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

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"A" is for the American Academy of Equine Art

The American Academy of Equine Art Juried Fall Open Exhibition opens next week, and for the first time, I am going.  I am stoked.  Not only does it give Steve and I a great excuse to go to an art opening (after all, my art travels much more than I do!) but did I mention it's the American Academy of Equine Art?  In Kentucky?
The AAEA is recognized as one of the preeminent art membership organizations in the world dedicated to the advancement and excellence of equine art.  Membership is by jury and invitation only, and it's rather difficult to achieve.  Even the Fall exhibition - the only show that's open for nonmembers internationally to apply for, is extremely competitive.  It's not uncommon for them to receive hundreds of entries, and they must jury it down to less than 80 pieces of art.  Getting a spot is very, very difficult.

When I was younger, my favorite magazine was called The Equine Image, and it was devoted to equestrian art.  The very first issue I ever received had a huge feature on the AAEA's Fall show (I guess that must have been 1986?  1987?) and immediately, I was hooked.  I  pored over those pictures from the opening reception.  All these artists - artists who drew horses! - surrounded by magnificent equestrian art, smiling and posing and socializing, with the artwork singing off the walls.  I knew I wanted to do that some day, and it became my first "bucket list" art entry.  
Fast forward to college when I decided to focus on equine and wildlife art and illustration as a career.    A notice drifted across my desk for the AAEA Fall Open Juried Exhibition, and I realized I could make the deadline.  Full of hope, I picked my three best horse pieces, packed off the slides (SO glad we've gotten away from slides) and settled down to await my acceptance letter.  I think I even bought a bottle of wine to celebrate.
To this day, that may be the single most brutal rejection letter I've ever received.  Not only was everything summarily rejected, but all of the judges included scorecards with the rejection letter, and I got to see what they really thought of my work.  It wasn't pretty.  (I still have that letter, and I come across it every once in a while in my files.  Even now, several years later, it still isn't pretty.)  I drank the wine.  I think I cried.  I probably contemplated a career as a dental hygienist.
Thankfully, in the years since that first, ill fated, unpleasant rejection letter, I have gotten art juried into the AAEA show.  I've also received other rejection letters, and, while they aren't ever pleasant, none of them hold a candle to that first crushing disappointment.
The AAEA has continued to mean something special to me and to all the other artists who depict the equine form.  And, for me, it's above and beyond a society of equine artists.  It's the realization of a dream, and the thing that gave me hope and inspiration and focus when I was lost and searching for a way to make a career out of this art thing.  I'm honored to say that I've been juried in four times now, which makes me eligible to apply for full membership.  I plan to enjoy my first ever trip to Kentucky and the AAEA Fall show, and then return home to Dallas to prepare my membership application.  I think I may even chance another bottle of wine.
Here are my four successful AAEA entries from past years.

"Lope" Graphite on bristol board
©Joanna Zeller Quentin.  All Rights Reserved. www.MoosePantsStudio.com

"Tempest"  scratchboard and india ink on clayboard
©Joanna Zeller Quentin.  All Rights Reserved. www.MoosePantsStudio.com

"Whorld of Trouble"  scratchboard on clayboard
©Joanna Zeller Quentin.  All Rights Reserved. www.MoosePantsStudio.com

"Waiting Room"  gouache on pastelboard
©Joanna Zeller Quentin.  All Rights Reserved. www.MoosePantsStudio.com

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Paintbrushes and Polo Wraps, Watercolors and W-T-C, Oil Paints and Neatsfoot Oil.

Someone asked me who I wrote this blog for - what collector or internet browser or customer was my "intended reader".  I write it for all of you, and I write it for myself.  I write it because it's a great visual aid to chart my progress, to compare notes, to observe and remember certain event, artistic milestones, and random thoughts.  And I write it for the horse crazy barn rats I see every weekend - the little girls who (like me at that age) would rather clean a saddle than their room or study Centered Riding instead of math homework.  I spent as much time as I could at the barn, getting up early on weekend mornings to hitch a ride in with my dad at "OMG, that's early" o'clock.  I spent hours grooming, tacking up, cleaning (always so much cleaning!), and riding.  And when I wasn't doing any of those things, I was watching.  I watched every lesson I could, and learned early on that you could get almost as much out of a riding lesson while perched on the rail as perched in the saddle.

