Sunday, April 13, 2014

Polo Ponies, Mallets and a White Ball

I've recently completed this year's program cover for the Polo by Twilight event to benefit the Palamountain Scholarship of Skidmore College. Taking place on Tuesday, July 22nd this summer at the Saratoga Polo Grounds, I'll post more information as it becomes available and websites are updated.

Stomping the divots,
Sharon

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

How I Spend My Time

In the studio, actually.

As an artist who makes a living with her artwork, I spend the lion share of my time in the studio painting. I put in long days because I love what I do. Time spent on social media and other computer time wasters take a back seat to my work ethic and I'm okay with that.

It was no surprise when Michael showed me this article on the Time website reporting Facebook's change in policy. Paid advertising has minimal returns for artists and that seems to be where Facebook is steering us. I've posted my opinion regarding social media in the recent past and you can read about it here. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-Facebook or any other platform, I'm just busy making the work to sell. Now that my reach to "fans" on Facebook has decreased due to no fault of mine, it's a relief. Goodbye to the nagging guilt that I'm not "working it" thoroughly and covering all bases with my marketing efforts. However, I do have my antennae tuned to opportunities that often come my way from the most unexpected sources and that's where stuff happens.

If I conduct a search on Facebook of whom I consider to be some of the top artists that I admire, it seems they don't spend an inordinate amount of time there and that's if they've even signed up at all. So, how do they get famous and well regarded by so many? I don't have the answers but I suspect it has something to do with working, studying and concentrating on creating the best, most beautiful and meaningful artwork they can.

It was a lovely, sunny day and my first chance of the year to get outside and paint. A quick sketch:
7"x9" on canvas paper plein air
Don't poke me,
Sharon

Friday, April 04, 2014

A Creek Runs Through It

Attempting to get outside and paint from life is still a challenge here in upstate New York. The weather has improved temperature-wise but there's still the wind and the frequent bone-chilling rains. So, I painted this little sketch in the studio from a photograph. It's the creek that runs through the property we rented on a rare sunny day before the thaw. I painted it on Arches paper for oils purchased just for plein air studies. So here's the conundrum that most artists face and is always a head shaker: freed from the investment of an expensive stretched canvas, painting on paper or canvas paper invites lively experimentation. The pressure to produce a serious painting is lifted and the sketch becomes a simplified romp of expression. The question is how to transfer this impromptu joy and elation to the larger costly canvas?

Creek, 9"x12" oil on paper
Fun in the north,
Sharon

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Video

In the past week I've been asked several times for my opinion of the Scott Blasi video that was secretly shot by a member of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in case you're not hep). As I grow older and hopefully gain some wisdom with the years, I've made it my philosophy to thoughtfully respond rather that react with a knee-jerk emotion, even though initially, I did. I admit it. Here's a link to the video...I warn you, it's not easy to watch. Forget about Blasi's profanity...like it or not people, it's a lot of the culture. And forget about the young woman who shot the video, she's a minor player.

I perused PETA's website. I wanted to inform myself what they are all about, something they don't always reciprocate toward their targets. Their mission is to bring attention to and end the perceived cruelty of factory farms, the clothing industry, laboratory testing and the entertainment industry involving the use of animals. There's also an extensive Wikipedia article which appears non-biased. PETA freely admits to using guerrilla tactics which they say is necessary to gain attention to animal abuses and exploitation. Some of these tactics are extreme, even getting themselves labeled as a terrorist threat by certain organizations.

The video is alarming, to put it mildly. As a former race tracker of twenty-five plus years, I recognize many of the practices and procedures illustrated. Most are legal and therapeutic. However, it doesn't make a case for ethics or what is humane. I was extremely upset and disturbed. I know what I know. However, here's were I take issue as do most of my peers: the supposedly seven hours of recording were sliced and cut down to nine and a half minutes of what I can only deduce to be the worst and the most damning in order to further PETA's overwrought campaign against horse racing. This is where PETA fails.

