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"Chesney"

“Chesney”

 

This is the little Aquabord™ commission I picked up at Richland Park a week ago. I haven’t painted an Appaloosa since 2009 when I first started this whole horse portrait adventure. The original photo showed a halter on the horse, but I was lucky and the owner had a lot of pictures without the halter so I could see all the spots that were covered up by it. There was also a barn and a hitching rail and a large diameter lead rope that had to go. This horse has a LOT of spots!!! Took (seemed like) forever to get most of them–I skipped the pea-sized ones–arranged in their proper place. Hoping to finish in a couple of days, then it’s just UV protection and varnish and it will be on its way home.

Entrance gate at Richland Park. All those white tents in the background are portable stalls for the 500 or so horses competing.

Entrance gate at Richland Park. All those white tents in the background are portable stalls for the 500 or so horses competing.

This was, as Ed Sullivan would have said back in the ’50’s, a  r-e-a-l-l-y- BIG-SHOW! Fortunately for me, Richland Park, which is just north of Kalamazoo, MI, is not that far from me. And in spite of its size, the booth fees were totally reasonable for a 4-day extravaganza. I even made my booth expenses back at this show. It’s always my goal, but not always realized. So here’s the lowdown on my RP adventure!

My booth, "nestled" between a very high-end saddler and a super popular retailer of custom printed Kerrits equestrian clothes.

My booth, “nestled” between a very high-end saddler and a super popular retailer of custom printed Kerrits equestrian clothes.

 

This is the best outdoor vendor row I've ever been situated in. All the merchandise was first-class, and there was a lot of it!

This is the best outdoor vendor row I’ve ever been situated in. All the merchandise was first-class, and there was a lot of it! The booths went on around the corners at the far end.

 

The view from inside my booth, with another super high-end saddler across the way.

The view from inside my booth, with another super high-end saddler across the way.

 

So I guess I should explain a little about this show. It was a horse trials, which is essentially the same as a 3-day eventing show. But they needed 4 days to get all the horses and riders in. The highest level eventing show is a CCI****, and this one also had lower level classes with the CCI*** being the top level. That meant that a lot of big names from around the country (and even some from other nations) were going to compete here. Among them were three of my personal faves. More on that in a minute

Eventing has three components–dressage, cross-country, and stadium jumping. The stadium jumping took place right out the back door of my booth…conveniently! So I was able to sneak out there and get some photos.

The ring before jumps were set up and after. Note all the clouds. This will become important later!

The ring before jumps were set up and after. Note all the clouds. This will become important later!

The show hosts conveniently arranged the vendor row to also border on a portion of the cross country course, so I was able to get over there for a few photos too.

A chunk of the cross country course by the vendor row. It looks complicated and jumbled, but no one horse had to cross all the jumps. They were set up by class level and only the ones in a particular class had to be jumped. The water obstacles were fun to watch.

A chunk of the cross country course by the vendor row. It looks complicated and jumbled, but no one horse had to cross all the jumps. They were set up by class level and only the ones in a particular class had to be jumped. The water obstacles were fun to watch.

 

Cross country near the vendor row. Don't forget those clouds.

Cross country near the vendor row. It looks sunny now, but don’t forget those clouds.

 

And back to the stadium jumping because it was here I was able to get my best shots.

 

Kim Severson, suspended in mid-air and sight-lining her next jump.

Kim Severson, suspended in mid-air and sight-lining her next jump.

 

Katie Ruppel, coincidentally a Facebook friend although I did not meet her personally. Her magic horse Houdini went clear in the stadium jumping.

Katie Ruppel, coincidentally a Facebook friend although I did not meet her personally. Her magic horse Houdini went clear in the stadium jumping.

 

And a perennial winner and favorite, Buck Davidson.

And a perennial winner and favorite, Buck Davidson.

A few words about Buck. The day before the stadium portion he broke a few ribs. He had eight horses to ride, six of them 3* and two others lower levels. I don’t know how he did it. All he said was that he was kind of sore. Click here for full details of his winning ride (yes, he won the 3* with a bunch of busted ribs) and also some good photos of cross country and some bits about how the other riders did.

Up to this point, all was find and dandy. It was now late morning on Sunday, the final day. A bit after noon, word went around that a big bad nasty storm was due to hit in about an hour and we were going to be in the middle of it. We had sort of known the day before that this might happen and show management had moved the cross country start time up by an hour to try to get all the riders in before the deluge. However, as is common in the Midwest, it was still sunny and pleasant but menacingly windy at times. Most of the vendors, myself included, decided to stow anything that might blow away or be damaged by rain and just wait it out. But the storm kept teasing us by not appearing. Two hours later a light rain began. It did not move quickly over us as it turned out to be a rather large weather cell. So the folks who had a lot of helpers just started packing everything up because it would be too late to reopen their booths if and when this thing ever did get finished with us. The Kerrits guy next door had an absolutely huge booth and wouldn’t have been able to dismantle it quickly, and I was in the same boat (terrible pun, but I should have been in a boat). As the storm picked up I worked in my tent packing things up and stowing them in my truck which was parked only about 3 feet from my tent. I finally got to the point where the only task left was to take down the tent. This is where it got messy, not to mention outright dangerous. Until now it had been only heavy rain, no thunder, no lightning. So here I am with three of the four heavy steel legs of my tent removed, and struggling with the fourth one which was being quite stubborn. FLASH! BOOM! RIGHT OVER MY HEAD!!! And I’m HOLDING ONTO A LONG METAL POLE AND STANDING IN A BUNCH OF WATER!!! That was it for me, I made for my truck and attempted to sit in the recommended position of not touching anything in it but the seat I was sitting on. Couldn’t help touching my camera, though.

