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It dawned gray and wet on a Midwest Saturday.

The sky does not look promising.

The sky does not look promising.

I think this was my fourth? appearance at Reins of Life in South Bend, Indiana. I’ve lost track. But they all have one thing in common: it would not be a Reins of Life benefit dressage show without a little added water. To wit:

The pond.

The pond.

There is not supposed to be a water obstacle at the judge’s end of the ring. Nor is there supposed to be mud at the entrance gate…

The mud at "A"

The mud at “A”

Except for the puddle at A

Last year’s mud. Not quite as bad.

The good news is that the water gods smiled on us and did not drip anything on us for the two days of the show. The mud had considerably dried up by day 2. However (and there is always a “however”) the heat and humidity gods made up for it by making most of us totally miserable. I was lucky since my booth was indoors. I was also lucky to complete three new Aquabord™ paintings and half of a fourth. I’m still working through the mountain of mustang photos I took on my trip to California last summer. I particularly like how my painting of McBride turned out. He is the oddball stallion that allowed us to approach quite closely without annoying or spooking him. I did him a favor in the painting and did not include all of his battle scars, which were considerable.

McBride, the "loner" stallion from my mustang trip.

McBride, the “loner” stallion from my mustang trip.

"Racers". Self-explanatory.

“Racers”. Self-explanatory.

"Practice". Bachelor stallions sharpening their fighting skills.

“Practice”. Bachelor stallions sharpening their fighting skills. Or maybe just looking silly.

Aquabord™ watercolor paintings are available on my website, although you might not see these right away. The last time I uploaded to my website it did not publish properly–lots of broken links–so I have been procrastinating about updating it until I had more than one painting to add. The good tech-y folks at enom did manage to get everything online for me quickly, but I’m hoping I don’t have to utilize their services again. I like it when things work properly. At one time I was considering designing my own website but that quickly got out of hand. So I’m at the mercy of others, as so many of us appear to be…I will close with one of my favorite photo subjects, riders preparing to show, framed by a barn door. This shot at Reins of Life was perfect.

I love taking photos through barn doors. Just put up with me, OK?

I love taking photos through barn doors. Just put up with me, OK?

Off to Wisconsin

attitude-final

“Attitude”, oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″

“Attitude” is about to travel–to the 29th annual “Culture and Agriculture” show at the New Visions Gallery in Marshfield, Wisconsin. This is my third appearance at this annual show and the first appearance for one of my horse paintings. I previously showed paintings from my “Barns and Buildings” series:

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An extra bonus with this Wisconsin show is that the gallery allows related items for their gift shop such as note cards and prints–and I just happen to have a few of those on hand!

This evening the Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph, Michigan held a reception for its latest exhibit, the Michiana Annual Art Competition (of which I am a part). There was lots of food and a few awards. I managed to consume the food, but did not receive an award. Oh well, it was rewarding enough just to be in the show after having experienced previous rejections!

Here are a few photos to give you an idea of the size of the place and the enthusiastic crowd that attended.

 

This is the huge old building (formerly an actual box factory) that houses the Box Factory for the Arts

This is the huge old building (formerly an actual box factory) that houses the Box Factory for the Arts

ptg

This is me and “my shadow”, er, painting. One of two. This one was in a better spot than the other one, so even though the other was my favorite I posed with this one.

Lots of people eating lots of free food!

Lots of people eating lots of free food!

Crowd circulating through the gallery, near my painting.

Crowd circulating through the gallery, near my painting.

After the awards ceremony my faithful art opening reception companion and I decided to take a little stroll through downtown St. Joe. It’s right on the shore of Lake Michigan and is quite a touristy place. We came upon some interesting store fronts, including this one–

A totally unmodernized old fashioned five-and-dime store. Good for a nostalgia trip should you need one!

A totally unmodernized old fashioned five-and-dime store. Good for a nostalgia trip should you need one!

I knew that an artist friend of mine had painted a sculpture to be placed with others along the downtown sidewalk this summer season, so I made it my business to locate it. I hope you can get an idea of the size of this thing from the photograph. I will say that it took up most of the bed of a large pickup truck to get it from her house to its new location.

Midnite's painted duck, which she named "Fancy". The plaque gives her official credit for this complex paint job.

Midnite’s painted duck, which she named “Fancy”. The plaque gives her official credit for this complex paint job.

Here’s another view of the duck which shows the incredible detail of the painted feathers.

fancy-rear

After our stroll down the main drag, we stopped for a beer and burger at a place aptly named Buck Burgers and Brew. You never know what to expect when ordering a hamburger in a place you’ve never been to and have never had anyone recommend. But I have to say that we both agreed they were super in both beer and burger departments. And to make it even better, we got to eat outside on an upstairs patio. A nice start to a long-awaited summer season!

 

I have been working on a commissioned stall plate for the daughter of a client. It won’t be delivered until September, and I can’t show it to you before then. Let’s just say its a…brown horse.

question marks

I will mention that it will be a full-size head-only portrait, unlike the previous stall plates which have been horses in motion. That helps a lot, right?

I had not, until this past Thursday, set foot in Kentucky other than a brief stint awaiting a flight change at the Cincinnati airport–which ought to be in Ohio but is really in Kentucky. Go figure. Given how unadventurous I am by nature, I was somewhat hesitant to enter the big time with my booth at the Kentucky Horse Park. I was to be in the Alltech Arena, famous for holding the reining competition at the World Equestrian Games in 2010. It would now host the Kentucky Reining Cup Finals–but–just down the way a bit also at the Horse Park and on the same days, the Rolex CCI**** three-day eventing competition would also be taking place. It all sounded just a bit heady for this small-time artist.

