Alfred

Alfred-painting-web.jpg

Meet Alfred

Recently I got to meet Alfred. Not in person but in form and colour. He had a happy guy feeling about him while being alert and full of life. I decided to extent his forelock to look a bit like a feather.

I kept having the feeling that I needed a hawk in the painting. If you look at my other artwork there aren’t many birds.

This is where things took an unexpected turn!

When I interviewed Heather about Alfred she told me that she met him on the same day her mother passed away. She saw a hawk circling in the sky and just knew something bad had happened.

I didn’t know anything about her mother or her seeing the hawk as an ominous sign. As we talked, I got chills knowing that I had put a hawk in the painting. Heather hadn’t seen it yet. I told her that I had a hawk in it. We were both surprised at this synchronistic energy.

I feel like the hawk is her mom/guardian angel and Alfred is part of her circle of guardianship too. These beautiful beings are right there in every moment to support her.

Here’s what Heather said about Alfred:

“We made a quick trip to Gainesville. We looked at him and I loved him. My sister asked me what I thought of him. I told her he was a match made in heaven. He was everything I wanted. He was bay without a lot of chrome. He was calm, cool, and just everything I wanted but he was too much money.

My sister said that I had to get him but I couldn’t afford him. So she gave me some cash. He has been a dream since then. He’s a wonderful personality and will do anything you ask him. He loves peppermints and socializing with people. Last year, I ended up going to the Novice World Show and out of 96 horses we placed 9th! It was a huge win for us. I just love this horse.”

Scarlett

Play a little game with me! What do you think of when you read: craggy hills, castles, and stone circles? 

This is the kind of imagery I got when I started a meditation with Scarlett. I asked her about what this looked like and I saw a scene with a rocky outcrop, a village off in the distance, a browband/crown with a long flowing fabric. I asked her to give me more information and she told me that she feels her divine teacher from within is ready, willing, and able to come forth. 

So I gazed at her photo for a few more minutes (I have a special place in my heart for chestnut mares) blew out my candles and got to work. 

After the painting was done, I called Scarlett’s owner, AnnMarie, and we chatted about her journey with Scarlett and about her lifetime with horses. AnnMarie grew up fostering that deep primal love of horses. She cantered over jumps in her living room, earned money for riding lessons babysitting, and was obsessed with all things horse! 

Things really clicked when she told me that Scarlett was an Irish mare! Yes, I know!! That didn’t even occur to me during the meditation but now it made sense! While on a trip to Ireland, AnnMarie rode Irish horses and fell in love with their sensible but sensitive way of being. 

When she found Scarlett back in the US, she looked passed her small size and in-between growing stage looks. She said it didn’t help that Scarlett has a loose lip that hangs when she is relaxed. She was her special Irish lady!

She started Scarlett at 6 years old since she needed a bit more time to mature. As Scarlett learned more about the riding horse gig, she began to form a partnership with AnnMarie. The glimpses of her character, humor, spirit, and spunky self showed up

After I got off the phone with AnnMarie, I went back to the painting and it seemed that there was more. I know very little about Irish mythology but the phrase Triune Goddess popped in my mind. I had to look it up since I didn’t know what it meant. 

 

A Triune Goddess, means one and three all at the same time. This triple aspect of femininity is related to the stages of womanhood, namely maiden-mother-crone. I felt that Scarlett’s triple aspect revolved around her purpose, the promise of new beginnings-ripeness-wisdom. 

Her message is to always allow yourself to be open and willing to receive new lessons and know that those lessons (good or bad) will build a deeper understanding of the hidden depths of the horse/human bond. The key is to always allow yourself to ask questions and be open to the images or words that pop in your mind.

The Seen in the Hidden Self

Meet Roo

I had the pleasure of creating this artwork and chatting with June about her lovely horse Roo. I don’t know about you but I love finding out how certain horses (or other animals) ended up in our lives. There is always a special spark when a particular horse is ‘the one’.

June told me about expanding her search for a new partner out of state and how when she saw his delightful face on Facebook, she knew she needed to go meet him in person. Fast forward to now and June got her bronze medal in dressage on him. Her voice just fills with love when she talks about him.

But wait…there’s so much more!

One of things she said really stuck with me. She told me how important it was to be present and to give him time to think. I loved this as it speaks to the phrase that came to me when I finished the painting -­ The Seen in the Hidden Self.

By letting go and being in the flow with Roo, June can find that magic zone that defies mere words. The quiet but energetic place that is only seen when you peel back what is hidden within the self. In these moments, the horse seeks you and you are seen by him for the essence of you. Horses speak this truth and if we allow it, we can be welcomed in.

When I was creating this artwork of Roo, I felt strongly pulled towards colors that I normally don’t use and to use a technique that I haven’t tried! He got me out of my comfort zone.

To me he embodies the seen with his left eye looking straight in to your soul while his right eye is more hidden.

