Category Archives: Horse Racing Paintings

A Portrait’s Journey; Painting the Pharoah

I’ve been chomping at the bit (see what I did there?) to get around to painting American Pharoah, Triple Crown and Breeder’s Cup Classic winner, and the 2015 Horse of the Year. Now with the holidays long behind, and my schedule finally clearing, it was time.

Pondering on it for a few months, I had long ago decided to start with the most basic, traditional of poses… the classic head shot. Sticking with the comfortable & familiar the first time out of the gate allows me to get my feet wet and become more in tune with the subject. And yes, that means I do have plans for other paintings of the first Grand Slam winner in horse racing history, stay tuned!

Photo Reference

American Pharoah the day after winning the 2015 Breeder's Cup Classic.
American Pharoah

The first order of business is chosing the reference photo. I decided on one I took at Keeneland the day after he won the Classic. While the lighting was rather poor due to a dark, overcast day, it had enough information and an appealing enough angle to make it a good fit for a traditional style portrait. I’m not gonna lie, I toyed with including Bob Baffert with his stylish headband in the painting, but then I decided that image would stand out WAY better as a painting all on it’s own, maybe double life sized or bigger – but that’s all for another day when I try out a Peb inspired shift in style ;).

Sketch

Sketch on Canvas
Sketch on Canvas

After working up a sketch from the photo, I’ve transferred it to the canvas. Now is the time to make some hard decisions. This and the underpainting stage (next) are the best opportunities to lock down any changes. There is much greater clarity on what will and won’t work once it’s on the canvas and it’s much easier to adjust and change things at this stage. So after looking at it for a while I’m not sure about the halter. It’s a constant dilemma, some horses look amazing and some not so much in a halter or bridle, this one could go either way. If he had been facing the other way it I would lean more towards keeping the halter as the gold name plaque is usually on the left side of the bridle, and while I could “flip” the direction, I really wanted to show his mane (horses are pretty consistent on which side their mane lays, sort of like a person always having their hair parted on the right). It’s standard in thoroughbred farms to see horses in these classic leather halters, and they look good, but a horse like this also stands so well on his own, naked as a jaybird. There’s a certain dignity and prestige in showing him “au naturel”, so I opted for that.

Underpainting

Underpainting

It’s not something I always use, but an underpainting is a wonderful tool for the artist. It’s sort of a map, a (very) rough black and white layout of the values in a piece. Sometimes they are toned in muted colors opposite of the subject (for me a blue/greenish tone works for most horses, the Old Master’s used a green for people). It sounds strange, but since paint layers are always slightly and imperceptibly transparent, light bounces through them in a way that scientific people can better explain and this creates a sense of depth. There’s many variations of this technique, some more complicated than others, but they all have a use, for both the experienced artist and the beginner needing some guidance. This is also the point where I’ve tested the look without a halter, and I’m satisfied enough to continue without it.

Bring in the Color…

Now the real fun begins, at least until I hit the (or one of many) ugly stage, then back to fun again – it’s that roller coaster ride that seems pretty universal to artists. Those that master surviving the ugly stage will go far. But this is MY playground, my own little universe in which to play God, and I am drunk with the power, or perhaps it’s that second glass of wine.

I start by building up the neck. I always work left to right since I’m right handed, if I work the other way I end up wearing half the painting on my right sleeve, in spite of trying to make good use of my mahl stick.

I’ve worked in the basic shapes, tones and value…

Then I start refining areas and adjusting blends and tones…

Now I’m getting it close to finished, a final tightening of the details and finishing of the overall horse along with adding a background is all that’s needed…

And here is the finished painting, as done as it gets for me (if I could I would probably work on certain pieces forever). I think one under appreciated skill that an artist develops is knowing when it’s finished… it’s harder than it sounds, though some paintings helpfully cry “DONE”, with a painful few scream “Get your hands off my you untalented hack!”. This one hit the sweet spot where I really couldn’t find anything else to work on.

American Pharoah

 

Falling in Love With Kentucky, Again! (Part 2)


If you haven’t already, read Part 1 here!