Front of the fabled Alltech Arena.

Front of the fabled Alltech Arena.

For the first time ever, my booth was next to a window. Not just any window, but a H-U-G-E window. Usually natural daylight at a venue is nonexistent, but in this case it was abundant, so much so that I could hang paintings on both sides of my racks (which I have never done before) and have plenty of light for passersby to see each side.

The latest version of my booth.

The latest version of my booth.

View from the floor-to-ceiling window behind my booth.

View from the floor-to-ceiling window behind my booth. Did I mention that the Kentucky Horse Park is H-U-G-E??

After I got set up I had a couple of hours to kill before the doors were open to the public, so when I discovered that the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center was not too far away I decided to hoof it up there and visit the off-the-track Thoroughbreds that they are renowned for rehabilitating and retraining for new jobs when their racing days are done. The entrance is dominated by a life-size statue of Secretariat, and even in metal you can easily see how handsome and how perfect he was.

Statue of the inimitable Secretariat, outside the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center

Statue of the inimitable Secretariat, outside the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center.

On my way back I encountered these two young ladies in one of the many pastures (yes, the park is H-U-G-E). I’m not a very good judge of a horse’s age, but these two appeared to me to be still in the filly stage, not quite old enough yet to be called mares. And close friends, too. I don’t know if they’re enjoying that famous Kentucky bluegrass, but whatever grass it is it sure looked lush.

Two lovely Thoroughbred gals.

Two lovely Thoroughbred gals.

Back at my booth, the show began somewhat inauspiciously. I don’t often make a big deal of pointing out what not to do on a horse, but the camera doesn’t lie and I have to at least mention this since it was right in front of my face. All I can say is, there are wonderful riders who, without bridle or saddle, can put a horse into an incredible sliding stop without any contact with the horse’s mouth. If they can stop a horse with their seat instead of their hands, so can the rest of us.

Poor horse. Please don't ride like this.

Poor horse. Please don’t ride like this.

A much better stop.

A much better stop.

This is how it should look. Everybody is relaxed, and it's a stunning sliding stop. Mouth closed.

This is how it should look. Everybody is relaxed, and it’s a stunning sliding stop. Mouth closed.

Now, back to the fun stuff. The freestyle reining is the most popular event, partly because the patterns that are run are designed by the riders and partly because of the costumes that range from outrageous to fabulous. The judges have to be more on their toes–they don’t know exactly how the rider is going to put together the elements of the pattern, so they have to watch carefully. Here are a couple of freestyle riders showing off their creativity.

One of the "young-uns" all dressed up for her freestyle ride in a red, white and blue theme.

One of the younger riders, who dressed up herself and her horse for the freestyle ride in a red, white and blue theme.

Some of the bolder (or more experienced) riders chose to ride in the spotlights. It worked really well for this gal on her white horse.

Some of the bolder (or more experienced) riders chose to ride in the spotlights. It worked really well for this gal on her white horse.

The reining patterns contain various elements besides the sliding stop, including speed changes from all-out gallop to slow lope, change of lead at the canter, and the crowd-pleasing spins. None of these things are a snap to master, and to illustrate the point David O’Connor (who is an eventing medalist at the Olympics, the World Equestrian Games, and the Pan American Games, and who was President of the US Equestrian Federation and coached the US eventing team for many years) came over from the Rolex competition to show all of us just how hard it is to be a successful reiner. He didn’t just do a demo, he competed for a score; but we all had a good time cheering him on while chuckling at some of his less-than-stellar moments.

David O'Connor takes a stab at a spin.

David O’Connor takes a stab at a spin.

A bit more elegant spin.

A bit more elegant spin.

As you can see from the photos, the front end of the horse is moving a lot faster than the hind end. The light wasn’t the greatest for capturing these fast movements from the distance where I was standing. It probably would have been a lot better if I’d been about 100 feet closer. At any rate, the next photo didn’t require any special conditions and the dust cloud shows why the sliding stop is also such a crowd favorite.

Dust storm of a stop from the rear view.

How to create your very own dust storm.

All done. I feel like I'm flying low when I look at this.

“Orange Frost”. All done. I feel like I’m flying low when I look at this.

And here’s the rest of the news. After a couple of years of trying, I have finally managed to get two of my “Orange” series paintings into the Michiana Annual Art Competition at the Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph, Michigan. Here are the ones they liked:

"Michigan Orange Bowl", oil on canvas, 24" x 36". Available on my website, www.allifarkas.com

“Michigan Orange Bowl”, oil on canvas, 24″ x 36″.

 

"Michigan Orange Freeze"--oil on canvas, 46" x 36"

“Michigan Orange Freeze”, oil on canvas, 46″ x 36″

The next part of the showtime news is that the Dowagiac Dogwood Fine Arts Festival accepted my other “Orange” painting into the Art Walk portion of the Festival–

"Michigan Orange Juice", oil on canvas, 36" wide x 30" high.

“Michigan Orange Juice”, oil on canvas, 36″ x 30″.

Next act, find a venue for “Orange Frost”.

Orange, continued

Orange, part 2

Orange, part 2

Quick update on the orange stuff. Still only palette knife going on here. The lower 1/3 may need some changes after I fill all that white space with some pretty strong-looking trees, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Oh, and there will be a bit of “leftover” snow at the very bottom eventually.

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