Monday, January 26, 2015

Now What?

"Neddy," 7 x 5 oil -first signed painting of 2015!
So, today was a typical post– "I Will Conquer The World!  I Will Make Changes!" kind of day.  First off, it was COLD out.  Not as cold as it has been, but there was enough of a wind, coming from the wrong direction (which is anything other than northwest) that it felt colder than it should have.  I went out to feed, and Twine was steaming, which is enough to send my stomach in knots, thinking she's going to abort right then and there.  The thing is, there's nothing that can be done, so I just carry on, soaking feeds, putting out water and hay...she cleaned up her breakfast and seemed to chill a bit, so I'm just going to hope it was some weirdness, and she'll wait full term before she shares her baby with us.

Dashed out to pick up a load of hay, once the gang was turned out.  You'd think that would warm me up, but it didn't - that wind again, in the wrong direction.  Obviously my friends in New York, etc., are dealing with much worse today, so my apologies to them...but I'm betting that weird wind was related! After I came back with hay, I finally came in to have breakfast, a cappuccino, and check my email.  I decided to make a phone call I've been putting off for, well, months, to make some changes to my cell phone account.  Why have I been putting it off?  Well, phone calls, to me, inevitably set my day off track.  Why can't I do everything via email or text?  Sigh.  Anyway...that put me behind schedule.  At least, by then, it had warmed up a couple of degrees. Unloading the hay got my body temp up enough, my hands didn't freeze while I was doing stalls, so I got them done in reasonable time.

The phone call setback meant I only had time to ride one horse, so Leo was elected.  As I'd given him two days off, and it was pretty cold, I thought some time on the longe line was in order.  Good call, apparently.  I've only seen him that high on the longe line once before, on a similar day.  Once he returned to this planet, I got cool him out!  Took care of him after the ride, checked to make sure Gracie had survived her day of turnout, and headed back to get ready to bring in and feed the guys at home.

And occurs to me, my HST is due at the end of the week, so I really should be working on that, instead of painting.  That's just the way things work sometimes!

Someone was a little fresh today.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Until I Am Committed...

Last day of the Your Turn Challenge!  Today's prompt is a no-brainer;  I bet you can guess!  What am I taking away from this challenge?

"The Plans I Have For You," 18 x 24 oil on canvas.  Photo reference courtesy Renee Fukumoto.
I have an adaptation of this quote beside my computer desk - it had no source attribution, so I looked it up tonight.  This is the original quote, by William Hutcheson Murray:
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

Isn't that brilliant?  Doesn't it say it all? That fed my determination when I got back to my art, after a time away.  And you know what?  So many good things happened.  I sold a piece at auction for real money.  I got to go to Dubai.  My art was pulling its weight.  So what happened?

Well, horses.  Horses happened.  And that's okay.  I didn't stop painting, and I had no end to inspiration with the amazing models I see every day.  I say it all the time - if I never take another photo, I have enough to paint from for several lifetimes.  What's taken a hit is that part I so dislike - the marketing.  The putting myself out there.  It's hard...and even harder when time is at a premium; when I have to hire someone to look after the farm, so that I can go out to shows.  Internet sales have let me keep my hat in the game.  Facebook was great, while it lasted.  Things are changing, though.  All that stuff I said about getting unstuck applies to marketing, too.  It's going to require some out-of-the-box thinking, if I want to rebuild. 

There are a lot of other things going on behind the scenes right now around here - there are big changes ahead, and being in a state of limbo has made it difficult to plan for the future. 

Last year I did a painting of my friend Renee's horse, from one of her wonderful photos. For some reason this one named itself.  The inspiration comes from the Bible, Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV):

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD; "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

I have to remind myself of that, and do my part. So here's the real challenge:

Do more.  Do better. Don't settle.

My girl Gracie - registered name, "Therebutforgrace."

Saturday, January 24, 2015

How Do You Surprise Someone Not Easily Surprised?

Saratoga, Baby.
I just commented to a friend that I'm really stuck on what to write about today's prompt, which seems really counter-productive when this whole week's exercise is about getting un-stuck.  We're supposed to talk about a time that we surprised ourselves today. Um....I notoriously work within my own boundaries of self-preservation, so that's a tough one.  This is likely to be another one of those really boring posts! If I've done something that truly surprises me, I've likely blocked it out, so it must have been horrible! 

As my intent today - especially after yesterday's post about "just do it" and breaking out of a rut - is to give Leo and Gracie a well-deserved day off, and find some time at the easel, I've decided I'd better write this post NOW, for better or worse, before I go out and do stalls.  So, my apologies.