Back to the Painting

Friday and Saturday after our trip to Keeneland were spent building the underpainting while watching the Breeder’s Cup. Aside from a break to watch the big event, the Breeder’s Cup Classic, it was a two day painting marathon. Witnessing the history that was made that day by American Pharoah, even just on TV, was a powerful moment. To experience this in the heart of Old Louisville, minutes from Churchill Downs and an hour from the Breeder’s Cup itself while painting a racehorse… priceless!

Saturday evening the client returned from attending the days Breeder’s Cup races, and after some time spent basking in what had just happened in the sport of horse racing, we turned to the painting. I then made the one suggestion that would kick the fun factor with this piece up quite a few notches… “how about we make this horse American Pharoah”? At it’s current underpainting phase, the details that needed changing were negligible, and I don’t know of any horse that I wanted to paint more at that moment. The client agreed, and we were off to the races!

Really not much of a stretch to turn this into the "Pharoah"!
Really not much of a stretch to turn this into the “Pharoah”!

The Day After: Meeting the “Pharoah” At Last!

So with the final plans of the painting settled on and ready to implement, we took the opportunity to head out in the wee hours to see if there was any chance to get a peek at the big guy, the Champ, American Pharoah.

Unlike the previous three days, Keeneland was a ghost town. We were able to park right near the Breeder’s Cup barn area, and having received some inside info on which barn he was stabled in we easily found the right spot… it was where a growing crowd of press and photog’s were gathering. Eventually, a car pulled up and owner Ahmed Zayat and his family emerged, and took a moment to revel with the crowd over yesterday’s victory. Then, as anticipation was at it’s peak, there was a commotion down the row at bit, as Bob Baffert, American Pharoah’s trainer and hometown boy-done-good for Southern Arizona (U of AZ graduate, started his career at our humble track Rillito) brought him out through a different door… sneaky bugger!

American Pharoah, with the famed "Look of Eagles".
American Pharoah, with the famed “Look of Eagles”.

He was everything he’s been billed to be… calm even when surrounded by the crowds, yet engaged and interested in all the attention he could get! You wouldn’t guess by his demeanor what he’d just accomplished a day ago. I have to make a confession, I actually passed on the opportunity to pet him, the crowd was too thick and I dare not miss a moment of photo taking, and even I can’t paint a “touch” ;)!

American Pharoah; Attention Hog!
American Pharoah; Attention Hog!

My husband, Lemorris, long since separated from me somewhere on the other side of the crowd (normally slow moving and easy to find, I can be hard to keep up with when there are horses around), did not hesitate at the chance to touch the Pharoah and made contact with the big guy’s soft muzzle. I’ll admit to being a bit jealous, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I got some nice images and am already working on painting idea’s (yes, that’s plural). Bonus, Lemorris’ arm (holding his cell phone) can be seen photobombing many pictures, not just mine, including one by Barbara Livingston used in a Blood Horse article (here). It’s his blue sleeve that stands out…

American Pharoah - the blue sleeve is my husband's photobombing arm.
American Pharoah – the blue sleeve is my husband’s photobombing arm.

You can see many of the better photos I got got in my American Pharoah album:

Finishing the Painting

Pumped up even more than ever to get to work on this piece after meeting the subject, we returned and I got down to another painting marathon. Fortunately there was no shortage of images to help me get details like the tack and silks right. Working over the next three days, this piece was like riding a bike downhill with a back wind pushing you forward.

At first I worked on making little changes to the details (tack, rider’s gear, etc), including his trademark perked ears and chewed off tail (both of which I adore). Then I started building color in transparent layers…

Starting with color in the Zayat silks.
Starting with color in the Zayat silks.

The finished piece will look great on the wall it going to hang on. At the clients suggestion, I varnished only the horse with a gloss finish, leaving the rest matte… enhancing the impact. Unfortunately none of the photo’s do it much justice, so you’ll have to trust that it looks much better in person.

American Pharoah - Finished!
American Pharoah – Finished!

