Sunday, August 30, 2015

Day 25 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

This is last Friday's effort. I'm falling behind schedule due to the incredible Traver's weekend. I finally met Thomas Allen Pauly in person who is American Pharoah's Official Triple Crown Artist. He's a great guy and multi-talented artist. Spent a bit of time showing him around Oklahoma and talking art/horses in my booth.

I photographed this scene with my good camera from several angles to use as reference for a later studio painting. I love the light filtering through the translucent white bandages and I want to spend more time getting the hang of this backlighting. However, this one is purely plein air:

Bandage Laundry, 9"x12", oil on canvas
Today I'm debating if I'll attempt to go out and paint later this afternoon at all. I'd love to but my body is not cooperating by giving me a very sore throat (and not from screaming during the Travers). Just a reminder of what a breakneck schedule we keep, sleep being non-existent on the list of priorities.

Cough, sniff,

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Day 24 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

This scene is similar to the first one that I painted of Pletcher's wash rack. The light was different this morning - not really overcast, but a gauzy curtain of light that produced defined highlights like hotspots. Sunburn weather. This is my last panel and the rest will be on stretched canvas. When I regain the luxury of time, I'd like to revisit this spot to exploit those hotspots that I'll recall from this plein air piece. Put in more horses, too. It's behind George Weaver's barn close to Elmer's gap.

Note the sagging roof showing it's age on the middle building. One of the backstretch guys visited and told me that the door on the left side was to his room.

Behind Weaver's Barn, 8"x10", oil on panel
 We have to open at 7:00 tomorrow morning. Michael is planning on being in the booth all day and I'll get to head over to Oklahoma nice and early. Not sure if I'll make it over to watch the big horses train but that's okay (notice the priority shift). I've had the honor to be in the company of many good horses throughout my prior life...and yes, they are different and extraordinarily special.

Did you visit with Funny Cide today?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Day 23 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

I painted on a stretched canvas today. After becoming familiar with the slick surface of the panels and loving it, the canvas felt awkward. The fabric is 12 oz. with a defined tooth that grabs onto a thick bristle brush full of paint. Great for large pieces. I've been using soft hair brushes on the panels and I think they enhanced my ability to loosen up.

To compensate, I rubbed the surface with a mixture of linseed oil and turps. That decreased the drag and was helpful but the soft brushes still struggled to fill the weave while the bristle brushes felt clumsy and not very malleable. I've just about used up all my panels so this will be interesting.

Here's another ancient building, the maintenance office. Odd diagonal shadows fell across the surface from the giant pines off to the left and I sketched them in quickly as they would soon change or be gone. Originally, I wanted to paint the other side with more interest but I couldn't find any shade to set up in. We're having a lovely warm and sunny summer so no complaints!

Maintenance Building, 11"x14", oil on canvas
Pharoah arrived today and the frenzy begins. We've been told to expect over 15,000 people Friday morning as the Travers entrants gallop between 8-9.

We're all paparazzi for a few days,

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Day 22 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

It's official. The Big Horse is coming to Saratoga. As he should. After weeks of speculating will he won't he, it's exciting that the scales have tipped in favor of - YES he is!

Today I painted at Elmer's Gap, one of the entrances onto the track. Wedging myself between a guard shack and a tree, I managed the best view of horses coming and going without actually standing in the middle of the horse path and annoying everyone. Eavesdropping on the radio chatter, security is readying for superstar horse detail. The number one horse on the planet will need it as he'll be followed by a batallion of admirers aiming three foot lenses at his every move. My tiny lens will be one of them if possible.

Back to plein air. I'm exercising my drawing chops and memory. The way I painted these horses and riders from life was to draw stick figures first. This provided the gesture and feel of their movement as they walked onto the track. I went back and modeled them more carefully but did not get too detailed. This is plein air after all.

Elmer's Gap, 8"x10", oil on panel. 
The buildings in the background are those mult-million dollar homes on Fifth Avenue that back up to my favorite horse path (see painting at the top of this blog). Imagine this: relaxing with morning coffee out in the back yard while viewing thoroughbreds in training. Nirvana.

Moving forward, there's a tangle of uneven PVC piping that encloses the turf course (and other stuff) which I wouldn't even attempt to portray accurately. A few knife strokes gives you the idea. Trees are everywhere in Oklahoma and provide the dappled shade of a beautiful summer. Oh, and it's fun to paint, too.

