwork for the next three weekends:

If you live close to one of these venues and you've never attended a steeplechase, I can recommend a hoot of a good time. In addition to the races, the day is packed with all kinds of family-friendly events from frenzied Jack Russell races to the craziest very non-couture hat contests. Tailgating is an art unto itself.

Clearing 20"x26" Limited Edition Giclee Fine Art Reproduction on stretched canvas.
Hope to see you at the races!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

First First Friday Art Walk

The very successful First Friday Art Walk in Ocala, Florida was the brainchild of my husband Michael Bray. We set out to repeat the event here in the Arts District of Saratoga Springs. Armed with organizing experience, I think our first Art Walk was a wonderful success. Artists lined Beekman Street showing off their artwork as impromptu musicians strolled in and out of the crowd. Because it was so well attended, we have plenty of room to expand into a go-to Friday night party.

Ameyo Amyot demonstrates pottery sculpting techniques on her front porch...
Amy Atkins with her beautiful prints and pottery in front of the Textile Studio...
Local resident Mike brings out his big guitar and big talent...
Inside the eclectic Feneex Gallery...
How could I resist painting on the sidewalk with the rest of the artists? Behind me is painter Steve Hill working on his vegetable series and hiding behind him is Jackie Royal stitching her needlepoint canvases of...graffiti!

The party continued way past 8:00pm. I'm still recuperating.
Happy tired,

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Chief Progresses

This boy is special. The sponsor of the rescue project has requested a Native American theme for his own personal pooch. Still handing me artistic free rein (love it!), his only request was to portray historical Indian chiefs.

I've learned so much while researching this entire greyhound project. From NFL team colors (home and away) to deep sea fishing boats to the Seven Cherokee Clans. For instance, Geronimo was not a chief but rather a medicine man and a fierce and unscrupulous warrior. It's not horse racing but I'm enjoying the process immensely.


The Eagle is a totem and the Blue Sky is a Cherokee clan.

Below is Chief Crazy Horse and Wolf and Bear totem. The sketched-in chief on the right is Robert Benge. He was born in the eighteen century to a Cherokee mother and an Irish father. With his red hair and light skin, he was often mistaken for an anglo and easily infiltrated white settlements, effectively wreaking havoc. I couldn't find any historical portraits of him so I have to improvise. He will have flowing red hair!

This is the finished portrait of Chief Sitting Bull (along with Deer totem). There are lots of black and white photographs of him available on the internet as well as Crazy Horse and Chief Joseph. Which makes one pause...who did the photographing and how did they talk Sitting Bull into...well, sitting? Imagine big box cameras and l-o-n-g poses.
Painting on these small fiberglass forms creates distinct challenges. The concave/convex curves create optical illusions. Something to keep in the forefront when rendering a portrait.

do' da da go' hv i,