Sunday, December 18, 2011


December 18, 2011

Ever since fall turned green fields to gold I had been haunted by how much they reminded me of a herd of buckskin horses.  As time went on I realized it was not the taller, silky maned buckskins I perceived but more like the tough little Mongolian horses I had seen in movies about Genghis Khan.

Fall's muted grays and tawny browns, punctuated only by fringes of black bushes and trees, are more horse-like than the greens of summer.  The feeble, intermittent dusting of snow accents their curves this year.

While I am driving to and fro this horse/field image pounds in my head like hoof beats.  At home I find myself distracted by descriptors - tawny, golden, bristling, rolling, undulating, muscular, pounding, thundering, tossing, -  and wondering how I could paint this trompe l'oeil I see so clearly in my mind's eye.

Some research revealed that the horses I sought could be the only direct descendant of primitive horses; the Takhi.  They were forerunners of the Mongolian horse and before that often depicted in cave drawings.

If you care to know more I have included a link on how the last nine were discovered and the efforts made to bring them back from the the brink of extinction. Not all efforts were easy to understand. There was one really weird experiment where these endangered animals were put out to pasture near Chernobyl AFTER the disaster.  I guess there is a skewed sort of logic at work here; if they didn't survive we wouldn't either so they would not be missed.  I believe they survived though what future defects will be found I do not know.

Today I began to think perhaps I was looking in the wrong hay stack. What if it is the ghostly presence I felt was that of our own original horse?

Wikipedia has this to say: "Indigenous modern horses died out in the New World at the end of the Pleistocene, about 12 000 years ago, and thus were absent until the Spanish brought domestic horses from Europe, beginning in 1493. Escaped horses quickly established large wild herds." These escapees formed the herds of wild mustangs still found in Colorado and Wyoming today.

Another source states : "North America was the original home of the horse species. They evolved here, and thrived here for over 57 million years. The plant and animal communities of North American ecology evolved with horses playing an integral role. About 8,000 - 10,000 years ago, for reasons not yet fully understood (meteors, climate change, pandemic, and human hunting pressures are among the possibilities), horses are believed to have become extinct in the land of their origin. Luckily by that time they had migrated to Asia, where they spread into Europe and North Africa."

So my research has taken me full circle!  James Mitchener explains it eloquently: "Why did this animal that had prospered so in the Colorado desert leave his amiable homeland for Siberia? There is no answer. We know that when the horse negotiated the land bridge... he found on the other end an opportunity for varied development that is one of the bright aspects of animal history. He wandered into France and became the mighty Percheron, and into Arabia, where he developed into a lovely poem of a horse, and into Africa where he became the brilliant zebra, and into Scotland, where he bred selectively to form the massive Clydesdale. He would also journey into Spain, where his very name would become the designation for gentleman, a caballero, a man of the horse. There he would flourish mightily and serve the armies that would conquer much of the known world."  - James Michener

At the risk of sounding a little Woo Woo....(those of you who know me will be used to this) I can't help but wonder if somehow the Takhi are calling out to me and I am supposed to get involved with endeavours to save them?

But wait! Not so Woo Woo after all.  My research has led me to an article on the planned culling of the wild mustangs of Colorado. It brought forth a buried memory. See the link below.

And so the sad story repeats itself.  All that is beautiful and free must be felled by the bloody ax of what is profitable and convenient.

I know this tiny effort won't change anything but let me start here and maybe you will lend your voice too.

The following prose poem was carved out roughly and then underwent scrutiny and suggestions from an editor friend. Thanks Joanie for helping me arrive at this:

Frozen Fields
Undulate to the horizon

Like a galloping herd of Mongolian ponies.

Flanks the color of dried grasses

Necks fringed with bare black bushes

Wild and free

For now

Dedicated to the few, true wild ones 

And here is a stab at depicting this visually.  This is the progression from a photo on the net of two of these lovely animals.

I then transferred the photo to Corel Draw and using Wacom Bamboo Fun Tablet I began to add in other shapes to suggest a herd.

Added  the brushy manes that so remind me of bare trees, sprayed the green hills brown  

Still not happy.  Back to the drawing board.  I am going to crop out the bottom of the foreground.

The necks could have a gentler curve. And I could sharpen up some the of the foreground details but not today. I seem to want to put in one horse somewhere with an uplifted head, nostrils flaring.  You may see a further version of this.  For the moment it is as close as I can come to conveying what the fields have been whinnying to me as I pass.

Here are the links I mentioned above as my sources.'s_Horse

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Young Moi

Here is the first whack at a portrait of Moi Enomenga.  By the way Moi rhymes with soy.

