Thursday, December 25, 2014

Year in Review 2014

The year was a big improvement. Sales were up and I made some very solid contacts. I didn't get a lot of personal painting accomplished because of several decent commissions. But production hummed. Being the workaholic control freak that I am, learning to delegate was a major realization. Huge. When I let go and trust, the momentum of my ideas seem to continue on smoothly without my constant watch. It's actually quite a relief.

My biggest epiphany occurred when I finally decided which direction to take my artwork. When clarity was finally achieved (and I've floundered with this for a long, long time), I began to make decisions and take action. Very affirming.

The year began with the sale of the building we rented on Beekman St. in the Arts District. We did our best to maintain a gallery presence for the first two years after transplanting to Saratoga Springs. The association was splintered and unfocused and it became an uphill battle as we watched businesses frequently come and go. Truth is, if a business isn't located downtown on Broadway, it's screwed. So, it was a blessing to rent this little house on five wooded acres with a creek, wildlife galore and located a mere mile from the racetrack. Peaceful.

Commissions compensated for the disappointment. After the move, we attempted to get involved with other arts organizations who were starting up or restructuring but to no avail.

But 'nuf of that. Springtime marked the beginning of a few road trips which I live for. The return of the High Hope Steeplechase in Lexington, Kentucky ignited my gypsy blood and the organizers graciously used my artwork for the program cover. I returned home with another nice commission.

Early June gave me the opportunity to participate in my first plein air competition. You probably know about our van catching fire the day before we were scheduled to leave and burning up six of my paintings and lots of supplies. Moving onward (applying grace to all that's faced), we did make it to Finger Lakes and although I was shook up more than I realized and painted some really bad canvases, I knew immediately this was for me. I absolutely love, love, love plein air painting and my skills continue to improve as I practice and study.

The summer race meet at Saratoga was great and an encouraging improvement over the previous year. It was a revelation that I'll always be an equine artist to some degree as my repeat clients visited my booth with the specific intention to purchase more racing artwork. And I acquired new clients. I deserve this: I've spent a lifetime dearly loving, promoting and...defending...this sport.

Fall took me back to Lexington, Kentucky for the Secretariat Festival. More commissions and terrific networking. I exhibited some of my originals in the Thoroughbred Breeders' Museum. Then it was on to Middleburg, Virginia for the Fall Races. Unfortunately the weather was dreadful but that's the chance we take participating in outdoor shows. Regardless, the area is spectacularly beautiful and steeped in history.

My contract with NYRA ends in 2015. I'll stay as long as they'll have me but if they don't renew, I'm prepared to launch into Plan B, plein air painting. Exactly where is yet an unknown. That unknown is the mystery that thrills me.

I'm so thankful to those of you who have followed this blog. I wish all of you the very best in the upcoming New Year 2015.


Monday, December 01, 2014

Greyhounds Revisited

I've received a commission to paint three more greyhounds. Two have arrived and the third is in the mold. Because they require acrylics, not my favorite medium, I'm surprised that I'm actually looking forward to this project. A revisitation of sorts.

A very large freightliner for a smallish box:

Well, maybe not that small.
My anthropomorphic relationship with these hounds could be based on the designs to be painted. I'm sure not all artists would agree, but I tend to develop a kindred relationship with all my subjects. While I'm concentrating on form and shape and color and all the other academic necessities of painting, something else is going on in the background. The brushstrokes evolve into caresses, invoke empathy that shouldn't exist on a two dimensional surface and I have privy access. An intimacy ensues as I fall in love with my subject.


But then like a fickle lover I'm finished with you and off to the next project.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Kentucky Inspiration

Last September I participated as a vendor at the Secretariat Festival in Paris, Kentucky. It's a funky little town that exists in another time period. No chain hotels, no chain restaurants or any other tiresome mediocrity. We were staying in Georgetown, approximately 17 miles due west.

It was late in the afternoon when we tore down and packed up my exhibit. Route 460 is a very narrow road with no shoulder, just a disconcerting two foot drop from the pavement on both sides. The speed limit is 50 mph as I recall making this a white knuckle ride.

I spotted a band of mares and foals on the left side. The light was golden and glowing. Long shadows stretched as the sun sank low behind the trees. The mares were up close to the fence by the road, unusual as they are very protective of their foals and never compromise safety. I was so excited! Can we turn around and go back?

Fortunately, there was a road perpendicular to where the horses were grazing. Michael managed to pull a daring u-turn and park on the opposite road while I jumped out with my camera. At first the mares were nervous and stood in front of their foals. When they determined I was no threat, they relaxed and shimmered with highlights in the fading light. This is the heavenly manna that artists patiently pray for.

Eventide, oil on canvas, 18"x48"
I named the painting Eventide which represents the subtle period of transition from late afternoon into evening.

While I was clicking away, a lady pulled up alongside Michael and scolded him for parking on the side of the insanely narrow road. He listened patiently, pointed to me and replied, "I'm married to an artist, what can I say?"

