Saturday, November 08, 2008

Falling Leaves

Cheerio, my English Shepherd, is going to turn two years old this coming Thursday, and I thought I would celebrate her birthday by posting a recent picture here. We have a wonderful old maple tree in the side yard. I don't know exactly what kind of maple it is, but it has smaller leaves than some of the others, and they make a particularly lovely carpet around the trunk when they fall off the tree. The color just sets off Cheerio's coat beautifully.

Although she is nearly two and her "off switch" is much closer to being fully functioning, she still just loves to play, and our favorite game is to throw the jolly ball into the middle of a pile of leaves and watch her dive into the middle of the pile. She would emerge, leaves sticking out of the sides of her mouth with the jolly ball, reminding me of Linus jumping into the leaves with a wet sucker.

I've been spending all my painting time working on a large commissioned portrait, that I won't be able to post here until it's finished, and other studio time is being occupied by computer work. However, today was for more leaf raking. And what a day it was for working outside. It is so warm, I can't believe it's November. There is a small window of time to get the leaves raked before it snows. And I would rather not have to clean them all up in the spring. Growing up at my parents' house, on their small wooded lot, the leaves would be ankle deep, and you could easily accumulate a pile four feet high from raking a small area. We would haul the leaves on a big piece of plastic sheeting and dump them at the curb and wait for the city truck to come and suck them all up. Our yard now, with it's scattered mature trees, means I have a much bigger area to cover, and we tend to rake it in sections, depending on which trees drop their leaves first. At least our hauling method is the same, except there is no city truck to collect them. We just compost them ourselves along with the horse manure.

The big excitement of the day? Bluebirds! I saw a flock of five or six Eastern bluebirds in the yard this morning. I sure wish they would use the house I built for them, but I'm happy just to see them around once in a while.

And this last picture is my Morgan mare, Unique, looking cute wearing her fall "jewelry". I found someone selling these at Equine Affaire last year, and I thought it was a wonderful alternative to the big, clunky hunter-beware bell that clips onto the saddle (that is, if your saddle has d-rings, which mine doesn't, and those leather ties just don't hold it securely.) So now Unique is fashionable on her fall trail rides.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Horses, llamas, and pigs...oh, my!

"Working Eyes"

oil on canvas, 36 x 36 in.

I have finally gotten around to posting this guy. He was discovered at a pulling contest, on a blistering hot day in June. I was amazed at how little these big drafthorses were bothered by the heat. I love the big heavy leather harnesses and blinkers, and the way they frame the gentle eyes of this guy.

Soccer games and practices and meetings and computer work keep trying to take away painting time. Despite interruptions and delays, I've been able to get a brush on canvas and finish up a few small pieces, inspired by visits to the local county fair.
"Llama", oil on canvas, 12 x 16 in.
"Pig Snooze", oil on canvas, 8 x 10 in.
"Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner", oil on canvas, 11 x 14 in.

These little piggies were just captivating. I kept checking back in on them all afternoon, and that momma sow never moved.

We spent a day in Williamstown, Massachusetts, recently. A trip to photograph a horse made a great excuse for a day trip to see the fall foliage, and take in a museum. The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute was a pure delight. It was a chance to see work by many of my favorite American artists such as Whistler, Sargent, Homer, Chase, and Twachtman. After taking in the art, we walked the trails behind the museum. A pasture trail takes you up a hill, to a spectacular vista of autumn foliage. This makes me want to paint autumn landscapes and I would not be surprised if one of these makes it onto the easel soon. The day could not have been more perfect. On our way back through North Adams, we checked out the Natural Bridge State Park, and were amazed at the wonderful rock formations, and deep gorge running through this old marble quarry.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cheerio, Run!
oil on canvas, 48 x 24 in.

I had a great time photographing Cheerio running around in the springtime, chasing her tennis ball, and this painting was the result. An English Shepherd in full stride, her glossy coat flying in the wind--it describes my dog so perfectly. I had planned to send this painting to a gallery, but I just couldn't do it--it fit so perfectly on the bedroom wall, right above where Cheerio's crate sits. This one is a keeper.
Quick update on the kitten: Status: Adopted! Yay! We're back to a reasonable number of pets in the house.

I'm on vacation this week, and it's been a week of getting outside, getting the horse exercised, the dog exercised, and the kid exercised. We've been bicycling, hiking, and I've been riding! The bugs are not that bad here this August, so I've been out on the trail. We even fit in a trip to Six Flags, where I am proud to say that I rode a rollercoaster three times! Okay, so it wasn't the Superman coaster, or the Batman coaster, or even the Mind Eraser. It was Catwoman's Whip, which is pretty comparable to the Goofy's Barnstormer kid-coaster at Disneyworld. But I loved it! It was just enough of a thrill to me! My son, on the other hand, at eight years old, was just tall enough to ride all the big coasters and seems to enjoy being twisted and turned and plunged and flung upside down at very high speeds. I'm glad he doesn't have my stomach! It's a lucky thing that my husband is willing to ride with him on these things, because if I rode one, they would be carrying my body out on a stretcher, after I had a heart attack!

