Monday, January 25, 2010

Bluebird Riding School at Rocking Horse Pub

This Sunday I had the pleasure of attending an open house for a couple of friends who are starting the Bluebird Riding School out of the Rocking Horse Pub in Nanoose, BC. Karen Cipranic and her husband Richard Crowley just moved all of their horses into the huge barn after an arduous journey from California, where Karen used to run her school out of her ranch. The old barn at the Rocking Horse Pub was vacant for quite a few years so the open house was all about creating awareness in the community about Karen's unique school.

I am just getting to know Karen, but I can tell already, that she is one of those really rare people that exudes more of an air of an angel than a human. She cares for all those horses and ponies (lost track of the number but think there are 22-30!) like they are family. They are clean, well fed, and most importantly, loved. There are all shapes and colors, all sizes and types of personalities with an array of names assigned that no doubt, match their disposition and traits. I also saw though, that Karen exudes the same care and attention to her new customers - little boys and girls who came into the barn with eyes wide open as they exclaimed "look - horses!". Some of the newly signed up kids could barely contain themselves as Karen talked to them about their upcoming lessons. I am always happy to see kids get the chance to be near "real stuff" (vs. technology) so watching them in the barn was just great. I was lucky enough that as a born horse nut, my family was also into them - but I hold a special soft spot for youngsters who are born with the affliction but cannot be near them. Karen will provide that very important missing link in the horse world - bringing kids into contact with horses in a safe, holistic way that gets them well grounded in horsemanship. Her barn is not one of catty chats about disciplines and gear - but about good old basic stories and fun.

She was lucky enough to have a young lady named Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shaw wander into the barn and offer to assist Karen. She calls her her barn angel - and already Lizzy has made herself irreplaceable helping to feed the horses, muck stalls and assist Karen in the operation of the facility. She will no doubt be a great role model for these young kids - another thing that is so missing in today's social reality.

They are taking reservations for June, July and August 2010 Summer camps where kids are in one week sessions doing an array of activities from vaulting, to pole bending, trail rides, crafts and much more. They are designed for kids 6 - 12 years old - so if that is you or someone you know - visit their site at: or call Karen at 250-751-4646.

I took a few shots while on location - hard to get good lighting in the barn but a few turned out. The kids on the rocking horse was just classic, considering the name of the place. The carrots were a gift for the horses from a local business. The old boot was decoration and the horse was a little pony called Braidy (believe it or not) who didn't like the flash much but was so photogenic they still turned out. Karen has booked me for a spring photo shoot and I just can't wait to get them all in the natural morning/evening light to get her some photos she can use for her sight and the barn stalls.
Thanks Karen, Richard and Elizabeth - and have a great summer ahead working your magic on a very important job - teaching kids to value and respect horses.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bold Beauty

Well, trying to stick to my painting a week committment now that I am back to work. I certainly notice the change in my energy level in the evenings when I usually paint. I have made such progress over the last while that I really want to keep painting as I see improvements each painting and I am learning a ton.

This painting was done on a 12 by 16 canvas, a bit smaller than I am used to. I wanted something dramatic, a dark background with some red, orange and yellow tones to provide energy. Then I painted my youngest horse El Nino coming towards the viewer. Nino is one of the boldest horses I have ever met - even as a 3 year old he was the first out on rides and I have yet to see him spook at anything. I love this confidence as he teaches me how not to fear anything in life. I have loved a lot of horses in life, but he is definately special - I love riding him becauses of this transfer of energy but also because of his dream lope. He wants to lope over everything - in a controlled beautiful see saw manner.

This year I set a goal to win the Best Young Horse award for BC Competitive Trail Riding with him - now 6 years old, we competed in almost every ride winning in the top three in every one. At year end, we succeeded and Nino won the highest points for young horses competing in the province, something I am very proud of him for. We will set new goals this year.

This painting is in honour of his win and it captures the essence of this 16 HH ivory palomino boy well. Cheeky, bold, energetic, friendly, in your face, positive and warm. That is him for those of you who can't meet him.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pasture pals

I decided I needed a new painting in my office - something warm, fun and inviting. Inspired by a photo from Gisele's latest horse photography book, I composed a painting of three young horses playing with one another in the pasture. I wasn't too crazy on the coloring so changed the colors of the horses and took out a couple from the photo to arrive at my composition.
This painting caused me a lot of stress, likely because it is on a large canvas and the faces needed to appear clear in order for it to have the right impact. I am a semi realism/impressionism artist so I struggled with the clarity needed on the face of the one in front - particularly because I didn't have a reference photo to work from. At many points I had to close my eyes and imagine where the sun would hit which contours on his face in order to have it come across okay. There are far too many photos in the progression of this one to show here - suffice to say it took a few more hours than I was expecting.
Then when adding the glaze, I ran into a problem I hadn't had before - I think the glaze went a bit dry before I put it on and I ended up having some big sticky sections which, when dried, really stood out from the others. No matter what I did, you could see the streaks. So I ended up redoing it all in a matte finish, which makes it appear a bit darker than I would like, but I am happy with the end product regardless. Learning with each one - some more than others.
Back at work now so feeling an energy drain in the evenings, hope the weather clears soon and we can get back to riding so I can take more source photos to keep inspired.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Setting up for 2010

Happy New Year! I have a couple of routines for the New Year - one is a morning run with my girlfriend Laureen and the dogs, another is putting the Christmas stuff away and the last is writing in my journal. So far, two down - one to go. When Laureen and I run, we come up with one word that captures the last year, and one word the describes intent for the new year. This is not easy to do - one word usually takes awhile to feel just right. For me, this last year has been like a switchback. I took six months off work (my day job is a researcher at VIU) with no real plans other than to be a human being instead of a human doing. I didn't want to be run by daytimers and to do lists. Being in the moment and listening to the world around me was the goal - which is hard to measure but with two days left to go in the leave - I think I made it. Laureen asked me what the highlight of the leave was and I told her it was getting my website up and running - for some reason, pursuing the goal of becoming an artist became more real when I put myself out there a bit with the website and blog. I have a long way to go but the word switchback encapsulates the year because I took a slow and steady path, still ascending, but in a more balanced way that conserved my energy, made me focus on my goals and proved to me that there is more than one way forward. I haven't decided on the word for next year, but I think it will be something like "receive" - meaning I want to be open to receiving creativity, new experiences, friendships and love in life.

Turning the year forward also has an ability to put me into organizing mode. One of the places I have needed to organize is my little studio space. As I paint more and more, the large canvas and volumes of paints are starting to take over my space. I took a couple steps - both short and long term to get organized with my space. Yesterday we bought this great little organizer at Costco for $25 that has 10 drawers that are perfect for my paints (color coded too!) and a tray that I can put my water and palette on while painting. It has little rollers too so I can swing it into position easily and store it when done (see Mr. Beau and the unit in the photo with my current painting beside it). The second thing I did was talk to our tenant about our plans to take over our little cottage next door for next fall to convert into a gallery/studio. We have this great little space (700 sq ft) right beside the house that we have rented for 7 years - but the plan was to do something with it eventually. I plan to get organized and then get the cottage onto the Yellowpoint/Cedar Christmas tour next year to promote my art. It is always good to dream...

Hopefully when I am back at work, I can find the energy and inspiration to continue painting and shooting images - keep me honest and if I don't write for a bit - ask what I am working on!

Best of the New Year.