"Blue" Gouache on board © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2009.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Live blogging... painting in process! Peel back the mystery...

(... I think the real mystery is that any of this gets done at all, because in looking back at this, I still can't explain anything...)

Ok, I'm going to try something out.  This painting is due in approximately 5 hours.  What better time to show the process of how I put a painting together?  (Of course, this could also just be some fantastic procrastination on my part.)  I apologize in advance for the photos.  Trying to photograph while painting and attempting not to get oil paint on your camera is tricky.
Here's what it looks like right now.  I drew it out last night and inked it with my fountain pen and sepia ink.

I have no idea what to do with it, or what I want it to look like even, besides a few half formed ideas.  Let's see...  something with a washy background, maybe some turpentine lifting out.  I'm feeling very Bart Forbes/ Tom Allen inspired today...
Because I never do it at the beginning of the painting process and then always curse myself out, here's a burnt sienna wash scrubbed in with an old sock.  Background color.  Voila!
Starting to add shape to the horse - just a little extra weight and definition on the shadow areas.  (I really like it right here.  One of these days, I'll just stop at this phase.)  Decided to give our bay horse a sock and a blaze for added definition and to draw the eye up.
Added ultramarine blue and cad red/ sienna.  Working primarily in glazes and washes.  At this point I have exceeded my "I think it should look like this" point and am now fumbling in the dark.  So, I just started adding more definition, working to the ends of the value scale and then back again.
I added cad orange to the chest.  That was obviously a stupid idea and not right at all.  Removed post haste.
Orange changed to pink.  And now I've lost the perspective in that foreshortened foreleg - a tricky area to get right under the best of circumstances.  I also need more definition in the chest area, as all my values are migrating towards the middle.  Need to fix that by going back and pumping up the darks again and then hitting the highlights again.
Here's where I decided to turn on the light in the studio.  And, because I was losing my direction on where to go next, I started adding white to the breeches and the blaze.  (Studio light is on the cool side, so the color is a little different in the next series of photos.)
 Continued adding definition to the horse's face, mostly because I don't know what to do next.  I have now lost all of the luminosity and jewel like tones I had in mind in the first place.  At this point, I'm ready to give up, decide I can't paint and take up a career as a dental hygienist.
Started going back in with some turpentine and lifting areas of "too heavy" color.  Then (here's the panic stage)  I actually put the thing on the ground, poured some turp over everything and started blotting with another old sock.
 Reworked the blues and added color to the rider's coat.  Not sure what color it will ultimately end up being.  My original plan was scarlet and then I changed my mind to black with scarlet undertones and now I have decided to make it blue.  And suddenly, somehow, something starts to happen again.
 Glazed over my freshly turpentined areas with cad red, which pumped the color up dramatically.  I am pleased.
 This is where I've stopped for the night.  Total working time : 2.5 hours (some of which I spent jotting down notes here and taking pictures.)  It's good enough for my purposes to photograph it properly and send it off tonight as a preliminary painting.  Maybe another 2 hours and I might actually have a lovely new piece - assuming I can figure out what to do with it.  And it needs a name.  Any suggestions?

 © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010.  All Rights Reserved. www.MoosePantsStudio.com

Monday, November 29, 2010

Photos, photos everywhere, and not a Belgian to be found...

It's 1:00 in the morning, and I have been roused from my bed by a haunting vision of two Belgian mares standing in a meadow.  Seriously.  These two mares were the subject of a photo shoot back in the spring of 2010, and one of the bargains struck with the owner (before he allowed me to go slogging in knee high mud through his fields) was that I would send him a print of one of the paintings I would create featuring his two lovely horses.  "Tempest" was actually inspired by this photo shoot - although it looks nothing like a calm, placid 15 year old Belgian mare contentedly nibbling at her hay.  I hesitate to send him a print of one of his mares looking like a wild beastie from a Walter Farley novel.

