Bodacious Jenny

Bodacious Jenny! Wishing her a long healthy career at Reins of Life Therapeutic Riding Center!

Thankfully I was able to get my rear in gear and finish this one. I must remind myself not to use this particular type of canvas again, though. I usually use gallery-wrap ready-made canvases from that ubiquitous art supply store, Dick Blick. The canvas on these ready-mades takes my painting style easily and doesn’t care that I’m putting on a bunch of thin layers of paint in total contrariness to the usual rules of oil paint. However, I had an old portrait that I used to use in my booth but had retired when better stuff came along. So I took that canvas off and stretched a new piece over the old bars. For some reason I chose to use what I had left over from a huge project several years ago, and that canvas has a lot of what we call “tooth” to it. It’s way more on the textured side than the smooth side. I discovered when I got to the dark areas of the painting that this canvas just did not want to let my thin paint sink to the bottom of the texture. As a result, I had all kinds of little pinpoint white spots showing through, no matter how many times I tried to go over the dark areas. So I ended up taking a small brush, loading it with paint, and pushing it into all those little spots. Tedious, but pretty much got the job done. What’s left is not distracting so I can live with that.


And now for something a little different.

And now for something a little different.

Way, way back when, I did a series of 16 paintings of lotus leaves. By the time I got to number 16 I was pretty much done with that subject. Now, about 25 years later, as I was sitting on my little dock on the pond this summer I took some photos and noticed that the water lily pads in the pond seemed to be floating in the reflections of the clouds. The result is a stack of photos suitable for another series which I am starting with the painting above. This is only a washed-in background which will influence the way the painting goes but will probably not be noticeable in the finished work. This background is totally random, and was created by brushing some paint on the canvas (quite large, at 32″ x 48″) and then dribbling turpentine over the paint and letting it travel where it wanted. The circle in the center is the result of a low spot in the stretched canvas where the turpentine eventually settled. Will have to make sure the canvas is nice and tight before doing the next step.

Little Jenny about half way to the finish line.

Little Jenny about half way to the finish line.

Yes, it’s painfully true. I have been a sluggard (is that a word?) the past couple of weeks. However, there has been progress. The background is done, just need to put the rest of the foreground in now that I’ve finished the front legs. Got some main and tail done too, and a bit of hindquarters. Hopefully the rest of it will just sort of roll off my brushes.

On another note…a historical “first”. I entered four of my Orange series landscapes in a show coming up at The Next Picture Show gallery in Dixon, Illinois (that’s about an hour west of Chicago). Up till now, these juried shows have always selected one or two of my multiple entries, but this time they picked all four. Astounded, yes, I am! In case you’re new to my blog, here are the four lucky entries:

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

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


"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, 36″ x 46″


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

“Michigan Orange Frost”–oil on canvas, 26″ x 32″

First pass on a lovely Gypsy Vanner

First pass on a lovely Gypsy Vanner mare named Jenny

This painting does and will encompass various encounters with the word “perhaps”. Perhaps I would never have thought to do it if a very enthusiastic but elusive prospective client had not told me about her husband’s passion for Gypsy Vanner horses. Perhaps I would never have located the horse if she hadn’t reminded me that the mare had been won in a contest by Reins of Life Therapeutic Riding Centers, for which if you have followed me for long you know I provide both economic and promotional support. Perhaps I would not have had permission to photograph Jenny if I had not built up personal relationships with the horse’s trainer and with the staff of Reins of Life.

So here is the start of the painting, constructed from photos I took a couple of weeks ago as Jenny was being longed by her trainer. For once, perhaps, I had the foresight to photograph some scenic pasture backgrounds while I was there! Courtesy of Photoshop I removed the halter and longe line and transported Miss Jenny to this fall-color pasture, which was at the opposite end of the property where she was having her training session.

Now for the ultimate “perhaps”. When I finish this painting, perhaps I can make contact with my elusive maybe-client and persuade her to realize that she really, really wants this painting. This is one of those cases where someone is initially totally enthusiastic at a show, and then kind of disappears. I couldn’t ask her for a deposit at the time because I wasn’t sure I would be able to photograph the horse. But no matter what happens, I have to thank her for spurring me into action to arrange the photo session and “git ‘er done”.

Phil’s Ponies

If you read my previous post you are probably wondering if almost three weeks later I am able to un-cross my eyes. The answer is yes, although I must say that trying three different pairs of hard contact lenses in the time didn’t help matters much. Still working on the lenses, but at least this portrait is complete. Here’s a little tour of the project from the original photo to the finish.

The reference photo was taken on the sly by the intended recipient’s daughter. She was back at the old home place in Connecticut for a little vacation and wanted a present for her father, but didn’t want him to know what was up. She couldn’t just remove the photo from the house, so she sneaked a snapshot of it with her cell phone. Not the best way to get a nice square well-lit picture, but at least it was a picture….

Original reference photo--a photo of a photo taken on a cell phone

Original reference photo–a photo of a photo taken on a cell phone

It’s pretty obvious that this photo has some problems, among them glare from the glass that covered the original, harsh lighting obscuring a lot of the detail, and uncertainty as to the actual color of the horses. First problem to tackle was straightening up this photo and getting it to the size proportions needed to fit a 5″ x 7″ Aquabord™.

The cell phone photo after it was straightened up and flattened out in Photoshop.

The cell phone photo after it was straightened up and flattened out in Photoshop.

I needed to add some Photoshop foliage to the top of the picture to fill in the space in the 5″ x 7″ format. That was probably the easiest part of the entire process. Next came the drawing, which was where my eyes went buggy. You (or I) look at this photo and think, well, I see all the detail quite clearly. It’s a whole different matter when trying to reproduce that detail that your eye thinks you saw before you had to actually recreate it–especially in the dark areas. I tried every which way to lighten this up in Photoshop so I could perhaps see some of what was going on the the dark areas, but I ended up (after much procrastination) just winging it from the eyeball down to the nose of the front horse. Here’s the painting pre-eyeball…

How I spent two days at Reins of Life benefit dressage show. Obviously not done yet.

See anything that looks like a clear drawing in the eye area? Me neither.

I had to query my client about the true color of these horses. The photo looks awfully red and I was suspicious that this color was not realistic. She described a color as sort of a palomino trending toward liver chestnut. Fortunately I’ve seen so many of these “ponies” that the description brought up a color instantly to my mind. It’s more like a buff-brown with some golden highlights (oh yeah, easy for me to say), so I played with a few watercolor mix combinations till I thought I got it fairly right…

Final result and time to rest my eyes...

Final result and time to rest my eyes…


And so, mission accomplished. It goes to my client as soon as the varnish is dry. She upped the gift-giving deadline to Thanksgiving but fortunately we more than beat that time.

How I spent two days at Reins of Life benefit dressage show. Obviously not done yet.

How I spent two days at Reins of Life benefit dressage show. Obviously not done yet. Watercolor on Aquabord™.

Just when I thought I had sworn off harness…a commission! This past Saturday and Sunday Reins of Life held its second benefit dressage show of the season and unlike last year, I sat in my booth instead of on a horse and had plenty of time to get this painting this far along. The two horses in the painting were pulling ponies–not actually ponies, just smaller than your large draft pulling horses. Here’s a pulling contest:pulling-contest They were shown by the father of a friend of mine. She wants this as a Christmas gift, so who am I to complain about too much harness? The original photo is somewhat dark and blurry, so I’m hoping nobody will really notice the fudge factor when I make up something I can’t see clearly. My reference is a photo of the original photo–taken surreptitiously with a cell phone so that the recipient wouldn’t know something was up. I’ll post the reference photo along with the finished painting when it’s done.

Another “unveiling”

Remember this?

Remember this?

The “giftee” returned from abroad this month and received the stall plaque for her horse, Ekko–so now I can reveal what the horse looks like. This stall plate is different from previous ones in that it is a head portrait instead of the whole horse running freely. As an amusing side note, I had to recreate the tips of his ears for his portrait because they were missing in the original reference photo! I was particularly pleased at how well the background came out. It can be tricky trying to recreate in oil paint what a camera lens does so nicely–“bokeh”, or that lovely blurred effect. So, here you go–

"Ekko", oil and acrylic on pine board

“Ekko”, oil and acrylic on pine board

Two blues, a pink, and a pink-purple-blue foot.

Two blues, a pink, and a pink-purple-blue foot.


I can thank Charm for all of the above. We won in the musical freestyle quadrille class and Training Level test 3, then flamed out fifth out of five in the First Level test 2. Interesting side note–our losing score was higher than our winning score in Training and First Level. Different judges in each class. We nailed it in quadrille, which we always do. Judges just can’t resist the “Rockin’ Riders”, and we got a 79 (that’s huge) this time around. Here’s a photo from our performance this past July at Willow Tree–

Charm and I are on the far left. Our skirts were supposed to flare out behind us, but depending on the wind they didn't always do that. They have spangly guitars and musical notes on them.

Charm and I are on the far left. Our skirts were supposed to flare out behind us, but depending on the wind they didn’t always do that. They have spangly guitars and musical notes on them.


As for the multicolored foot, I can thank Charm for that. Right before our first ride of the day she saw something irresistible and didn’t care if I was in the way of her getting a better view of it. Fortunately it didn’t affect my riding ability but it did make walking a bit problematical. There are some folks out there who bemoan the roominess of Mountain Horse Victoria riding boots but I like them and in this case they turned out to be my best friend. As for my second-best friend (Ms Sassypants when she’s naughty) I only wish there were some way I could repay her for being a pain in the foot…


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