The horse racing industry is made up of some the hardest working people on the planet. The vast majority love their horses, take exemplary care of them, and always put their horse's needs first long before their own. Why else would someone work seven days a week all day long for months on end at something they didn't have an insane passion for? Of course there will always be the abusers everywhere. Heck, there are many, many who shouldn't have dogs and cats.

I'm not making excuses. I had to ask myself: can PETA, who spends so much time, money and effort, often putting themselves in harm's way in order to champion the cause of animals be all that bad?

The talking heads of all the major racing organizations are “gravely concerned” and “launching investigations” into the matter portrayed in the video. Why does it take something like this to institute badly needed change? I'm not an executive, nor do I possess the business acumen but hello, the need for nationwide, consistent rules and regulations and the consistent enforcement of said rules has been requested by the horse people themselves for a long, long time. Not only do unscrupulous trainers exist, but also unscrupulous owners who in my opinion should also bear responsibility and be called to task in these situations.You know them, the ones who instruct their trainers to "win at all costs."

It's a great game when it's played fairly,
Sharon

Monday, March 17, 2014

God's Horse

I've recently completed two new racing paintings. Feels so good to spend some time with the Muse. We still get along great and had some enlightening conversations!

A photographer friend sent me a series of sequential shots of horses breaking out the starting gate at Saratoga. Taken last summer, they were excellent, and I asked his permission to use them as reference for a painting I had in mind. His photos were taken somewhere between the 3/4 to the 5/8 pole from the main stable area. I manipulated the space – in his photos the grandstand in the background was much nearer so I ended up using one of my photos to push the iconic building back. Also, there wasn't one single photo of the horses that I based my painting on. I didn't like the heads in this one and preferred the legs in that one, etc. You get the idea, it's a compilation (not that they weren't outstanding photos, I just have a feel for what makes a suitable composition for a painting). My friend was wondering if I used Photoshop to put together the perfect photo. Nope, there were several preliminary drawings made until I had the image just right. Like I'm that talented with Photoshop...I wish!

Here's the piece with the info, clickhere.

Saratoga Break, oil on canvas, 30"x40"
Two summers ago Ron Turcotte visited my booth at Saratoga and asked why I had never painted Secretariat. I uncomfortably mumbled something about not painting champions unless commissioned, feeling quite stupid. Champions? Secretariat is THE CHAMPION, Super Horse, God's Horse, the Tremendous Machine! And here was the famous Triple Crown jockey in my booth, admiring my artwork, not seeing any paintings of his favorite and one of the greatest racehorses ever. EVER.

I've had some time to think about that meeting and now sheepishly admit that for an artist who has made a career of painting horse racing, I've missed the boat. And why did it take me almost two years to get “it?” Well, that's another story entirely but suffice to say, I didn't just paint Secretariat, I immersed myself in the history of his greatness. He ignited a passion and sent me on a journey to discover the entire remarkable story.

I began with watching the Disney move (again). Inaccurate to a fault in the details of track life but a great story regardless as it clearly illustrates the courage of Penny Chenery. Then I watched the classice ESPN documentary (again and again), loving the shock and awe of the sports reporters who convered his racing triumphs. I watched the real Belmont race (over and over, with chills every time). That race is a marker in the personal history of so many. If you are old enough to have witnessed it live, you'll always remember where you were and who you were with. Then it was off to the library to pour over some books, especially the one authored by Penny Chenery's daughter Kate, Secretariat's Meadow, who wrote a lovely portrait of her mother's relationships with all the connections. Then I consulted my Muybridge book to see how extreme I could portray the stride of a great race horse. In my opinion, there are two points in the all-out running stride that effectively dipict the dynamism characteristic of this magnificent animal. One is when all four feet are off the ground and the other is the one I've portrayed – the hind legs have just powerfully pushed the massive body forward, the extension of the shoulders and neck reveal tremendous musculature while the front legs act like the spokes of a wheel. Oh yes, God's Horse. 
Click here for the info.

