Monday, 30 May 2011

Society of Equestrian Artists' Annual Exhibition Submission

Two horse paintings submitted today, form in post, payment made, images sent, wishing them luck!

I'll Fly Away, Acrylic on Canvas, 24"x24"
based on a photo by JustChaos under Creative Commons 2.0
Copyright A Cairns all rights reserved
Into The Dust, Acrylic on Canvas, 24"x24"
based on a photo by RedHotRuby, with permission
Copyright A Cairns all rights reserved
Paintings are still with me for the Dunlop Gala day, my lucky two horses I hope!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

SEA submission time and Dunlop Fayre

It is looking to be an extremely busy week ahead for me.

It is the week of the Society of Equestrian Artists submission deadline for the annual show later this Summer. This is my first year as a Friend of the SEA and I am putting the finishing touches to two paintings to submit for the show. I am excited at the opportunity but also nervous as to whether the work will be accepted but at least I will know in a few weeks as to whether it makes the first cut on the basis of the digital images I submit ....fingers crossed.

Closer to home, I have had the opportunity to show at Dunlop Town Fair on Saturday 4th June. I am completely new to the 'fair' market so am now likely to be in a flap for much of the week looking for easels, table covers, printing leaflets, framing work, and chasing down some examples that I left at Easterton and Craigengellan Stables earlier in the month. I am not sure whether to take some thing to work on while at the fair, if people like to see you 'at work'. If there are any local followers - that would be friends and family  - do come and see me!

On the riding front things are quieter. My Monday with Merlyn (spelt with a Y for luck, I now learn having spelt with an I for weeks) was off due to 100 mph gusts and heavy rain. I know my fairwether luck was due to run out.  Ah, the Scottish Summer....what's not to love?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Art in progress...picky feet.

In progress painting, copyright A.M.Cairns

What is it about horses feet that are so challenging. They can be nearly as much a pest to pick as they can are to paint, but you can't gloss over the care they need.  

These are in need of some attention, but it's late now, so tomorrow belongs to them.....

.....and maybe Merlin, if the weather forecast for gales and torrential rain, proves to be wrong!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Hacking oot this month...

Thats a Scottish-ism, not a typo.

This beautiful horse is Trio, he is a Craigengellen Horse who I took out on a hack at the weekend.  He is absolutely stunning. I love the fact that they let his mane grow out, I think ke is destined for an drawing or illustration project, he has mystical pony / horse written all over that face, he just needs a story to suit!
Trio, a lovely Craigengellan Horse

As you may know if you have been following a while I have a few issues with hacking out horses - there is a history there, like I have said everyone has a story, and you find mine here. Anyhow, I have been working on erase this long past event and replace it with the more positive riding experiences of the present,  and I have a two pronged attack. The first is visiting Craigengellan, where the hacking is terrific. The horses are ridden out regularly, know the land and seem a lovely relaxed lot. I think this has the potential to work wonders for the confidence and restoring a lot of positive riding experiences from my childhood and we can have some fun cantering over fields in a very safe setting, with sound horses.

My friend Jane in front, over the fells we go.

Trio was selected for his extra laid back demeanour. He was good as gold and we cantered up over the fells without minimal hint of my 'open green space' angst. I had a 'whoa' moment as he stretched out a little closer to a gallop, but he eased back, and realised it was all in the head. 'Smile' shouted the lead rider over her shoulder at me, and I did, I beamed with the excitement of it. We even managed not to trample on a young lamb who darted out in our path, as even with grass under his toes he slowed when asked, allowing the little lamb to scamper with a 'maaa' to his 'maaam'

The other prong is Merlin, been the lovely big horse who a very kind colleague at work is letting me ride. On Mondays I have the luxury of just a little bit of stolen time which neither belongs to my work nor my children amd some of this time now belongs to Merlin.

This is a entirely a different type of riding, the catching, grooming, tacking going out on your own kind that is a much truer representation of having your own horse. And it requires extra boots full of confidence.

Merlin, just as well I am not a photographer!
Riding alone is a strange one. I did it younger on Sam and others without a thought, but then I came a cropper. Having stood in alone a field once hollering for help, I have no particular intention of repeating this, but the risk is always there.

So far I have only made it out in company, although we ride along the road to the school and back alone, but the plan is to get right over this. My confidence is growing as I get to know him and I think I have reached the stage that  this week I think we will go for a little post lesson hack on our own. Our ride will be walking and trotting, as although there are a few opportunities for a canter, that will only be if and when I find the nerve to silence too rational mind enough to do so.  

Anyhow, a landmark moment ..... baby steps are the way to go.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

On the Easel....New Horse Painting

I don' know why I say on the easel, it is on the coffee table, being painted at eleven at night, in appalling artificial light and the backdrop of Lady Gaga in concert on BBC Three. It was all I could do to just listen, as had I looked up too often I might have started to dance and then the painting time would be hi-jacked.

Untitled - In progress painting
copyright A Cairns,
Painting is thanks to a beautiful photo which caught my eye on Red Hot Ruby's Blog of one of her horses in a dust storm in Texas (thank you so for being kind enough to allow me to use your photo!)

