Thursday, June 08, 2017

The Last Blog Post

This will probably be the last of over ten years of blogging on Google's Blogger. Unless something warrants a continuation, I'm transferring my blogging over to my website. My website service provides a blogging platform that will publish new posts onto the home page of my site.

A couple of reason why I'm doing this:

I'm no longer achieving the search rankings for this blog in the manner I'm used to. Differing opinions about this range from Google would like to phase out this free service to Google is creating new opportunities for journalists and Google News through their Blogger service. Not being obsessive  with SEO, I just want to tell my stories and form relationships with people who like my artwork.

I'm agreeable to the fact that the new blog will be integrated into my website. Clicking the link to access this blog (Art of Horse Racing) takes you away from my website to this remote site and I don't think that makes sense for good marketing. Honestly - I want to capture and keep your attention amongst my pictures!

The cons:

I've been using Blogger for almost 11 years. There is a lot of history and experience recorded here. This has been on my mind for quite awhile and I'm hesitant about the change. Looking into ways to download and save it for posterity is a definite option.

If you subscribe to this blog, you can also subscribe to the new one. The links for recent posts will be down on the left side of the home page of my website. On the first post, scroll to the bottom and click on the little grid which will take you to "blog home". This will become much easier when I take down the old blog from the menu and replace it with the new.

For now, I'll leave the old blog up for a few weeks. If you'd like to peruse the past posts, please enjoy.

Many gracious thanks to all of you who read my blog over the years and especially thank you for your comments. I could not make my art without your encouragement and support. Truly.

I'm not going away, just moving!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Realms of Uncertainty

The previously mentioned ten new paintings for my show in Prescott, Arizona, are completed. In between, I made three others so don't mind me if I pat myself on the back for being diligently productive. Making lots of paintings doesn't necessarily mean they're all good, it just means I'm a work horse and love what I do. Okay, I'm a bona fide workaholic.

With a totally new and different body of work, I'm encountering the fears of "what if?" Michael and I are traveling a very long distance to test the waters of will they/won't they like my new subject. His assurance of "we need a vacation anyway" is not cutting it for me. I remain optimistic but it's forced. If only I possessed the bravado of a male painter, I'd be bragging that I'm going to kick ass. YEAH!

Ironically, a dear friend is in Prescott as I type. She's meeting with another mutual friend at the Phippen Museum! I should take this as a positive omen, as I don't believe in coincidence. Here's your sign!

I have a little over a week to get ready. I'm varnishing - he's framing. As a seasoned traveler, I can pack in a few hours and that means I have lots of time to fill with...something. The upcoming week promises warm spring temps so I've decided it's a good time to occupy the "runaway freight train" with plein air painting. Or I can always clean the studio.

These two paintings are waiting to be professionally shot. Quick cell pics in the studio. Here's the finished #10:

...and to be used as my full-page ad for this summer's Hall of Fame guide:
The text will fit nicely in the track foreground at the bottom.

* * *

Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome - Elizabeth Gilbert

Couldn't have said it better myself...

Monday, May 01, 2017

Fulfilling a Promise to Myself

I'm in the "one more painting" syndrome. With my first western-themed show looming at the end of the month, I'm anxious for it to be a positive barometer of my recent efforts. My enjoyment in tackling this new subject has been a delight.

Having this conversation several times with Michael, I've definitely come full circle. Mentioning it often on this blog - the disillusionment, disappointment and utter boredom with my art career and blaming it squarely on the current affairs of horse racing.

I'll never leave it. It's a blood thing and I'm very okay with that. In fact, it's a relief to finally accept the changes and quit whining. Hey, the Kentucky Derby is next week for goodness' sake!

Backtracking, 16"x20", oil on panel. More info here.
Interspersed with the Indian Relay and other western paintings was this one above (of my favorite place in the world, the Oklahoma stable area), followed by a portrait painted of the soon-to-be-inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame, Good Night Shirt, and now I'm planning another racing piece for a full-page magazine ad due before my trip.

Good Night Shirt, 20"x16", oil on canvas
More info here
To my critics who say that I'm just jumping on the successful bandwagon of western art, I say: you're right. I came around to it through my intense excitement and inspiration born from the Indian Relay races. It's still horse racing.

Speaking of bandwagons, I did the same jump with plein air painting but I didn't fall in love with it. I find the competitions nerve-wracking and most of the artwork a snooze, especially my own. I did, however, learn a lot of technical skills I was in need of and will continue to go outside and paint.

A few short months ago I declared to myself that I would have ten pieces ready for my show in Prescott, AZ on Memorial Day Weekend. I'm working on my tenth.