I have managed to fit in some painting time, and my latest project on the easel is an ambitious one. It's a 30 x 40 in. vertical canvas divided into a grid of 80 3x5 in. rectangles. In each rectangle is a horse's head, viewed pretty much head-on, but there is some variation to the angles and expressions of the horses. The horses are all individual personalities, but the concept behind this grid is to show the spectrum of horse colors, starting at the bottom with the blacks and dark bays, and as it goes up, there will be lighter bays and liver chestnuts and light chestnuts, buckskins, palominos and greys. It's unusual for me to work a canvas from one end to the other--I'm usually painting all over the whole thing--but this is a very different sort of a painting, and so far, I have almost 30 heads painted. The image below was shot with a digital camera with indoor lighting conditions, and shows a portion of the heads. I think after all the heads are in there, I'm going to want to go back into some of them and tighten up a few details, but for now, I'm painting the heads fairly quickly. There aren't a lot of layers of color on each horse--each one is painted within about a half hour. I solicited pictures of my friends' horses, and fellow equine artist's horses, and dug deep into my own photo bank, and I'm hoping that the result will be that everyone that sees this painting will see "their" horse somewhere in there. At least a horse that looks somewhat like their horse. It may take me the rest of this year to finish this, but it's well underway.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This Kitten Needs a Home!

I suppose we've been lucky, in the eight years of living on this farm, not to have been frequented by many stray cats. The only one up until now was a friendly solid black male who now goes by the name of Cornelius and lives as a very content life as a lap warmer in the apartment of our tenant.
But last week, a baby appeared in our back woodpile. A tiny baby kitten, not much more than 6 or 7 weeks old, was almost trying to get our attention as my boarder and I cleaned the paddock. A few attempts to capture the kitten failed at first, but at last hunger won out, and my boarder was able to get the kitten close enough to grab. There has been no sign of other kittens, or the mother cat.
She has taken up temporary (I stress the word temporary) residence in our little bathroom, and 10 days later, she is still here.
She has started coming out of her frightened shell, and becoming friendly, and approachable. She's a lively little kitten, likes to play, and seems healthy except for what looks like a belly full of parasites, as all kittens are prone to have.
I know that I cannot keep this kitten--we are at our limit with two cats (one with health issues and a prescription diet), and an active dog that feels the need to herd the cats. This kitten would probably like best to be in a quiet home without other pets. She seems to like older children who will approach her gently and quietly.
So this is a plea to anyone who might be local to me that could offer this kitten a home. I'm beginning the process of finding a shelter that will take her, but the shelters are full, and I fear that going this route is not going to be possible.

Away from the subject of kittens, I thought I would post this week about my new adventures on the bus. A change in my work schedule has made it easier to work with the bus schedule, and so this week, I tried it for the first time. This is a huge step for me--I love my car--I like to have control over when I leave, where I stop on the way home, and how much stuff I can haul with me. But the gas prices are winning out, and so at around $60 a week to fill the gas tank, I have decided that this is one expense that can be controlled with a little sacrifice. (Especially when when my employer has a deal with the bus company that allows me to ride for free.) I was not prepared for the volume level of the crowd on the bus. I sort of expected that most people taking my bus route, which runs to the most rural part of the state, would be working people who would sit and listen to their ipods or read a book. Many of them do those things, and I instinctively chose a seat next to a young woman with cords running from her ears. However, the back of the bus was a cacophany of conversation and laughing, and I have a feeling that my morning commute will at least be somewhat entertaining, if not peaceful. The ride home was much quieter, and much emptier, due to the fact that the evening rush is staggered somewhat between several different buses.
I thought it would add so much time to my commute, but it only adds about fifteen minutes. I think I might actually get used to this. And my wallet certainly will.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Second Mural Panel and the Batty month of June.

I was asked to do a second mural panel by the creators of the Cadeau du Cheval mural, and despite a tight deadline, I have managed to get it completed. I saw a white horse head in the middle of the panel, and was able to work it into a bald-faced paint horse. The setting is a county fair horse show, the Friday night horse show classes under the lights.
There are many more images added to the mural mosaic, check out the live grid at

