The painting project I’ve recently begun was initiated by a commission for a daughter-in-law’s birthday. After meeting the recipient, and learning about her style and tastes, we reviewed my paintings, noting which ones appealed to her. Then we set out to meet her horse. Stella is a lovely warmblood mare with tons of personality. Arriving in the rain at the ranch where she is boarded, we slogged through wet grass and mud to her field. It was magnificent! The rain had lifted, and the rays of sun highlighted a mesa here, an aspen grove there, with layers of mountains peeking through a curtain of mist. All along the way, Ashley told me stories of her mare. And there she was, amid a large herd, in glorious surroundings with acres to roam. Listening to the stories, watching her, and photographing her antics, I began to know Stella.
Later I reviewed my photos and chose a group of 5 that I would develop into a painting. The photos included Stella running across her field, other horses in her herd, a shot of Mt. Sopris, the iconic peak of Carbondale, Colorado, and a grove of aspen trees spotlit against the stormy sky. The photos suggested a narrative with an interesting cast of characters in a beautiful setting. I began to see the painting as a movie! The star of the show is Stella, the lovely grey warmblood mare. Her supporting actors include the Bay, the Chestnut, and the Paint. The setting is Strang Ranch, in a pasture aglow with blooming rabbit brush. Mt Sopris looms in the background, jutting into a stormy sky.
The next step was to really get to know Stella, through a detailed pencil drawing. Drawing allows me to slowly study the whole horse, learning about my subject through close observation. Though I am drawing what I see on the outside, somehow her nature shines through, and I become acquainted with her personality also. Most of my paintings begin with detailed pencil drawings. When I drew Stella, I saw a strong Alpha mare. Suddenly I had a title for the painting, “Leader of the Pack.”