(Here is the finished "Tempest", btw.  Turn it on it's side and squint your eyes, and you can just see a quiet, elderly mare with a slight breeze ruffling her mane.  Such is the magic of art.)
"Tempest"  © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010.  All Right Reserved. www.MoosePantsStudio.com

But, alas, the end of the year is fast approaching, and my plan of delivering a small painting to this gentlemen is in peril... because I can't find the darn photographs.  Here in my studio I have thousands of photos.  Hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of shots - mostly horses (followed by birds and then big cats and then everything else), all sorted and catalogued by subject.  Want a rodeo scene?  Check.  Want a picture of kids with their ponies?  Got it.  Want a Saddlebred just stepping into the sunlight with a glittering ribbon pinned to her bridle?  Here you go!  Jumpers and dressage and reining and lungeing, I've got them all.  All reference shots, and all mine.  But 23 pictures of two mares, a field, an old man who would have fit perfectly in the last century puttering around his farmyard, sweet shots of plowed earth, broken cornstalks and rich, heavy, black Illinois topsoil?  I have no idea where they went.  And now it will drive me crazy.

It does, however, give me an excuse to pull open my heavy filing cabinet drawers, grab a handful of pictures, and dream.  Here's a painting, and here's a painting, and here's an etching, a drawing, a watercolor.  In my hands I hold the promise of so much great art!  Magical moments where the light and shadow have come together with the action and the sentiment and the pure equine form - and somewhere buried in all of that is exactly what I'm trying to say with my paintings and drawings.  Look at this creature, this thing, this miracle, this wild, four legged spirit partnered with man to do amazing and athletic things.  Look at him jump and race and run.  Look at him cut cattle or execute a canter pirouette.  Look at him safely cart children around the field or step into the show ring before thousands of spectators in a world class competitive setting.  And look at the relationship forged between man and beast.  We can guide a half ton animal around with a piece of leather.  We can ask him to jump over 5' fences.  We can watch him separate cattle from the herd or chase a ball around while his rider swings a large stick in the air.  We can put him in a starting gate, throw the doors open, and expect him to fly down a dirt track, striving to vanquish every other horse on the field.

Painting after painting after painting.  Photograph after photograph after photograph.  Idea after idea after idea, until finally the idea becomes inspiration, and the inspiration translates to the art.
NEW!  "Colors of the Wind" © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Inspiration, meet brick wall. Problem.

Every artist goes through this.  Heck, EVERYONE, artist or not, hits this point once in awhile - where nothing seems to work and the creativity batteries are exhausted.  One of the benefits of a professional education in the visual arts is that, as a student, you learn to push through those blocks.  Don't feel like drawing?  Too bad.  Your job is to show up, sit down and produce credible work.  It may not be a masterpiece (or it might) but it will at least be passable.  Plus, (insert artist here, as everyone seems to have "heard" this from a different source!  I thought it was Picasso, but, alas, no verification) once famously said that every artist has 10,000 bad drawings in them.  So, even if what you are creating is fit only for the bottom of the bird cage, at least you are slogging your way towards drawing #10,001.
I know this.  I realize it.  I embrace it and expect it and know that if I just grit my teeth and push through, I will eventually be rewarded by a return to some sort of spark of inspiration. But in the meantime, and it IS a MEAN time,  I have half finished artworks watching me from all corners of my studio and precious little desire or desire to work on them.
The only consolation (small one, to be sure) is that I have spoken to a few friends (and fellow artists) recently who have all confided to having the same "lack of momentum" problem.  One of them is a bestselling novelist who stated simply that the book in her head wasn't "ready to be disgorged on the page yet." She finished with one word, which I think sums it up nicely: "Problem."

Fellow artists, how do you keep your motivation on days (or weeks) when things just aren't happening?

Here is where Tempest stands at the moment.  Notice the ink wash(es) and then the scratching out... ad infinitum.
"Tempest" WIP ©Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

and here is a new little portrait, just playing with color.
"Poised" WIP © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Want to come up and see my etchings?"