The Reward for Completion

Not that a carrot on a stick was needed, but mine was a trip to Churchill Downs Wednesday before leaving the Bluegrass at O’ Dark Thirty the next morning. Things didn’t start out like we had hoped… apparently they don’t allow public access for morning workouts (except for Derby week, the last time I was there), so we headed across the street to what had become our go-to breakfast joint… Wagner’s.

Wagner's PHarmacy, Louisville, Kentucky
Wagner’s, Churchill Down’s staple… good old school breakfast and lunch!

Directly facing the backside entrance for the track and with a large dirt parking lot filled with horse trailers, Wagner’s is THE place… a down to earth, old school blue collar eatery (and Pharmacy), opened back in 1922. With every exposed wall space adorned with endless Derby win and racing photo’s, this place embraces it’s connection to it’s neighbor. But, as it turns out, it doesn’t open until 8 am… for breakfast… near a racetrack! Oh well, on to our other regular stop for an awesome cup o’ joe… Sunergos.

Churchill Downs
Churchill Downs

We got to Churchill Downs later on just before the races, and being the first time my husband had been there, it was fun to re-explore, and easy on a quiet day like a Wednesday. This track is amazing, and after Keeneland the difference in size was tangible. It was also nice to see a full page ad in the program with my Woodford Reserve label. After a nice afternoon watching the races under the twin spires, we headed back to the house to prepare to head to our next destination… Florida.

Florida Bound

We flew out early enough the next morning that we arrived in Tampa hours before banks opened. It was nice to see the sun again as I’ll begrudgingly admit (as much as I complain about it in the desert). We drove inland to Dade City, where the humongous VW show, Bug Jam, would get to experience the unique presence of my automotive aritst husband, Lemorris, the feature artist and creator of a shirt design that had already been selling like hotcakes long before the show…

Hot selling Bug Jam "Bug Wars" Shirt Design by Lemorris.
Hot selling Bug Jam “Bug Wars” Shirt Design by Lemorris.

Little Everglades Ranch

That same afternoon, the Bug Jam organizer and “Head Honcho” Randy was kind enough to arrange a private tour with the owners of a beautiful property called Little Everglades, up until recently home of steeplechase racing, as well as fox hunting, a working cattle ranch, mud run’s and many other fun events and purposes. There were only a few horses on site, but the facility was amazing, and seemingly endless. Our hosts were more than gracious; it was like we’d just met old friends, I can’t wait to have some paintings from their place to share with them! Besides the neverending cattle dotting the rolling hills, we saw many different types of water fowl, a few Sherman Fox Squirrels, and (a highlight for my husband, at least as long as he was safe in the car) an alligator!

Steeplechase course at Little Everglades Ranch - wish I could have seen the races here!
Steeplechase course at Little Everglades Ranch – wish I could have seen the races here!
Alligator in Florida
Alligator in Florida

The Mighty Bug Jam

The next two days it was all Bug Jam… a cornucopia of cool events like a camp-out, cruise and poker run. On Friday afternoon, downtown Dade City streets were closed accommodate all the cars that arrived from the cruise, and then everyone headed over to the fairgrounds for a great multi-band concert. On Sunday, the actual car show (the main event) had anywhere from 700 to a gajillion cars (or at least more that I was able to see before my feet gave out). It was a visual feast of creatively where the medium was a volkswagen… all the colors, accessories, and sheer brilliance of presentation fed all the senses!

bugjam_1
Bug Jam!!

They Lost Me at “Oh Look… Horses!!”

Of course once the the local sheriff’s posse showed up on horseback… I succumbed to a more narrow focus. “Volkswagen’s? What Volkswagen’s?” I talked with some of the deputy’s for a while about horses and American Pharoah, and even forgot about the humidity for awhile. Did I mention the humidity? Sweat apparently doesn’t evaporate in Florida, it just accumulates and hangs on you like a bad haircut. Aside from that, though, the weather was amazing… OK, a bit hot (upper 80’s), but once again… SUN!

Horse make everything better!
Horses make everything better!

