A bit more than meets the eye

This one is not quite like the others…

I’ve been working on several layers of this painting but at first glance it doesn’t look like it. There are already three layers on the green foreground–orange, yellow and green. The tree trunks have four–yellow, brown, and two coats of “almost” black. The roof and trim of the cottage are yellow, green, brown, and blue. The sky is the only element that is one single transparent layer. At least so far.

The green foreground will need at least a couple more layers to get it to a nice rich darker grassy green. This will form the base for the layers of fall leaves on top of it. I’m aiming for an effect of depth with the leaves piled on top, but in some spots it will be nice to see the grass poking through to give that illusion of depth. The lighting is coming more or less directly at the viewer, so the leaves will be brighter where the yellow areas of grass are.

As for the leaves still on the trees, there will be significant patches of sky showing through the leaf clusters. But the sun coming from the direction behind the house and trees has the effect of bleaching out the sky, which is why it’s a pale transparent layer.

All that sounds really cool, right? Just gotta find a good way to execute it!

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Short interruption for some swag

Ribbons & “stuff”!

OK, enough about painting for a couple of minutes. I belong to two dressage GMO’s (group member organizations) and at the end of each year they give out awards for that year’s show season. So—

Champion high point for Quadrille

Champion high percentage for Quadrille

Reserve Champion high point for Adult Amateur First Level Test 3

Reserve Champion high percentage for Adult Amateur First Level Test 3

The quadrille award showered on its four members ribbons and a very nice insulated zippered bag, along with an also very nice stainless coffee travel mug. Both of which I can use, especially at horse shows!

The First Level award gave me some more really colorful ribbons for my very expensive ribbon collection LOL! Many thanks to GLASS-ED (Great Lakes Area Show Series–Educational Dressage) for providing the show opportunities and the chance to learn ever more with each of those opportunities!

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Number 3 in the start gate

Yes, I know “start gate” is a silly metaphor for a house, but I stand by my contention that “house” is only one letter away from “horse” and therefore I should be able to use it with equine abandon.

Drawing for the third version of Carroll Cottage

I had to take a brief “vacation” (NOT) when I had shoulder repair surgery on October 25, so I’m now getting pretty good use of the affected limb back and got this drawing done in a couple of sessions. Trying to do shorter sessions so as not to overwork the bum shoulder. Anyhow, this will be an autumn rendition, and you don’t see much indication of leaves here because they will be splotched throughout the trees and piled high on the lawn areas.

The angles of this series of paintings keep moving inexorably to the left, which has nothing to do with politics but a lot to do with the position of the sun in the fall. In the original photo the sun was shining brightly through these trees directly towards the camera. I had positioned myself so the sun fireball itself was behind the biggest tree in the foreground and I could get nice highlights on the ground. The down side was that the trees were still quite green. So I returned several weeks later on a cloudy day (we had a long stretch of those and I knew with the shoulder rehab I would not get back anytime soon assuming the sun did eventually decide to reappear) and got some color, with a lot of the tree branches making nice patterns and a shallow layer of leaves on the ground.

Although I tried my best to match the angles, they did turn out slightly different. A main consideration was to be able to include a slice of the lake (lower right hand area) in this painting too. So in the drawing I moved a couple of trees slightly to give myself more room for the water and the structures along the far shore. I am going to assume that none of my client’s family has memorized every angle and position of those trees…


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“Starting a New Life”

This is the title of the mural in my town of Dowagiac, Michigan which I have been occasionally posting about all summer. It is now complete, and was officially dedicated to the city and accepted by the Mayor last Saturday. Here’s a wide shot of it to give you an idea of the size–it covers a wall below the parking lot of the post office.

I put together a little movie I shot as I walked along the length of it, with some subtitles to explain the illustrations. Feel free to pause the movie at any time, as it’s a little hectic trying to read and look at the images at the same time.

Here’s the story as detailed in the brochures distributed at the dedication:

In the mid-1800’s, homeless, orphaned children roamed the streets of New York City. In 1853, Charles Loring Brace founded the Children’s Aid Society to care for the children. Brace came up with an idea to send the children west on trains to new families (Michigan, at that time, was part of the western U.S.). The Children’s Aid Society sent the first train of 46 children west in September 1854 with one destination–Dowagiac, Michigan.

