Tangled up in time

I started this painting of an eventer probably a year ago. So long ago I can’t remember. Finally finished it up sitting in my booth at the latest Reins of Life benefit show at the end of September. I was somewhat apprehensive about even starting this one, let alone finishing it, because of the general complexity of horse, rider, and background. I got it to my usual “good enough” stage and declared it finished. My only regret is that the act of finishing it reminded me that there will be no more 3-day events at Richland Park–last year was the last one. 😥

Rider number 55, from last year’s Richland Park Horse Trials. Watercolor on Aquabord™.

I had just gotten a start on Sky Pads 19–

Sky Pads 19, background pour and first pass

when three Christmas horse portrait commissions came in. So 19 will have to wait a bit. Since the Christmas paintings are, as usual, a surprise, I can’t show them yet. But I can say that there is a black horse, a white horse, and a brown horse. That just about covers the basic horse colors, right? Maybe a palomino will show up too, who knows…

Posted in Aquabord, art, eventing, exhibit booth, horse portrait, horses, landscape, new horse portrait, oil paintings, Reins of Life, Richland Park, Sky Pads, watercolor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From gas station to gallery

Cass Area Artists, which reaches out to communities in Cass County, Michigan’s southwest corner, and the northwest corner of Indiana, recently landed a super deal with the new owner of a restored service station in the county seat, Cassopolis. The service station had previously been a private museum complete with every authentic piece of merchandise and equipment a Sinclair station would have been expected to possess back in the 1950’s. The owner decided to sell it, sans the collection of antiques, and the new owner bought it as an empty, but in good condition, shell. Here’s a photo of it while the building was still a museum.

The new owner’s intentions for the building serendipitously coincided with the aims of Cass Area Artists–precisely, to foster the arts and community culture in the area. We were therefore able to host the first art show ever in the huge area that previously served as the repair garage. With huge windowed doors, endless windows on three of the four walls, and a wonderful view of neighboring Stone Lake, it provided a lovely airy place for a temporary art gallery. Take a look at our opening day–

We were fortunate to have a steady stream of guests who not only stopped in to look, but also made some purchases. The huge front doors provided a great preview from outside and helped entice people to enter. Most were local residents, which is exactly the audience that Cass Area Artists wants to interact with to promote the arts. But we also had people from Illinois who had come to pick grapes nearby and just happened upon the site.

The owners surprised us with a portable gel fireplace when we arrived to set up. It was a chilly day and the fireplace threw some welcoming warmth into the space. The video I shot wasn’t the best at capturing everything, such as the detail at the end of our member Neil Benham’s incredible wood turned pieces, or the fireplace when lit. So cut me a little bit of slack here while we make do with photographs…

OK, there’s the fire, and the window to the left has the lake view although my phone isn’t the best at capturing complicated lighting. Just know that the light green band across the windows is the treeline at the other side of the lake!

Neil Benham’s unique take on wood turning. I love how he leaves the bark on some of the pieces. Others have natural holes in them which form an intriguing design departure from what is usually offered in this genre. The finish on all the pieces feels like satin! Also gotta love the tree limb business card holder.

OK, had to show off. The six pieces on the left are mine.

You wouldn’t expect windowed walls to work with paintings hanging over them, but we were really pleased with the way it all worked out. The show will be up through October 27, with a special event in the Sinclair station sponsored by the village of Cassopolis to be held on the 25th. More interaction with the community!

Posted in art, Cass Area Artists, exhibit opportunity, gallery show, oil paintings | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Two days in a tent

The weather threatened to derail the outdoor Starving Artists Show in Highwood, Illinois this past weekend, but we got through it with one good day and one semi-soggy one. On Saturday it was sunshine in the morning, until this rolled in–

Strangest hard-edged clouds I’ve ever seen. They rolled in as the prelude to a cloudy, cool rest of the day but no rain. My booth looked great in that morning sun!

It was so pleasant on Saturday that visitors persuaded themselves to buy 5 of my paintings. Sunday was an annoying drizzle but still warm. I spent more time moving my chair inside then back outside as the rain came and went than I did conversing with the diminished crowd. I guess some stayed home because they were afraid they might melt. Nevertheless I sold 4 more on Sunday! I had no particular sales goal in mind, other than “sell as much as I can”. I was pleasantly surprised that I sold so many, all to really enthusiastic folks who took their time deciding in order to make sure they would love their purchase. One amusing gentleman came back three times before he was sure–then bought the most expensive one!

I still have plenty left over, so I entered a similar “bargain art” show in Kalamazoo for next February. That show rejected me this year–we’ll see what they have to say in 2019.