Bless our spouses,

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Miles of Canvas

I completed a couple of experimental paintings this past week in between my equine commissions (and canine to come). As an artist friend wisely told me not long ago, sometimes it's about painting miles of canvas to achieve your vision. I think of her sage advise whenever the restlessness sets in. Whenever I'm uneasy because the paint isn't doing or looking the way I want it to. My thoughts have returned to wondering if I should take a workshop with an artist who's accomplished in landscape, who's wrestled with values and edges, perhaps someone who can help me find my voice within this cacophony of uncertain thought.

Indian Summer, 11"x14", oil on textured canvas
In the painting above, I wanted to loosen my brushwork. I may have gone too far as I used big brushes on a small textured canvas. One thing I am pleased with is my return to a brighter palette. For a while I limited and toned down my colors. Don't ask me why. We all love happy colors.

Studying other artists continuously - the modern masters, plein air painters, or just keeping track of what my peers are up to - I've observed that unless a landscape painting has an unusual focal point, or any focal point for that matter, it's boring. A pretty picture yes, but where's the intrigue? Even some technically excellent pieces are just that.

In the other piece, I struggled with the waterfall, cooled it, warmed it, brightened, toned it back, added rocks, spray, rivulets, scraped, smudged and generally worked the thing to death. In contrast, the deer took about two minutes to apply with a few simple brushstrokes that I got right the first time. A nod to all those hundreds (if not thousands) of horses I've painted.
Wahconah Falls, 11"x14" oil on canvas

So thank you to my artist friend Sue Johnson for assuring me about all those miles of canvas I'm determined to crank out. You're so right. Just this morning Michael and I did an inventory on what to scrap heap in order to reuse the stretchers. Now that's an accomplishment from the days of wrenching a bad painting out of his reluctant arms.

It's a bittersweet symphony,

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Thank You Clarity

It's been a whirlwind three months. Six solid weeks at Saratoga followed by two weeks of filling orders and shipping, then on to Paris, Kentucky (Secretariat Festival), more order filling and shipping then onward to Middleburg, Virginia (VA Fall Races). While it's been a non-stop grind, don't get me wrong, I'm feeling extremely blessed to be so busy.

It was a doozy, as epiphanies go. Try as I might - painting plein air, painting house portraits, painting people portraits (on their horses of course), painting pets, painting studio landscapes, painting ocean scenes (with galloping horses of course), dabbling in gold leaf (I love that), painting anything not tried before in hopes that I would experience a eureka moment, discover the next big thing, create a steady stream of cash, you name it, I painted it - I just cannot distance myself from the equine. Can't.

Many, many years ago when only a handful of equine artists comprised this genre, it suddenly began to fill with the 4-F's (foals frolicking in fields of flowers) as if equine art was a lucrative venture. I was faced with the dilemma of differentiating myself from the newly invading throngs. Thus "dynamic equine artist" was born and so followed the in-your-face, cropped, narrow field of vision large-scale canvases of exaggerated musculature dosed with a very genuine passion. And it was good.

This past summer, with a Taylor Swift expression of wonderment, I realized that I can never divorce myself from the muse. It has permeated my DNA, merged with my psyche and is just as important to others as it is to me. THAT was the two by four that knocked me into clarity.

Landscape and race horses:
The horse path at the Oklahoma training track.

A few pics from my travels:
Breed demonstration, Fresian in armor.
Lovely bluegrass postcard.
Paddock at the Virginia Fall Races.
Huge, open course for the races.
Thank you clarity. A line from my favorite song by Alanis Morissette, "Thank U".

With intention,

Thursday, September 04, 2014

My Reluctant Goodbye

It's bittersweet. I'm both sad for the end and relieved it's over. Another year at Saratoga Race Course concluded on Labor Day and I'm still humming on exhausting energy that just won't quit. I've got orders to fill, deliveries to make and people to contact but I can't seem to focus. Must be symptomatic of PSB (post show blues) or lack of sleep or a combination.

This summer I did make a commitment to eat well and I more or less managed, only sashaying over to the Snack Shack for breakfast on Saturday mornings when both Michael and I opened the booth early. There were some late nights when we were too wired/tired to eat but it didn't hurt us to skip an occasional meal.
It was an improving year for us. I welcomed many repeat clients, realizing how important it is to continue building my equine brand and be where people can dependably find me in the same location. Undeniably, it's an affirming and humbling experience to be sought out by those who love my artwork. The vast majority of folks who visited my booth were wonderful, gracious with their admiration of my artwork and fun to talk to even if they couldn't spend any of their hard-earned dollars. Others freely pulled out a credit card often enough to give me faith that we may indeed be in a recovering economy. May it please be so. It's a relaxed and ambient atmosphere as most are vacationing and enjoying their time from whatever demands the serious. 
And of course, they're visiting the most beautiful, historic and prestigious race track in the USA. Saratoga never, ever disappoints. This summer I said a misty goodbye to Tom Durkin and fell in love with Wicked Strong. Cheered on our girl jock Rosie Napravnik who made the impressive top ten list and was awed by the miraculous comeback of Wise Dan. The best of horse racing's best is all here and it's non-stop entertainment to observe the unfolding dramas from my ringside seat. How can I not show up every summer?