I've been taking a break from color lately and revisiting one of my favorite mediums.  Scratchboard is the "red haired stepchild" to the venerable etching, one of the most popular reproduction mediums in the artistic world.  Instead of  requiring a metal plate, block of wood or (more recently) plexiglass and ready access to lots of dangerous chemicals, today's scratchboard consists of a clay ground affixed to board or heavy paper and coated with india ink.   You scrape away at the india ink to expose the underlying clay, and - voila! - scratchboard's incredible detail.  You can use anything to scrape away at the india ink- Xacto blades, specialized tools, steel wool, a dremel, an awl, a nail (I actually know a fellow student in college who did an entire board with a thumbtack), etc, etc - anything that will remove the ink without digging too deeply into the clay.  I have been fascinated by this medium since high school, when my first attempt at a scratchboard of a girl and a row of 18th century buildings (it was very "Interview With the Vampire") won a major prize in a regional art competition.  As the years have passed, it's a medium I have returned to often, usually with a sigh of relief and great enjoyment.  My college thesis project was a full portfolio in scratchboard, and I will never forget the many comments made by gallery patrons (beware what you say in an art gallery - the artist may be standing right next to you!) as they all stepped forward to stare at the thousands of little hatchmarks that make up each image.  I heard lots of things like "I would go crazy!" and "Who has the patience for that?" and "Who is insane enough to attempt 24 x 36 scratchboards?"  I must confess I wondered the same thing as I worked on some of those damn pieces... scratch, scratch, scratching away frantically through the night.

To me, scratchboard is an exercise in zen.  I can think of no other medium that is so meditative and soothing as you work, sitting with a shining black board picking away at details.  Hair patterns, thread counts, textures, leaves, grass, fur, feathers - these things lend themselves superbly to scratchboard.  I have found that by starting with a white clayboard and inking it myself, I have better control over how the ink will react to the blade, and I can get some effects that are harder to achieve on a commercially prepared board.

There are some truly legendary scratchboard artists out there who have pushed the medium beyond the traditional black and white by adding color or incorporating the technique into paintings, drawings and the like.  Their innovation has inspired me to try new techniques, such as the one I am testing out for "Tempest".  Instead of using blades to remove the surface ink, I am using small bits of sandpaper, steel wool and fiberglass to "draw" through to the clay surface.  I've only spent about an hour or two on it, but so far I am very pleased with the effect.
"Tempest"  WIP

And, from the box of "Works in Progress" in the studio, I unearthed a little scratchboard I started back in early 2000 as a demonstration piece.  It seems that every equine artist has at least one "horse eye" painting or drawing in their portfolio, so here is my contribution.  I'm keeping this one on the dining room table downstairs so I can work on it at night while watching tv.  There's no big pressure to get this one done, and it's pure pleasure to curl up next to my dh and scratch, scratch, scratch away.

"Twhorled" WIP

Friday, July 16, 2010

"... a rose by any other name..."

"Only the Lonely" done- 12 minutes before the"official" deadline.  It has gone off into the wide netherworld of cyberspace in little electronic swirls and whispers, and will hopefully coalesce in the designated email inbox as a fully realized, fully articulated sweeping ode to a magnificent equine in shades of burnished grey, evocative of isolation, fragmented beauty, windswept barren plains, the essential duality of light and dark, day and night, good and evil.  Or maybe it will just look like a picture of a horse.

My bestest best friend in the whole wide world complemented me on my names today. "You always have the most clever, intelligent names..." which is high praise, coming from her.  And it is true, I spend a great deal of time thinking about what I'm going to call a picture.  If I can't come up with the perfect name for it - before a single line has been drawn - it doesn't happen.  There have been a few exceptions to this rule, and almost all of them are half finished train wrecks of ink and paint.  They lack that last little bit, the "je ne sais quoi" if you will, and I have to think it's because of the name.

