Archive for January, 2009


So I was watching Hidalgo the other day (for like the 15th time) and I wondered why I can watch some movies dozens of times but for most, once is enough.

I have seen Hidalgo over and over again, mostly in bits and pieces while I’m surfing the channels. Being the critter lover that I am, it probably isn’t all that surprising. But in truth, I find most critter movies go overboard on the smaltzy side of things. Hidalgo has some of that but is in general a good story.

It claims to be based on a true story. I tend to look at those claims with a critical eye, as most are extremely loosely based. For instance Dreamer (another horse movie) is “inspired” by a true story. But the only part that is true, is that a racing mare had the same kind of fracture and went on to race again. That’s it. Everything else was fabricated.

Frank T. Hopkins really did take his mustang named Hidalgo to race in Arabia in 1890 and won. However, all of the adventures during the race in the movie were fabricated to make it a more interesting story. Though wouldn’t you think it would have been a pretty good story anyway?

The part where I always catch my breath is when Hidalgo collapses from exhaustion near the end of the race. Frank pulls out his gun and puts it to his horse’s temple. As he builds his courage to shoot Hidalgo, he begins to talk about a race they had run in Missouri where they were 3 days in the lead and there was nothing but a sea of green. He says (paraphrasing here)” . . . If there is a heaven on earth that was surely it. And if there’s a heaven on earth, well then there must be a hell. We just couldn’t cross it, partner.”

The fact that I know in reality that never happened and Hidalgo won that race by 33 hours doesn’t diminish the emotional response I have, every time I see it. Maybe that’s what good story telling is all about.

Note: I got some of my information from the Frank T. Hopkins website which is dedicated to promoting the man. Though elsewhere, apparently there is some controversy over whether Frank T. Hopkins was in fact, a sharleton.

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Giraffe Painting Revisited

Lofty Attitude (tentative title)
Oil pastel on handmade paper
approximately 10 1/2 x 13″

More Unfinished Business
Here’s another painting that has been sitting around unfinished. Since I’m lacking the enthusiam to start anything more complicated (say as in finish up my rooster) I am picking away at the few pieces that just needed some tweaking.

Because the composition seemed a little too simple, I had painted some acacia branches in. The acacia added an element but also became distracting. So I promptly scraped them back out and am left with just the giraffe. (Apologies for not taking any photos with the branches. I just didn’t think to do it.)

So my plan is to order the frame and see how it looks after framing. I have a feeling that the framing will finish it out nicely. If not, I may stick in those thorny acacia branches after all. (Notice I’ve yet to sign it yet.)

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So I was reading the December issue of Decor magazine (an art & framing trade magazine) and there was an interesting article that made comparissons about luxury spending trends (you know, like for buying art) during trying times such as now and the Great Depression. (comparitively speaking it seems like a bit of a stretch to me.)

“The effect on luxury goods was an immediate decline in sales, driven by the combination of consumers who saw a real decline in wealth and consumers who no longer felt the display of wealth was appropriate. . . Read this as luxury is out, and practical consumption is in.” -Decor

You’re thinking to yourself. “Geez Mona, I already know this. Didn’t you say something about some good news?”

According to the article, the Great Depression was not a bad time for picture framers. (honestly, I had never really thought about picture framing even existing as an occupation back then.) It seems then as now, people spent less on things that represented obvious wealth and more on smaller luxuries that focused on personal living enviroments. In other words, they bought art that brought them comfort and made their personal spaces more enjoyable.

Of late, this seems to be true in my case. I’ve had two patrons within this past week, who have emailed and wrote extensively about how much joy their new painting has brought to them. I do have some patrons who just collect art for the sake of collecting, but most are looking for some emotional tie in, that gives them pleasure each time they look at the art.

So the good news is: People will still be buying art (and other luxuries.) But these items may now need to have added value. The purchase of artwork may well need to serve the function of improving their life by offering a little emotional comfort from all that is going on around them.

“All is not lost, but you must realize the world has changed.” – Decor

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Draft Horse Painting Revisited

Unfinished Business
So like a thwack to the back of the head, I realized I have an Apples ‘N Oats column deadline rapidly approaching. My dilemma here is that I haven’t created any new horse art in the past couple of months. I’ve been rather heavy into the farm critters, but no new horses.

Now, there’s no law that says I need to write about new horse art only, (more like a self-imposed guideline.) But I do try to write about the latest equine art that I create. So what am I do to? Or rather WWPD? (what Would Pooh Do?)