Epilogue

After two days of being on our feet enjoying all these events, we were both starting to show some wear and tear. So as the show wound down and all the cars started rumbling off into the sunset, we said our goodbye’s and hobbled our way to the car, heading back to Tampa to spend the night in a hotel near the airport (we were flying out of Tampa ridiculously early the next morning). We checked in, grabbed some fast food and slowly hobbled like the walking wounded that we were up to our room, and completely passed out for the night. It was our 24th anniversary, and after a trip like that I’d have to say this’ll be hard to top for number 25!

[hr color=”black” width=”70%” border_width=”8″ ]

Reminder…

Visit my Specials page for awesome Holiday Deals, including a great Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday 60% off in my Etsy Store Nov. 27-30, 2015!

Falling in Love With Kentucky, Again! (Part 1)

The Opportunity Arises

It was the kind of commission I would have dreamed about as a fledgling equine artist; a valued client wants a large mural sized piece painted on location in Louisville, Kentucky. What to do? Well, for starters… plan it in autumn (or as we call it here in Arizona… summer) during the Breeder’s Cup, conveniently to be held for the first time ever at Keeneland in nearby Lexington, then make haste to hop on a plane with paint brushes in tow! So started our 2 week lateral trip from the southwest to the south, including over a week in Kentucky, followed up by a visit to Florida!

Typical homes in Old Louisville.
Typical homes in Old Louisville.

The Setting

Old Louisville is the largest contiguous collection of Victorian mansions in the United States, which means it’s an amazing wonderland of old houses and large, ancient trees adorned with full on fall color. The whole area is positively dripping with character and class. There’s also a prestigious Art Fair held every fall at St. James Court, the heart of Old Louisville that includes notable historic buildings like the Conrad-Caldwell House. I’ll most certainly be looking into that event. The fact that all this was located less than three miles from Churchill Downs just added to the mystique. It was also the first time I’d experienced “real” autumn in over 30 years, bringing back fond memories of my childhood in Minnesota (perhaps if I’d had any “adulthood” in Minnesota the autumn and winter memories would be less fond)!

St. James Court in Old Louisville.
St. James Court in Old Louisville.
The Conrad-Caldwell House on St. James Court in Old Louisville.
The Conrad-Caldwell House on St. James Court in Old Louisville.

Getting Set Up to Paint

First thing we tackled almost right off the plane was to head over and pick up the 4’ x 6’ canvas I’d had on hold at a local art store. Even though I’d reserved a mid sized car, it was very fortuitous that they instead, at no extra charge, gave us a much roomier Ford Edge crossover. We arrived at Preston’s Art Center to retrieve the canvas, and immediately felt right at home. It had the comforting feel of a cozy hometown art store cluttered with fun art stuff, like a heaping slice of home cooking for us. 

The house.
THE house.

The Temporary Studio

The house itself was a beautiful, grand old red brick piece of history. My working space was in the basement, while we’d be sleeping way up on the 3rd floor. Our joints were quickly reminded how unaccustomed to stairs we were, having lived in Arizona 30ish years where most homes are only one story (no basements. either).  The basement was very comfortable, with a large TV that picked up TVG so I could keep up with racing… and the perfect chair (hint: I want one – see photo below). It also featured walls lined with colorfully lit shelves inset into the wall to showcase expensive bottles of bourbon and other libations. One of these alcove’s, of course, held the 2015 Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottle featuring my artwork on the label, which naturally acquired the artist’s signature before we left.

Louisville_chair
I found this chair as comfortable as it was awesome… would love one for my studio!
My Woodford Reserve label is the one on the right!
My Woodford Reserve label is the one on the right.

Getting Ready to Paint

This whole painting adventure had clearly shaped up to be a practice in flexibility, something that’s actually part of my working method, so it didn’t phase me. If any painting I’m working on seems determined to take another direction, I’ve learned not to fight it, and giving in to that inevitability actually makes for a fun ride.

Two Horse Race
Two Horse Race

I started prepping the canvas while the game plan was nailed down. Similar to my piece Two Horse Race (above), a race horse or two galloping across the canvas, but almost life size. I couldn’t imagine anything more fun to paint… or so I thought (foreshadowing). I chose to do this piece in acrylic, as the shorter drying time would help me be more productive with my limited time. Not really a problem, acrylic used to be my primary medium, so aside from some rebuilding of my supply inventory, it wasn’t an issue.