She is still in progress, I need to work in a little more detail into the background so that I can come back to the foreground and work on the tail, which looks great in the photo, splaying out in the wind.

She is shaping up nicely, feeling really good, although the camera flash has been kind and tomorrows daylight may not be!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

A bird in the hand ....or a horse in the reins

I took Merlin to the riding school in the glorious sunshine again on Monday - yes I know, Monday was an age ago, we are definitely in blogging arrears this week - and realised that I have enjoyed three sunny Merlin Mondays in a row, my fair weather fortune must surely get rained on soon.

Merlin, wearing his 'cloak of invisibility' -
I have yet to get a good photo of him!
My new instructor for my dates with this big handsome black horse is a lady called Carolyn. She is really good in that strict and slightly scary 'nope that's wrong, go and sit in the naughty corner' way that the best instructors seem to be. Our first encounter was on position, as I knew it would be.

My toes got turned in, my weight got pushed through my heels and off the irons. I collapsed in on my right side - every time same trick - so she had me push more weight into the left foot and lift my rib cage to the right. That nearly worked. Then the real fun began. My elbows which have a mind of their own came forward, so she popped on a plastic contraption which sat across my back and hooked around the elbows. This stopped both my back collapsing and kept my elbows firmly at my side, I could not budge them an inch forward even if I wished to.  I checked out my new posture in the mirror at the end of the school
'Genius, I said, I look proper equestrian with this on'.
We worked in walk and then trot with this on, nervously at first as it felt a little like riding with your hands tied behind your back - then removed it and tried to keep the posture. We trotted in circles in forward seat without reins so we could observe my complete lack of balance. I don't think I have ever learned quite so much in a forty minute period in my life.
Her pearls of riding wisdom are genius, I'll share some with you:
  • I learned to squeeze my horse on 'like I was squeezing juice from an orange'.
  • I learned that when you press your leg on it should be using the inside edge of the shin, not the calf.
  • I learned that putting your leg on in the correct way causes a physiological reaction in the horses gut, which engages his quarters.
  • I learned that in if you use your thighs more it allows your lower leg to be loose and follow the horses movement without losing balance
  • I learned that your inside leg is not the one on the inside of the school, rather the one that the horse bends round the inside of. Meaning perversely that if you had an outside bend then your leg in the inside of the school would be your outside.
  • I learned that to keep your legs long you should ' think of yourself as one of those old fashioned wooden clothes pegs, and make sure you are right on the line'
  •  Finally,  I learned that you should learn to 'hold a horse as if you are holding a bird in your hands, softly enough that you don't kill it, but enough that it knows you have it and it can't fly away'.
Beautiful....I love that last one. I am not sure if Merlin is my 'bird in the hand' or perhaps the gift horse that I should never look in the mouth.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Starting over.. hello new horse painting

Life has been a little hectic so art was on hold last week, but now I am starting afresh today, and really needing the painting time.

What a great feeling when you find an photo you like to work from, so thank you blogging friends who were so agreeable to my request. One of you might recognise this as the paint starts to go on, perhaps sooner you know your photos well! 

Friday night painting time, lines down, I am ready ....

starting a new painting, lines down,

Monday, 2 May 2011

Hacks, Bits and Bridles

Sunny glasgow suburbs at 7am

Glorious city sunshine at 7am, perfect start to a day which had me visiting my new horse friend Merlin for a little hack. It was to be our second encounter today so I hot footed it out or suburbia to ayrshire and by 8am was in the countryside and wondering at how perfect everything looks in early morning sun.

sunny Ayrshire countryside at 8am
I am not yet at the stage where I have felt anywhere near comfortable enough to take my phone out of my pocket and fiddle around for my camera app while riding him, but I took a couple of snaps on the way along the road  and have to share the gorgeous sunshine we enjoyed. It should be known that  these pictures could be a little deceptive. We consistently get our summer in Scotland for around two weeks at the start of May so if you are ever visiting our fair and green land make sure it is in this month  - we are just as consistently and then drenched in rain for the rest of the Summer!

Hello horses....neither of them Merlin, just passing by....

The hacking route we follow is all at walk and trot on very quiet roads, and although his owner is known to make the most of a grassy verge for a canter on him, my head is not, indeed may never be, in that place. For us instead it is a relatively relaxed (as much as you can be on a strange and big horse) affair at a slow steady pace and thankfully with company to bolster confidence.

Today we got on well, Merlin and I, with me having adjusted to his little ways with the bit.  Last week I read the fidgeting and head tossing as highly strung, but today I mellowed as I realised he needed a lot of leg to keep moving, and thought 'ok, its just a habit' so ignored it and relaxed. It seemed to pay off and we had a nice time leading me to think that maybe next week I would be brave enough to take him out on my own.

Having said that I am a bit green, so this evening while writing this post I thought more about his fidgeting at the bit and decided to google the type of bridle , a gag snaffle which looks like the English Gag Snaffle in this article under the section on 'Elevator or Gag Bit'. I knew nothing about these until now - perhaps not that surprising as they are not at all common - but it seems that this type of bit is generally used only for very strong horses, pullers or those with evasion issues. I need to find out more how long he has worn it and why.  And more importantly, in the hands of a novice - I wouldn't claim to be anything but - is it a problem?