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Five more small Aquabord™ paintings of California mustangs I was lucky to be able to photograph in the wild this past June. The first two are here. Got these done over a four-day draft horse show at Michigan State University. The Michigan Great Lakes International show is a huge event, and as soon as I can get all my photos sorted out I’ll post a few for your enjoyment. In the meantime, wild horses will have to do! At the moment, they’re all available, $35 each plus shipping. Details on my website, http://www.allifarkas.com.

 

 

"Push"

“Push”

"Challenge"

“Challenge”

"Dare"

“Dare”

"Defiance"

“Defiance”

"Pride"

“Pride”

 

Last Saturday I once again traded my vendor’s hat for a rider’s helmet. This time at the fall Reins of Life benefit dressage show in Michigan City, Indiana. Charm and I did just fine, even though I had a little brain fart in our first test and forgot where I was supposed to go next. The photos are stills from a video of our second test of the day, which went a lot better than the first one. Both of the tests were Training Level, which is fairly low on the totem pole for dressage, but since we’re beginners that is exactly where we belong. So here’s the picture show, with a little commentary on each one.

 

Nice square halt. All four legs directly under the horse, top of the head the highest point, and looking alert.

Nice square halt while I salute the judge. All four legs directly under the horse, top of the head the highest point, and looking alert.

 

Trotting left on a circle. Pretty nice training level frame, which means Charm is carrying herself lightly, her back has no drop, and her head and neck are reaching forward and out.

Trotting left on a circle. Pretty nice training level frame, which means Charm is carrying herself lightly, her back has no drop, and her head and neck are reaching forward and out.

 

Looks about the same heading the other direction. Which is a good thing. All horses have a "better" direction, but you try to make them the same.

Looks about the same heading the other direction. Which is a good thing. All horses have a “better” direction, but you try to make them the same.

 

Nice reach under herself with the hind legs in the trot.

Nice reach under herself with the hind legs in the trot.

 

This is the "stretchy trot circle" where the horse is supposed to reach downward and out. Charm's head should really be down somewhere near the level of her knees. Oh well.

This is the “stretchy trot circle” where the horse’s head is supposed to reach downward and out. Charm’s head should really be down somewhere near the level of her knees. Oh well.

 

This is the "free walk", similar to the stretchy trot circle. Charm does this one a lot better.

This is the “free walk”, similar to the stretchy trot circle. Charm does this one a lot better.

 

Charm's signature "tail swish" transition from trot to canter.

Charm’s signature “tail swish” transition from trot to canter.

 

Uphill in the canter, with a nice reach under herself with the inside hind leg. Yes!!!

Uphill in the canter, with a nice reach under herself with the inside hind leg. Yes!!!

 

Very nice, light canter. Just floating along, which is what she's supposed to do.

Very nice, light canter. Just floating along, which is what she’s supposed to do.

 

So we got a score of 62.2 for this test. That’s about a C+. It’s better than the last show we were in, and that’s what’s important to me–we’re improving! Dressage can be ridden with different goals in mind. Some people compete against others–for either points or percentages (never mind the difference). Others compete with themselves, challenging themselves to beat their last score and never mind what everybody else in the class gets. I’m in the latter category and happy to be there. Oh, and did I mention how nice and even my hands were? That’s a great improvement on the rider’s part!

The Bay Journey

Thought I would put the first three stages up for viewing so you can get a quick sense of how things progressed if you missed the last three posts, before I showcase the final version. At least I think it’s the final version. Sent a photo to Kim and will wait for her yea or “neigh”. Through the process so far it’s all been “yea”, so hoping for more of the same. In the meantime, here’s Sydney in all her bay glory:

Sydney is polished and shiny and ready to grace her stall door.

Sydney is polished and shiny and ready to grace her stall door.

Starting to look like Sydney

Starting to look like Sydney

 

OK, short and sweet post because…well…it’s late and I’m tired. It’s a relief to see the real colors starting to appear. I’d say another couple of layers and it will be done. Except for waiting for the paint to dry. I like painting on wood a lot, but the drying part is pretty much a nuisance!

PS: the paint looks a lot more mottled in the photo than it really is. Has something to do with the lighting and the texture of the gesso. I’m too pooped to fool around with the camera tonight, so just take my word for it. Thank you…and good night.

Temporarily buckskin

Buckskin, but not for long.

Buckskin, but not for long.

Sydney is a buckskin for now, but she’s really a bay. As any of my long-time readers will know, all my bays in oil paint start out in the yellow spectrum before becoming that glorious deep mix of reddish brown/black. With watercolors I work directly with the reds, browns and blacks but for some reason oil paintings turn out better with a yellow-gold undercoat.

I also went over the background, softening the dark trees, changing the tilt of the grass/tree border, and adding some more color to the foreground areas. It’s easy to get a nice bokeh with a camera, but doing it with a paint brush can take a few passes. I’ve discovered that it’s easier to get it on a more textured surface like canvas than on the gesso. I’m sure it’s just a question of technique, and I have a lot more practice with oil on canvas than with oil on the gesso-coated wood. If I end up doing more than one of these I’m sure the technique will develop all by itself.

The fence also got darker. The darn white paint on the fence STILL isn’t dry!! Hoping it gets there by the time I finish the horse.

The wood is growing on me

Still needs a horse...

Still needs a horse…

I’m thinking the background is pretty close to done. If not, it will have to wait since any painting over it will be best done when the current paint is dry. I’m discovering that the paint is taking much longer to dry on the wood than it does on canvas. My best guess is that it is because I’m not using as much medium as I usually do, and the medium has a dryer in it which speeds things up a bit. Somehow I’m managing to get the transparency of layers I like without thinning the paint so much. The downside is the increased dry time.

None of that will keep me from starting on the horse, however. The final step will be (I think) to sand the edges of the oval so that the paint looks like it’s fading into the wood. I’ve never tried this, so I may be hugely disappointed if I make a mess! As usual, my readers will be the first to know.

Stall plaque in progress--it's been quite a process!

Stall plaque in progress–it’s been quite a process!

A few weeks ago we presented my friend Kim, who created our quadrille, with a thank-you painting of her mare, Sydney. She mentioned to me that she would like to have a larger portrait some day, preferably as a wood stall plate. Well, we finally got it together after researching pre-cut wood surfaces and painting on wood, which I have not done before this project. It’s been a learning curve but I’m happy that “so far, so good”!

Kim likes knotty pine wood, and wanted the finish to be natural, not stained. So the finished piece will only have clear protective varnish on it. The lettering was a bit of a challenge. I decided to do it all by hand rather than try to cut a stencil or do any fancy laser work. I’m a craftsman, not a techie! I think the lettering looks pretty super–it’s all acrylic paint, even the gold drop shadow. If anyone is interested in using gold paint that looks like real gold, try Utrecht’s Artist Fluid Acrylics “True Gold”. The bottle was only about $4 and under the pigment list it says “true gold”! I have no idea, but it really does look like gold.

Even though the wood surface is sanded quite smooth, the brush still resists as it crosses the grain. I managed to get the lettering done but realized painting the horse would be difficult on this surface. So I’ve put three coats of sanded gesso on the oval where the horse’s drawing is and I’m thinking that since that surface is pretty similar to the Aquabord™ I’ve been painting on for quite a while now, it should feel fairly familiar even though I’m going to be painting the horse with oils instead of watercolors.

The plaque itself is 20″ wide by 12″ high–should make quite a statement when it’s done!

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