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.

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