Secretariat, oil on canvas, 24"x36"
I hope Ron will be pleased.
Sharon

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Winter Blahs Be Gone

After an insufferably long and frigid winter up here in the north country, I'm ready to get cranking. Some new opportunities have presented a respite from the dark and cold hibernation season. The positive side to all this is the necessity to stay in the studio and get some serious painting done. And I have.

Three commissions, a foxhunting piece and a Saratoga inspired painting are completed. Another racing canvas is in the works and that should - should - take me up to warmer weather. The racing paintings will become giclees and a possible poster for the track meet this summer. Something for those of you who visit my booth every year and ask "so what have you got new?"

After my tentative foray into plein air painting in the paddock and in the stable area last summer, I continued to paint outside until it became too cold. Okay, I'm a weenie and went back inside when temps dropped below forty degrees. However, I absolutely loved it! Loved it enough to get the nerve to apply to my first plein air competition being held in Finger Lakes, NY in June. To my astonishment, I was accepted! Let me tell you that I will be in excellent, experienced company. (begin nail biting)

Dusk at the Lake, 11"x14" oil on canvas plein air

One of my steeplechase paintings has been chosen by the High Hope Steeplechase in Lexington, KY for their program cover. Last year the meet was cancelled so I'm thrilled it's back as it's one of my favorite venues. My artwork will be rotated lengthwise to accommodate their format. Should be an interesting design.


Here's a photo of the creek less than fifty yards from our new house. Taken just today so you don't think I'm a total wimp for not getting out and painting...yet.

Think spring!
Sharon

Monday, February 03, 2014

The Muse - Revisited

In the past I written about my personal Muse. We've had lots of good times together, and we've also defiantly stared each other down, hands on hips. A typical love relationship. When the equine art market flatlined, I tearily bade her goodbye, promised to visit often and set off in search of a replacement. Believe me, the Goddess of Horse Art is a stalker.

You may be asking, what is the Muse? In Greek mythology, there are three goddesses who provide knowledge and creative inspiration. Here's the Wikipedia version. In my opinion, it's the drive behind any worthy endeavor - whether it's a masterpiece of art or music or the cure for cancer. Referring to the Muse implies an outside entity when in reality the source comes from within. Creatives must learn to access a higher consciousness where all of life's answers and infinite ideas abound. Okay, it's where you invoke the Muse. Sometimes she waits around for you, insisting that you ask nicely, and sometimes she arrives unannounced in her glorious swooshing cape.

I recently listen to a Radiolab segment on NPR. Me, Myself, and the Muse is an interesting take on the the where, when and how's of inspiration. It's well worth a few minutes to listen. Be sure to hang around long enough to hear Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love). She's a delight.

Firefox won't let me embed the audio so you'll have to click to the link here.

Say hi to your Muse for me,
Sharon

Monday, January 20, 2014

Permission to be Great

I harbor a guilty pleasure: award shows. Surprised? They ignite that fantasy portion of my brain and I visualize "what if?" What if there were nationally televised award programs specifically targeted to visual artists? Can the subjective approval of art be measured? What would be distinctive, considered excellent enough to garner special merit? What would truly be "award-winning (not self-proclaimed) and by who's standards?

Okay, that's just too crazy to even consider and yet another subject for an all-night discussion. So, I'm watching the Golden Globes last week and Leonardo DiCaprio wins best actor in a musical or comedy. His acceptance speech includes much gushing about Martin Scorcese, seated in the audience and director of the film DiCaprio has won the award for. DiCaprio calls Scorcese a "risk-taker", a "visionary", putting "the fabric of our culture on screen." I agree. Massively talented, his list of accolades is beyond impressive and his multi-tasking for not only directing films but also screenwriting, producing, acting and filling in as film historian is nonpareil. When do these over-achievers sleep? What drive. His work is great, he will leave a legacy of greatness, he drags his players along with him to great accomplishment...he's just an inspiration to become great.

Pondering this in my studio the next morning, I'm wondering if I could be great. Could I ever paint a great canvas or aspire to a great idea? What really defines "great?"