It wasn't until much later that I realized all that watching and touching and doing was actually teaching me something more valuable than how to properly clean a bridle (woe to the person who doesn't completely disassemble the thing), wrap a polo (thanks forever to Mel S for making me roll and wrap one perfectly 15 times before I was allowed to actually "wrap legs"),  pick out feet, watch for colic signs, mix a bran mash, or do any of those thousand other small things that add up to good horsemanship.  It was teaching me to SEE and pay attention to detail.  It laid a foundation for what has contributed greatly to my career as an equine artist, and by far the most common comment I hear from people, that they buy my work because it is "correct" and still artistic.  Having tacked up a horse thousands of times means I know where breastplate attachments attach, and which side the elastic girth sits on.  It means that my bridles are properly adjusted, my reins are held properly, and my rider's heels are down.  My horse's legs are clean, their muscles are in the right spots, and their pupils are the correct shape (not round!)  These things are small on the face of it, but in a piece of artwork, they speak volumes of the artist's understanding of the subject.

I write this blog for one more person.  I write it for the little girl (or boy) out there somewhere who loves horses and loves to draw, and isn't quite sure what those two things will lead to, but chances are it might be something great.  I've got news for you.  It IS great.  Just keep on drawing.  And watch those heels.

Here are the two most recent pieces to come out of my studio, both done on spec and both done for professionals.  (Confession - the bottom piece isn't QUITE done yet... but it got done enough for the deadline on Monday.  It will be finished soon.  For real.)
"Momentum - portrait"
Watercolor on board
© Joanna Zeller Quentin 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

"Rateable - WIP"
India ink on board
© Joanna Zeller Quentin 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Time to call it..."

There's an amusing meme floating around the internet.  Well, amusing to us artist types, at least.  It goes something like:

The Creative Process
1.  This is awesome
2.  This is tricky.
3.  This is crap.
4.  I am crap.
5.  This might be okay.
6.  This is awesome.
(Thanks to the wonderful Raven Quinn for posting this again.)

I think we all have variations on this theme.  For instance, about 70% of the way through most paintings, I decide I am a miserable failure at art and should give it up, sell my paints, and become a dental hygienist.  The fact that I am totally grossed out by people's teeth/ eaten food/ touching someone's face and STILL default to dental hygienist shows the depths of my desperation.  I'll interpret that as step #4 on this list.

Very, very rarely, a piece of artwork bypasses 2-5 and stays straight on "awesome" all the way through.  Those are rare gifts indeed, and should be regarded with equal amounts suspicion and gratitude.

And then there are the others - the ones that never get past #3.  Or they make it past #3, go to #5, and then go straight back to #3.  What to do with those?

In my case, they stay in my studio closet for a long time - sometimes months or even years.  Rarely, I break down and throw them away.  But usually they sit there, stacked in amongst other works 'in progress" and cause great vexation when I guiltily flip past them.  "Can I do something with this?"  "Is it salvageable?"  "Stuff like this makes me think I should have been a dental hygienist."   They're the paintings that had a great premise or spark of an idea, and then derailed somewhere along the way.  Maybe I went with the wrong color palette.  Maybe the composition wasn't as strong as it could have been.  Maybe the stars weren't aligned properly.  Maybe I just don't have the skill to pull this off yet.

Most of them get at least one more chance.  And some of those "second chances" get pretty inventive, like grinding off layers of paint, or going all cad red all over the place, or gallons of turpentine upended over the canvas.  Desperation = invention, right?  Sometimes that's the unconventional spark needed to pull something out of nothing, create order from chaos.  And sometimes it just leads to a puddle of turpentine, paint as red as blood, and bitter, bitter tears.

Today, two paintings are headed to the trash.  I'm feeling badly about it, because I think they are both interesting ideas that could be really great artworks, but... it's not happening.  It's just not.  Well... I might just scrape some paint off that last one...

Here's a few of the "problem children" that sat in the closet for months, or three years, in one case, before I was finally able to pull them out and do something with them.  Worth the wait?  I think so.  What do you think?
"Forward"  oil on canvas © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2014.  All Rights Reserved.
"Charging Forward" oil on board © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2014.  All Rights Reserved.
"Flying Purple Plantain Eater" mixed media on board © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2014.  All Rights Reserved.
"Rollback"  oil on canvas © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Who, what, why, where, when.... and how? or... IS IT DONE YET?!?!