Life brings us on a journey to interesting places...especially if we ask it to.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Keeping it Real

After a few years of restless uncertainty regarding the direction of my artwork, I'm finally admitting to myself who I really am as an artist. Relieved with this long-overdue acceptance, I'm going on with my bad self.

For me, it's all about the horse, but it's not just about portraying the horse in pretty pictures. Horses are magnificent creatures, no doubt, but strictly idolizing them as the beauties they are is to deny their paradoxical nature. Consider this quote from my artist's statement: "...expressing the subtle with an undercurrent of volatility."

Horses have distinct personalities. Some are sweet in nature, accepting, generous and willing. Some are sullen, nasty and psychotic - not always resulting from their interaction with evil humans. DNA and genetics play a role as well as learned behavior from other horses.

Horses are dangerous just by way of their size, speed and sheer athleticism. A spooked horse can duck violently in a millisecond, sending a rider helplessly off into space. Anyone who has worked with horses can attest to the consequences of not following the rules of sensible horsemanship. I've been kicked, bitten, crushed, stomped, run-over and otherwise had my bell rung many times. Not to mention being "unseated". I accept responsibility for my stupidity and carelessness, however some of those physical encounters entailed some frightening equine aggression.

Truth be told, our age-old association with horses is wonderful and terrible. Accidents are inevitable. People get hurt and killed. Horses get hurt and killed.

I respect this aspect of our relationship and have a lot to say about it. No morbid depictions but no 4-F's either (foals frolicking in fields of flowers). It's just how I've experienced it.
Snake, 20"x24", oil on canvas. Click here for more info.
Calling it as I see it,

Monday, March 20, 2017


Eric Rhoads, the publisher of Plein Air Magazine, interviews successful artists and generously provides podcasts of the chat. Well worth your time, check them out here.

A common denominator seems to emerge throughout the interviews: that "talent" is a subjective term that implies a romantic state of divine endowment. All of the artists agree that "talent" is more like disciplined hard work and persistence. They freely share their stories of hardship, uncertainty and frustration experienced on their journey to success.

The interview with artist William Davidson especially interested me. The term "thresholding" was mentioned by Eric Rhoads as "...pushing yourself to the point of discomfort and then obligating yourself to it..."

 I had to look it up.

The online Free Dictionary defines thresholding as: the magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, result, or condition to occur or be manifested. Hmm, I understand a pain threshold on a scale that's endured, but this description seems like a deliberate exercise to force oneself into a higher level of accomplishment, or is it enlightenment? 

Is it goal oriented? Is it a means for accelerated growth? Is it intensive self-realization?

The Sun Dance, Frederick Remington, 1909

Will it hurt?

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Lots of Luscious Oil Paints (I Still Want to Eat Them)

I love to read about other artist's working methods. It's interesting and I'll often try out some of their techniques. However, some artists are rigid about their tools and their "correct" uses. To that I say, everyone has their own methods of transferring what's creatively brewing in their brains down onto a substrate. It's an evolution through trial and error and sometimes change and necessity rule.

Here's my technical procedures after many, many years of painting:

I've had this palette longer than I've had Michael and we've been together for almost 39 years! It came with a paint box (not this one, first one fell apart) and I've taken pretty good care of it. At the end of the day I scrape off my paint mixtures and rub the oily residue to a shine with a rag. The surface has built up to a neutral sheen over many years.

The light area is where Turpenoid "Natural", ironically, took the surface off. Ugh. 

About colors: I have a lot of earth pigments because I paint thoroughbreds who are mostly variations of brown. Yeah, yeah, I know I can mix them from a few primaries (I get it) but I don't want to. The limited palette aficionados are right and I do only take a few colors when I go out to plein air paint. In the studio there are many more colors than what's pictured here but this is my basic palette. Not so limited. I sparingly add colors like the thalos when called for.

Here's a tube of Grumbacher Pre-Tested cadmium red deep that has lived in my paint box for over 25 years. Purchased at Pearl Paint which as long been defunct, it hasn't dried up a bit. Sometimes mixing a dark with cad red doesn't cut it and I go searching for this dinosaur.
I now use primarily Gamblin oils with a few Michael Harding's thrown in which are wonderful, pure pigments but quite pricey so I stick to the adequate Gamblin, a U.S.A. manufacturer. I splurge on the Harding transparent oxides that are unequaled. Lately I've been doing some experimenting with transparent pigments and building up multiple layers.

When I begin a painting session, my standard procedure is to mix up a couple of neutrals in three values. For my grays I use ultramarine blue with burnt sienna. By the way, I can't work without Burnt Sienna. How else does an equine artist achieve the copper penny glow of a chestnut? I also mix up a violet with ultramarine and Gamblin's alizarin permanent. Those are the two mixtures at the top of the photo..
When I was in art school in the mid 70's, my painting instructor, the well-respected accomplished painter David Loeffler Smith, insisted on keeping colors pure which meant using only a palette knife to mix. I still do this and you will see clean piles of paint on my palette.

By the way, I'm on my second ever palette knife, the first wore out and this one won't be with me much longer.  It's nicked, bent and could cut a steak and I'm not easily finding a replacement.

Brushes: I've been moving away from bristle brushes and using soft synthetics that I purchase at A.C. Moore for $3.99 each. Called Simply Simmons, most are firm brights and I like their smooth application and the chiseled stroke. Yes, I have several Rosemary's but I paid a whole lot more than $3.99 for them.

Pictured is a "retired" bristle #6 long flat, dented ferrule, warped and peeling handle and missing a lot of hairs. This one served me well for many years and I'm sentimental about it's valiant service for some reason (I've thrown out too many brushes to mention...they wear out eventually). It's one of the first brushes I ever bought upon entering art school. Made by a company called President which apparently no longer exists.
David Smith was also adamant about cleaning brushes with only Ivory bar soap, another habit I can't shake although the Master's Brush Cleaner is a very effective (and expensive) cleaner. It even restores brushes with dried-on paint.

Now you know about my basic tools,

Monday, February 27, 2017

Headin' Westward (ho!)

To my delight and surprise, my Indian Relay paintings have been accepted into the Phippen Museum's Western Art Show and Sale. I say "surprise" because the other participating artists are so impressive. As I drool over their artwork, I embrace a personal challenge. Whenever I encounter artists of accomplishment and considerable skill, it spurs me on (pun intended) to become a better painter.

Located in Prescott, Arizona, it's a journey of many miles taking place on Memorial Day weekend. We've booked lodging via AirBnB for a very reasonable rate and will be driving all my paintings cross-country to the show. No doubt the price of gasoline will increase due to the holiday as well as the expense of the booth fee, insurance, a required business license from the City of Pescott, meals, and not to mention the deepest expense - framing.

Also on the schedule: a reference gathering trip to one of the season's first Indian Relay races in Pine Ridge, South Dakota taking place the weekend following the show. Might as well go for it, we'll have traveled so far at this point.

So how to afford all this? I consider the expense an investment in my career revival and mental well-being. And that esoteric statement doesn't pay the bills.

Michael and I are working on a crowdfunding project to help out. You may recall a Kickstarter campaign I launched in 2013 in which I painted historical scenes of Saratoga to coincide with their 150th Anniversary at the track. It was meant to be a prelude to a bigger project and it's success effectively got my feet wet and gave me a feel for the mechanics.

This time around I have a clearer understanding of the "rewards" and can offer more effective incentives. And then there's those cool innovative techie things like going "live" on Facebook, enabling backers to travel vicariously along with us in real time.

So stay tuned for the "launch" of the funding campaign, certain to be more interactive and offering something for everyone. It's an exciting time for me and I hope you enjoy following along with my always daring exploits.
Triad, 16"x20", oil on panel
On the move,

Tuesday, February 07, 2017


When I look over my resume, especially when I'm feeling invisible, I'm impressed with my career accomplishments. Working all over the country, I've enjoyed lots of publicity from very early on and have been involved in multiple varied and interesting projects.

Recently, it's occurred to me that not even my close friends are aware of my background. Michael has decided to create a brochure that showcases the highlights of some of these achievements.

In 1988 I was hired as a contract artist by the scenic arts department of Sea World of San Diego. The new Shamu Stadium was nearing completion and a 600' mural around the top perimeter of the seating area was proposed. I, along with several other artists were assigned the task of making it happen...quickly (why these projects are always last minute is beyond me).

The days were long and the work intense. Predictably, several artists quit. I recall the paint quality not being all that great either. The design evolved as we progressed, changing and tweaking to fit the space. The head designer wanted to create a native northwestern Pacific feel, and I think we did.
 This is a small segment, the entire mural wrapped around for 600 feet.

The sculptors in the scenic arts department made the totem poles out of fiberglass. The top border of dugout canoes and orcas was over 8 foot high.

We created a wash to resemble wood and then painted these very cool totems. The fun part.

When the stadium was completed the main designer, impressed with my ability and work ethic (obtained from the race track of course), sent three artists plus myself to Sea World in San Antonio, Texas to complete murals in Cap 'n Kids Land. The entire facility would have it's grand opening within seven days and there was so much to do! Construction crews burned huge lights (like you see on the highway) to work 24-hours and we painted from sunrise to sunset.

This 20' mural was a Huckleberry Finn theme and there were lots of adjustments for the existing space and light. Construction operated all around us, or, I should say we painted around the construction.

You can see the drainage pipe and flags at the bottom. I believe when we finished it was landscaped.

When we competed the murals on the afternoon before opening day, I asked the project boss if I could go into downtown San Antonio to see the tourist sights: the Alamo and the River Walk. None of the other artists would go with me...they were too whipped and opted to nap in their rooms.

The department must have been pleased with my work as the head designer wrote a glowing letter of recommendation for me.

I still have it,

Sunday, January 22, 2017


I decided to take the month off from working in the studio and it was both a positive and negative endeavor. The latter was a bit troubling because I didn't miss painting or experience a yearning to return as Michael predicted I soon would. The positive side was that I didn't experience a yearning to return soon at all! Contradictions aside, the time off was well-spent in contemplation, research and meditation.

Always studying other painters and their work, I find that looking at the work of my living peers reaps the most beneficial results. It's impressive that there are so many extremely masterful painters among us.

Here a few of the many I admire:

Tibor Nagy's loose translation of both urban scenes and landscapes are beautifully abstract. The surface contains wonderful mark-making: brushwork, palette knife applications and incisions, scumbling, scraping, etc., leaving the first layers to show through to the surface. His color palette is subdued and sublime:

Nancy Boren is a risk-taker. I have studied this painting over and over and I believe it's a perfect example of pushing the envelope. The background heron is overlapped by the figure's face and touched by the far wrist. It works - as evidenced by winning the Bronze Medal at the National Oil Painters of America 2016 exhibit. Gorgeous piece:

Swedish-born painter Odd Nerdrum's art is influenced by the likes of the great masters such as Rembrandt and Caravaggio. Figures on large-scale canvases tell modern yet timeless stories of human experience in a lyrical landscape. Surface texture and a classical subdued palette inspire me to simplify, simplify, simplify. And always tell a good story:

I couldn't make it this year but it's on my bucket list to study with Morgan Samuel Price. She's a remarkable plein air painter, tackling complex subjects that she seems to effortlessly pull together. I want to observe her edit the complicated Florida flora (and fauna) as she works her magic with light and color:

Mark Boedges works in layers of transparent paint, removing, re-applying, adjusting until he achieves his desired effect. Hints of Richard Schmid? You know and working in Vermont alongside the Putney Painters but emerging with a distinct and beautiful voice of his own. Strong stuff.

Fear not, I'm back at work with a vengeance and with renewed inspiration,

Monday, January 02, 2017


I'm beyond mid-life crisis age-wise but I'm experiencing the symptoms. Bored with the muse and disillusioned over changes in the racing biz, I'm restless about the future direction of my artistic life. There's a new crowd in the paddock who possess different goals and priorities. Ownership has undergone major restructuring and the "Kings & Queens" in the sport no longer reign supreme. Race track management have their own profit-driven agendas with little respect for tradition and history within a very old and storied sport. Loud, repeated calls for proactive changes in medication use, infractions, after care for retired horses, moral responsibility, etc., are agreed upon by the industry insiders but are rarely enacted and those that attempt to implement change are confronted with bickering power struggles. It's wearisome to an old race tracker like me who dearly loves the game.

Over a year ago I channel surfed onto a PBS documentary that quickened my pulse rate. I won't spend a lot of time explaining, you can read about it in my blog post here. The abbreviated version: Indian Relay. Tribes compete in a horse race (of a very different color) that I found to be excruciatingly exciting. I was so jazzed and inspired. Re-energized, if you will.

The plan was to attend their national championships taking place in Billings, Montana after the Saratoga race meet concluded. For reasons that would require another blog post, it was not to be. Undaunted, I returned to the documentary, studying it in it's entirety - frame by frame. With my knowledge of equine anatomy and referencing the scenes illustrating this extreme, dangerous sport, I decided to forge ahead anyway.

This is the first of several planned paintings:

The title is Chaos, and for good reason. This is the thrilling part of the race - the exchange of riders as the team catches the incoming horse (at a gallop) while the rider simultaneously leaps off in mid-air and then frantically swings/jumps/leapfrogs onto the next. Collision and confusion. Pure adrenaline. The riding skills and horsemanship are superb. All bareback.

You know I'll be there this year, for sure.