I used black gesso to prepare the surface, it makes working easier when a dark background is desired. Then I went old school and used the grid-method to transfer the chosen reference images to canvas. You can see the grid below (in feet) on the canvas and (in inches) on the image, helping guide the proportions as I sketched from the source image, which was printed at 4 inches x 6 inches so it would scale up neatly from inches to feet (see what I did there). I sketched in the possible second horse to test it out and see if it helped anchor the composition, but it was unanimously decided to go with a solo horse for maximum impact.  Then I began the monochromatic underpainting, big fancy words for a black and white first layer of a painting.

Apparently I bite my lip when I’m painting; well that sure explains my chapstick addiction.
Apparently I bite my lip when I’m painting; well good grief, that sure explains my chapstick addiction!

A Break to Visit Keeneland

Painting plans in place and initiated, I was feeling good about where I was at and was ready to day trip it over to Keeneland for morning workouts and racing the day before the Breeder’s Cup (Thursday). We’ve done this “Thursday the day before the Breeder’s Cup” thing before, in 2010 when it was held at Santa Anita in the Los Angeles area. The traffic was typical LA weekday traffic, and the track had moderate crowds in the morning while pretty dead for the races later in the day. Not the case with Keeneland, it took us 30 minutes to work our way by car to the grandstand (where I was dropped off) once we reached the track and another 45 minutes for my poor husband to park and meet up with me by the rail (far enough away he needed a tram ride back to the track).

The slow but lovely drive through Keeneland's "adorned by fall" property.
The slow but lovely drive through Keeneland’s tree lined backroads, the true definition of the “scenic route”.

In spite of the congestion, it was a beautiful day in a beautiful setting. We saw (and photographed) lots of big name Breeder’s Cup horses. It was like the Oscar’s for racing fans, minus the red carpet, designer outfits and fashionistas. We did, however, just miss Amercian Pharoah’s planned workout, but since it happened on the training track we wouldn’t have seen it anyway, like most of the fans there. He was also a no-show for paddock schooling after the 3rd race (as was announced) later on, but it WAS Keeneland, a track like this was enough. Surrounded by rolling hills of bluegrass dotted with the wooden fences and pristine stables of horse farms, it’s a magical and serene location for anyone who loves horses. The specific celebrity horses that were there were but the cherry on top, though I’d really hoped to get my eyeballs (and camera lens) on THE horse… American Pharoah… was there still a chance? Be sure to tune in for Part 2 to find out!

To be continued, Part 2

[hr color=”black” width=”70%” border_width=”8″ ]

More to Share…

Visit my News page to read about my painting that Sold AND got Best of Show, and check out my Specials page to see this year’s Holiday Deals!

Water Horses in the Desert…

…or, how I spent my summer (and yes, in Arizona summer ends later).

I finally was able to get around to doing what I have been trying to work into my schedule for a couple of years… this summer I took a few day trips to the Lower Salt River just east of the Phoenix area in Arizona. It’s a rare desert waterway that actually contains real, bonafide water, year round, all the time! That water creates a rich habitat for everything from wildlife to recreation seeking humans, but the big draw of this field trip, for myself at least, is the wild horses.

The Salt River Wild Horses

Of course, as seems to be happening in many places across the country, there is a battle going on for the future of the horses. In early August the US Forest Service posted a notice of their plans to have the horses all rounded up within a week. Fortunately, thanks in large part to the passion of so many on social media and beyond, the public outcry was deafening and the round up was put on hold indefinitely.

The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, a 501c3 already in place that has been working on researching and documenting the horses for years, stepped up to work with the USFS in hopes of coming up with a plan to keep the horses at the Salt River in balance with the other needs of this highly popular oasis. The horse’s future is still uncertain, but there’s now hope that reasonable solutions can be worked out. You can find out more about the Wild Horses and the Management Group on their Facebook page or website.