I did my best to do some plein air painting but it's demanding and creates an even longer day. Showed up on the Oklahoma side several mornings before fatigue began to set in. Photographed early mornings with my friend Jim in the main stable area while I picked his brain for marketing ideas (he's a former ad exec). I'm determined to to be present when the foliage changes. I promise myself.
Wonder how many submissions there will be to the Jockey Club for Splashtastic?
It's all,

Friday, August 01, 2014

Customizing Racing Silks

I've previously droned on about the necessity for artists to take control of their careers and become their own agents. We also have to get creative about gleaning the most out of an opportunity, mine being an artist vendor at the Saratoga Race Course for the entire summer season. Basically, it comes down to how to get the biggest bang for my buck. Entrepreneurship.

I wanted to offer something affordable and desirable. Racing fans here treat the top jockeys like rock stars and are thrilled to nab an autograph, let alone experience the sheer luck of being gifted with a set of goggles. With that in mind, I came up with a way to capitalize quickly and easily.

First, I drew a classic jockey stance. My jockey has his back to you and presents a combined hipshot pose of attitude and elegance. He's tall and graceful, sort of. Not that I have any prejudice against the short guys but this is my rendition for a pretty piece of art.

After the drawing was completed, I inked in the simplified shapes and sparingly floated some watercolor for color and form. I left the "silk" (shirt) blank to be custom painted. Voila!

I've sold several dozen or so already. Other than having to look up some silks and translate some vague descriptions (it's grass green with a big pink stripe that goes this way on the front and back), it's been easy and enjoyable. A couple of clients took the opportunity to design their own, right on the spot, using the colors and symbols they'd imagine if they ever owned a racehorse. What a hoot!

Here are a couple. The first is an original design (notice the pale pink wafting from the button on top of the cap, emphasis via client request) and the second is West Point Thoroughbreds, a very well-know syndicate.
All this for the very low, low price of $75. And I'll ship it!
Riders up!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bats in the Belfry

Opening day is here. My exhibit booth is ready and there is a palpable feeling of collective optimism in the air. NYRA has made some positive changes and we're all very excited.

As I was going through my morning yoga routine, my mind wandered to an interesting experience I had in Saratoga long before I became an artist vendor at the track. Michael and I made the yearly seasonal trek from Florida to escape the heat and malaise and to seek opportunities to exhibit my artwork. One year, an ambitious young man opened up a concierge service of sorts on Broadway and invited me to display some of my paintings.

At the end of the summer, I went to his storefront to collect the pieces that didn't sell. He had wired them to the wall for security. As he cut the wire and gently handed me a medium-sized canvas, he gasped in horror and took a few steps backward. I peered over the back of the canvas and there was a little bat hanging from the top stretcher bar. Not more than three or four inches in length, it seemed oblivious to our activity and remained motionless in a deep daytime sleep. Then it suddenly lost it's grip on the stretcher and plopped on the floor, still not moving. "Is it alive?" I asked as the concierge hurried into the back room. There it lay, leathery wings folded, resembling the shape of a sarcophagus. A mini-Dracula, if you will.

The concierge rushed back with a red Solo cup and quickly scooped up the bat, ran out to the sidewalk and unceremoniously dumped the poor critter into a flower bed. It rained earlier and I had to laugh at the bat waking up in the wet flowers amongst the crowds of downtown Saratoga Springs.

Later when I recalled the incident to Michael, he inspected the back of the canvas and sure enough, there was a little pile of guano on the bottom stretcher bar.

When I returned home to Florida, I looked up bat totems in Ted Andrew's book, Animal-Speak: the Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small. I discovered that when a bat shows up in your life, it symbolizes a type of initiation.

No coincidence,

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Plein Air Experience

With hindsight I admit that I probably shouldn't have traveled to my first plein air competition at Finger Lakes immediately after the traumatic van fire. In addition to being more rattled than I initially realized, I lost the packed contents of the van and had to scramble for replacements. The generosity of people who want to help in trying times is humbling and I decided to go forward accoutered with the many blessings I received. A dear friend even lent us their minivan for the five days. In the end, I'm glad I was a great learning experience and my ultimate intention.

I had no inkling what the competition would be like and made several dumb rookie mistakes: like using the wrong gallery cards for an exhibit, forgetting to get my quick draw panel stamped and not taking full advantage of the marketing opportunities that the organizers keenly provided. I also missed the first day and was behind the other artists in production. Not being hep to other crucial procedures determining when I should be present or when I should allow room for potential collectors was my biggest blunder.
Moi at the quick draw.
The organizers provided plenty of ongoing venues for the artists. Another mistake: thinking we could camp and cook our own food...not when returning after 10:00pm whipped.