I liked this WIP better than the completed painting!  That's never a surprise.  ;-)
2008.  You can read the quick overview here.  You may have heard about our annual treks to Saratoga.  This was one of the early ones.  How determined was I to get there?  Well, I left in the dark Saturday morning, made the six-hour drive to meet Juliet (coincidentally, the above-mentioned friend!) at the house in Ballston Spa.  We did our thing (again, see that blog post), and after the races on Sunday, I got back in the car and drove home!  The 48-hour Saratoga whirlwind trip.  I think, since that craziness, I've managed to make the trip a little less frantic! Still...I actually like to do things like, not entirely a surprise to myself.  It's just all I've got right now, and I'd rather make the most of this day, than stress about this post and have it get in the way of doing something more productive! 

One more day!  :-D

Remember I said I'd probably blocked out some surprises?  I surprised myself missing Hugo's birth.  Eep!  Thank goodness he and Viv managed okay on their own!

Friday, January 23, 2015


"Watch and Learn..." Pip has a little advice for young Parker (ex. Billy).
This whole Your Turn Challenge was partly designed to get folks "unstuck" from their blogging avoidance.  Today's prompt is, what advice would I give people to get them unstuck?

I've always been an advocate of "Just Do It," even though I really don't want anything to do with Nike.  ;-) The thing about art - or writing, or probably anything - is, if you wait for the mood, or inspiration, or  your "muse", you'll never get anything done.  I think most of us psyche ourselves out.  We think when we sit down to work, we must create a masterpiece, or a best-seller.  Yeah, okay, some days you go through stretches where you're on fire and everything you paint/write is gold, but I know for me, that's not a realistic expectation 365 days a year. 

Think...or jump....outside the box! (Polly) 

I am currently in a major state of art and writing avoidance.  Part of that is related to what I wrote about earlier.  Part of it is legitimately a time factor.  In the past I've told myself, just start with 10-15 minutes.  And I've learned to be able to do short bits like that, so at least I feel as if I'm doing something.  The problem is when you do get unstuck, you're going to have to deal with the fact that you probably don't have 3-4 hours to spend at the easel, or immersed in Word.  In those times, I try to give myself a day or two a week that I can devote just to that.  The horses I'm riding can have days off to just be - they need that as much as we do.

Cross-training is important in any endeavour! Stevie demonstrates his prowess at Widgetball.

Another way to get unstuck, I'll take from riding.  I'm by no means an expert rider.  Most of my hours in the saddle have been galloping - and hence not really in the saddle so much as hovering above it!  I'm having to re-learn as much as my two horses are, and I can easily get locked into a rut when I'm riding, because I'm trying too hard (and usually failing miserably, haha).  The thing about riding Thoroughbreds - they're smart, most of them.  They get bored easily.  If you get too repetitive, sooner or later it's going to bite you in the, you have to think outside the box.  Do different stuff.  Challenge them a little, but not so much that they get worried or frustrated. 

Same goes for art, or writing, or working out, or....fill in your own blank.  Try something different.  Play around a bit.  Stop being so freaking serious all the time.  Words to live by?

Song of the day?  "New Low," by Middle Class Rut!  :-D

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mad Skillz

Is it really Day Four? Today's prompt is to teach everyone something I do well.  You know what I do really, really well?  Muck stalls.  Especially straw.  I really, really miss straw!

So, here you go!

The Tools:  A straw fork is vital. I like to use a muck bucket as part of the process, and I have a spreader (alternately a wheelbarrow can be used). With a matted stall, you'll need a broom.  I will also have a shavings fork handy. Wear a pair of gloves.

The Process:  Start with the straw fork, and lift the unsoiled straw from the front of the stall into a pile elsewhere in the stall.  Pick out the manure and soiled straw along the front - under the feed tub and water bucket.  Sweep out this area, and move the clean straw you've collected to the front wall.

Carry on with the straw fork, continuing to lift the unsoiled straw, and add it to the "clean" pile.  Remove the large piles of manure as you go (I use the muck bucket for this).  Clear out the wet spot and load into the spreader.  Use the shavings fork to scrape the bottom of the stall, once you've preserved the clean.  Now sweep out the stall - any "clean" chaff can be swept into the wet spot.