It's been a crazy summer here, so far. Every day has a chance of thunderstorms, so it's difficult to get any riding in, for fear of being caught out in a lighting storm. It's been a time to catch up with farm chores and simply enjoy the backyard. The month of June is the batty month for us. Our old timber framed barn has a healthy colony of brown bats that raise their young along the top rafter. The only trouble is, the baby bats don't seem to be able to cling to the rafter very easily, and many of them fall three stories, only to dehydrate and perish on the barn floor. We rescue as many as we can, carefully using a stick to pick them up by the back legs, which eagerly grip onto anything they can. We sometimes place the babies on a board and move them as high up in the barn as we can, climbing into the loft and leaving the board with the bats on a high beam, hoping they can crawl back up to the colony. I have no idea how many of these bats actually make it, but we just can't leave them on the floor of the barn to shrivel up. Having been through this routine for eight years now, I've gotten used to the bats, but I love to show visitors the brown lumps up along the rafter and explain what they are, and watch them back sloooowly out of the barn. Admittedly, it is rather disconcerting to reach for a piece of equipment and find a bat clinging to it. One day, when one of the geldings refused to eat his grain, I was worried, until I looked in his feed tub and found a bat in there with the grain. I love having them around, though. We have never had a big mosquito problem around here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blinker Hood

"Blinker Hood", oil on canvas, 20 x 20 in.

A few months ago, I found a call for entries for a show at the Attleboro Arts Museum, (Massachusetts). The show is called "Out of the Blue", and all the entries had to feature the color blue. I decided to do a couple of paintings specifically for this show. I don't usually paint things to fit the requirements of a juried show--usually I just look through my recent inventory and select something suitable, but I had plenty of time to meet the late spring deadline, and the theme inspired me. "Blinker Hood" was from a photo in my reference library, and since I have been doing so many close-up horse portraits, I was eager to zoom in on the blue hood, and see what I could do with those colors and shapes, when so little of the horse's head was showing. I love fabric folds and the colors that show up in white objects such as the eye cup.
So this piece is the result and this is the one that was accepted into the show.
The opening is July 11, 7 - 9 pm.

"Blue Cooler" oil on canvas, 20 x 20 in.
This is the second piece I did for the "Blue" show. (This one didn't make it in.) I threw my blue cooler on my mare, and shot a bunch of pictures of her in late afternoon light. She has such a soft expression, and the blue really complements her orange-red coat. You can't really see it in this web image, but my studio building is reflected in her eye.

The studio is pretty much like a blast furnace these last few days. I was moving paitings into the cooler first floor as it seemed like the paint was going to run right off the canvases. I think sometimes a heat wave is terrific excuse to goof off. I spent an hour or so this afternoon in the hammock under the trees, reading a book, and didn't feel the least bit guilty about it!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Finished Mural Panel

I am calling this mural panel finished, and after a bit more drying time, I'll ship it off to Mural Mosaics. Now, I'm awaiting my second panel in the mail! I was honored to be chosen for a second panel, and I'm interested to see what will develop on with a completely different set of colors and shapes.

Other excitement on the farm is the addition of a new horse in our barn. We have a new boarder in residence--"Star", a lovely and sweet 25 year old Standardbred. Star arrived yesterday, and was carefully and slowly introduced to Keeper and Niqui, and the whole thing turned out blissfully uneventful. We stood and watched the three of them when they were first turned out in the paddock together, and it was about as exciting as watching grass grow. They walked around each other, sniffed a bit, ate at separate piles of hay, and after maybe two squeals and one little warning that wouldn't even qualify as a kick, the three chestnuts settled down as if they'd known each other forever. Apparently at 25, 25 and 20, these three are too old to engage in youthful shenanigans, and took a mature approach to the relationship.

The month of June here is really a bit like paradise. The lawn is lush and green, the irises are blooming (the ones that Cheerio hasn't trampled) and the bird population has exploded. I was able to add to my bird list recently with the sightings of a red-chested grosbeak, a scarlet tanager, and a pair of orioles. I came upon what I think was a baby female oriole perched in a tree, just starting to fly, and probably resting from the ordeal. My husband was chased by a ruffed grouse while mowing the lawn on the riding mower!

The lettuce is coming along nicely, the pea vines are starting to flower, and the beans have popped out of the ground. All is right with the world!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mural Panel update

My panel for the Le Cadeau du Cheval Mural is coming along nicely. I'll post two installments here...I'm working pretty quickly on this, and I didn't have a chance to post a new blog entry in between, so you can see the early stage of the painting and how it has progressed. The first image, I have included an image of the original panel next to it, so that you can squint your eyes at the image and see how the shapes and the tones fit into the original. This has been an extreme challenge. The only horse I have a decent reference for is the big bucskin in the middle. The others are pretty much made-up out of my head.