A name gives purpose, direction, attitude.  My degree is in fine art, but my field of study for 4 years was Illustration, or "the visual representation of a thought, emotion, idea" etc.  The naming of a piece, therefore, captures the mindset I want to be in while working on it, dreaming about it, scribbling it out.  Hopefully, sometimes some of that makes its way into the actual art as well, but that might just be wishful thinking.  And it's fun, too.  "Office Romance" presents not only the real life love affair of husband and wife cattle ranchers, but also presents what for many of us would be an ideal working environment -  on the back of a horse with your sweetheart, breathing in fresh air and sunshine, roaming across the open country.  "Red" is not only done almost entirely in a red color palette, but also reflects the common barn name of many chestnut racehorses, including Man o' War and Secretariat.  "Lope" shows a cantering, or "loping" horse, but was done as a fundraiser for LOPE (Lone Star Outreach to Place Ex Racehorses @ www.lopetx.org).  And I must mention here that "Only the Lonely" was actually suggested as a name for another piece by my mother, but I immediately grafted it onto the then unformed drawing which was simply hanging out there waiting for the perfect name.  So, thanks Mom!

And finally, here is the newest entry in the stable.  Graphite, conte crayon (and eventually india ink) on clayboard.  My reference photo is of two sweet, gentle Belgian mares nonchalantly lounging about in their field, but a slight breeze just barely lifted tendrils of mane up at the right moment when I took the shot, and I took the idea and ran with it.  Here is the beginning of "Tempest".  (And I apologize for possibly the worst photo of artwork ever taken!)

"Tempest" WIP  
©Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

"Only the Lonely"
© Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Kid in a candy store

DH and I went to the art store yesterday.  Well, technically, we went to Michaels (I "kneaded" a "knew" eraser) but we were still able to wander the approximately 3 aisles full of goodies with our eyes alight and arms full of totally unnecessary stuff.  We have art supplies.  Between the two of us, we could probably open a decently stocked little art shop ourselves.  Airbrushes, inks, oils, acrylics, gouache, boards, canvas, pencils, pastels (a huge set of Rembrandt pastels, which was possibly the saddest thing in my art arsenal because they are so pretty - and were so expensive- and I can't do a decent pastel to save my life), brushes, tape, clamps... you get the idea.  When you spend four years at a fine arts college and then move onto your new studio, you just don't throw stuff out.  (This is probably why there just isn't enough room in our studio.  EVER.)

So we didn't really need anything.  I got my eraser, DH picked up a new set of pencils and some watercolor paper (I'm still awaiting my super expensive and hopefully totally awesome Hahnemuhle block to arrive from Germany any day now), we resisted the urge to buy the dog a beanie hat- if you knew our dog, you'd agree he could totally pull it off- and at the last minute, I ran back down the aisle and grabbed the coolest little set of calligraphy nibs.  They were so shiny - and reasonably priced- and I just couldn't resist.

I love pen and ink.  I love etchings.  I LOVE scratchboard.  It is entirely possible that in a previous life I was an engraver or a woodblock printer or did illuminated manuscripts or something like that.  Possibly religious iconography... but that's another story.  But pen and ink and scratchboard are for me labors of love.  The repetitive scratch, scratch, scratch of tiny lines, over and over again, is soothing to me, zen-like and restful.  The rasp of an ink pen being dragged across paper, the careful dipping into a bottle of ink, the rapid scribble and unpredictability of just how the ink will come out of the nib is challenging to me - and dare I say? - fun.  There's not a huge market for scratchboards or pen and ink drawings, so I don't do these things as much as I would like to, or probably as much as I should.  They are good things to do for art's sake- nothing more.

Anyway, so I managed to squeeze in an hour of trying out my new nibs tonight- something I've been looking forward to since Friday.  Here's the result....

Nothing major, just playing around with sizes and pressure.  Some of them worked better than others, and one of them didn't work at all, but I'm pretty sure it was user error.  There were also some random ink splatters, but I'm going to chalk that up to a happy accident and not just an accident.  (It's also been forever since I rattled out anything but some form of equine, so it was nice to "spread my wings" and dash off a heron.  Made me think of FL and the Gulf Coast, and then made me sad.)  But it made me remember how nice it is just to do something for myself.  Not every piece of artwork has to be a masterpiece, and that's a trap I've fallen into lately.

Speaking of masterpiece (j/k... couldn't resist) "Only the Lonely" is sooooo close to being finished.  After scrubbing out and redoing the nose and part of the face, I think I've finally got it where and how I want it now.  So now it's just a matter of... what?  "Finishing it"... whatever the heck that means.  Tweaking it and teasing little bits of detail out, pumping up darks and drawing out highlights.  Refining and refining and refining some more.  I'm looking forward to seeing what it looks like when it is done, with almost inordinate delight.  Here it is as it stands now...

I'll post the finished product.  For now, washing out pen nibs and headed down with some graphite.  Overall, a very satisfying Sunday evening.
©Joanna Zeller Qunetin 2010.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer SALE! $50 - $100 OFF any commissioned portrait

School's out for the summer.  People are going on vacation.  It's blisteringly hot out (at least here in Texas!).  Holiday shopping is the LAST thing on your mind, right?  WRONG! 

Moose Pants Studio Summer SPECIAL!  Until the end of June- $50.00 to $100.00 OFF(*) any commissioned portrait by Jo.  Contract and 25% deposit must be received before midnight on June 30th.  Start holiday shopping early!  Great wedding or anniversary gift, graduation present or memorial.  Equine, pets, people- all on sale(*)!  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

Artists have down time too, believe it or not, and so I have decided to offer a first (annual?!) summer sale on any commissioned portrait ordered by the 30th of June 2010.  Been wanting a portrait of a beloved childhood pet?  Remember your child's first summer?  Celebrate an anniversary, or a wedding, or a graduation?  Capture a sporting event or show off a new family member?

Now is the time.  Until midnight on June 30th, all commissioned portraits will be $50 - $100 off their normal price!  This isn't a shortcut on quality, materials or anything else... it's just that now is the perfect time to do some art before the busy holiday season rolls around!

Interested?  Please check out our website at www.MoosePantsStudio.com or drop me an email at MoosePantsStudio(at)gmail(dot)com.  Contract and non refundable 25% deposit must be received on or before June 30, 2010.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The unglamorous side of art

Besides all the painting and the drawing and the showing, there's the far more "unglamorous" side to the art business.  There's the shipping.  There's the ordering.  There's the updating of the website.  And there's the ever present, ever dreaded mailing list.
I did actually paint today.  You know, for about an hour or so.  Long enough to throw another layer of paint on the board, scrub it off, add another layer, scrub it off... you get the idea.  At the end of that time, the painting had simultaneously advanced and started to pull apart, which I guess is how I paint.  I stopped working on it with the idea/ excuse to let it "set up overnight", which pretty much just allowed me to walk away from it this afternoon.  Tomorrow is a new day, right?
Last night I organized photos.  Tonight we updated the website.  Tomorrow, well, there's a mailing list to add to (shudder), more photos to organize (I'm trying out a new system as the whole "throw them in the filing cabinet" isn't working anymore, as we have no more room!), paintings (and a drawing) to finish, and I still have to figure out what to do about this big stack of canvases by my desk.  The house needs to be swept, the bathrooms cleaned, the laundry done... I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
How do other artists, heck, even other people who don't create art, do it?  I'd love to know.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Name Change! part deux, or "just add purple"

I didn't exactly explain the name change yesterday.  It's freshly engraved on my drawing desk, pinned to my bulletin board, and now the new name of my blogspot.  We've all heard of exhibitions called "The Horse in Art".  I have at least three books - lovely, full color coffee table books - celebrating our good friend the horse in art.  It's a fairly self explanatory title, an exploration of how different artists have depicted the horse in art since those Lascaux pastelists got the jump on all the rest of us.  But "the ART in HORSE"?

I am at a crossroads in my art.  This is nothing new - it's been building for years.  I know what I love.  I know what moves me.  Bold, exciting color, painterly lines, furioso brushwork, eloquent drawings and elegant etchings.  Sargent, Rembrandt, Rousseau, Albers.  All used their virtuosity to push the boundaries of their art.  (And we won't even talk about Picasso.)  I don't think I'm tired of the subject matter.  Horses are my love, they are my passion.  I know them, their musculature and lines and motion, and I enjoy showing the world what can be done with a "horse painting", especially in a way that hasn't been done before.

But lots of it HAS been done before.  Lots of tightly rendered pencil drawings.  Lots of finely detailed oil paintings.  Lots of photorealism, and lots of stylization.  Every brushstroke exact, every hair in place, every blade of grass gently waving - sporting art at it's finest.

Yes, there is a place for that type of art.  Yes, it has a long and distinguished history in the art world. (Stubbs, I'm looking at you.  No really, I am.  Bought a book the other day.)  Yes, some people are amazingly good at it.  Yes, it is art.  But it's not me.

(Confession: I WANTED it to be me.  I drooled over Carl Brenders art when I was a kid.  I tried and tried for years to render tightly detailed, extremely realistic paintings and drawings.  I finally had to accept that it just isn't me, and no matter how hard I tried, I only ended up with a disorganized mess or a pounding headache.  One day I just accepted that this is the way I paint, and I apparently I can't do anything about it.  Life, and art, got much easier.  And my art teachers went nuts.)

So.... art of the horse.  I propose a change of direction.  A shift in perspective.  One where the painting ISN'T about the horse.  It's about color and brushstrokes and line... and it just happens to have a horse in it. What I want to do is embark on a systematic exploration of color... on horseback.  Primaries, secondaries, tertiaries.  Complements and triads.  Josef Albers on horseback.  From now on, it's NOT just about the horse.  It's about the art.

Josef Albers work:  http://www.albersfoundation.org/Albers.php?inc=Galleries&i=J_5

NEW art!  Day 2- I mixed up and added this juicy blue.

Coffee, conte crayon and charcoal.  Just playing around with something loose and practicing mark making again.  Needs to be finished... just a little bit!

NEW scratchboard.  (And 24" x 36" because I am crazy.)

I totally forgot about this little gem until I pulled it out of a portfolio the other night.  Now I can't stop looking at it... I think I have plans for this one.  

"Horsepower" has been stuck like this for over a month.  It was at that really awful part, you know?  The part where I think I should have been a dental hygienist instead of an artist because I obviously can't paint.

After about an hour of reworking today.  Feeling back on track... I think... and yes, I added purple!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Name Change!

Some of you may have noticed that the name of this blog has changed.  Hopefully, many more of you will come TO this blog as a result of the name change.  But truly, there is a reason behind the new name, and I'm going to try and explain it.

Tonight I want to talk about horses.  I talk a lot about art and music and such, but almost never do I really sit down and talk about the animal itself.  Which, considering that Equus Caballas makes up such a big part of my life, is pretty strange.

I've been riding them for years.  Drawing and writing about them for longer, reading and dreaming about them for longer still.  To this day, I have no idea why.  There are no horsey people in my family.  My aunt loved horses as a little girl, but to my knowledge she never interacted with them outside of books and drawing pads.  In fact, I don't know if either of my parents have ever even sat on a horse!  And yet...

Books- Golden Sovereign, the book whose title I can't remember about the British Horse Society students (if anyone happens to know, I'd love to get a copy of it!  Character's name was Diana (?), she was American and her horse's name was Cornish Pastry), The Black Stallion, Black Beauty- and movies - The Black Stallion Returns (one of my favorites to this day), The Last Unicorn (another favorite).  Breyer horses, My Little Ponies - all of it from an early age.  And then I started out writing my own stories and illustrating my own covers.  "Fair Lady - A Show Jumper" is one I remember.  Always English, always with polo wraps on - even though I never even sat in an English saddle until 3rd or 4th grade for one half hour lesson.

I do have one early memory of my parents taking me to a horse show.  It must have been some hunter/ jumper thing, and I must have been sitting near the in gate to the ring, because I clearly remember being fascinated and awed by these huge hooves that kept flying past me.  To my young mind, their feet were enormous, and the idea that those huge animals could fly with such grace was entrancing.

Today, much of my life revolves around horses.  I am passionate about the sport and the animal, and thankfully happen to be fairly good at drawing and painting it.  I've been riding on and off for the past 20 years, and individual horses act as pillars and monuments on my walk down memory lane.  Beau, Dudley, Kissy, Sandman, Target, Sonny, Brother E, Love, Magic, Hal, Fouret, Zee, Maggie, Danny.  And now, Hottie and Frankie.  All are special.  All have taught me things about riding and about life in general.  Some have brought sorrow (Empire, Go For Wand), some have taught me kindness (Beau, Dudley, Hottie).  Some have taught me beauty and grace (Zee, Frankie).  I've always known what I've loved- big, massive horses with feet like dinner plates and legs like telephone poles.  Huge springy gaits and a trot that vaults you out of the saddle.  Quickness and a fiery temperament.  And the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

And always, always there have been thoroughbreds.  Sure, I can drool over a Hanovarian or a warmblood with the best of them, but in my amateur and professional career I've photographed thousands of horses (and observed thousands more) and for me, the Thoroughbred is it.  Add the rescue bit into the equation, along with their innate grace, beauty and athleticism, and I'm an OTTB (off the track Thoroughbred) fan for life.

My two guys right now are a study in opposites.  One is a loveable, kind and moderately athletic Appaloosa (an Appy, for God's sake- the people back at the barn where I learned to ride would shoot me on the spot) and the other is a giant, leggy freakazoid of a Thoroughbred.  They have different temperaments, different rides under saddle, different preferences and issues and dislikes, just like people.  But they both greet me the same way, with that deep rumble "heh heh heh" that means I'm their special person.  And the realization strikes me anew, that only a strip of leather is between me and this enormously powerful, sensitive, emotional and emotive animal, and that they accept that, respect it and me, and are willing to go along with me, based not on fear or overpowering (yeah right) but by respect and (dare I say it?) even love.

And that is why I paint and draw what I do.  And that's why I hang out at the warmup rings and the barns at shows.  Because what gets me, what fascinates me and humbles me and enthralls me and gladdens me and sustains me and drives me is that partnership.  The great unspoken connection that impels a horse to willingly turn in 10 meter circles, trot in place, run like the wind, gallop headlong into water, and jump a 5' fence.

That's the beauty of horses.

Me- second grade (?)  My father's friend owned a couple of Tennessee Walkers.  I was allowed to wander around on "Yankee Doodle Dandy" for almost an hour- the very first time I had ever been on a horse outside of a petting zoo.

The first horse.  Beau was an ancient Cleveland Bay and a wonderful school horse.  Through the barn's JI (Junior Instructor) program, I was able to treat Beau as "my" horse and learned how to do everything from wrap polos to treat colic.  I cried for weeks when I left.  When I came home several years later on a visit from college, I stopped by what used to be my old barn.  It was under new management, but Beau was still in his stall, as unflappable and solid as ever.  The new owners promised that they would care for him for the rest of his life.

Sandman- a Saddlebred who could jump the moon.  

My friend's horse Sonny. 

6th grade at Outdoor Ed.  I have no idea who the horse was, or who he belonged to, but I was the only one who would go up and touch him.  Sweet Belgian.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Break's over, baby

Okay, okay.  I admit it.  I've been enjoying my two weeks off.  Amid economic uncertainty and under much personal angst, I took my leave from my employer of four years.  The time was right, ripe... perhaps overripe, with a distinct air of moldy about it.  Meh.  Had a couple of interviews, put out a resume or two, and kind of lazed around the house for the past two weeks.

Good news on a few fronts.  I have kept my record of being offered every job I've applied for (two at the moment) AND it's given me a chance to get back into the studio and actually do some art.  Big shows are coming up- AAEA in particular- and that is hot on the heels of Muse I being accepted to the HITS Art on the Hudson extravaganza up in New York.  It's a big deal.  The painting will be gallery hopping for a few months and then will be sold (hopefully) the same weekend as the new million dollar Grand Prix.  Lots of exposure, lots of horse people, and hopefully lots of fun... if I get to go, and I hope to.

Back to the art.  People who know me know that my studio is full of half finished pieces, and my head is full of even more that haven't made it on to paper or canvas yet.  I work on something, put it away, bring it back out, work on it some more, and then decide if it's worth continuing or if it literally and figuratively belongs on the scrap pile.  Some paintings don't work out.  They just don't.  And some of them come together brilliantly after a few months or even years.  And don't ask me how or why- I have no idea.  One day I dig the thing out, look at it and think, "Ah!  It wants.... purple! right there."  And, voila! done painting.

One of the nice things about commissions is that they usually have a set deadline- they HAVE to get done by X day or I don't get paid and lose a customer.  Same thing with shows.  I tend to work to a show deadline, sometimes with several pieces at once, all vying for a spot on the entry form.  Rarely these days do I do a piece just for fun. But that's what I've been doing lately.  No real pressure, no master plans, just ideas I've been kicking around in my head and want to get on paper.  I'm trying to simplify- my art, my life, my everything.  AE London (an artist who I admire greatly) talks about, "... the magic of deliberate mark making... the line itself can speak volumes."  And she's right.  Line, shape, form.  The hardest thing in the world is to do a piece of art simply.  The urge to overwork is overpowering.  I have been accused of being "seduced by media" in the past, and so I've been very careful what I've been putting on the paper lately.  Yesterday it was conte crayon.  The day before, conte, charcoal and coffee.  The day before that?  Colored pencil.  These may not be show pieces, and they may never be shown publicly or put in a portfolio or turned into prints.  But they have been fun, and I've enjoyed the process of creating art, maybe more than I have in years.

Conte crayon on paper  "Unbridled" 
©Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010

and some new HoofPRINTS notecards to join the stable.  (These are up on etsy.com)
All art ©Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

"A Light Touch"  pen and ink

"Headstrong" pen and ink

"Lucky Numbers" pen and ink

"Precision" pen and ink

"Scope" pen and ink

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Back from Ocala with photos and inspiration...

Okay, okay, so it's almost the end of February, and this may be my first blog of the new year.  Lots of stuff has been happening though, so I attribute it to being super crazy busy with art- and in a good way!
This year I was honored to be asked back to the HITS Ocala Equine Art Gala.  This is the show's third year, and the third year I've been able to attend.  (Technically, year one was a no-show for me- what with being sick and all- but the art made it, even if I couldn't!)  The talent- both from the artists and the riders and owners attending- is A+ top of the line, so I am always delighted to be invited.

One of the (many) great things about this show is the concentration of fantabulous horse/art/animal loving people all gathered together in one very fancy room.  (And the food isn't too bad either...!)  Usually when selling art to horse show people I'm in jeans and they are in breeches and boots.  On Thursday night, we were all in formalwear.  My crazy marketing BFF and I staked out what has become "our" spot, strategically located between the bathrooms and the bar, and set up a few easels, print racks, portfolio and cards.  As the night went on, I kept a careful tally of how many people stopped by to look, talk, flip through prints, etc.  You can always learn so much by studying people as they study art.  And, without a doubt, two paintings were absolute winners.

The next morning I dragged my friend out to the showgrounds and spent most of the day photographing jumpers and hunters.  The rest of the weekend was spent photographing old houses, spanish moss draped grandfather oaks, wildlife and Ocala's prime export- Thoroughbreds.  One thing I've always been missing in my portfolio has been landscapes- horses just out being horses, grazing, sleeping in the sun, etc.  With the deplorable lack of turnout here in Dallas and my increasing feelings of pity for my guys trapped in the barn, I was extra sensitive to Ocala's acres and acres of lush pasture, picturesque four board fencing and stately show barns.  Here are a few of the pics I took for inspiration...

© Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com
© Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com
© Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

So, with visions of sun drenched paints and silhouettes of oak trees dancing in my head, I headed back to Dallas for a day of reckoning with the art in my studio.  There's old work to be finished, even older work to be redone, and new work yet to be started.  But I have recharged my batteries with inspiration, and that seems to be the greatest gift from my "artcation".  (That, and the food...)

And because I can't resist sharing, here's a few of the pics from the jumper ring.  New paintings to follow shortly!
© Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com
© Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com
© Joanna Zeller Quentin 2010.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com