Saturday, August 27, 2011

Visiting and Painting Wild Horses


Painting Picasso, the famous Sand Wash Basin paint.


The vast area that these horses call home, is absolutely beautiful!



Being able to see the way the light effects the coat, and knowing that the horse will move anytime, really forces me to look intently and live completely in the present.


In June of 2009, I was on my way home from a workshop with Cowboy Artist of America, Jim C. Norton, when I first visited wild horses. It was the Onaqui herd located West of the Salt Lake area in Utah. At that time, I had no idea the profound impact they would have on my heart, and the important way they would change my painting.
Seeing wild horses changed me. I felt like I was a voyoueer to something scarred, almost forgotten. Watching them in the vast landscape with all of the power, risk and freedom that is inherent living in nature, not dependent on humans for anything captivated my interest. I have been drawn to seek out opportunities to visit wild horses on public and private land, each time learning something new from the way they interact with each other.
In July, I traveled to Craig, Colorado to visit the Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area. The SWB herd is located on 160,000 acres of public land in northwest Colorado. They share the range with elk, deer and a sheep graze lease during part of the year. There are several bands that make up this herd, and during the course of three days, I was able to observe them.
There were family groups that ranged from newborn foals, to long time band Stallions in their twenties. I watched as they protected their young, played and sparred, and those bachelors that were trying to steal some mares for their own band.
As well as taking almost 4000 photos, I had the opportunity to paint three quick oil studies. In addition to the experience of painting the landscape from life, I find painting horses from life to be not only challenging but vital to the life that I put into studio paintings. When painting a landscape from life, we don't need to worry about the landscape moving, (only the sun moving), when painting a human from life, we can pose the model, when painting a domestic horse from life, we can tie them to a hitching post, but painting a wild horse from life has none of those constraints. Somehow, the lack of those constraints symbolizes the freedom inherent in the wild horses. That energy, freedom and life is part of what I put into those studies.
The quick studies and photo reference is what I work from when I get back to the studio. It was a great thrill and honor to be able to paint a well known band stallion, Picasso. He is an immediately recognizable stallion that has touched the hearts and imagination of people around the world that have visited him on the range or on the internet. There was a certain symmetry to being able to paint the wild paint horse, Picasso. The study I did of him as well as the two other studies, help me remember the color, value and feel of what it was like out on the Sand Wash Basin. I hope to bring that into the homes of collectors that may never make it out to the Range, but will be able to feel the life, freedom and power of the Wild Horses.

4 comments:

Margaret said...

Oh, I SO love your blog. I am a follower.

Karen McLain said...

Thank you Margaret, I appreciate your support!

Sam said...

I wish I could paint with you - Baron and the other horses, as well as our Golden Boys take up so much of my time. I am left with my doodles!

Christine (Sam)

Karen McLain said...

It would be fun to paint with you too Christine!