Most of the other artists were well-seasoned and just damn good painters. I made some friends and avoided others. I'm well aware that I was distracted and definitely not at my best, ensuing major frustration after I had put in so much practice time to prepare. As a former race tracker, I've had years of showing up for the game matter what...and getting the job done right.

Popular spot to paint the during quick draw.

Here are some of my observations on the business end of things:
There are a limited number of hosts available for lodging and several artists were from out-of-state incurring travel costs I assume. Our prior research resulted in no motel rooms available for under $120, hence the camping idea. So, there's that expense. Supplies of paint, supports and frames are another expense. Keeping nourished and hydrated is another expense. Most of the final paintings were smallish (11"x14") and averaged around $750. To my mind, that creates tremendous pressure to sell and sell well which several artists indeed did, however, the event takes a 40% cut. Yes, there's decent prize money to be had but also 40 artists competing for those limited funds. Pondering the financials, I'm wondering if participation in plein air events is all that lucrative.

Here are some of my observations on the artistic end of things:
We were provided with maps for both the main painting event and the quick draw, meaning we were to paint within these predetermined boundaries. The main map generously included the city area including the marina at the north end of the lake. I don't recall seeing cows and tractors anywhere but I could be mistaken. The finished paintings displayed in the quick draw event were to be created in a two hour time frame. Hmm...some of them were kinda big with lots of detail. This may be where my naivetè makes a glaring appearance. Perhaps some of these artists can paint these great paintings really, really fast or maybe my rank ignorance is rearing it's clueless head.

To the organizers and myriad volunteers, I extend a great big thank you for everything. The schedule was perfectly executed and the events were elegant and generous. Pat Rini Rohrer of Pat Rini Rohrer Gallery was at the helm and to be heartily congratulated. Special, grateful thanks to Pat.

As they say in horse racing: you don't cry when you win so don't cry when you lose.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fiery Passions

Ever drive down the highway and see those poor souls in the breakdown lane with their vehicle on fire? Like me, do you wonder: " awful, how does something like that happen?" Well, now I know.

It was a surreal site to behold...
Michael and I were on our way to pick up some frames before leaving for the Finger Lakes Plein Air Competition last Tuesday. The van was almost fully packed except for a few extras -a  cooler full of food and beverages and a large commissioned painting I was to meet a client for delivery. After a suspect odor began wafting through the vents (Michael remarked that it smelled like "fur burning") we veered off at the next exit to investigate. Smoke was already pouring out from under the hood. Skipping over the next few minutes of desperate details, we both got out safely but the van was fully engulfed in flames by the time the fire department arrived.

The fire men stated that we'll probably never be able to determine the exact cause due to the intense heat and destruction. That fur burning smell is suspect however...those cute little mice with racing stripes who possess a compulsive need to chew could have worked their mischief on wires that were not meant to be crossed.

Not much left but a metal frame. Even the hood disintegrated from the heat. Besides our only vehicle, I lost six original paintings, paint, easels, canvases, tools, clothes, camping equipment, etc. As the week progressed we'd recall what else was torched.
My poor shocked sweetie saying goodbye as the van is pulled onto the tow truck
It was traumatic but we're so blessed and grateful to have escaped unscathed. It's just stuff that will be replaced, even the paintings. Perhaps I'll create better ones from the ashes. A dear friend generously loaned us their mini van and we were able to travel to Canandaigua, albeit a day late. I know you want to know about my first plein air competition experience and I'm happy to share on the next post.

Fire in the hole!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Seeing the Light

It's one of those breakthrough pieces. After almost a year filled with intense self-study, dots are beginning to connect at last as I finally make sense of many, many hours pouring over numerous landscape books and analyzing paintings of artists I admire.
Walking Bridge, 11"x14", oil on canvas

What's important is that I now enjoy painting landscapes. A short few years ago I could never envision it. I'm not kidding myself though - I'm entering the domain of well-seasoned, experienced artists who have dedicated their careers to producing great paintings solely of landscape. It's a vast, wide open field (no pun intended). From genre to mainstream here I go.

In addition to the huge amount of time spent reading, looking (and seeing), listening to pod casts, watching art DVD's, picking the brains of my fellow artists and visiting exhibits, I also made a few color charts.
The chart at the top is my basic palette with a couple of colors added that I don't often use (phthalos). The bottom three are the yellows which are cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow medium and yellow ochre. The yellow charts were incredibly instrumental to help me get a handle on mixing greens and I refer to them often. My blues are ultramarine, cobalt and sometimes phthalo blue. My tube green is viridian and sometimes phthalo green. The extent of prior application of greens to my paintings were limited to jockey silks and an occasional turf course. Needless to say, earth tones figure dominantly on my palette.