Photographer Heaven

As far as my experience visiting the area, the heat was just as billed, the day of our first visit the area hit 117 degrees Fahrenheit, so it was a labor of love (especially for my poor husband). Yet I was pleased to not be disappointed each time. It took some treasure hunting and a bit of hiking, but each time I managed to stumble across some horses, quietly observing and photographing these magnificent animals from a respectful distance (thanks to my adequate but far from envy inducing zoom capabilities). You can see some of my photos in my Salt River Wild Horses Gallery

My Unabashed Artistic Agenda

Of course for me the ultimate end game is always the paintings… I was (and still am) driven by a need to chronicle these horses and their unique life on the Salt River, dining on river grasses and surviving in a strange mixed up world that’s both a river ecosystem and harsh desert environment. Since this my first trip out there this summer, I’ve completed 5 paintings of the Salt River Horses.

Painting of Salt River Wild Horse Colt
New Kid on the Block, 11” x 14” oil on canvas

 

Salt River Cuisine, 24” x 30” oil on canvas
Salt River Cuisine, 24” x 30” oil on canvas

 

Making a Splash 18” x 24” oil on canvas On Exhibit in Tucson (see info below)
Making a Splash 18” x 24” oil on canvas
On Exhibit in Tucson (see info below)

 

Transcendent Bond 36” x 48” oil on canvas On Exhibit in Tucson (see info below)
Transcendent Bond 36” x 48” oil on canvas
On Exhibit in Tucson (see info below)

 

Bright Eyes 20” x 20” oil on canvas On Exhibit in Tucson (see info below)
Bright Eyes 20” x 20” oil on canvas
On Exhibit in Tucson (see info below)

 

Equine Art Exhibit in Tucson

Along with 8 other horse pieces, from western to racing (below), you can see the last three of the above pieces along with equine work by other artists in an upcoming exhibit at the Four Corners Gallery in Tucson, Arizona called “The Horse, of Course!” Please do come by and say hello to me at the opening reception on November 14 from 6-9 pm if you can, or drop by over the run of the show (through January 3) and check out all of the varied and original takes on the equine subject!

“The Horse, of Course!”
November 14th, 2015 – January 3rd, 2016
Reception: November 14th 6 – 9pm
7000 E. Tanque Verde Road
(Southwest Corner of Sabino Canyon and Tanque Verde)
Tucson, Arizona

Other pieces of mine that are in the show…

Lou, 24" x 48" oil on canvas
Lou, 24″ x 48″ oil on canvas

 

Painted Gaze, 14" x 18" oil on canvas
Painted Gaze, 14″ x 18″ oil on canvas

 

Gabbi and Billie, 18" x 24" oil on canvas
Gabbi and Billie, 18″ x 24″ oil on canvas

 

Simple Pleasure, 18" x 24" oil on canvas
Simple Pleasure, 18″ x 24″ oil on canvas

 

Spanish Silver, 18" x 24" oil on canvas
Spanish Silver, 18″ x 24″ oil on canvas

 

Speed Demon, 18" x 24" oil on canvas
Speed Demon, 18″ x 24″ oil on canvas

 

The Sprinter, 24" x 30" oil on canvas
The Sprinter, 24″ x 30″ oil on canvas

 

Silver Streak, 15" x 30" oil on canvas
Silver Streak, 15″ x 30″ oil on canvas


And stay tuned for an upcoming post about my recent trip to Kentucky (over the Breeder’s Cup) and Florida, including a chance to meet American Pharoah IN PERSON (or is it in “horse”?)!

A Triple Crown Missed, A Triple Crown Realised

An Artist’s Triple Crown Musings

Like so many racing fans, I have been hankering for a Triple Crown winner since I knew what the Triple Crown was. Technically, I was alive for the three winners in the 70’s, if not fully aware. I just hadn’t discovered the significance yet to tie it into my already rampant horse obsession (I was 6 when Secretariat won).

Even though I was your garden variety “horse crazy girl”, it wasn’t until 1980 that I started putting aside my Breyers and developing an interest in racing through reading books like Old Bones the Wonder Horse (about legendary gelding and Derby winner Exterminator), and of course Walter Farley’s classic Black Stallion series (and yes, the cover illustrations played no small part in my inspiration to be an equine artist) … these were books I gobbled up like candy.