With arms folded in front a large commissioned canvas, I gather up the chutzpa to whisper to myself: today I will do something great. Just like that. This hesitant yet audacious statement prompted a liberating feeling of empowerment. Like giving myself permission to really strive, achieve and go for it. It promised opportunity for growth with assurance. It handed out confidence. It's too simple.

I urge you to give a a shot...you won't be sorry. They're just words, after all. I've said it everyday since the Golden Globes. I'm emboldened.

Discover you own greatness,
Sharon

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Year, New Digs

Our move out of the gallery/living space on Beekman St. into the new house was not without drama. Progress was impeded by severe weather - ice storms, blizzards and frigid temps. It's winter after all and an honest one. The day before we were scheduled to spend our first night, fourteen inches of snow fell. We shoveled our way out of the driveway but the roads were impassable. We decided to stay put one more night. That very night, the new house was broken into and all the copper piping in the basement was ripped out and hauled away taking the heat and water along in the destructive chaos. The intruders also ransacked through everything we had already brought over, helping themselves to all of Michael's power tools and a few other things that could bring a quick buck. Thankfully, and I mean thankfully, all the printers and computer equipment were left unscathed as well as all the paintings.

We finally moved in last week but I have to say...it's a creepy, uneasy feeling that takes over that I'm sure anyone who has experienced a similar situation can empathize. The 12-gauge is now out of it's case and propped behind the door.

But life goes on and we managed to take care of some business while unpacking. Assessment of 2013 and plans for 2014 are now on paper and I'm anxious to get settled and back into the studio. Anxious to paint and anxious for routine. Anxious for the focus and addictive Zen-like brain state that is art making.

Before:
After:

I look forward to a productive and prosperous new year and wish my readers the same. I hope I've imparted something useful or at least thought-provoking in this blog and I'm grateful that you've joined me on this artistic journey. Thank you for celebrating my accomplishments with me and allowing me to vent my doubts, fears and insecurities. In the "jungles of time and space" as Mike Dooley calls this crazy adventure.

With loving appreciation since 2006!
Sharon

Monday, December 16, 2013

Onward and upward (again)!

The building we're renting for our gallery/living quarters has been sold. We're moving on and the feelings are bittersweet. There's great energy here: history, ghosts, the spirit of many ethnic groups who have stamped their presence on the neighborhood to infiltrate our milieu. Ah, but change is good and we'll look forward to new opportunities.

The art biz has changed so much in the past few years. Is it due to the recession? Or the way our clients purchase art? Or that we as artists have had to take on the role of self-promotion that wasn't required a mere few years ago? More than likely a combination of all of the above. Remember the days when we hooked up with a prestigious gallery that sold our work for us, freeing us to joyously create?

With that said, we won't be searching out a new gallery space. I've been working this career a long, long time and the majority of my business is repeat customers who contact me via phone or email. I also reap the benefits of internet marketing from my website and a bit from (dare I say) social media. I also have a mailing list that I've honed and cultivated to represent those who have either purchased from me or very likely will purchase. Included are those who are sincere fans who may or may not purchase yet hopefully endorse and recommend my artwork. When we put the pencil to paper to determine the profit ratio of the gallery space...well, the numbers didn't justify.

So, as I assess the past two years here in the so-called Historic Arts District on Beekman Street, I will say that our participation in the entity has been a disappointment. 'Nuf said. There are some individuals and organizations who have worked tirelessly to promote Saratoga Springs as an arts destination. God bless them. A tourist town is a tourist town and those six weeks in the summer prove it. Another curious factoid for the business minded here in Saratoga: if you're not located on Broadway - you're screwed. Just my opinion.

If you'd like to see all my original paintings in one place, make haste. We'll be moving at the end of December and my artwork will be designated to places afar. Also, my dear friend Robert Stebleton is sticking with me to the end. I'm extremely honored to have his nationally renown paintings in my gallery. The chance to savor his artwork is reason enough for you to visit the gallery in the next few weeks.

The gallery/studio in pretty times.
Working on yet another new business plan,
Sharon