Next week is my first plein air competition in Canadaigua, New York. Am I nervous? Uh-huh, you bet however I'm excited as well. Most artists are willing to share information (as moi) and I view this event as a grand learning experience.

With sunscreen and bug spray,

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

First Road Trip of the Year

It's a long drive. We followed a new route that shot due west to Buffalo and down through Ohio into Kentucky. I'm often asked how I can stand the boredom of mile after mile of repetitive scenery. Truth is, my mind empties thereby clearing the deck for fresh ideas. Some of my best epiphanies are born of pleasant languor.

High Hope Steeplechase took last year off which some suggested was a detriment to this year's attendance. I can't say. There were fresh faces among the organizers and the event hummed with efficiency. Weather was perfect. Kentucky Horse Park is a remarkable place to be, regardless of what's happening.

I'm grateful that they used my artwork on the cover of the program. Although I was puzzled at the choice of a horizontal piece for a vertical format, the result was more than satisfying. I think it's grand:

Home is where my suitcase is. I like that.

Your gypsy,

Thursday, May 15, 2014

After a year hiatus, the High Hope Steeplechase returns to the legendary Kentucky Horse Park. This is the first of a few planned shows that have us shaking off the dust on the grid walls as we make the anticipated road trip to Blue Grass Country. Oh man, am I ever ready!
Clearing, giclee on gallery-wrapped canvas, 22"x26
The event is this coming Sunday, May 18th. Gates open at 11:00. There are lots of activities to partake in and tailgating is always the best way to make new friends. And of course, there's the jump races. This time of year the mid-west weather can be unpredictable and volatile but the sun god (and cooler weather) is smiling on us so far.

Did I mention that my artwork will grace the program cover? If you're not in Baltimore watching Chrome win the Preakness and happen to be in Kentucky on Sunday, please stop by my booth in the Vendor Village and say hi. I'll be bringing Secretariat with me and you really have to see him in person to savor the vibrant color. We'll be taking orders for giclee reproductions that are now available.
Secretariat, oil on canvas, 24"x36"
If there's anything in particular that you'd like me to bring, please let me know soon. There's room in the van.

Road trip!

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Small and Even Smaller

With my equine painting, particularly racing, I possess a compulsion to experiment and infuse my subject with movement by summoning every swashbuckling brushstroke I can muster. It's a drive that's so strong that I've often felt the effects physically. Yes, I can give myself a headache with overwrought obsessiveness. The intended outcome is always just out of reach, never quite attainable, the results never satisfactory and that's okay. I suppose it's that desire to communicate a feeling that supports an eternal prowling like a hungry predator.

It's a challenge to transfer this passion to my landscape painting, most likely because I've returned to the rules of basic elements. For now, I'm giving myself permission to practice, investigate and most of all to just play and see what can be.

Here are a couple of small equine pieces I produced last week. You can see the vacillation occurring as I switch from one very familiar thought process to a new one. The challenge is to merge the two into a cohesive approach to a decent painting - whatever the subject.
Galloping Out of the Fog, 11"x14" oil on canvas
Backlit, 11"x14" oil on canvas
This tiny panel sample has been kicking around my studio for months. In honor of the Kentucky Derby, why not dive out of the box and paint something miniscule? Remember, I'm accustomed to painting ten foot canvases. I had to locate my magnifying glass to sign it!
California Chrome, 3"x5" oil on panel
Far-sightedly yours,

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Learning to Paint Landscapes

The landscape here in upstate New York is just beginning to green. Hardly a bud on a tree, it's as bleak as November before the first snow. Everything is gray and brown and quite uninspiring. A few intrepid daffodils have managed to bloom in sunny spots but that's about it. Even the forsythia is barely a yellow haze.

I'm stall walking and anxious to get out and practice what I've been studying intensely all winter. My first plein air painting competition looms in early June and I need to "practice." The challenge is to find something beautiful amongst all this taupe. Each of the sketches below took about an hour and a half as I'm also attempting to increase my speed.

This old barn down a dirt road is flanked by corn fields with short, dead stalks. It's abandoned, used to be a horse hospital and the local farmer said it was okay to check it out. Sure enough, it's a rambling structure of rows of box stalls well-built with craft and care. Only the swifts live there now. I warmed the dead grass and exaggerated the bits of green poking through.
9"x12" oil on paper, plein air
Off to the woods to see if I can simplify an overload of information and paint more convincing rocks. In both paintings the light is overcast with the sun rarely peeking through .
12"x9" oil on paper, plein air
They're not great, but I'm learning from each one. From this sketch I realize I should choose one focal point, paint it clearly and then treat everything else as minor supporting elements. As you can see, I'm still wearing my down vest. This will go down as the year of no spring.