Hmm . . . . Winnie the Pooh would say “think, think, think.” whilst tapping his forehead. (and also consuming vast amounts of sugar in the form of “hunny”)

So I gave it a try, (the tapping thing not the vast amount of sugar thing.) And yes that actually worked! I decided to finish up a painting that has been sitting unfinished and unsigned for about a year. It only just needed some minor tweaking and yet I never got back to it. Today was that day.

The Laborer (tenative title)
Oil Pastel on Museum Board
16″ x 23″ (approximately)

I’m going to live with it for a day or so, then sign it and call it done. All that is really left is . . . well the actual writing of the article. (sigh.)

Note: I don’t actually have a great fondness for Winnie the Pooh. I just happened to be reading some blog posts yesterday and the Tao of Pooh was mentioned. Kinda got me thinking about him.

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Paper Glorious Paper

It has arrived! My very own stack of handmade paper made by my very own hands. Cool!

I can’t wait to dig in and try some out. I did spend some time today sorting photos, looking for an image to try first.

It has more texture than Connie’s. I’m not sure whether that is because we worked extra hard to make them thicker, or perhaps because I don’t know what I’m doing. (As in maybe I could have done a better job mixing the pulp in the water vat.) I’m going with the first thing. I don’t think the extra texture will be a problem in any way and the thicker paper is a definate plus.

Oh, and the best part is I have a new bigger size, 11×17. What oh what, can I do in that size . . . now?

A horse perhaps?

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Blog Worthy

So I have been rather absent from the blogging thing lately. Truth is, I just haven’t been doing much that is all that blog worthy. I have made a little more progress on my chicken painting, but not enough to even post a new photo.

I’m also preparing to work on my taxes (both sales and the dreaded makes-me-want-to-pull-my-hair-out-just-thinking-about-it, income tax.) And nothing is more of an art buzz kill than taxes. I’ve been packing and shipping at the gallery (Yawn) And I’m not even doing anything very amusing in my personal life. All in all pretty hum-drum.

So anyway, just thought I’d pop in and say that.

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Life Gets In The Way Sometimes

Why there’s no update on the chicken painting.
So I have been stranded at the farm for the last couple of days. It was heaven. (Insert angelic chorus here) Perhaps I should explain.

After a summer of 70 hour weeks followed by a few months leading up to Christmas of 50 hours weeks, I am feeling the need for some serious downtime. It sounds odd because I am a fairly outgoing person, but all the hard work and dealing with thousands of people takes it out of me by the end of the year. Without a proper rest I tend to shy away from talking to people and slowly get more and more antisocial. Eventually all I want to do is curl up into the fetal position, pull a blanket over my head, and mutter to myself about finding my happy place.

Eventually all I want to do is curl up into the fetal position, pull a blanket over my head, and mutter to myself about finding my happy place.

Anyway, back to being stranded. Three days back we had a small blizzard followed by some seriously bitter cold. To give you an idea, yesterdays high was -15 (thats in degrees, not celsius) The low was -25 and I won’t even mention wind chill factors. So the problem was, we have a very long lane (about 1/4 mile) and the tractor won’t start at anything under 0 (even though it is plugged in.) So there you go . . . stranded!

I spent two and a half days doing what I do on my “me” days, which are sleeping in late, eating too much, drinking too much diet cola and playing way too much PS2. On top of that, I wore nothing but sweats and slippers and deigned to go braless the whole time as well. (Yeah I know, my husband is a lucky, lucky man.)

After all this self indulgent R&R I am now ready to go back to work with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step. I think to myself “I feel like I can now actually talk with people in a conversational manner and perhaps I may even work on my chicken painting.”

Into the frenzy
Well . . . that was the plan. I swear it was moments after thinking this I got a phone call saying “so and so from such and such magazine wants to interview you. Will tomorrow morning at 9 be okay?” My business mind kicks in even though I’ve not had any caffeine yet and I say “Sure.” (Quite convincingly I might add.) All the while my mind is silently screaming “Nine! Nine in the morning!” I am so not a morning person.

After hubby spends an hour plowing out the yard and lane (today we had a heat wave of 5,) I dash to the gallery and begin cleaning and putting the place back together because in preparation for the storm we had completely cat proofed the place. So Budda could run wild, completely unsupervised with the exception of a once daily check by our critter sitter.

And what do I find? Well the usual destruction of at least one broken item, and it appears Budda broke into the food storage room (he has learned how to turn the doorknob) and horked up like 2 weeks worth of food in two days. (AND yes, he looks like he ate that much.)