I'm supposed to be wrapping up a commission this weekend.  Correction:  I AM wrapping up a commission this weekend.  It's a really wonderful collection of photo reference, it's a gift, it's a direct result of my California trip in March, it's dynamic and fun and a pleasure to work on... so why isn't it done yet?

Commission are, in some ways, the easiest type of artwork to work on.  You have a predefined purpose in creating the art.  You have a client.  The art is already sold.  Your contract clearly spells out what is expected on both sides.  All you have to do is execute it.  It's that rare time for me that the picture in my mind is almost guaranteed to look like the finished product.  And yet... and yet...

No matter what the piece of art- the scope, the size, the style- you can and always should push and challenge yourself to create something new, exciting, fresh, every time you sit down at the easel.  Now, if creating personal art, this only leads to paralyzing indecision, which is why my studio is full of "orphan projects" - projects that have ideas and plans but got lost somewhere along the way.  There's too much potential there to throw them out, but at the moment, the roadmap is gone, the muse isn't talking, and incidentally, I suck at art and should just go be a dental hygienist.

Commissions, for the reasons mentioned above, take away a lot of the problems that create "orphans".  Plus, they come with a due date, and that's a powerful motivation to complete a project.  For instance, my self appointed due date is today.  (And yet I'm writing a blog.  No comment.)

I'm loving the freshness and energy of this commission.  Plus, it's a watercolor, which is a great way of moving out of the oil painting headspace I've been in lately.  I'm forever grateful to my education (my mom signing me up for watercolor lessons, and my formal art training as an illustrator) that I can work well in different mediums that require completely different approaches and switch back and forth without a lot of angst.  I like the color, I like the pose, I like the background.  So... is it done?  There's always something to change, improve, redo.  I can always go back and push the values, refine the details, push and pull and lift out and rework.  I could do it forever and still never be able to say a piece is "done".  (Funnily enough, clients don't always appreciate this point of view.  :-/)

Right now, I'm waiting for my green watercolor wash in the background to dry before I go back into it one more time (really!) and bring out the shadows and highlights, finesse the fine details, add the last details to the faces, and refine, refine, refine.

All right.  Watercolor wash is dry.  Time to dive in once more (just once more!) and add the finishing touches.  Then it's done.  Right.  Right?
Progress photo #1: Starting off
#2: Pop of red

#3: Legs!  We have legs!
#4: SO close...
 And, yes, I realize these aren't the greatest photos.  Completed portrait will be carefully (and properly) lit and photographed before it leaves the studio.  :-)
Work in Progress © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2014.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com
 Thanks for reading, y'all!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Bold, Accurate, Colorful Equine Art

Hello everybody,

Wow - can't believe it's been so long since I wrote on this blog.  The good news is I've been busy, and there's a whole bunch of new artwork to catch y'all up on.  The even better news is that it's the kind of art I've always dreamed of doing - bold, vibrant, colorful art, and I've been hearing all sorts of wonderful comments about the "energy" and "conviction and talent and power" the work is giving off. All these things are music to my ears, and I hope to keep building on it.
I took the month of June and completely redesigned my website.  It's shinier, brighter, snazzier and, I hope, better than the previous site, and I hope it captures some of the momentum and excitement I've been trying to build on with the artwork.  Please, please stop by the site, take a look around, and tell me what you think!

There's more news to share, but in the interest of keeping things short and sweet, I'm going to close for tonight.  I'm leaving you with a few of the new images that have come off the easel in the past few months.  Prints and originals are always available, so if something strikes your fancy, contact me!

See ALL the new artwork at www.MoosePantsStudio.com

EQUINE artwork horse art equestrian animal art oil painting WIld Joanna Zeller Quentin Moose Pants Studio 2014
"Wild" oil on board © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2013.
Available at Equis Art Gallery, Red Hook, NY

EQUINE artwork horse art oil painting canvas hunter jumper equestrian Flight Plan Joanna Zeller Quentin Moose Pants Studio 2014
"Flight Plan"  Oil on canvas © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2014
Available at Equis Art Gallery, Red Hook, NY

EQUINE artwork horse fine art oil painting Lipizzan Lipizzaner dressage Joanna Zeller Quentin Moose Pants Studio
"Lipizzaner" oil on board © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2014
Brand spanking new!