Painting Picasso. There is no way to "pose" wild horses, which really puts an edge to the feel and experience of working from life.
"Picasso in the Wind"
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 witnessed 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 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 helps 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.
I have been asked about the difference in painting wild and domestic horses from life. Wild horses don't need us and that relationship of dependence is not there. So their focus is not tied to me while painting. I am able to study their interactions without the factor of human influence. There is always a story they share within those relationships, which is profound to watch.
Filmmaker, Ginger Katherns, creator of the documentary series, following “Cloud”, the Stallion in the Pryor Mountains of Montana has years of field experience with the wild horses. She expresses so fully how I feel about the wild horses. “I think that those of us that have seen wild horses-they change you. I think they renew you spiritually. They are a symbol of the Wild West. So they are part of our history and culture.” “And to see them wild speaks to a time long ago when there was total freedom, And I think we identify as Americans with freedom and they renew us, they give us hope.”
Freedom is the essence of wild horses. There is something fundamentally pure and powerful in that. That feeling of being renewed is part of what I want to express I want to visit every HMA I can. Paint every horse until I have said everything there is for me to say, share the most beautiful thing I know in the only way I know how to share it.