The curve of the background in the top left continues down under his mane. I like to think of this as a representation of his alignment with the natural world. The strands forelock that go down his face reflects a tribal look which speaks of his wisdom and desire of full attention when people are with him. He commands respect for partnership.

Have you ever had a moment that made you drop everything and take action?

For me, it was like there was a tiny bit of space in my thoughts that made me stop and take action. If you’re like me that isn’t always the case. Most of the time, I get into academic arguments with that little piece of clarity that pops up but this time was different.

It was February 2009 and I had just finished a workshop with Linda Kohanvo in Sonoita, Arizona. We had just spent days developing our leadership skills through working with horses.

On the last day I was rushed and needed to drive to Phoenix for my flight back to Vancouver, BC. I jumped in my rental car and roared down the dusty dirt road only to slam on the breaks halfway down the driveway. Without a thought, I turned back and drove straight towards the black stallion, Merlin’s corral. This is the black stallion Midnight Merlin featured in Linda’s books, The Taos of Equus, Riding Between the Worlds, and later in The Power of the Herd.

He stood there watching me as though he was actually waiting for me. I walked over, gave him a pat on his thick neck, and then just stood there with him. My mind was empty and calm. I had no idea why I was there but it felt right. I closed my eyes and felt a jolt of energy travel through my body. It was a feeling of aliveness that I sometimes feel numb to. I opened my eyes and stared into Merlin’s eyes. He was the teacher and I was the student.

One simple message presented itself to me: You matter.

I saw Merlin through images in my mind’s eye of his life and struggles with humans. It made me realize that he always knew that he mattered and that even in dire circumstances he held that belief. He knew he had a special something to share with the world even though there were times in his life that no one believed that he mattered at all.

He blinked. I sighed. I knew I had to leave. I grabbed my camera and took these photos of Merlin:

I kissed him on the muzzle and felt a pang of sadness as I left. Merlin and I shared space that is rarely acknowledged in our modern world. The space that is between the thoughts that is clear, vast, and profound.

About a week after I spent those precious moments with Merlin, he died.

I can remember the shock and sadness I felt at the news but I knew that his life did matter and his influence opened up new worlds to those who were able to listen.

After all these years, Merlin visited me in a dream a few weeks ago. I felt that I needed to give a concrete voice to the dream through artwork and sharing my story.

This artwork is my soulful thanks to Midnight Merlin and to Linda Kohanvo for listening to horses and giving us new ways to open our hearts and souls to other worlds.

I’ll walk you through some key elements in this painting.

I love the idea of a night painting but it’s hard to have a black horse with a dark background without the horse getting lost. I knew that his amazing eyes had to be a focal point with lots of shine. I really hope you can see this! Under his chin there is figure that has the plume of a feather coming out of his head.

At first I thought this figure was a court jester but that didn’t seem right. I feel that he is a warrior with a feather in his cap. There are many mythological stories with feathers being placed in a headdress or cap. This represents the warrior that Merlin was. Plus, I added a little white line near his eye to enhance his tribal look.

I added the birds on the branches as I felt that even though they are perched, they’re still ready to fly away at a moments notice. The impermanent of life is always before us. The full Moon has many meanings in different cultures but to me here it means wholeness and strength in the circle of life.

 

If you look closely at the top left, you’ll see the outline of butterflies. This is symbolizes our capability for transformation. Merlin embodied this in his life and was able to guide the transformation of others.

Above his head is a white cloud that to me looks like a horse whinnying. Do you see it?

It’s a little abstract.

 

 

 

 

The upper right is the Milky Way to show his connection to the otherworld.

What a Lippizzan!

When I first saw this photo, I knew I was in love with this Lipizzan stallion. I mean…what a looker! Plus his owner Sarah is an accomplished horsewoman and trainer.

 

I admit I was a little jealous looking at this photo and thought what a wonderful life M&M must have had since he was a little foal!

Boy oh boy was I living in my filter bubble. Seems like when I see incredible photos online, I assume that all is well in the course of that horse’s life. A total assumption on my part.

As I talked to Sarah about M&M, I was horrified to learn that he was kept in atrocious conditions until he was around 2 years old. He was part of a terrible case of large numbers of horse being neglected. Sarah adopted 67 of the horses.

Many of which had been locked inside a barn for years. It was hard for me to take it all in. The time, commitment, and resources it would take to care for all these horses was a huge undertaking. I was amazed that Sarah was able to do it!

Even though that event happened nine years ago, I could still hear the emotion in Sarah’s voice during our interview. This act of compassion and duty to those in distress is true courage.

Now on to M&M’s portrait…

When I began his portrait, I had no idea of the background story. From him, I felt a sense of red-hot fire! I knew I had to have a red background behind him.

On the left side of his cheekbone, there is a mountain range and an idyllic pasture. See if you can find it. To me this seems like M&M’s calm ‘in the zone’ side of his being. The colors that turn and go up towards his ear represent his alertness. When I stood back and looked at the linear brush strokes on his face, they reminded me of armor.