In my best Ryan Seacrest: Pharoah!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Day 21 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

Today's painting is a wee one as we are gearing up for the next week of celebrations and there is so much non-stop work. It will be total madness of the anticipated kind if THE HORSE makes it here next week. Tomorrow is the Alabama and I will be in the booth all day. No painting of the day.

I didn't get over to Oklahoma until late afternoon. A strong breeze came up with the front that cleared out the oppressive heat and humidity and the clouds were zooming past fast and furious. It occurred to me that I rarely paint clouds, preferring simple skies.

Three Quarter Pole, 5"x7", oil on panel

I also don't like blue skies in my paintings but there's just a touch pthalo green and blue to indicate that it's a perfect summer day. I used my palette knife to cut in the fences in the background and the highlights in the foreground. The Phipps stable was behind me and they won at least one race. It was so pleasant to overhear the banter and activity as I worked. Those are the times I miss.

What I learned today: it is more difficult to mix a correct color from life than it is when working from a photo. So much bounce light and local color reflecting everywhere.

Like a multi-faceted prism,

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Day 20 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

I'm intrigued by all these little square buildings scattered around the barn area. I'm sure they've served many uses over the generations - housing machinery, tack rooms, feed rooms, offices, dorms or just plain storage. Most are still in use. Some have old signage and one has a loving plaque honoring an angel who passed. A house I particularly love is a feeding station for feral cats but that's on my painting list and it's a good story I'll share with you when I get to it.

Everything is so green up here in the arctic circle. For now. The building way in back is one of the renovated dorms that NYRA and MaryLou Whitney have renovated in recent years. The dorms circle the outskirts of the barn area and contrast with the old wooden architecture.

Dorm in Back, 8"x10", oil on panel
I intentionally added the utility poles as I wanted to play with the wires. Because I'm experimenting with ground vs. no ground this panel was painted directly on white gesso and I was able to scrape out the wires with the tip of my palette knife. Generally I use a burnt sienna ground but lately I like the look of my transparent paints on the white ground.

Wish I had used more venetian red in my greens to calm them down. Fact is, I didn't use any.

It's not easy being green,

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Day 19 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

Feeling rushed again. I relish the first day that I can work on a plein air painting at my leisure and for multiple days. That will be such a pleasure.

Don't get me wrong, I'm learning to see and make decisions quickly, trying my best to be accurate. In today's painting the values of the left side of the barn and the hanging tree boughs were almost the same. They disappeared into each other, causing me to go back and blend in some darker values. Back in the studio I thought about making them even darker. My instincts said yes but my quest for veracity told me to leave it alone (that voice again). I think as I continue on this experience I'll be able to better judge what should or shouldn't be tweaked.

One thing I'm discovering - rules are great for general guidance but there are times when they can be gladly tossed. I'm also simplifying and going for the big shapes as my brushwork loosens.

Dutrow's Barn, 10"x8", oil on panel
Tony Dutrow has three short barns in Campfire Court. The one above is mostly in deep shade with bits of dapple light squeezing through. I arrived late after morning feed time so there were no horse heads to paint.

Made in the shade,

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Day 18 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

Actually painted this yesterday. Today is dark and I work harder on the off day - and no, I didn't do any housework. Giclees to coat, jockey silks to paint, packing and shipping, book work, etc. I'm trying to make a decent dinner and use up all the veggies I bought at the farmer's market last week before they spoil. Meals and eating healthy is a challenge with this grueling schedule. We usually don't get to eat until close to 10:00pm...then I pass out on the couch with a full stomach. Not so good.

Received two big boxes of frames for the plein air pieces which cost me a small fortune but they're exceptionally nice.

The location is near the subject for my painting Oklahoma Horse Path pictured at the top of this blog. It was so refreshing to paint this scene from life compared to studio painting. It's late in the morning, around 9:30 (although I started earlier) and only a few horses are finishing up training. Loved this figure who waited for the rider and they chatted long enough for me to quickly stroke in some simple forms.

Off to dinner,

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Day 16 & 17 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

Day 16

The stuff that I'm drawn to paint is becoming apparent. Within these acres of antique barns exists not just a treasure trove of infinite subject but also roads, paths and walkways that lead to something. Take a stroll between the two Gary Sciacca barns, along past the shed on the left to the barn in the background. I enjoy taking you on a tour into my paintings.

Full morning light makes this piece rather high key. I want a do-over when this scene is backlit with darker values later in the afternoon. Maybe towards the end of this project.

Sciacca's Barns, 8"x10", oil on panel
Day 17 

Way in the very back of the barn area is a large mowed field that sharply slopes down to a road. Vans and trailers are parked way in the back and the manure is piled high before being hauled away. In my stubborn quest to get a handle on painting trees I set up by the dorms looking out across the field. A couple of horses were being hacked up and down the steep hill and enjoying themselves immensely. I painted a high-headed, high-stepping horse right smack into the middle of the composition. So much for rules.
Back Field, 11"x14", oil on canvas panel
At the start of my painting, I got some help.

Fields of dreams,

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Day 15 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

I went out early this morning, around 5:30. My original plan was to paint a backlit scene of the starting gate. As I pulled into the parking area, a young man (wearing a NYRA Parking t-shirt) approached me to inform me that I couldn't park here. It's reserved for security. What? It was fine a week and a half ago. He implored me that his boss would be very upset if he didn't enforce the "rules". There was only one other car and it's 5:30am and I'll only be here a couple of hours. I told myself to go park elsewhere and not give the kid a bad time.

I ended up in a trainers stand at the end of the chute. I loved the diagonal lines created by the fences even though my perspective was from above.

The Chute, 7"x5", oil on panel
Glad I did,

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Day 14 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

I worked in the studio all day coating giclees and painting customized jockey silks. I didn't make it over to Oklahoma until around 3:30. Afternoon feed time would proceed shortly as I set up. I felt rushed and distracted and it showed in my painting. Dealing with mud again in the tree although I looked intently and it was the same value as the background of the barn except for the dappled sun. What a mess of paint I slapped on.
White Bandages, 10"x8", oil on panel
I do like the indication of the bandages. You know those horses have their heads buried in their tubs in the corner. Lots of stomping and hollering a few minutes prior.

Feed me, right now,

Monday, August 10, 2015

Day 13 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

Another late morning painting. This is Elm Court which used to back up to where the horse vans parked, now it's handicap parking. The vans roll into the barn area at any time during training - that was never allowed in the past.

Three barns are perpendicular to each other creating interesting shapes and diagonals. I'm not sure what the little building in the front is but there's an official-looking red sign, probably fire-related. I'm pleased with the contrast and I'm feeling more confident. Speaking of that, after a couple of weeks of exploring the barn area, hands and arms outstretched with fingers framing a scene, my self-consciousness is melting away. I'm a curiosity. Even George Weaver's dog sat down at the end of the shedrow and quietly stared at me for several minutes. The idea is to stay out of everyone's way and that's why you'll usually find me set up between a manure pit and a dumpster!

Elm Court, 11"x14", oil on canvas panel
The substrate is a Raymar canvas panel. Not especially enamored with it, maybe because I've been painting on a smooth Masonite-type panel.

Just pretend I'm not here,

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Day 12 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

After training, after the horses are done up and fed, shedrow raked and tack cleaned, the bustle quiets down until afternoon feed time. Maybe a horse is in or being schooled in the paddock. The blacksmith may arrive to shoe a couple. Other than that, it's an afternoon siesta.

I set up my easel late this morning. There were a few horses still on the track but it closed shortly after I arrived. The special thing about Saratoga is the calming atmosphere for both people and animals. Maybe it's all the negative ions produced by the ancient trees or maybe it's the pristine northern air.

Halfway into my painting I began to really listen. The barn behind me opened the back stall doors and I could hear the horses eating hay, walking around the stalls, blowing the dust out of their nostrils, chewing on the window frame and raking their noses against the screen. An occasional whinny, foot stomp or cough broke the atmosphere. All the while a warm breeze pushed billowing clouds across a sky that could have been painted by Munnings.

Quiet Afternoon, 11"x14", oil on panel
These are the barns at the first turn of the Oklahoma Training Track. I know them well because Michael and I were stabled in the middle one when he had his string here in the early to mid eighties.  Generations of legendary humans and horses haunt this place. Bobbie Frankel used to be right here sitting on his bench, Happy by his side. Do you believe in ghosts? I can't say if spirits hang around forever but if they don't, I put them back today.