He is older in his photo than I remember him.  For some reason my painting has made him young again.

I am not totally satisfied with it and will be fiddling some more in the ensuing days.

There is another technique I want to learn whereby the painting is approached using layers... as near as I can understand it would be like having three or four transparencies on which you would paint various parts of the work.  Background on one, blocking out the painting on a second one, color blocking on a third and then details on the last one. When all the layers are merged you have a complete painting.

Naturally if you are receiving these emails or following this blog you cannot escape my telling you all about my adventures in that in the days to come!

But for Moi I simply saved the various stages before I continued.
So when that prissy mouth really bothered me I was able, painlessly, with the Wacom Bamboo Tablet to go in and make changes to my digital "painting". Now I am happy that the mouth is right. This really is the final one......I think.

The almost complete painting is here:

Here are the various stages I went through to get to the almost finished version above.

Background and original sketch
blocking in some preliminary color

Even out skin tone, deepen shadows
deeper shadows, war paint and moustache added

Finally add some feather details

Brown fleshy bits

Okay so it seems there were a few folks who thought that brown fleshy bit hanging down ...the one by the side of his face...was some sort of rubbery earring.  

I looked at some pictures of the other Huaorani and it seems only a few use the ontoka (a wooden disk).  I saw no one wearing them when I visited in the mid 1990’s so I wondered if they were only used on heydays and holidays.

I found a description of how the piercing is done by another author who visited with the Huaorani and holds them in high regard as do I.  I have written for permission to post it. 

Suffice it to say for now that it seems that the Huao prefer the pierced lobes to swing empty.

At any rate here is my updated version of the Warrior 

Monday, February 28, 2011


Found this handsome profile in my picture book of the Huaorani tribe of the Yasuni National Forest in Ecuador.  You can see many posts about this fascinating tribe on my other blog

I am a little concerned about his lips.  May go back in tomorrow and masculinize them.

Here we go. I lost those luscious lips and made them more masculine. Also cropped out the extra background.

I think I have come a long way since the old gray man last week.  I am happy! But still learning.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Water element

My friend Joan sent me a wonderful power point presentation today with many undersea photos.  I loved the unusual points of view that the photographer used in many of the photos.  One of them struck me so much that I had to try and reproduce it on the tablet.

I don't have the computer savvy to cut and paste the original photo from the power point presentation but here is the link so you can enjoy the whole thing

And here is my first rendering. I call it  Row

But when I was looking at the original again I saw that I had missed several important elements.  Here is Row 2
Can you see what I have added here?


Friday, February 25, 2011

Another day another few drawings

Real life intervened and I had some things to attend to yesterday. Fun things like having lunch with a bunch of old friends.  Plus I didn't want my obsession to fill up your inboxes.

A few of us, well more than a few of us, myself very high up on the list, are having trouble with our memories lately.

To overcome this problem in part I did a self portrait to help me recognize myself in the mirror.  In the past I have gotten quite a start when I catch a glimpse of this fat old lady in there.  Note that I have substituted hollowed out cheeks for wrinkles. Hey it's called artistic licence.

This one I did with "chalk."


And this portrait of me was done by my friend Shell as she talked me through the use of the drawing tablet a couple of weeks ago. She was a lot kinder to me than I was to her.

Everything is grist for my mill. This garish number is from the Vesey's Seed Catalogue. It's called Climbing Lily
And last but certainly not least is TV personality and scourge of small claims court Judge Judy.  Her mother probably never told her that she was much prettier when she smiled.  She would have been wrong anyway. Judge Judy's occasional sharp-toothed smile sends fear into my heart.   

I also attempted some changes to the portrait of the old man I was wrestling with the other day. But now when I went to download them I don't think they got saved.  Try try again.

See you soon with more offerings. Be well.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Something to aspire to

Today I was introduced to a master.  (Thanks Nancy and Ian) He is Canmore Alberta's own Patrick LaMontagne. A professional cartoonist, he is the Gran Poobah of the drawing tablet. Well, here, read for yourself about this amazing Canadian artist on his website

There you will meet up with a variety of political cartoons, caricatures of famous people and even of animals.

An innate fear of copyright lawyers won't allow me to insert his masterful i pad drawing of character actor James Whitmore but you can see it on the site under his blog entitled Monty's Muse at

It is an amazing piece of work that I can only dare to aspire to.  'Cause if you don't aspire why bother?

Hence today's offering by that name....Aspire  

It's a first try and I hope you will come along with me as I strive for personal betterment on this tablet thing.  Every time I post one of these I see flaws but too late to fix them for this go round.  More work needed on the eye area and I have an idea for better blending.