Colorfully yours,

Monday, April 21, 2014

Thoroughbreds & Race Tracks

This past weekend Michael helped a friend with a recently rescued thoroughbred off the track. The angel lady who brought him to her farm was a bit intimidated by, let's say, his spirited behavior. While showering him with kindness and not wanting to be aggressive toward him in any manner, the horse was taking advantage and needed a bit of tough love. I understood her stance. Who will ever know this horse's entire story? Everyone wants to practice natural horsemanship but the race track demands a totally different protocol.

After Michael established some boundaries and a few rules, the two bonded quickly. This horse is an intelligent athlete with an inquisitive sense of curiosity. Thoroughbreds are different, even the ones who never step on a race track.

I thought his injuries would be much worse. While needing time to rest and heal, this horse can be retrained for another career. How fantastic to know this story will conclude into a potentially happy ending. I have lots of opinions about the role of race horse owners and the humane responsibility they should practice but I'll save it for another post. Our friend is a wonderful, kind-hearted caretaker who will do the very best she can for this beautiful animal. Ironically, she told me that years ago she had joined PETA and now considers the organization "violent and radical." Huh.

Hats to this critter,

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Polo Ponies, Mallets and a White Ball

I've recently completed this year's program cover for the Polo by Twilight event to benefit the Palamountain Scholarship of Skidmore College. Taking place on Tuesday, July 22nd this summer at the Saratoga Polo Grounds, I'll post more information as it becomes available and websites are updated.

Stomping the divots,

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

How I Spend My Time

In the studio, actually.

As an artist who makes a living with her artwork, I spend the lion share of my time in the studio painting. I put in long days because I love what I do. Time spent on social media and other computer time wasters take a back seat to my work ethic and I'm okay with that.

It was no surprise when Michael showed me this article on the Time website reporting Facebook's change in policy. Paid advertising has minimal returns for artists and that seems to be where Facebook is steering us. I've posted my opinion regarding social media in the recent past and you can read about it here. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-Facebook or any other platform, I'm just busy making the work to sell. Now that my reach to "fans" on Facebook has decreased due to no fault of mine, it's a relief. Goodbye to the nagging guilt that I'm not "working it" thoroughly and covering all bases with my marketing efforts. However, I do have my antennae tuned to opportunities that often come my way from the most unexpected sources and that's where stuff happens.

If I conduct a search on Facebook of whom I consider to be some of the top artists that I admire, it seems they don't spend an inordinate amount of time there and that's if they've even signed up at all. So, how do they get famous and well regarded by so many? I don't have the answers but I suspect it has something to do with working, studying and concentrating on creating the best, most beautiful and meaningful artwork they can.

It was a lovely, sunny day and my first chance of the year to get outside and paint. A quick sketch:
7"x9" on canvas paper plein air
Don't poke me,

Friday, April 04, 2014

A Creek Runs Through It

Attempting to get outside and paint from life is still a challenge here in upstate New York. The weather has improved temperature-wise but there's still the wind and the frequent bone-chilling rains. So, I painted this little sketch in the studio from a photograph. It's the creek that runs through the property we rented on a rare sunny day before the thaw. I painted it on Arches paper for oils purchased just for plein air studies. So here's the conundrum that most artists face and is always a head shaker: freed from the investment of an expensive stretched canvas, painting on paper or canvas paper invites lively experimentation. The pressure to produce a serious painting is lifted and the sketch becomes a simplified romp of expression. The question is how to transfer this impromptu joy and elation to the larger costly canvas?

Creek, 9"x12" oil on paper
Fun in the north,

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Video

In the past week I've been asked several times for my opinion of the Scott Blasi video that was secretly shot by a member of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in case you're not hep). As I grow older and hopefully gain some wisdom with the years, I've made it my philosophy to thoughtfully respond rather that react with a knee-jerk emotion, even though initially, I did. I admit it. Here's a link to the video...I warn you, it's not easy to watch. Forget about Blasi's it or not people, it's a lot of the culture. And forget about the young woman who shot the video, she's a minor player.

I perused PETA's website. I wanted to inform myself what they are all about, something they don't always reciprocate toward their targets. Their mission is to bring attention to and end the perceived cruelty of factory farms, the clothing industry, laboratory testing and the entertainment industry involving the use of animals. There's also an extensive Wikipedia article which appears non-biased. PETA freely admits to using guerrilla tactics which they say is necessary to gain attention to animal abuses and exploitation. Some of these tactics are extreme, even getting themselves labeled as a terrorist threat by certain organizations.

The video is alarming, to put it mildly. As a former race tracker of twenty-five plus years, I recognize many of the practices and procedures illustrated. Most are legal and therapeutic. However, it doesn't make a case for ethics or what is humane. I was extremely upset and disturbed. I know what I know. However, here's were I take issue as do most of my peers: the supposedly seven hours of recording were sliced and cut down to nine and a half minutes of what I can only deduce to be the worst and the most damning in order to further PETA's overwrought campaign against horse racing. This is where PETA fails.

The horse racing industry is made up of some the hardest working people on the planet. The vast majority love their horses, take exemplary care of them, and always put their horse's needs first long before their own. Why else would someone work seven days a week all day long for months on end at something they didn't have an insane passion for? Of course there will always be the abusers everywhere. Heck, there are many, many who shouldn't have dogs and cats.

I'm not making excuses. I had to ask myself: can PETA, who spends so much time, money and effort, often putting themselves in harm's way in order to champion the cause of animals be all that bad?

The talking heads of all the major racing organizations are “gravely concerned” and “launching investigations” into the matter portrayed in the video. Why does it take something like this to institute badly needed change? I'm not an executive, nor do I possess the business acumen but hello, the need for nationwide, consistent rules and regulations and the consistent enforcement of said rules has been requested by the horse people themselves for a long, long time. Not only do unscrupulous trainers exist, but also unscrupulous owners who in my opinion should also bear responsibility and be called to task in these situations.You know them, the ones who instruct their trainers to "win at all costs."

It's a great game when it's played fairly,

Monday, March 17, 2014

God's Horse

I've recently completed two new racing paintings. Feels so good to spend some time with the Muse. We still get along great and had some enlightening conversations!

A photographer friend sent me a series of sequential shots of horses breaking out the starting gate at Saratoga. Taken last summer, they were excellent, and I asked his permission to use them as reference for a painting I had in mind. His photos were taken somewhere between the 3/4 to the 5/8 pole from the main stable area. I manipulated the space – in his photos the grandstand in the background was much nearer so I ended up using one of my photos to push the iconic building back. Also, there wasn't one single photo of the horses that I based my painting on. I didn't like the heads in this one and preferred the legs in that one, etc. You get the idea, it's a compilation (not that they weren't outstanding photos, I just have a feel for what makes a suitable composition for a painting). My friend was wondering if I used Photoshop to put together the perfect photo. Nope, there were several preliminary drawings made until I had the image just right. Like I'm that talented with Photoshop...I wish!

Here's the piece with the info, clickhere.

Saratoga Break, oil on canvas, 30"x40"
Two summers ago Ron Turcotte visited my booth at Saratoga and asked why I had never painted Secretariat. I uncomfortably mumbled something about not painting champions unless commissioned, feeling quite stupid. Champions? Secretariat is THE CHAMPION, Super Horse, God's Horse, the Tremendous Machine! And here was the famous Triple Crown jockey in my booth, admiring my artwork, not seeing any paintings of his favorite and one of the greatest racehorses ever. EVER.

I've had some time to think about that meeting and now sheepishly admit that for an artist who has made a career of painting horse racing, I've missed the boat. And why did it take me almost two years to get “it?” Well, that's another story entirely but suffice to say, I didn't just paint Secretariat, I immersed myself in the history of his greatness. He ignited a passion and sent me on a journey to discover the entire remarkable story.

I began with watching the Disney move (again). Inaccurate to a fault in the details of track life but a great story regardless as it clearly illustrates the courage of Penny Chenery. Then I watched the classice ESPN documentary (again and again), loving the shock and awe of the sports reporters who convered his racing triumphs. I watched the real Belmont race (over and over, with chills every time). That race is a marker in the personal history of so many. If you are old enough to have witnessed it live, you'll always remember where you were and who you were with. Then it was off to the library to pour over some books, especially the one authored by Penny Chenery's daughter Kate, Secretariat's Meadow, who wrote a lovely portrait of her mother's relationships with all the connections. Then I consulted my Muybridge book to see how extreme I could portray the stride of a great race horse. In my opinion, there are two points in the all-out running stride that effectively dipict the dynamism characteristic of this magnificent animal. One is when all four feet are off the ground and the other is the one I've portrayed – the hind legs have just powerfully pushed the massive body forward, the extension of the shoulders and neck reveal tremendous musculature while the front legs act like the spokes of a wheel. Oh yes, God's Horse. 
Click here for the info.

Secretariat, oil on canvas, 24"x36"
I hope Ron will be pleased.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Winter Blahs Be Gone

After an insufferably long and frigid winter up here in the north country, I'm ready to get cranking. Some new opportunities have presented a respite from the dark and cold hibernation season. The positive side to all this is the necessity to stay in the studio and get some serious painting done. And I have.

Three commissions, a foxhunting piece and a Saratoga inspired painting are completed. Another racing canvas is in the works and that should - should - take me up to warmer weather. The racing paintings will become giclees and a possible poster for the track meet this summer. Something for those of you who visit my booth every year and ask "so what have you got new?"

After my tentative foray into plein air painting in the paddock and in the stable area last summer, I continued to paint outside until it became too cold. Okay, I'm a weenie and went back inside when temps dropped below forty degrees. However, I absolutely loved it! Loved it enough to get the nerve to apply to my first plein air competition being held in Finger Lakes, NY in June. To my astonishment, I was accepted! Let me tell you that I will be in excellent, experienced company. (begin nail biting)

Dusk at the Lake, 11"x14" oil on canvas plein air

One of my steeplechase paintings has been chosen by the High Hope Steeplechase in Lexington, KY for their program cover. Last year the meet was cancelled so I'm thrilled it's back as it's one of my favorite venues. My artwork will be rotated lengthwise to accommodate their format. Should be an interesting design.