But the actual thing that was the kick in the butt, was the gallery’s water pipes are frozen. UGH!!!!!

So after my interview in the wee early hours tomorrow morning, I think I may well need another few days of being stranded to recouperate. Maybe I should take a blanket along, just in case I need an emergency trip to my happy place.

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Oil Pastel and Museum Board

My favorite support for working with oil pastels, (other than handmade paper) is Museum Board. Awhile back, Angela Finney asked me what museum board actually was. So here is my reply, only with a few more facts thrown in, instead of stuff off the top of my head.

What is it?

Museum board looks like matboard and is made by matboard companies. It can be used for matting purposes, archival framing or as a work surface. It is 100% cotton fibers pressed into a board the same overall dimensions as matboard (32×40.)

Museum board looks like matboard and is made by matboard companies.

It comes is varying thickness’s like 2ply (similar to 140# hot press watercolor paper) 4 ply (slightly thicker than matboard) 6ply, 8 ply (very rigid, thicker than 2 sheets matboard) and also a 12ply which I’ve never used.

It comes in a several colors: grays, tans, beiges, white, off-white, black and rouge. Both Bainbridge and Crescent mat companies makes around 25 different shades. I’ve tried the rouge and grays, but really prefer the white. Because Oil Pastels aren’t completely opaque some of the board color effects the OP color. (Though I imagine color pencil artists would be more knowledgable as how to work on colored surfaces than I.) Unlike matboard the color is solid throughout.

It costs more than matboard. I think on average it costs me $12-14 per sheet, (for 4ply, 2ply is less and 8ply more) where acid free matboard cost me $6-9 per sheet. (I’m talking the cost or a retailer, meaning if you purchased it at your local artshop or frameshop, it may well be twice that.)

Why I use it.
I mostly use the 4 ply because the 8ply is a bugger to cut even with a matcutter. I prefer museum board to matboard because it is considerably more rigid (despite being a similar thickness) and to be honest it sounds sooooo much better on artshow applications. (Wordage is very important for these kinds of things.)

Which sounds better?

Oil pastel on matboard.
Oil pastel on Museum Board.

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Fresh Start For My Chicken Painting

Subtle But Important Differences. So here is the new painting. It looks quite similar to the other I admit, even though I did move my bird over about 1 1/2 inches.

The photos are of roosters from the house (on a farm) that we rented when we lived in Rapid City. They weren’t ours, (nor were the peacocks, ducks, geese, Llama, horses, dog, cats or giganto goat.) But we got to enjoy them as ours, without all the feed and vet bills. (Sweet)

Evil Chickens and Killer Goats
They had about 20 or 30 of these type of chickens with about 5 roosters. The white one here is my main reference. He was pure evil. A nasty bird who dug his spurs into everything else on the farm including the dogs and cats. Eventually he disappeared under questionable circumstances. (The actual owners of the birds really hated him.)

Frankly, their goat was a menace who needed to disappear under questionable circumstances. More than once I pondered forgetting to apply the brakes when he was in front of the truck. (never did of course, not in my nature. But if it were?)

It was in my nature however, to whack him in the head with a shovel (as hard as I could) whenever he was trying to kill one of my dogs. (Bear in mind, he was the size of a small horse. No kidding. He could hit with the power of a freight train.) Okay enough about the goat. It’s been over 10 years and he still gets my dander up.

At any rate, I really liked this white rooster because he was terribly showy. (Hey . . . what can I say, I’m a visual person.) The gold and black guy to the left may be the color direction that I am going towards in my painting. I haven’t made any firm decisions about that yet.

I’m not sure why my photos got so blown out from scanning. I tried to alter them in photoshop, but there really is no adding information to a blown out image. All I can say is my reference photos are gorgeous. Too bad I couldn’t show them as they really are.

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Chicken Painting WIP

To tell the truth I was a little hesitant to post this because I’m not sure whether I’m going to finish it.

The more I look at it the more I think the whole image should be shifted to the right a bit. Which of course means starting over.

The good thing though, is since part of my process is to do the drawing on a regular piece of paper, then trace it off onto the handmade paper, means starting over doesn’t mean re-drawing everything from scratch.

Oh . . . and the wild hairdo on my chicken . . . is real. Or at least, the farm we lived on in South Dakota had dozens of these pom-headed types. I just love that mad scientist look.

I’ll post a few photos with my next wip. I really do think I need to shift my bird over. (Heavy Sigh) Good thing I made 100 more sheets of paper.

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