If time allows, leave the stall open to dry until later.  With the straw fork, distribute the clean straw you've saved evenly throughout the stall, leaving under the feed tub clean.  Get a bale of straw, open, and if you've done a good job (and they horse isn't too messy!) you'll only need a third to a half bale.  With the straw fork (or your hands, until you master the straw fork) shake up the flakes, over top of the old straw, for a fresh layer.  As you shake, whack the straw with the fork to flatten it, creating an even "mat." Sweep back the doorway about a foot. 

If you're bedding for a foaling mare, or you're just an over-achiever, bank the stall.  That means shaking up a bank against the walls before creating your "mat." I then go around and, with the back of the fork, push the banked straw against the wall.

I have a photo somewhere of a stall at the track I'd bedded - it was the most beautiful bale of straw, so apparently I felt the need to photograph it!  :-)

As this is probably the most boring post you will read on this blog...I'm going to go all the way and not include photos of any sort. I think we're all going to be glad when this week is over!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


No idea where this came from...don't remember doing it, but it's cool!

I'm trying to keep a bit of a common theme going through these blog posts, with the given prompts.  Today's is to talk about something I think should be improved.  Where better to start than with myself?

When it comes to my horses, I am very much a micromanager.  I like to control every little detail.  I can't, of course - horses have a way of showing you that, no matter how hard you try, no matter how careful you are, things can still go wrong.

But that's another story.  I've often said, I take way better care of the horses than I do myself.  In the morning, I'm up and outside and to the barn to feed and turnout in the morning, before I even think of my own breakfast.  I'm very particular about their feed program, they get chiropractic and body work, and you can bet Gracie is going to get a new blanket before I get a new coat.  ;-)

At the end of the day, it's easy to just say "stuff it" to the rest of the things I should be doing.  I've gone through phases where I'm very disciplined.  After the evening feed, I'd come in, workout, have a shower and a good dinner, then settle down to paint for a while before going out to do late feed.  While that might seem like over-achievement to some people, when when I pull this off, I'm way more satisfied with everything, than when I think, by rights, I've done enough for the day.

So why don't I keep up that schedule?  Why do I buy into the excuses, and settle for less?

I don't need a  current hairstyle, or wardrobe, or anything along those lines, so don't be looking for me to improve in those areas.  I'm quite content to pull my hair back in a ponytail and wear jeans and a t-shirt (or see how many layers it takes to keep warm in January!). I'd rather spend my money on my horses, or books, or camera equipment, or original art from one of my friends...and my time on getting fitter and making myself paint (when I'm not battling yesterday's questions!).

So...what do I think should be improved?  I think I'd better just start with myself.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dark Matter...Antimatter...What Does Matter?

Faceoff! 5 x 7 oil
Moving on to day two of the Your Turn Challenge, the prompt is to talk about something that is important to us. I could take that prompt in many directions, but as the focus of this blog is supposed to be the creation of art - my art, specifically - I thought I would address that.

Only...these days I'm seriously questioning how important art is to me.  Sure, in the greater context, I believe art is important - humans have been creating art for a seriously long time, so there must be something to it, right? my art important?  I'm not convinced.  Is making art important to me?  Right here, right now...I'm not so sure.

This post is far too serious.
 I know there will be some who will admonish me for those thoughts, but I think they're legitimate.  Overall, I consider myself a fairly practical person.  I've been blessed for much of my life to be able to make my living doing things I enjoy - working with horses being the primary source of my income.  While there are definite ups and downs, in general, it makes me happy to be able to spend much of my day talking to horses, instead of people.  I'm better at it. And when they talk back, well, it's easy to admit they're right.

Artwork, contrary to how many artists feel, is work.  Producing art is not the work part, per se; it's the marketing that is so painful.  It would be nice if talent alone equaled success for an artist, but many of us know too well, that is not the case.  I am the first to admit, I am quite horrible at marketing myself!  Self-promotion is tough, especially when one is experiencing something resembling a crisis of confidence.

I can produce the work.  I know that.  If I can't sell it...I have to question producing more work.  So right now, outside of the commission commitments I have, I'm not feeling compelled to churn out anything new.  I'm feeling my time is better spent working on improving some of my artistic skills - hence the sketching people, and painting landscapes - the stuff I'm not letting anyone see at the moment.  I guess that means I'm not completely abandoning my work;  I just can't rationalize painting something new.  I either need to get my head around believing my work is worth promoting, or content myself with relegating my work to hobby status. Maybe somewhere along the road, I'll figure out if it is important or not.

If you haven't seen the Fifth Wave cartoon to which my title somewhat refers...check it out here!

Leo says, "Can we all just lighten up now?"