Category Archives: Europe 2017

Journey of the horses

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Some journeys are more pleasant than others in this life.  One thing I have learned is that humans travel much faster than paintings when it comes to arriving at their destination.  All your hopes, dreams and aspirations are pinned to the reliability of the mail service you entrusted.  You look at your beloved painting and tell it, “You are going to your new home now, your driver is____.  Call me when you get there, enjoy your new life!”.

Well I didn’t exactly tell my painting that, come to think of it, I never really talk to me paintings unless it’s during the painting process.  I know it can get a bit lonely when you’re painting in your studio, but I’m not at that point yet where I start talking out loud to my art.  But I do pray a lot for my art to come out well and to get to the new owner’s home safely.

Where I live, it’s the smallest city in Portugal and therefore I’m far from frame shops and the closest FedEx.  I went to my local post office where that was my only option at the time, because I wanted my client to have the painting quickly.  I don’t visit Porto often and wasn’t sure when I would get there.  I work mostly during the day/night teaching and wanted to get my painting shipped before Thanksgiving.  And it helped that CTT, my local post office, said it would take around 5 days to get to its destination.  I’ve mailed postcards out before and they arrived to people so I entrusted them with my painting.

Then the journey hit some speed bumps.

A week then two weeks past and looking at the tracking info, it still hasn’t arrived at its destination.  My heart started to sink because I was fearing the worst.  And it didn’t help after finding out that once my package left Portugal, then it stopped tracing the package.  What kind of logic was that?  I found out that in Portugal, you used to trace the package for the whole journey but that changed last year.  I should have done more research, if I only know after talking about it in my Facebook groups.  I started hearing stories of mail taking up to six weeks.  Then again, I also heard FedEx was so reliable as well.

I put in a claim last week and was thinking about contacting customs.  Somebody must know where this package was!  I mean it’s 2017, isn’t everything monitored to the tee?  I was starting to become quite uneasy, about to shred Portugal for what they’ve done to my art.  Stuff like this could ruin your whole perception on the places you live.

After three weeks, my client said she received my art and is getting it framed at this very moment!  Talk about the taking a collective deep breath!  I was so miserable during the process of the journey with this package.  I was ready to paint another one, regardless how hard it may have been.  It’s impossible to duplicate an original piece of art, but I was ready to do so.  It was my fault for not choosing a private, international carrier in the first place.  And from now on, it’s what I’ll do.  Life’s too short to worry about these kind of things, so there is a happy ending.  My customer got her art and I got another life lesson.

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Is there a right time for Gratitude?

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This is more music than art related but still a big part of my life, music always had been.I sit here in my studio after a long day at school.  English and piano were the tall orders of the day.  That’s Gratitude.

I am preparing my students for a Christmas show at school, and I’m the one who suggested that I will lead the charge and be in charge of the Christmas music spectacular.  I’m planning on doing a medley of Christmas songs.  That’s Gratitude.  I haven’t performed in over 30 years to an audience, just some minor dabbling.  I know chords and have a good intuitive feel to make notes sound good.  Perhaps that carried over to painting, why I make my colors harmonize with each other.

But I have spent more time with the piano, learning these Christmas songs and doing four songs into a Christmas medley that will have my students singing.  We’ll even have some students play the guitar and violin if it all goes well.  I’m very motivated and need this now.  Just because I’m spending more time with music doesn’t mean I love art less.  Both are a huge part of my existence.  I notice the similarities of music and art.  They both need a great composition to make things work like clock-work.  The colors and light move along like the notes and chords that go together like a dream.

Is music my wife and painting my mistress or is it the other way around?  I believe one mode of expression can affect the other in a positive way.  No need to feel guilty, just some gratitude that I have the ability to do both.  I allowed myself to play and feel music again because this is what feels right, right now.  Some people may believe to be a great painter, you need to spend 24/7, 7 days a week doing it to feel dedicated or taken seriously.  Maybe I have taken myself too seriously.  I would rather have fun.  I don’t see myself as less of an artist if I don’t spend all my time, it’s just a natural part of me and I really don’t owe anyone any explanation about it.  It’s what I do, who I am.

I’m here in Portugal where Thanksgiving is not celebrated.  But starting to accept gratitude could be the key to happiness that’s worth exploring.  That gratitude is sure ringing louder in my ears today.  That’s real Gratitude!

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Icelandic Horse Family

Icelandic Horse Family

I was in the middle of doing some experimental and landscape paintings when I saw one of the most gorgeous photos of some horses in Iceland.  Fortunately, this photo belonged to a longtime client of mine.  She travels a bit too and takes amazing photos of her journey.  For some reason, I was compelled to ask if I could paint this photo.  I was moved by the beauty of the family of horses and the way they were positioned.  Each was very individual yet they all interconnected with each other.  And it reminds me that the concept of family goes way beyond humans or even animals.  The love of family keeps life alive, and can never be underestimated.

photo credited to R. Goodfriend

Phase 1

The painting started with a dark grey oil coat, which was challenging enough as I took some white chalk to create the first outlines of the horses.  It was the first time I used white chalk to create a drawing.  But this is the foundation of the whole painting, so it must be proportionally correct.

glowing horses

The glowing horses


Phase 2

Time to put in the large splotches of color and create the shapes.  The detail goes in later so everything looks pretty flat, doesn’t it?  It’s ok for now, this is the prelude to the detail coming up.

Icelandic horse family 2

Color them horses!

Phase 3

So now comes the detailing, which is always the most fun and hardest part of it.  I have drawn human hair way more than horse hair, so I knew I had to be patient with this part of the process.  So I took a big brush with light yellow color I mixed with white and a touch of red to make the mother’s hair.  Same with the baby’s hair.  The father’s hair took the longest because it was the most complex.  I used big and small brushes, and used a palette knife in some areas, including the hair and his body.

This part of creating the bond between mother and child was a sensitive process too, and wanted her expression to be as genuine as possible.  And creating the baby’s eye was as detailed as I could get.  It had to be in the right spot of the head or it would look way off.  Luckily, I wasn’t thinking “make or break” moments, just trying to get it right.  This wasn’t my first time at the rodeo.

Phase 4

Icelandic Horse Family

‘Iceladic Horse Family’
11×14 oil on panel

To conclude, the mother’s hair and ears were among the last elements for completion. It came out better than I thought. I added the reddish colors to the father horse towards the end (no pun intended) that made the skin texture more authentic and beautiful. I knew where the darkest and lightest parts of the painting were going to be, and that was helpful too. This was my first horse commission and hopefully not my last. It was good fun to do.

Thank you for reading my post, don’t forget to follow my art and process on Instagram!