Yay! All done. That was quick. Sort of. Compared to the last one, I mean. Skelly Godiva was a challenge in more ways than one but I’m very pleased with how she turned out.
Actually, it might have been worse. Fortunately for me, Collier’s original included a beautiful red blanket covering most of the horse, so I wasn’t faced with a second ribcage to render, hah! It’s the little things that keep me from going insane on these pieces.
This probably took me close to 40 hours to finish. The Old (Dead) Masters paintings often require a lot more craftsmanship, just because I’m going for a pretty accurate copy, otherwise the joke falls flat. Well, maybe it does anyway for some people, but those aren’t the ones I am painting for!
My husband and I are camping on a friend’s property for a week or so here in Tucson, AZ, and I’m taking the opportunity to paint horses!
This morning’s effort is a painting of a horse eating her breakfast in a small paddock.
I have always liked horses as subject matter, although I was never a riding enthusiast growing up. That said, when I was twelve or so, my sister and I pedaled our bikes for miles to a small farm every Saturday where we’d ride ponies all day long, stopping only for lunch. The farm belonged to Mr. and Mrs. S., friends of our parents whose kids had long since moved on to mini-bikes. They were happy to have us exercise the ponies. I didn’t much care for the long bike ride, although I’m sure my mother felt I needed the exercise. Mary probably would’ve have biked three times as far for half the riding time. She was crazy about horses.
I remember the air was hot and full of buzzing deer flies. We rode along mini bike trails out in the piney woods for hours. Socks was a dapple grey, the smaller of the two, and she took good care of me, patiently putting up with my considerable lack of riding skills. My sister’s mount was another matter. A beautiful appaloosa, Gepetta was almost horse-sized, very smart and an opportunist, as she regularly tried to buck Mary off at the first available sandy patch on the trail, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
Once while we were eating sandwiches at the house, Mr. S. happened to overhear us telling Mrs. S. about Mary getting dumped. Mary hadn’t been hurt by the fall and we’d just followed Gepetta back to the house as usual and planned to go out again after lunch. But Mr. S. immediately went outside to where the ponies were hitched, and picked up Gepetta and threw her onto her back, saddle and all. She scrambled back up and stood there, shaking, while he yelled at her. Gepetta never bucked Mary off again, but I think Mary would’ve died before she’d have ratted Gepetta out to Mr. S. again anyway.
Eventually the ponies were sold or maybe I refused to bike over there, I can’t remember how or why we stopped going. Mary continued to find horses to ride, I continued to accompany her when she pestered me into it. I never have been a confident rider and in general I prefer to paint them, although our friend here put me up on her horse Easy last night and it was sweet. He’s a patient horse, too, very gentle, just how I remember Socks.
“Turning Out Austin” is a painting about my niece Nathalie’s horse, a rescued thoroughbred and a sweet looking boy. Nathalie’s friend Pam is currently taking good care of Austin. I spent the last week with Steve camped behind Pam’s house in Tucson, AZ. This painting is based on a photo I took of Pam and Austin one morning last week. He was hungry! Pam was turning him out into a bigger paddock to have his breakfast and he just couldn’t wait to start eating!
It was lovely to hang out with Pam and her horses. I’ll have to paint some more of them soon!
More trip paintings to come
I’ll be posting more daily paintings from my recent camping trip out west, so stay tuned!
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Once I was a little girl, looking for love. Read on for the story of how I got started as an artist.
Picture me in kindergarten
I was 5 years old, without any friends, but I had noticed another little girl who seemed like she might be nice. She was pretty and shy and her name was Paula. The only problem was Paula already had a friend, Betsy, and Betsy wasn’t the least bit interested in adding another person to the entourage. It only made me want Paula more as my friend. How was I going to do this with Betsy in the way?
Mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery
Then I noticed that Betsy drew horses for Paula to color. I thought this might be a good way to get Paula’s attention, so I got paper and pencil and tried it myself. Naturally, I copied Betsy’s horse, because hey, if it was good enough for Paula, it was good enough for me. Here’s what it looked like:
Betsy pulls a fast one
Success was immediate. Paula liked my horse and I thought everything was settled. The three of us would be friends and we’d all draw and color horses together. But then Betsy made another horse, only this time she changed it so it was slightly different than the horse I had just drawn. She cleverly added two extra lines to the horse, giving it four legs, instead of only two. Betsy’s new, improved horse looked like this:
But I was just getting started
Paula really liked Betsy’s new horse, which worried me. I thought about what I could do for my next horse picture that would make it better than Betsy’s.
Did I mention that I come from a large family? By kindergarten, I was already a master at competing for attention. I had a baby sister who was blonde, rather than brunette like myself and I spent the first three years of her life trying get rid of her, dropping marbles into her bed regularly and hoping she’d choke on them, before admitting that maybe she wasn’t going away after all. Anyway, all this to say that when Betsy threw down the competitive horse drawing gauntlet, I was primed and ready.
For my next innovation in the contest I added a forelock to my horse’s head. I didn’t know it was called a forelock, but I knew that horses had a tuft of hair up there, so I put one on. I remember being quite satisfied with this and thinking that Betsy wasn’t going to be able to top it.
She wasn’t going down without a fight
But then she fooled me and came up with eyelashes.
I couldn’t fault her logic. Although I wasn’t sure if horses had eyelashes or not, not ever having been close enough to one to notice, Paula seemed to like them, so I added eyelashes to my next version and then did another thing that I didn’t really want to do but felt I had no choice about doing, things having already escalated so far.
I decide to go to defcon five
On my next horse, I made the mane and tail curly.
Then stuff got weird
After that, things went downhill pretty quickly. Betsy decided to put a ribbon on her next horse and I balked at this. I hadn’t been proud of the curly hair anyway, but ribbons felt utterly wrong to me. I refused to do them and so lost the contest, and ultimately, Paula’s friendship. Remember, this was 30 years before My Little Pony. What did I know? I was only five.
I learned something
It turned out okay in the end. In the course of the contest I discovered I liked drawing horses just for me. This made up for the fact that I still didn’t have any friends. And I also learned some important lessons that have stayed with me all my life:
Drawing can make you popular, and
Popular is nice, but
There are limits to what I’ll draw to please someone other than myself.
This is the last drawing I made, after the competition was over. You can see that I ended up going back to regular hair and then separating the legs so that it looked like my horse was actually going somewhere. I liked it best of all of the drawings I did that day.
Which just goes to show that drawing in series is always a good idea. You never know where it’ll take you, but the good news is, if you make a wrong turn, you can always go back.
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I’ve been reading a series of mystery books by author Craig Johnson. They’re centered around the life of a small town sheriff in Wyoming and they’re full of gunfights and horses and dually trucks. I was in the middle of the book, “The Dark Horse,” and it was getting so suspenseful that I was tempted to skip ahead to make sure everyone was going to be okay. That’s when I knew I needed to take a little break. This guy was just the ticket. You can see by the look in his eye that he already knows how the story ends.
Horse, 5×7″ pastel painting on paper by Marie Marfia. Buy it on Etsy!