Here's a photo of the creek less than fifty yards from our new house. Taken just today so you don't think I'm a total wimp for not getting out and painting...yet.

Think spring!

Monday, February 03, 2014

The Muse - Revisited

In the past I written about my personal Muse. We've had lots of good times together, and we've also defiantly stared each other down, hands on hips. A typical love relationship. When the equine art market flatlined, I tearily bade her goodbye, promised to visit often and set off in search of a replacement. Believe me, the Goddess of Horse Art is a stalker.

You may be asking, what is the Muse? In Greek mythology, there are three goddesses who provide knowledge and creative inspiration. Here's the Wikipedia version. In my opinion, it's the drive behind any worthy endeavor - whether it's a masterpiece of art or music or the cure for cancer. Referring to the Muse implies an outside entity when in reality the source comes from within. Creatives must learn to access a higher consciousness where all of life's answers and infinite ideas abound. Okay, it's where you invoke the Muse. Sometimes she waits around for you, insisting that you ask nicely, and sometimes she arrives unannounced in her glorious swooshing cape.

I recently listen to a Radiolab segment on NPR. Me, Myself, and the Muse is an interesting take on the the where, when and how's of inspiration. It's well worth a few minutes to listen. Be sure to hang around long enough to hear Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love). She's a delight.

Firefox won't let me embed the audio so you'll have to click to the link here.

Say hi to your Muse for me,

Monday, January 20, 2014

Permission to be Great

I harbor a guilty pleasure: award shows. Surprised? They ignite that fantasy portion of my brain and I visualize "what if?" What if there were nationally televised award programs specifically targeted to visual artists? Can the subjective approval of art be measured? What would be distinctive, considered excellent enough to garner special merit? What would truly be "award-winning (not self-proclaimed) and by who's standards?

Okay, that's just too crazy to even consider and yet another subject for an all-night discussion. So, I'm watching the Golden Globes last week and Leonardo DiCaprio wins best actor in a musical or comedy. His acceptance speech includes much gushing about Martin Scorcese, seated in the audience and director of the film DiCaprio has won the award for. DiCaprio calls Scorcese a "risk-taker", a "visionary", putting "the fabric of our culture on screen." I agree. Massively talented, his list of accolades is beyond impressive and his multi-tasking for not only directing films but also screenwriting, producing, acting and filling in as film historian is nonpareil. When do these over-achievers sleep? What drive. His work is great, he will leave a legacy of greatness, he drags his players along with him to great accomplishment...he's just an inspiration to become great.

Pondering this in my studio the next morning, I'm wondering if I could be great. Could I ever paint a great canvas or aspire to a great idea? What really defines "great?"

With arms folded in front a large commissioned canvas, I gather up the chutzpa to whisper to myself: today I will do something great. Just like that. This hesitant yet audacious statement prompted a liberating feeling of empowerment. Like giving myself permission to really strive, achieve and go for it. It promised opportunity for growth with assurance. It handed out confidence. It's too simple.

I urge you to give a a won't be sorry. They're just words, after all. I've said it everyday since the Golden Globes. I'm emboldened.

Discover you own greatness,

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Year, New Digs

Our move out of the gallery/living space on Beekman St. into the new house was not without drama. Progress was impeded by severe weather - ice storms, blizzards and frigid temps. It's winter after all and an honest one. The day before we were scheduled to spend our first night, fourteen inches of snow fell. We shoveled our way out of the driveway but the roads were impassable. We decided to stay put one more night. That very night, the new house was broken into and all the copper piping in the basement was ripped out and hauled away taking the heat and water along in the destructive chaos. The intruders also ransacked through everything we had already brought over, helping themselves to all of Michael's power tools and a few other things that could bring a quick buck. Thankfully, and I mean thankfully, all the printers and computer equipment were left unscathed as well as all the paintings.

We finally moved in last week but I have to's a creepy, uneasy feeling that takes over that I'm sure anyone who has experienced a similar situation can empathize. The 12-gauge is now out of it's case and propped behind the door.

But life goes on and we managed to take care of some business while unpacking. Assessment of 2013 and plans for 2014 are now on paper and I'm anxious to get settled and back into the studio. Anxious to paint and anxious for routine. Anxious for the focus and addictive Zen-like brain state that is art making.


I look forward to a productive and prosperous new year and wish my readers the same. I hope I've imparted something useful or at least thought-provoking in this blog and I'm grateful that you've joined me on this artistic journey. Thank you for celebrating my accomplishments with me and allowing me to vent my doubts, fears and insecurities. In the "jungles of time and space" as Mike Dooley calls this crazy adventure.

With loving appreciation since 2006!