Then, I watched the Derby for the first time as a fan, fully aware of the importance. I thoughtfully selected my pick to win (the filly, because well, she was a girl – my handicapping skills have improved since then, not much, but some)… and she won! Genuine Risk became the 2nd filly in history to win the Kentucky Derby in 1980! That was it, I was fully and inexorably hooked on horse racing, no going back.

However, a few years before that in my earliest memory of watching a horse race I do recall seeing a horse named Run Dusty Run, and an unshakable bond was instantly formed, (of the variety that could only happen between a 10 yr old girl and a horse on TV). It only stands to reason that a horse that shared a name with my beloved Golden Retriever, Dusty, a happy go lucky dog who… and here’s the kicker… LOVED TO RUN, was destined for greatness! So imagine my profound disappointment when he ended up 2nd.

Run Dusty Run and Seattle Slew before the 1977 Preakness Stakes
I’LL GET YOU THIS TIME – Run Dusty Run (right) means business in the Preakness and glowers at Seattle Slew. (Baltimore Sun, 1977)

The year was 1977, the race was the Kentucky Derby and the winner, who’s name never registered with me at that time, was Seattle Slew. Seattle Slew would go on to become the 10th horse to win the Triple Crown. It wasn’t till years later that I learned the race “my” Run Dusty Run had fallen so short in was the beginning of Slew’s Triple Crown run. It was a great and historical moment I witnessed yet somehow completely missed. I won’t lie, the shame as a horse racing fan was substantial.

I think that’s part of what drives my need to not just see, but embrace the journey of any horse that might be the heir to the throne – along with the seemingly inevitable disappointment. Of all the horses that arrived at Belmont Park with a Triple Crown on the line, some I naturally held in higher regard than other’s. Sunday Silence, Silver Charm, Alysheba all hurt… and then last years hope, California Chrome. Ouch.

I’d already started working on a painting of California Chrome before the Belmont, but afterwards the bitter pain of his loss soured me on continuing. It got put aside, halfway done, yet another near miss that I didn’t want to be reminded of. Then life got in the way, plenty of other paintings, the Woodford Reserve commission, a move… and as I was unpacking paintings a couple months ago I found this piece and pulled it out again. I remembered why I wanted to paint this horse to begin with, not because he might have been a Triple Crown winner, but because he was a striking and beautiful athlete. This needs to be finished, I thought, he’s no less a horse than he was when I started it painting it.

California Chrome Underpainting
California Chrome Underpainting

So I worked on it as I watched American Pharoah’s march into history though the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and finally, the Belmont. It served as a great reminder that there are many horses to enjoy at all levels, even as fate finally throws us a bone and delivers on something that could only be as important as it is because it’s so hard, so rare.

CaliChrome_clr8Det_lgwbwm
California Chrome

Watching American Pharoah cross the finish line first in the Belmont was even more emotional as watching the others fall short, but it was a different emotion. One of hope with a sprinkling of gratefulness that the others didn’t succeed, making this so much sweeter. Laura Hillenbrand, acclaimed best-selling author of Seabiscuit and Unbroken, sums it up perfectly:
“American Pharoah, welcome to greatness.”

Will there be an American Pharoah painting? Most likely, but as always it has to be right, and I am going to explore the possibilities while I bask in the glow of having witnessed the birth of fresh, shiny new greatness.

Kentucky Derby Project Finally Revealed!

At last… I am finally able to announce my big project completed last fall!  It’s been hard to keep this one on the down-low, but a busy six months with many changes, including a move, kept me distracted enough to wait. The big “project”? I was commissioned to create the artwork for the label on the 2015 Limited Edition Woodford Reserve Bourbon Kentucky Derby bottle!

