Michael Mitchell Interiors Gallery – Christmas work

Duke, Public Painting Session, Charleston Dec. 4

Duke, Public Painting Session, Charleston Dec. 4

This past Saturday I was invited to paint at the Michael Mitchell Interiors Gallery at 438 King St., Charleston, S.C.. The gallery is large and well lit, filled with beautiful art from different artists. The doors were open so the public could come in and watch my painting of Duke evolve.

Duke is a wild stallion I have seen many times in Disappointment Valley, located between Norwood and Dove Creek (about 1 1/2 hrs. from Telluride,CO. He is a beautiful glistening dark horse, and his family is a herd of horses comprised of different family units. They are remnants of other bands rounded up in 2007 by the US GOv’t (BLM) ,  that have come together for protection and comfort. Horses are herd animals. They have strong family units, and rounding them up destroys the family units.

As for the painting, it is and has been for over twelve years now, my passion to paint these magnificent , beautiful, and majestic creatures of God,  who can teach us so much about ourselves and family bonds,  unity, friendship and protection of loved ones. They move me to paint them to hope that you, in turn, will want to help protect them and let your government elected officials know so.

I set up plastic tarps, my easel and paints in the gallery by the door so people would come in freely to look. It was great fun to talk with them about the wild horses, and about the painting I was working on.

I started with a 48 x 72 inch canvas and applied gesso with a large old bristle paint brush. Wet into wet, I applied pale blue over the gesso all over the canvas for a sky and base color. It’s peaceful under the energetic lines of the horse to come. Next I applied with a long palette knife, a mixture of corals and soft gel gloss across the top, about a foot down . It represents the ridges and rock canyons in the desert of Disappointment Valley where this particular band of the Spring Creek Wild Horses live in freedom,though fenced into 22,000 acres.

Then next I dipped my brush into the gallon of pale yello and soft gel I had mixed, into a gallon of water and pressed it against the canvas from left to right to form pools that ran down the canvas in long dripping lines. These represent the desert grasses they eat.

I took a little break in between to let the paint settle a bit, but it was still wet as each coat was applied. Ofen I will work dry layer on toop of dry layer, but creating a painting in one day requires working wet into wet. I rather like that. More mistakes happen and give me opportunities to create interesting subtle images behind the horse.

Next a deep crimson, mixed into soft gel gloss again into a gallon, was the color I used for Duke. I egan the ‘dance’ with the horse, following the memory of the horse’s spirt, referring ocassionally to  a large simple line sketch in warm red-brown, with a brush ink pen. The big bold red lines are that, but simple, yet in their simplicity , it is difficult to use few lines to express his movement. each line, each angle, each turn of the palette knife, leads the line this way and that with my hand turning here and there, until I am satisfied that Duke is at last here! In the final time I applied golf leaf with the palette knife, loosely, on his jaw to create a play in light. At the bottom right corner is a wood block I carved with the words “Disappointment Valley”, under which I sign and date it. I run the brayer in the same crimson , used to bring Duke to life. There is always more that can be done to increase image on a canvas, but sometimes, the less said , the more powerful a painting is.

The story of Duke is that last year, my friend and documentor of these wild horses of Spring Creek Basin, TJ Holmes, and I werre hiking out there to look for the horses. We heard a horse calling, and hiked to find it was Duke looking for his mare and foal. They were gone. We looked for quite a while too, hiking up higher to try to get an overview of the desert Herd Management Area (HMA). Finally, we continued on our way to other parts of the HMA, leaving Duke behind calling and calling for his family. It was heartbreaking. We did not know what had happened t them. But it is the wild, and the horses have to find their way themselves.

Later that day, as we were leaving, we turned to take one last look and way off in the distance we saw Duke. He had found his mare and foal and they were together grazing in dusk’s light. What a happy reunion. I ws so thankful for them. (The following photo is of Duke that I took this summer 2010 Sept.).