Deluge. It eventually said goodbye and I was able to finish packing up while doing a very good impersonation of a wet rat.

Deluge. It eventually said goodbye and I was able to finish packing up while doing a very good impersonation of a wet rat.

 

A while back I entered three photos in a contest called “Equine Ideal:2015 Spring Photography Contest”. There were nine categories for entries, in both professional and amateur divisions. I entered three pieces in the amateurs, one in head study, one in extreme action, and one in performance. Then I pretty much forgot about it until yesterday when I saw a Facebook post from a friend announcing two of her photos had placed. So of course I had to look for her winning photos, figuring I hadn’t won anything since no one had notified me, and lo and behold I discovered that I got 4th place in the amateur performance category…right above her 5th and 6th place. That felt a little awkward since I really love both her art and her photos.

So today I got an email from the contest organizers stating that the winners had been announced. Which is why it wasn’t such a surprise anymore. Now that you’ve patiently waded through all my verbiage, here is the 4th place winning photo which I took at the Kentucky Reining Cup Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park this past April.

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.

You can see all the photographs here: http://www.equinephotographycontest.com/winners2015.asp

There’s a lot of wonderful stuff, especially in the professional division. Enjoy!

PS: there were 643 entries from 11 countries and 32 US states…makes me feel appreciated!

Slowly but surely

Charm and I are the tortoise, not the hare–but we are getting there all the same. Here we are at this past weekend’s annual 2-day dressage show at Willow Tree.

Here is Ms Charm doing the perfect square halt--which not surprisingly she declined to do when it was for the judges...

Here is Ms. Charm doing the perfect square halt–which not surprisingly she declined to do when it was for the judges to see…    (photo courtesy Wendy Fisher)

And here’s our collection of weekend swag.

More of the world's most expensive pieces of ribbon.

More of the world’s most expensive pieces of ribbon, but somehow so satisfyingly worth every single penny.

We did quadrille again this year, which accounts for two of the blues. I got the third blue for Training Level Test 3, which I was sure I had flubbed but somehow came out on top of 7 other competitors in the class. The real reward, however, was that this class’s score put us firmly in the 60’s (64.318%) after struggling and stuck in the 50’s last year. We also scored low 60’s in the next class up, First Level Test 2. Gratifying to see that we could still get 60’s in a technically more difficult class. The quadrille, on the other hand, is our star vehicle. Our team of four riders scored in the 80’s, just like last year. Which is truly astounding. It’s judged on many qualities, among them suitability of the music, creativeness and appropriateness of costumes (both horse and human) as they relate to the musical theme, beauty and difficulty of choreography, and accuracy of execution of the movements. The quadrille requires a lot of work on the part of all the participants besides simply riding.

So “St. Willow Tree” smiled on us again by keeping the weather under control–a bit on the warm side the second day but not hot enough for the judge to waive the jacket requirement. Since I like wearing my originally expensive but ultimately tent-sale cheap Pikeur dressage jacket I always appreciate it when the weather cooperates. Now my only job is to get Charm, aka Ms. Sassypants, to cooperate on demand. We know she has the potential to do all the moves, but we still have to convince her that it would be nice if she would do them at other times than just when the mood strikes her. Last year’s piaffe in front of the judge’s stand (because she knew I was asking for forward but deemed the obstacle spooky) is an outstanding example. Back to the journey!

A big of a different look than usual for my booth.

A bit of a different look than usual for my booth…along with a next-door July 4th booth-sitter in patriotic garb.

Half of the "L" section of booths at our outdoor show.

One leg of the “L” section of booths at our outdoor show.

A small miracle took place on July 4th. Near the end of last year I was involved in the formation of a new art organization, Cass Area Artists, in the southwest Michigan and northern Indiana area. One of our fearlessly optimistic members decided that we should host an outdoor arts and crafts show on the next fourth of July. We didn’t even have a website at the time. So we embarked on the mission to set up a website, create a comprehensive set of bylaws for the group, get donations and sponsors, arrange for publicity with local news media, print signage and post cards, publish a call to artists, set up a bank account, finalize a location with one of our sponsors, and get the artists juried in–all in only 6 months.

My personal challenge was to find a way to reorganize my horse portrait booth to accommodate much larger paintings. I knew if the weather was good (totally unpredictable in the Midwest) I could extend my racks out in front of the booth and free up the walls for the larger works. So the watercolors were planned for both sides of the racks and large framed oils to hang from the tent support rails inside. I also had to find a way to display a bunch of watercolors that I matted and shrink-wrapped (note to self: shrink wrapping will work a lot faster with a heat gun than a hair dryer!). I didn’t have a ready-made display bin, so I fudged it with a steel frame originally purposed to hold huge bags of grass clippings and such, and then I took some spare fabric I had and fashioned a sling to fit over the frame. Amazingly, it worked. The curious can sort of see it in the top photo at the right side of the table.

Our fledgling efforts rounded up enough exhibitors to show a variety of products, the sun shone brightly but not too warmly all day, we had a steady stream of visitors through most of the day, and…most importantly…the venue’s automatic sprinklers did NOT come on while we were all perched on the grass! For a first attempt by folks who were working their way through the mechanics of this large of an event, I have to say we did a pretty darn good job. We learned a lot in a very short time, all of which will hopefully be applied to the second annual show next year!

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!

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