I loved the idea of the colors looking painted on the amour. I thought of war paint but I found that wasn’t exactly right. More like the layers to his personality and what he decides to show the world. On his neck the red/yellow combine and twist around into the more pink/purple tones. This shows that the fire is part of him but it doesn’t consume him.

Captured – Meet the Mustangs

I fell in love (again) with wild horses on a cold winter night in 2001. I rarely watch tv but for some reason I turned it on that night to pbs. I plopped down on my teal sofa as the stallion Cloud thundered across my screen.

Within seconds, I was hooked to this film that chronicled the life of Cloud in the mountains of Montana. Ginger Kathrens had been visiting his wild herd and recording life since his birth in 1995. It was incredible to see the social structure of the herds and the dynamic way the horses lived together.

I didn’t realize until later how special it was that the wild horses were still on public lands. Since the late 1800’s, wild horses were barbarically captured by ranchers, hunters, and ‘mustangers’. In 1950 one woman’s actions changed all that.

Her name was Velma Johnston. It all started when she was driving behind a truck with blood pouring down the side. She followed the truck to the slaughterhouse.

Velma saw first hand the mangled and injured horses in the truck and the whites of their terrified eyes as they waited at their final destination.

Their last stop was to be put into the new pet food industry’s cans just like the tens of thousands of mustangs that had already been fed to cats and dogs.

 Think about Velma in that moment. 

What could she do? It was 1950. She was 38. She was a secretary. She partially crippled by polio. Most people would have given up. I mean who was she to go up against the business of pet food and ranchers? She must have known that she had a voice no matter what the odds and that her voice mattered. She decided that the brutality had to stop but how?

She got the word out by mounting a grassroots letter writing campaign with mostly school children. The campaign became known as the “Pencil War.” Through determination and grit, she became the voice of the voiceless and her new identity as Wild Horse Annie was born.

Due to Wild Horse Annie and her supporters,The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 was passed.

The Act declares wild horses and burros to be “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.” Under the law, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages herds in their jurisdictions within areas where wild horses and burros were found roaming in 1971.

Sounds like it all ended well, right? Well…no. 

I wish I had a fairytale ending. Sorry.

Right now 35,000 wild horses have been rounded up by the BLM and are in holding facilities at a cost of $30 million a year. If you go on the BLM website, you’ll see that many of these horses are up for adoption. A very small percentage are adopted and most live their days in feedlot conditions. Not exactly a living symbol of the West.

There are a number of special interest groups at play. The welfare and future of these horses is once again in a precarious position. Starting with low flying helicopters to terrorize and stampede wild horses into trap pens to separating families to the toll of feedlot conditions, our wild horses once again are facing the inhumanity that Wild Horse Annie fought against for decades.

The Artwork – Captured

Before I created this artwork, I did a rough sketch of what I was thinking about. Raptor, helicopter, blood, resources, escape, tension and beauty came to mind.

The tension between man and nature has always been a subject of interest for me. That’s the reason I called this piece Captured.

As humans we have a drive to capture or own/control the natural world.

Part of that drive is important for our own survival but part of it is the desire to take away more than we really need to.

Where do we stop and what needs to be protected from our insatiable drive for more? How do we protect wild space and animals from our desire for resources? Can we even appreciate wildness (I ask myself this as I look out the window at a sad looking tree)?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Send me a email and check out several of the organizations that are working for wild horse freedom:

Is this Love? 97% of People Said Yes!

Love is such a simple word but it takes on so many kinds of love that it’s hard for me to think about describing it! I’m thinking about that deep soulful love that we have for our equine friends. It’s a special kind of love that is easier to feel than to say.

I think of: That split second of recognition when you lock eyes with your equine friend. The smiles all around when horses trot over to see you. Those moments of connection between two sentient beings of pure understanding and partnership. Taking a breath to watch a herd of horses graze and interact brings a calm serenity to your mind.

Is this a love that brings us closer connected to our true selves?

Meet Bravura

Recently, I had the pleasure of hanging out with another Lipizzan mare (Bravura). I wanted to photograph Bravura for her owner Stephanie. It turned into an experience that led me to create an artwork that embodied love, transcendence, and the ability to look back at life’s journey with the lightness of a feather.

Before I started the painting, I asked Bravura if she had a message. I usually get a visual image but this time I got much more than that. I scribbled down the following: 

There is a time and place to look back but only if you’re willing to carry with you the ability to fly with transcendent grace. An opening can always be found. The opening may be easy to find or not but it is there. You may need to look carefully and stand in stillness.

The colors you have earned provide powers to access light when the darkness creeps in. Your colors can be illuminated to remind you of love, worth, and expression. All you need is to allow the opening to be felt or seen.

The energy of hoof, heart, and flight gives you the ability to feel deeply while being grounded to the earth and at the same time soaring above the expected. When you feel doubt, do nothing. Stand on your hooves and feel your connection to the ground.

Be willing to move fast. Flight is your friend. You are well equipped to live between the contrasting worlds of earth bound and flight. When you feel flow move with it. Don’t fight it, give in.