Woodford Reserve Bourbon, the “Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby” for 17 years and primary ingredient of the Derby’s signature drink, the mint julep,, is crafted at the historic Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky in the heart of thoroughbred country.  Every year they produce a limited edition bottle just for the Derby with original artwork commissioned just for that bottle… a popular collectors item in great demand. It’s available nationwide, check local establishments for availability.  Here is this years bottle itself…

2015 Woodford Reserve Bourbon limited edition Kentucky Derby bourbon featuring the artwork of Carole Andreen-Harris.

And the actual oil painting (below). A pack of eager racehorses charge around the first turn, each jockey trying to gain the ideal position into the backstretch, with the Churchill Downs hallmark of the twin spires a historic presence towering above them reverently.  This was a dream painting to work on, and I’ll admit I got a bit misty eyed… especially when I’d find myself subconsciously humming “My Old Kentucky Home” while painting it. But having a work of mine part of such a great tradition is truly am honor for me, one I will always be proud of.

2015 Limited Edition Woodford Reserve Bourbon Kentucky Derby bottle artwork painted by Carole Andreen-Harris

While I won’t be able to make it to the bluegrass to join in the festivities this year, I will be enjoying the Derby at the Phoenician in Scottsdale, Arizona… where I’ll be an honored guest and may get to sign some prints of this painting!  Not a bad alternative, and *practically no chance of rain unlike my Derby trip of 2013 (*hoping that adding the word “practically” will keep me from jinxing the event)!

 

A Portrait’s Journey; Part 3

A Portrait’s Journey; Part 2

 

A Portrait’s Journey; Part 1

Photo Session!

This is the first part in a series sharing a glimpse into the course the creation of a portrait takes.

I met Squeaky Cat one sunny Sunday morning (is there any other kind in Arizona?), and quickly got to know the engaging and quirky 22 year old Thoroughbred gelding… not just directly from the horses mouth, but… and this is equally as important… from the people who love and know him so well. Like many older horses, he body bears some witness to his age… but his personality outshines all the battle scars. The canvas loves capturing the years that life has painted on these faces.

Squeaky is not shy when begging for treats...
Squeaky is not shy when begging for treats…

Squeaky had a career as a race horse in Arizona in the mid 90’s, including some years at the local track, Rillito. Katie worked on the backside with his trainer and knew him well… even back then she knew he was meant to be hers, and fate agreed, thankfully for both of them!

Reaching out to introduce himself!
Reaching out to introduce himself!

Katie has been hoping to have a portrait done for a while, and circumstances just worked out perfectly for that to be right now! As I am always happy to do, when she said she didn’t have many photos I geared up with my camera and water bottle and headed out to lovely Oro Valley, AZ, for a complimentary photo session. Photographing horses is almost as fun as painting them for me, though I’m no professional photog. As long as it’s less than a couple hours away, I’ll be there camera in hand!

One of 10 portrait poses to mull over.
One of 10 portrait poses to mull over.

Now Katie has the tough decision (more so than usual) of which photo to use… which is the most “Squeaky”?  Aside from the above pic, the photos here are not part of that group, however, they’re just some of the more candid, fun shots I got!

Be sure to watch for the next adventure filled episode – The Sketches!

Summer Specials

I have  a couple great summer specials going on that are really worth checking out and taking advantage of – and both are good through the end of August (more details on my Specials Page)!

Windblown 16 x 20 acrylic
Windblown 16 x 20 acrylic

500/200 Original Sale

Summer seems like a great chance to clean house, or studio, so check out my 500/200 sale and help me free up space taken by some beautiful but unfortunately very underfoot artwork!  Aside from a few going to shows in El Paso and Amarillo this summer, I don’t have as many traveling to outside exhibits this year.  Because of this I’m offering over 40 pieces marked down to either $500 or $200 – up to 75% off the original price, a great opportunity to own a piece of original art!

Simply Portraits 2014

Cadence
Cadence

Summer’s also a great time to get ready to get that portrait… good timing during the season where horses are all bathed and clipped up for shows, parades and other events or even just freed of their winter fuzz in favor of sleek summer coats, and a perfect chance to get a head start on any Christmas gifts (gift certificates also available)!  My Simply Portraits plan is simplicity at it’s finest… an 11 x 14 oil painting of one horse head (dogs and other subjects possible, contact artist) with a simple background and free of tack… for almost half the normal rate.  Making it even more accessible, convenient payment plans are also an option at no additional charge!