In this latest installment, I've refined the anatomy of the horses a bit more. The ear on the grey looks a little small to me, so I'll probably adjust that. I've used the forelocks and manes of the two middle horses to create the dark lines in the composition. This is a departure from my usual work in which I'm concerned with strong light and shadows. With no strong light source, the horses are looking a bit flat, but I can't get too contrasty with the light, or I'll lose the original overall shape.
The mural page has had a few new pieces added. Check out the progress here:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Horse Gift Mural

Le Cadeau du Cheval "The Horse Gift" Mural is a collaborative mural project in which individual artists each paint a panel from a large mother image. I am thrilled to be a part of a project like this, and I'll start posting my progress today.
I was able to choose which panels I preferred. Of my top three choices, it seems that I got my first choice. Some panels were fairly monochromatic, some had lots of pinks and purples, and some had definite shapes and edges. I wanted to challenge myself with a panel that had definitive shapes, and it certainly is a challenge to find an image that will maintain the values and contrast in the right places. I chose the panel I did because I immediately saw something in the image. Of course when I received the actual panel in the mail, I decided to do something entirely different.
Above is the original panel I recieved. At first all I could see was a big white horse rear-end in the lower right corner. And I thought of perhaps an appaloosa or pinto horse, rear view, looking to the left. But the shape in the middle was too rounded and big to be the right proportion for that idea, so I worked out a cluster of heads that work themselves into the shapes.

I think I'm ready to start painting. I'll post the progress as it goes along.
To see the whole Cadeau du Cheval mural in progress, go to:
To see other mural mosaics,

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Two New Large Scale Paintings

"Belle" oil on canvas, 36 x 36 in.

You are looking into this horse's soul. This is another foray in to these large-scale paintings, and the composition of this one makes it the first one that is actually larger than life size. Belle is a mare that I hardly know at all...I photographed her on a visit to the stable where I used to work, and she was just looking over the fence in a way that made the shadows fall over her face in an interesting way. I think she must be a kind, gentle mare, from the soft look in her eye.

"Controlled" oil on canvas, 48 x 36 in.

"Controlled" is a look at the harmony between horse and rider. This horse is not straining against the bit, there is no tension, just perfect acceptance of the rider's cues. He's cantering between jumps and his rider is probably rating his strides to the next fence. A glossy bay thoroughbred on a sunny, late-summer day brings out the sharp lines of the shadows, the crisp highlight on the nostral, the soft highlights on polished leather. The light greenish yellow of the background evokes the color of dried-out late-summer grass, while complimenting the reds in the horse's coat.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It's Pine Car Mania!

On March 30, I will be participating in my first Pinewood Derby. My son is in Cub Scouts, and when I heard that parents and others could enter in the 'wannabe' category, I just had to build my own car. I am just not one to do things halfway, so I set out to make a pinecar that would be a little work of horse art. My car may not be the fastest...but I was determined to make it one of the prettiest!
I'm calling it "Horsepower" (of course).
The medium was a bit of a challenge. I planned to originally use oil paint, so I primed the car with several coats of gesso and sanded it smooth, then added a base coat of oil color. But the three-dimensionality of the car proved to be a problem with slow-drying oil paints. So I wiped off the oil paint and started over with some inexpensive wood-craft type paints that I purchased at Wal-mart. If I had a working set of acrylics, I would have gone with those, but my box of tube acrylics dates back farther than I'll admit, and I ended up having to chuck the whole lot of dried up tubes in the trash.
I still need to get some holes drilled in the bottom to add some weights, and I'm hoping that these little horses really make this car fly!

To end on a funny note...I just had to post this picture of our loveable Maizy. This cat is sort of a big blob of fur that settles and spreads where it plops. The other day she was watching the birds in the window, and the dog came up to bother her, and in the process, the potted amaryllis bulb ended up on the floor. As I'm sucking up the dirt with the vacuum, she's still sitting and watching the birds, while I'm moving the vacuum nozzle around her. Any other cat would have high-tailed it outta there, but not Maizy. She's not going to let a little thing like a vacuum cleaner ruin her enjoyment of the chickadees.
For cats, watching the birdies must be like us reading gourmet food's enjoyable, and makes your mouth water, but you know you're never going to make any of the dishes.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

oil on canvas
30 x 40 in.

Well, it's been a while since I posted and I'm happy to finally post the first of my larger scale paintings. Since my work has been going in the direction of these close-up angles and graphic compositions, it was crying out to be in a larger format, and so I'm getting used to working with these big canvases. Honestly, it didn't take much getting used to...the process is the same--just using bigger brushes and a lot more paint.

This foray into larger formats is in thanks to the owner of Polonaise Art Gallery, on the main street in Woodstock, VT. He has a selection of my work on view there and he wanted to see my work larger, so I gave it a try and it really worked! So if you are in that area, stop in. He has a wonderful mix of traditional and contemporary painting and sculpture, and these new larger paintings are something that must be seen in person to be really appreciated.

"One Looks"
oil on canvas
36 x 48 in.

"One Looks" is sort of an equine landscape. I liked the juxtaposition of these three horses in the three different colors, and I liked the depth created by the bodies of the foreground horses. The first piece radiates action and tension, while this one of the horses unhaltered, untethered, free of restraint, is all about peace and tranquility.