With reverence,

Friday, August 07, 2015

Day 11 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

Some things are more important than an overly ambitious commitment to a painting project and I'm fine with that. Friends and family who take the time to check in with me are a blessing. This afternoon I had the opportunity to show off the Oklahoma barn area to my dear friend Sue with an impromptu tour. We promised to meet early some morning for a creative photo session before the meet ends. Tonight we'll have dinner with my sweet niece and her cool hubby visiting from Connecticut. My bro's daughter - so special.

This afternoon I managed a quick sketch of drying saddle towels at Rudy Rodriguez's barn. I had the pleasure of showing him my painting and we had a great chat. He's a bundle of energy and a hopeless workaholic like myself. Obviously, Donald Trump has never visited a race track barn area in his life to witness first hand the dedication of the Latin workers who frankly, work their butts off 24/7. They've all been wonderful to me and I'll write a bit more on this subject later.

Rudy's Saddletowels, 7"x5", oil on panel (sold)
Tomorrow we'll both be in the booth as it's a big day with five stakes including the Whitney. With an impressive all-star field, this could be one the best races of the year. My favorite bad boy horse, Wicked Strong, is in along with Moreno, V.E. Day, Honor Code and more.

Taking it all in stride,

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Day 10 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

I'm still a day behind and I may be more so after this busy weekend coming up. My new title could morph into Forty Paintings in Fifty Days (or more).

I tried out the new schedule of going to the booth with Michael around 9:00 and getting over to Oklahoma before 10:00. I loved it. First did a bit of searching for what to paint next (although I have a good plan so I'm not wasting time wandering needlessly) and then where to park the darn car. I like being somewhat close to my vehicle.

I'll probably alternate between sunrise and mid-day. I'm learning to establish value notes of  the shadows and then commit to them so I'm not being a light-chaser. This piece was mostly in full-sun and it was wonderful to not have to rush.
Stewart Barn, 11"x14", oil on panel (sold)
This is barn 38, Dallas Stewart's barn in Campfire Court.

I had a good day,

Monday, August 03, 2015

Day 9 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

Michael has offered to help me with other time arrangements. Because the sun is rising later, I may  have him drop me off at Oklahoma before he heads over to the frontside to open the booth, around 8 or 9. I won't be so rushed and will have more time to think clearly.

First light at sunrise is difficult. It's a challenge when painting plein air. Some artists are beautifully experienced with capturing the rapidly changing light. I'm not. Soft and gentle when it first appears over the horizon, it spreads a quiet film of warm light. Then it strengthens as the morning progresses into a brighter and harder edge...quickly.

I asked D. Wayne for permission to set up on his grass next to his lawn jockey. Across the way is the back of Nick Zito's barn with a row of gigantic twisted trees, probably planted at the end of the nineteenth century. I'm determined to get past this mud and paint them convincingly. Consulted with my mentor today, Robert Stebleton who gave me some great advice and suggestions. One important tip is to slooooow down.
Back of Zito's Barn, 10"x8", oil on panel
Out of breath,

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Day 8 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

I'm not sure who's barn this is. GRW on the sign not in the picture. I'll have to find out tomorrow morning. Rush, rush, rush. The sun is rising later and very soon I'll be looking to light up my palette and easel in order to paint nocturnes!

I was drawn to the composition at the end of this barn. I love diagonals. More backlighting. I'm learning to simplify in order to complete these pieces in 2-3 hours as I have to get back home to pick up Michael who opens the booth. Sometimes my haste creates mud and I'm well aware that needs to be dealt with. Scraping it off and repainting is time consuming.

The pony tied to a tree was a bonus.

GRW, 8"x10", oil on panel

The price is $500. framed and includes free shipping within the U.S. You can purchase it with the PayPal button below or feel free to contact me for other options. I accept installments and you can also purchase it unframed for $400.

A beautiful morning,

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Day 7 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

I'm a day behind with this post but I'll catch up in the next few days. Today I watched Frosted get beat in the Jim Dandy and took over 200 photos on the frontside. Also received some free tutoring from my good friend Mike Brown regarding how to get the most from my camera who is a cousin of Photoshop - I will never learn all the capabilities possible.

It was fun to play with color and brushstrokes:

Whitney Stand, 10"x8", oil on panel (sold)

Frosted...a most professional racehorse. I love this horse. He was gaining in the stretch and just ran out of race track. Texas Red hung on for the win.

Grays rule,