After an arduous journey of two train and two boat rides (including one across Lake Erie), the children arrived safely in Dowagiac. Over the course of several days, 37 of the children were taken in by local families. This experiment led to 75 years of Orphan Trains placing out 250,000 children across the continental United States. Not all children had positive experiences, but many children got a new start on life.

“Starting a New Life” honors the first trip to Dowagiac and the subsequent 75 years of Orphan Train journeys.

“Starting a New Life” is made possible in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Oh oh oh–so excited!

Yes, me super excited. That almost never happens. But I’m 99.9% sure this painting is complete, and I won’t even go into all the second thoughts I had about it as I was working on it which led me to be ecstatic that it turned out so well.

Just so nobody loses confidence in me, it’s a regular occurrence for me to think I don’t know what I’m doing right in the middle of a painting. That they turn out fine in the end doesn’t mitigate future anxiety in the least. Every painting is an adventure for me, even if (or maybe especially if) it’s similar to one I’ve done before. I always forget how I got some neat effect and then have to reinvent the wheel. In this case I forgot which brushes I used to get those nice overhanging trees. I did figure it out before I got past the point of no return, though.

So, here you go! Carroll Cottage #2:

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Short and sweet

It’s moving along

Several more layers on this one, especially on the tree trunks and the house. Tree trunks probably have four layers–took that many to get a good “bark” look. Will be tackling the foliage next.

I visited the cottage a few days ago about an hour before sunset and stuck around to see what kind of light I would get in that hour. The trees are still stubbornly refusing to get fall color, but I did get a nice atmospheric shot that will be outstanding when we do get some color. All I have to do is make sure I get the same angle when it counts. No problem, right?

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Sun dance vs rain dance

If you were to look back over several years of my posts about the Reins of Life benefit dressage shows, you would notice a consistent theme having to do with rain on show days. This year threatened to be the same until, in stereotypical Midwestern weather fashion, it wasn’t. The sun shone brightly for both days this past weekend and the temperatures were ideal. So, let’s go outside and see a bit of what was going on.

We’ll start with Western Dressage. This show had quite a few WDAA competitors, and Western is an up and coming popular activity. Some dressage trainers don’t like it, thinking that the horses are still being ridden in too much of a Western Pleasure style–in other words, not getting the true benefits of dressage. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how that shakes out in the future.

Here are some shots from my phone (ugh) because I didn’t feel like dragging my heavy SLR around. Should have suffered the weight for better photos!

The old-fashioned Western walk

“Stretch-ier” Western walk

Still looks amusing to me to see a Western rider in a helmet and saluting the judge…

They called it a lope in the test, but this looks to me like a nice canter

The regular dressage classes at this show seemed to have a peculiar requirement–you must have a gray horse in order to enter. Kidding of course, but I saw more grays than I ever have, and the only way I could tell these two apart–as an example–is because one rider wore tan breeches and the other wore white.

One gray/white

One gray/tan

In honor of the grays, or perhaps just because I felt like it, I worked on a dressage-themed Aquabord™ watercolor featuring a (sunbleached?) gray while I sat in my portrait booth.

I titled this Aquabord™ “Anticipation”. Should be available on my website shortly–www.allifarkas.com

Oh yes, and speaking of the booth–

The booth for all occasions

There is something missing with this booth–as in, a roof perhaps? The best part about those mesh panels I won a while back is that they get almost everything off my table and also allow me to hang a whole lot more oil portrait samples on the walls. I decided to see what would happen if I brought the tent indoors but didn’t put the roof on it. After all, it wasn’t supposed to rain indoors. So it worked perfectly without the roof and the mesh panels did their usual stellar job of getting passersby to hang out longer looking at my stuff. The Reins of Life director, who always does her best to accommodate me, also had a little surprise after I set up the booth. See the corner of that table in the lower left portion of the photo? She used the table to put the score sheets and winners ribbons out for pickup by the competitors, thus insuring that almost everyone at the show had to pass by my display sooner or later. The score sheets were also oriented so that the winners had to be facing my booth when they picked up their results. It was wonderful!

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