Stay tuned for the next effort.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Digital Art?...more ctd

I forgot this one that falls after the winter pictures and before Rosa.  I call it

Feeling Sheepish

Todays catch is an exploration of the abstract entitled

View From My Room

Yes! I love plants.

Yes!  I have a shaky hand.  Bite me!

She's Just Around the Corner depicts a new green weed poking up between the old man stubble of last year's dead corn stalks. The trees meanwhile sport a sprinkling of succulent buds.  Honest, I swear I saw some today.

Digital Art?...ctd

Lost all my uploads so have to start again here.  

While talking to a friend the other morning she remarked on how the new sun had come up as a big orange ball.  It prompted this felt tip medley that I call

Orange U Glad It's Winter ?

A scene on television prompted this next one. You are standing in the forest gazing upwards at the silver moon. The hair on the back of your neck starts to rise as you realize you are not alone. You catch the glint of a yellow eye and hear the twigs snapping in the moonlight.  I call it.


My cat Irma was very curious about what I was doing and sat on the table next to me. These are some practice drawings of her. She looks more like a dog in the first one!

Just doodling trying to capture some characters from a TV show last night but I don't recall seeing a Flamenco dancer.  Oh well, she pushed her way to the front of my brain.  That's Rosa

Who knows what todays catch will be?

Digital Art?

I know I have been strangely silent for awhile now. My dolls are gathering dust. But I am back now on a new tangent.

This Christmas I treated myself to a new toy. A Wacom Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch.  It is a white rectangular tablet with a wire sticking out one side and a pen holder where you park your stylus on the other. The stylus is shaped like a fattish pen with a couple of buttons on it that you have to be careful not to press when you are working. Pressing them  at the wrong time can lead to some unexpected results.

Also getting used to the slippery surface so unlike paper or canvas is another challenge. But we humans are very adaptable creatures.

Since you can't see any of the marks you are making on the white tablet you have to use the wire to hook it up to your computer. Then you will see the marks appear on the computer screen.

It takes some hand, eye, brain co-ordination that is for sure. Fortunately one of my favorite drawing exercises is contour drawing where you don't look at the paper while drawing the outline of your subject. It is specifically designed to nurture this connection between the hand, eye and brain.

But the tablet takes you much further than simple contour drawing. The options are incredible.  Pick your surface: do you want canvas or rag water color paper?  Choose the degree of texture or "tooth" you want on the surface.  Then decide whether you want to draw in pencil,  felt tip pen, chalk,  pen and ink,  sgraffito or calligraphy. If you want to paint in oil, decide on palette knife or various brushes. If it's gouache or water color do you want to use dry brush technique or simple wet? There are at least ten choices and on top of that you can choose your brush size.

Remember the saying you can't mix oil and water? Well you can in this world. Throw in a little conte or gouache too while you are at it. Anything goes.

Compared to the price of art supplies these days this little device costs peanuts at a couple of hundred dollars.

Even the largest of the several tablets  is small but you can zoom in to various areas and this is a real boon when you are working on something very intricate. Oh and you can flip the paper around on the screen too!

Down sides? The major one is size. When you print it out at letter size it tends to be blurry. And while it may look like an oil painting on the screen the printed version lacks that texture.

But if you are prepared for that then welcome to the virtual world.  Here are some of my creations. I am still learning and it is fun to see the progress I make each day as my brain and eye co-ordination improves and my hand gets used to the slippery surface.  If you compare the drawing of the fictional Rosa in one of the next posts to this first drawing I did you can see a world of difference in the confidence of the lines.

With apologies to Shell who is a very attractive woman this one is called

Can You Spell Shell?

Seeing as how I couldn't seem to control my hand I thought I would have to eschew my usual detailed style (much maligned by a previous water color teacher when I was at Art School) and was doomed to producing abstracts for the rest of my life. But I had to admit that was more relaxing. And having every color of the rainbow at your finger tips was great.

Smells Fishy 2 Me

This next one was conceived on a drive home on a beautiful winter day. The new snow was thick, white and clean. The bare trees cast a blue shadow.  When I got home I couldn't stop thinking about it so I dragged out the tablet and came up with this virtual felt tip pen drawing that I call

 Fencing with Winter

This next one is also done using the felt tip pen.  Got a long way to go before I can call myself Audubon but I guess the red is a dead giveaway that my little Fence Sitter is supposed to be a cardinal!

Looks like this one may have gotten too big. See you in the next post.

Paper Mache Clay Experiment - What I would do differently

This is so typical of me to just jump in where angels fear to tread and make up my own rules.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn...