Thursday, December 31, 2009

Painting Horses from Life

Painting horses from life is challenging and rewarding. I am frequently asked how I make them stand still. Well, I don't, and that is part of the challenge. The movement of the horse and the constantly changing light also add to my emotional response to the painting. I strive to see not only the conformation and individual characteristics of each horse, but also the way natural light effects a living being. Each painting is an opportunity for me to see, learn and grow in my horsemanship insight and painterly skills. Everything I learn, I take with me to the next painting, and I want to fill them all with the heart and life of the horse.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mustangs are headed to Gold Canyon

On January 23, from 9:00-3:00, the Canyon Arts Festival will be held in Gold Canyon, AZ. (Space number T-23). I will have a booth there and have some of the paintings from, "Among the Mustangs" available. The Canyon Arts Festival is at the corner of Alameda and Kings Ranch Road in Gold Canyon,AZ. I hope to see you there!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Plein Air Painting-Horses

I met up with the Arizona Plein Air Painters for a paint-out at the Saguaro Lake Ranch. This is a wonderful setting with views of the Salt River, Bulldog Cliffs and of course horses. While other members wondered off to find inspiring landscapes to paint, I set up to paint some of the Saguaro Lake Trail Rides horses.
While painting horses from life, I take the opportunity to focus and get very clear on color, light and conformation. As with painting the landscape from life, the scene changes rapidly. I had the chance to lay in my foundation, before some of these horses were off to work to take guests on trail rides. I was then able to complete them when they returned from a scenic ride into Tonto National Forrest.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Studio Tour Exhibit

The Studio Tour exhibit was a blast. I met so many great folks during the two days and had a wonderful time. It was nice to get such good feedback and to know how much my work is appreciated. The "Wild Pair" was the People's Choice, and it got rave reviews. It was wonderful to share studio space with Andrea Trotter, and I got to enjoy her Photography all weekend. Thanks to all of you who came by!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mustang Oil Paintings on Exhibit

The Onaqui herd of horses roams freely in an area southwest of Salt Lake City surrounded by Utah’s mountains. Encircled by more than 200 wild mustangs, I observed their interaction with each other and with the land. Small groups of horses stood together, some sparred, some slept, and others moved from group to group.
These paintings are a soul-searching quest into each horse's spirit and relationship with the herd. They are an intimate glimpse at the powerful, yet peaceful existence of wild horses in their natural environment. I hope you feel as if you have experienced the freedom of these quiet symbols from our nation’s past.
Note: About 200 of the Onaqui herd were recently rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management. Their fate is uncertain.

Artists of the Superstitions Studio Tour
Saturday and Sunday
November 7th and 8th
9:00 am-4:00pm
2161 East Junction Street
Apache Junction, Arizona 85219

Please plan on joining me for this exhibit of more than twenty oil paintings of the Onaqui herd.

Andrea Trotter will also be displaying her Nature Photography at my studio.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Onaqui Wild Mustang herd

This is a guest post from my friend Gene Praag. Gene graciously acted as my guide to observe and photograph the Onaqui herd last June. This experience touched my heart and became the inspiration for my latest series of paintings, "Among the Mustangs". Please take the time to read Gene's post, and visit his link to see the amazing shots he has gotten of this herd during the past several years.

Update On The Wild Horses!

Today I went to the BLM wild horse and burro center to see the Onaqui herd. I saw a lot of horses I recognized in the wild, they rounded up a total of about 200 horses. This includes the General, the paints, the roans, Praire Roses grays, and my favorite Marv. The BLM has informed me out of the 200 horses only 25 will be returned. All the females will have a two year contraceptive shot and the BLM assured me that in three years there will be 200 horses out there again. The BLM informed me that the horses that they could not capture during the roundup have been scattered approximately within 100 square miles and it will take them 3 months for them to band together again. They also informed me that the amount of horses in this horse management area which consists of 48,000 acres isonly 200 horses. I talked with three different BLM officials and could not a consistent answer of why they were rounded up. They told me the horses that don’t get adopted will be shipped to Oklahoma to live their lives in a beautiful green pasture with flowing rivers. He told me with conviction that a healthy horse in never euthanized. He told me that this is totally against there policy. A policy I am still looking to find! I have taken the time to sign many petitions, contact the local news and sent a letter to the white house and governor's. Please take the time to do the same! On a lighter note as my wife and I were leaving one of the wild horses actually walked up to the fence and let me pet him. It tore my heart out!
This is a picture of one of the numerous corrals the horses are corralled in.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Painting the Landscape and Horse from Life


 Lee Alexander

It is wonderful weather here in Arizona, and that it is cool enough to paint from life. Painting the landscape and horse from life come together in one place at the Mammoth Steakhouse located at the Goldfield Ghost Town. In addition to being a popular tourist attraction, many locals ride out to meet friends and have lunch. Every weekend Lee Alexander is on stage with the best Cowboy Western and new/classic country music. It is a perfect place to settle in and paint the Superstition Mountains, horse, and meet folks, in a friendly atmosphere.
This weekend, I got to paint PJ, a tall line-back dun. As well as Duncan, a striking Spanish Mustang. In addition to meeting these wonderful horses, it is always good to make new friends that are interested in horsemanship. After having a chance to paint some horses, I did a small pallet knife painting of the mountains. I look forward to getting out every weekend and posting here about my adventures.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Getting ready; Exhibit on horses

 "Friendship" SOLD
"Sparring Partners"
"American Mustangs"

  "Wild Run"

Anticipation always precedes an exhibit, and this series of paintings has held that feeling and more while working on it. The series, "Among the Mustangs", is a glimpse into the life of a Utah herd that I got to spend some time with last June. Each painting has been a journey in itself. A Soul searching quest into each horse's spirit and relationship with the herd. It is a very intimate look at the powerful, yet peaceful existence of wild horses in their natural environment. The vast openness, quiet beauty, inherent risk and freedom these wild horses symbolize in our history and in our hearts is part of what this series means to me. I hope you enjoy the preview of these paintings in the next few weeks prior to the November 7-8 Exhibit. Please contact me if you have any questions about this series.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Getting Clear; on Seeing, Painting, and Horsemanship

They say that Horsemanship is a "Thinkers" endeavor. I believe that painting is too. It seems that I spend more time in thoughtful consideration of my horsemanship and painting than I do of the actual activity. I find that as I strive to really "see" and "feel" the source of inspiration in my painting subjects, that I have a stronger connection with them. I am working on a series, "Among the Mustangs", for an upcoming show. It is inspired by the time I got to spend with Gene Praag observing one of Utah's Wild Horse herds. One of the aspects I want to share through my paintings is the life and light that I saw in that herd. Spending time remembering the feelings I had while watching the herd, has drawn me closer to the core of what I want to express in this series. Awe of the Beauty, the peace and power, the quiet harmony and inherent risks in nature, are some of those feelings. I hope that you enjoy this series, please contact me for further information about this series, or a specific painting.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wild Horse Trio

Last June I had the opportunity to see one of Utah's Wild Horse herds. This was a truly amazing experience. Standing, encircled by the herd of 200 horses, observing their interaction and relationships really toughed my heart. It was peaceful and powerful at the same moment. Small groups of horses stood together, some sparred, some slept, and others moved from group to group. These two paintings are from a series I am working on of that herd. I want to get the feel, color and life that I saw in these wonderful symbols expressed through my brush strokes. I hope, that viewer's of these paintings feel the same powerful bond and peacefulness that I did while standing among them.

Please contact me for purchase information.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Artist Karen McLain Seeks "Bond" in Riding and Painting

By Betty Swanson © 2009 The Apache Junction-Gold Canyon News

Artists are different from you and me. Well, maybe not so different in what they feel, but in their ability to convey those feelings and impressions. The best art produced by talented artists moves the viewer to insights regarding the time or place or personality depicted.

Local artist Karen McLain is a third generation Arizonan who grew up with a strong connection to the outdoors and a deep appreciation of the landscape and ranching lifestyle. She is also an avid animal lover. Not surprisingly, the outdoors and animals (particularly horses and dogs) are the dominant subject matter in the beautiful oil paintings that she creates.

This summer has been a very special one for her. She recently returned from weeklong workshop in Robertson, Wyoming with Western artist Jim Norton who is a noted member of the Cowboy Artists of America.

Karen calls her experience in Wyoming studying with Norton a tremendous “growth experience,” and says that she will “never look at horses the same again” after learning so much about equine anatomy.

She relates that the group spent a lot of time outdoors, drawing and painting horses from life. This aspect of the course really resonated with Karen because she is a devotee of Plein Air painting, that is, paintings done outdoors from life, typically in one sitting. We’ve all seen artists standing at portable easels, working with pen or brush, totally intent on the vista before them, seemingly oblivious of all else.

As the light changes (Karen says that light changes every seven minutes) and/or the subject moves, she strives to catch those revealed dynamics in her paintings, so that she can “touch” her viewers and allow them “to feel the same extraordinary bond viewing the painting as I had while painting it.”
She pursues this “bond” relentlessly while working. That is the reason Karen much prefers painting any of the animal portraits that she commissions on site while interacting with the animal. She seeks to capture “the personality, spirit or essence” of the horse that is felt “in
an instant” as the result of observing “a flicked ear, a relaxed jaw, or a collection that passes before the camera is ready.”

While painting a horse from life, she said that she feels a connection and communication similar to what one feels when training or riding a horse. She feels that there is “a bond” between horsemanship and painting with many of the same principles –“harmony, feel, timing, rhythm, movement and balance” involved and reflected. I think that many of us who work with horses recognize that “connection” she describes, and I envy her the ability to pursue it and recreate it in a substantial form through use of a physical medium.

Sometimes, for fun, Karen says that she goes up to Goldfield Ghost Town with her easel and draws or paints horses tied to the hitching rail. When the Budweiser Clydesdales were in town she says she became “their groupie,” hanging around their stabling area with an easel, brush and canvas.

She admits this connection she describes is more difficult to capture when she is commissioned via her website ( long distance to do an equine or canine portrait. In those cases, she paints from photos and/or videos, even asking the owner to relate anecdotes that reveal the animal’s personality.

An added bonus to her 1,888 miles of travel this summer was the opportunity, through a friend, to observe and photograph firsthand a herd of wild horses in Nevada. The memories, drawings and photographs she captured are providing inspiration as she develops them into larger works in her home studio this summer.

Karen can be found riding or spending quiet time with her horses and dogs when she is not working on her beautiful paintings. She knows she is a lucky person and says, “Seeing and expressing light and shadow, form and beauty in everyday life is a blessing.”

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Using Plein air Paintings for Studio Reference

While at the Jim Norton Workshop in Wyoming, we painted three horses from life. These were not completed studies, but rather an intense focus on the horse. Last week, I combined some of my photo reference with the information I recorded in the studies I did from life. I was of immense help to have the paintings I did on location to recall colors and values that were completely missing in my photo reference. Painting the horse from life is such a valuable tool for me. It allows me to connect with the horse and learn more about his personality as well as to record visual information that I am unable to obtain any other way. One more advantage that painting horses from life has given me, is a higher understanding of the "life" that I can reflect in paintings that I create in the Studio. If you have any questions about this process, or would like to commission a painting, please contact me.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The painting adventure

Last week I went to Wyoming to attend a workshop with Cowboy Artist, Jim Norton. I took a couple of days getting there and painted at the Horseshoe Bend overlook while I was in Page, AZ. I took a detour to see Bryce Canyon, but didn't paint because of the rain. The workshop focused on really seeing color and value changes, not only in our horse models, but in the landscape as well. We spent a great deal of time focusing on anatomy of the horse and the interaction of light and shadow. I had the opportunity to paint the horse with and without a saddle, and one with a pack on. During one exercise, Jim limited us to one brush stroke per minute! I had the chance to paint the beautiful Wyoming landscape as well. One afternoon, we got to photograph Andrew Goudy, Jim's long time painting model. He was also our cook for the week. I think I gained 10 pounds, Adobe is going to think we're riding double!

On my way home, I met up with Utah photographer Gene Praag. He is truly an inspiring photographer, and has powerfully captured the life of Wild Horses. Standing in the midst of this herd, and quietly watching their interaction, was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had! My sincere thanks to Gene and Valerie Praag for their hospitality. Please visit his site for a glimpse into the life of these Wild Horses.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Painting Horses from Life

On Friday, I am driving to Robertson, WY to take a workshop from Jim Norton. I believe that continued growth and learning is essential to any career, and I am excited about this opportunity to learn and enjoy the company of other painters.
This week, I completed a commission, and worked on a series of small studies. Some of the studies, done on my "lunch break" were en Plein air. Those along with the ones completed in the studio, were done with the goal of capturing the real feel of the moment. I hope you enjoy these, if you would like to purchase one of these, please contact me.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Painting horses en Plein air

Last week, my anticipated order from Open Box M arrived. These Plein air supplies are crafted with quality and ease of use in mind. Needless to say, I could not wait to get out and paint some horses on location. For my maiden voyage, I painted my Percheron/Thoroughbred cross, Comanche. He was happy to roam around the yard, eat his breakfast, (and a little of everyone else's too), while I worked. He finally came over to check it out. "Whoa, that looks like me!", was his exclamation.
The next two days, I worked on location with horses that I am commissioned to paint. My favorite way to work is to paint a horse from life, and get a clear idea of the horses appearance and personality. During these sessions, I photograph the horse as well. The final phase of the commission is to complete a formal painting in the Studio. during the session on Friday, I was able to paint the first without complication. However the second one was too shy. He stayed on the other side of the arena, looking at the horses on the next property. Needless to say, I will return to paint him from life on another day. This morning, was a fun session with a sightly animated horse. This Arab/Pinto gelding knew I was there just for him, and he strutted around for sometime before settling down.
Horses live in the moment, and painting them from life reflects that same requirement of living completely in the present. Each painting and experience is so unique and delightful, that I hope that life and joy are seen in each painting. Please contact me if you are interested in a commission.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Budweiser Clydesdale-The Trio

This painting depicts a common site at the appearances of the Budweiser Clydesdale Team. I was inspired to paint the Trio after spending time with the Team during their five day visit. Not only are the horses amazing, standing 18 hands tall and weighing between 2,000 and 2,300 pounds, but the handlers that care for them take remarkable care of them. The Dalmatian, Brady, was included in the painting as part of the living symbol of the Budweiser Clydesdale's, and the tradition they maintain. If you are a collector of Budweiser memorabilia, and are interested in this original painting, please contact me.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Current oil paintings and Adobe's sarciod update

During the past couple of weeks, I started treatment for Adobe's sarcoid that is located on the side of his head, between the left eye and bridle path. In the past two years, Adobe has had one type of sarcoid removed from this abdomen area, and one on his nose that turned into cancer. That one was also removed, and included chemo injected into the area. Both areas have healed completely and are clear of sarcoids. Please visit Janet Tobiassen DVM for more information on sarcoids, and a photo of Adobe's current sarcoid.

When Adobe had both of his surgery's, Comanche, my Percheron, would toss toys into Adobe's stall. I imagine that he wanted to play with his friend who was on stall rest. Once again, Comanche is doing his part to help Adobe. This series of paintings feature Comanche as my model. Instead of tossing toys, Comanche's effort will be to help defray Adobe's vet bills. Please contact me for purchase information on these paintings.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Horses, Mules and Dogs

My commissions come from the heart. They come from the heart of the person who commissioned the piece, (whether it is for them or a gift), and as an artist, I paint from the heart. I believe that is the place of origin for every painting. It is the emotional reaction we have to our subject that adds Soul to the piece. My friend, Shannon Grissom, is an artist who lives that to the fullest! In expression through paint, song and laughter, the elements of life and Soul are evident.

In the paintings I've posted today, the spirit of the owner and animal come through. I had the opportunity to do some on location paintings of some of these subjects prior to making the final painting. I really believe this adds a depth of knowledge and experience that pays off in every subsequent painting.