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

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