Tag Archives: original art

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!

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!


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!

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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.

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

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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!

New Studio Oasis

It’s been just over a month since moving to my new home and studio, and I can now say with confidence that this is a true creative oasis. Surrounded by open desert and only a few miles from Saguaro National Park East, it’s filled with a refreshing and innate tranquility.

The interior is ingrained with a notably positive vibe. It’s bright, saturated with natural light and has a very open, unhampered layout. It’s a top notch atmosphere for two artists to create in.


Most important, of course… Studio Cat (Cabot) approves…

Studio Cat

The same windows that provide so much light also connect us to a beautiful desert haven, complete with great view of a man made watering hole just outside the fence – the office “water cooler” for all manner of Sonoran Desert wildlife going about their daily lives. We call it TV for the dogs and cats, but we enjoy the programming every bit as much if not more.

Dog TV

Besides the expected avian visitors (Mourning Doves, Gambel’s Quail, and a pair of Cardinal’s) that stop by almost daily and a swarm of bees that made a tree just outside our yard a rest stop for a week…


…we’ve seen lots of Desert Cottontail

Desert Cottontail



…and a family of 8 Javelina that stops by occasionally…


With all these potential painting subject’s hanging around, expect an increase in wildlife working it’s way into my portfolio! So with the open studio space that facilitate’s creating and work flow, I’m off to a good start putting paint to canvas… so you’ll be seeing more from me this year, you’ve been warned :)!

P.S.: The new studio also provided a great backdrop for some interviews I did with local news stations in regards to my Woodford Reserve commission a couple weeks ago!  You can read and watch the video’s for each story at KVOA 4 and KOLD 13.

A Portrait’s Journey; Part 4

Finishing a Painting

Last but not least… the final post has arrived in this series documenting the creation of a one of a kind portrait of a one of a kind Thoroughbred named Squeaky! But first a quick recap (with links)…

Photo Session – Basically a chance for Squeaky to beg for treats by making some of the goofiest faces I’ve seen on a horse… unwittingly giving me some of the most thoughtful poses in between the funny ones that would give me so much of material to work with.

Squeaky’s Sketches – After going through a stringent selection process between me and Katie (my client and the human that Squeaky owns) I get to sketching and preparing to move to canvas.

Blank Canvas – The sketch has been transferred to the canvas, and the palette has been mixed… it’s about to get real up in here! The painting has been started… ready for me to bring it home!

How we last left Squeaky painting...
How we last left Squeaky painting…

So… I’ll pick up where I left off (left)… which was, unfortunately, the ugly stage.  My motivation hits both a high and low point simultaneously here… it can be so easy to get lost in despair with thoughts of “what if it only gets worse, and this is the best it will have ever looked?”… or “darn, I just got burnt sienna on my favorite sweater…” (ok, just kidding, sweaters in the desert are like Mr. Snuffleupagus… imaginary).  But I try to always choose the other, better thought process… the “I will make it better, whatever it takes…” approach.

Now comes the hard part… conveying in words what I do in paint instinctively. The goal at this point is to refine the shapes and contours by defining the shadows, highlights and the in-between areas that transition between the two (I call them mid tones – much less shagtastic as the Dorktones, but works better in a painting). It’s how the mid tones bridge the shadows and the highlights that is important in suggesting the shape of a surface. To project the illusion of skin over muscle and bones is a challenging and beautiful thing indeed!

I finally start adding some mane, and put some work in on the neck/chest area…

After the last round I noticed the nostril and general muzzle area has shifted, so the next round focused mainly on correcting that…

Time to give more attention to details like the eye, mane and ears along with upping the value ranges (darker darks, lighter lights)…

I’m now working on the final session, really hitting the values, and getting a nice finish on the mane, ears, eyes and muzzle… so excited to be over the hump, this is pretty much the finished piece…

Bonus Detail Shots!

Mane’s can be tricky. I paint the horse as if they’ve had their mane roached to start. I want to create the surface that will be under the mane, since the hairs rarely cover completely, before starting to build the mane itself. I also prefer not to try to paint in every hair with a teeny weeny “two-hair” brush… it’s not necessary as the human eye will read it as hair regardless – and being overly detailed can end up looking rather unnatural pretty quickly.

Eye’s are the window to the horses soul, and the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae that is one of my paintings. I enjoy working on them so much that I save them for last, aka dessert. Lighting and highlights can vary, there is a great juxtaposition in the fact that while being deep, dark and transparent, they’re also very reflective of the world around them. I try to cover both ends of the spectrum in paint. I consider the eyes as highly important, probably the part that I get the most comments on by horse and non-horse people alike – people are drawn to an eye done well.

So aside from some minor tweaking and adjustments, I’m pretty much ready to call this one done… on to the next! Thanks for taking this journey with me, it was both fun and enlightening for me to take the time to log my process, and it appears that I’m not the only one that has enjoyed it… I may have to do this again sometime!


A Portrait’s Journey; Part 3

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


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!

A Christmas Portrait!

Tis the Season… for Commissions! 

My latest work is a portrait of a handsome Quarter Horse named Flyer.  The owner contacted me with a photo she really liked – the lighting was atypical for a portrait – but the interplay of highlights and shadows cast by a nearby (out of view) tree created an interesting challenge to capture in paint. I was excited with the chance to take on something a bit different.  The end result is an unusual play of light that works nicely to compose a painting that is truly unique and will likely be treasured for many years! 

I’ve a few more commissions taking turns on my easel, the others aren’t for Christmas (obviously, lol), I’ll share them as each one reaches the finish line! 

16” x 20” Oil on Canvas

Just a reminder that my Commission Special continues only through 12/31/11 – I still have room for a few more.  I also offer gift certificates for those giftee’s that are pickier than others! 

Also, don’t forget to check out my Etsy Store for Prints ($1 shipping through 12/31/11), Greeting Cards and a sale on select Originals: Equine, Bovine and Southwest (marked down 20-50% through 12/31/11)!!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everybody!

When Good Tack Gets Painted…

I recently finished my first painting since October – when I started a series of art shows that has kept me too busy to paint (sounds ironic, I know).  I’ve always thought it would be fun to do a series of tack still lifes, and I finally got a chance to play with this idea where I play best – in paint.  This time the saddle IS the star, in this 18 x 24 oil on canvas titled “Saddle Up”…

Originals and Prints Available!

With the holidays approaching I’ve stocked my etsy store… more originals, new prints in both 8″ x 10″ and 11″ x 14″ sizes as well as some favorites now available 11″ x 14″.  I also now have Gift Certificates for prints in both sizes to make gift buying easier!  On top of that, I’m offering $1 shipping until the end of December!  And as always, if you see a piece you like and it’s not on Etsy, just send me an email to get more information on the pieces price and availablity!

Happy Holidays to All!