Posted in art, exhibit booth, exhibit opportunity, landscape, oil paintings, sales | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

First Museum Show!!!

Woo-hoo! Sky Pads 11 accepted into the Midwest Museum of American Art regional competition! I can’t tell you how many museum show entries I’ve had rejected (I sometimes think I have enough to wallpaper my studio) but finally, finally…this is the first time!

This is a beautiful museum in Elkhart, Indiana.

My favorite, the “monster” painting, Sky Pads 11 will be going to the Midwest Museum of American Art regional!

Posted in art, exhibit opportunity, gallery show, landscape, museums, oil paintings, Sky Pads | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

I won something… and it wasn’t a raffle

Yesterday was an annual event in Elkhart, Indiana called the Taste of the Gardens. The gardens in question are the Wellfield Botanic Gardens. Lots of good food, lots of live music, and 60 artist/craft vendors including yours truly. I signed up for this event in order to have the most appropriate venue to promote the Sky Pads paintings. Every decent botanic garden has to feature at least a few water lilies.

It started out as a very foggy gray morning, and by 11AM it was still behind schedule for becoming “partly sunny”. This is one of the reasons I really appreciate the skylight feature of my wonderful Trimline booth. Even with a gray day there’s enough light inside to do justice to artwork.

All set up. All by myself. And it only took 3 hours LOL!!!

Now about the “partly sunny” situation. I was thankful later on for a generous supply of large trees as the clouds and fog dispersed and we experienced probably one of the hottest and muggiest days of this summer.

One of the four vendor lanes at Taste of the Gardens. With a lot of trees. This photo was before the event opened. It got quite crowded when the gates opened at 11. Which was great!

I had decided ahead of time to take advantage of all I learned a few months ago at the “how to increase your traffic/sales at an art fair” seminar . One of the strategies was to attract attention by putting one of your best, flashiest, most interesting paintings at the top of the left side of your left tent wall, and the right side of your right wall. For the left side I chose the recent “butterfly/bird” illusion which also featured the poured paint striated texture underneath.

The top left image is important!

The tactic worked perfectly. I had people coming into my booth who said they saw that painting from way down the row! The secondary advantage was that almost everyone tried to figure out how I got the background paint to do what it did, and so I got a great opportunity to discuss that and other aspects of my painting too.

Oh…I remember now. This post is supposed to be about something I won. It was the “Best Overall” award. And best of all, it came with $$$! There were two other awards, one for best booth display, and one for best expression of the gardens. I’ve never been a “best” anything, let alone a “best overall” something. This is pretty incredible. So many thanks to the wonderful folks at Wellfield!

Oh…and I now remember something else. My last dressage show on July 29. I got my first ever Grand Champion ribbon at any dressage show, any level. This one was for first level, and it was a long time coming. Charm and I have been chipping away at first level for four years, mainly because we’re both old and stiff. But one of us seems to be suppling up a bit (the four-legged one). We may start making a tentative stab at second level next year. If Ms. Sassypants continues to think it might be a nice idea.

Posted in art, awards, exhibit booth, exhibit opportunity, landscape, oil paintings, painting techniques, Sky Pads | Tagged , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

And now for something (really!) totally different

Charm and I don’t do so well on the trails, or in strange places such as horse shows not held at the home barn. I can manage her, but I’m not exactly comfortable or sure of myself while doing it. So when the opportunity came up at Willow Tree to take the 2-day “Confidence Course” I jumped–well, not exactly jumped–at the chance to expose both of us to all the things a horse might be likely to encounter on or off the property (wild animals excluded). But there was a fire-breathing dragon…

The course was taught by Sara Lowe, who professionally trains mounted police units all over the country, aside from being a law enforcement officer herself in her home state of Wyoming. She generously agreed to forego the fireworks part for our training 😋. However, she did have flares, smoke bombs, quite a supply of those “party poppers” which she would toss against the arena walls at random moments, and an air horn which she also chose to use randomly as we were trying to negotiate such things as a teeter-totter bridge. Here’s a link to Sara’s business page on Facebook:


And below is a bit of commotion from the second day, just to give an idea of how intense the environment was. We slowly built up to this level so that we could always be successful at each step. Wendy, our barn manager, is describing some of the stuff that’s going on. There were 12 of us all together, which by itself made for a lot of commotion. The dragon is off to the right behind the scary bubble machine. It had a glowing red fabric tongue that floated out from its mouth. Charm stood there and let it bump against her nose.

The dragon…photo courtesy of Sara Lowe

There were two very big things missing from this video: 1) the road flares which were lit and placed a few feet apart are hard to see behind some horses–look carefully to center left side about 10 seconds from the end; and 2) one of those huge air-powered “blow-up” men like you see at car dealers was set up a bit later. That thing went up into the rafters and down again, over and over, besides being really noisy. After I let her watch a while from a distance I parked Charm under it, it went up and down right over her head, and she completely ignored it. 🦄

In the video Charm and I are standing in the middle of the ring. She’s the chestnut with the crooked blaze. I am the only one wearing a helmet for ground work the second day. And glad I was–there were a lot of excited whirling horses out there, along with owners who were concentrating so hard on their horses they forgot they were not the only creatures out there!


This is Desi, not Charm of course. But the capture of the bubbles is perfect.

This bubble machine was the bane of almost every horse. Charm hated it, but eventually managed to walk through the bubbles if she could keep about 5 feet away from the actual machine. It was even worse when the bubbles began to stack up in a mound on the ground. You would think that Michigan horses who had been around snow all their lives would not be intimidated by a few bubbles blowing around and landing on the floor. But they all must have gotten together and agreed that these weird floating things didn’t belong in the indoor arena.

Leading Charm “from behind” through the pool noodles.

On the first day we started with the most preliminary of basics, learning to get control of the horse’s shoulders and hips on the ground. In order to be safe, we have to be able to quickly and easily move the front end and the back end of the horse where we want it to go. We also have to teach the horse that we humans have a personal “space bubble” that they are not allowed to enter unless invited; this will keep them from pushing into our space if they get anxious. Once these ideas were presented, we worked on them and then went on to the concept of “leading from behind”. The purpose is to make it the horse’s idea to negotiate the obstacles. We could lead them as most people do from the front, but if we do then they are following us and not building their own sense of courage. We open a generous loop of lead rope to the side, inviting them to go through the “door” we have created, while keeping our own bodies back at the saddle area with the other end of the rope over the saddle or behind the cantle, depending on how well we’re negotiating the route at any point. If we get stuck at an obstacle we can always give a little twirl with the end of the rope from behind to get the idea of “forward” across. We always encourage from behind, not pulling from the front. By presenting all the obstacles from the ground, the horse learns to negotiate them by himself and will be more willing to do the same when we ask from the saddle.

Charm heading down the teeter totter after it shifted sides.

Charm negotiated the teeter totter a lot better from the saddle than from the ground. It took a few passes on the ground to convince her to stay on the bridge–she seemed to think that she could just leave it at any moment. Which she could have, but that wasn’t the point! The downside to that was she threw a shoe coming off the edge. However, it didn’t mess up her hoof and the arena sand is quite soft so we carried on minus a right front shoe.

When we mounted up, the obstacles were in a path along the ring walls and up through the center line. Sara taught us the basics of mounted patrol drill team commands and had us ride in single file and sometimes pair formations. She also wanted us to keep a distance such that we could see only half of the tail of the horse ahead of us through our horse’s ears as we went over the obstacles. That got quite interesting as we passed over the teeter-totter because the horse ahead wasn’t always clear when the next horse stepped on. I think Wendy missed that part of the instruction, but here’s a clip of her making fun of us for “cheating” by stepping on the bridge too soon! I guess that’s the tradeoff for her services as an unpaid videographer. Final evaluation of the two-day course: Worth every last penny! Highly recommend!

Posted in horses, riding clinic, trail riding | Tagged , | 6 Comments

18 down, ? to go

Floating or cascading? Sky Pads 18

Finished this one a couple of days ago but let it sit just to “make sure”. Then photographed it last night. I had a lot of trouble getting rid of the shiny glare until I remembered that I neglected to put the soft umbrellas on my lights. Sometimes I can’t believe how many routine things that make your life easier, say in photography for instance, that I forget when it’s not something I do every day. Solution: up the pace of painting production. Likelihood of that happening. zero!

Exhibit update: I received an invitation (via a recommendation from a local artist friend) to exhibit Sky Pads at the Niles District Library in Niles, Michigan in September. One wouldn’t expect a library (think dark rows of bookshelves) to be a welcoming spot for an art exhibit, but this library is outstanding. It has tons of glass, beautiful light, large open spaces, and long open walls. Also lots of foot traffic. Perfect! Stay tuned for some lovely gallery photos of the latest Sky Pads pieces next month!

Posted in art, exhibit opportunity, gallery show, landscape, light, oil paintings, photography challenges, Sky Pads | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments