My mother always told me that I was riding horses, before I could walk. I stood convinced of her exaggeration, until she sent me proof. The truth is…throughout my childhood, I can’t ever remember not having horses around. Afterall, I grew up in farm country. It was only after a giant named, ‘Big Red’, threw me over his shoulders during an encounter with a snake in a field, that I gave up riding horses in my early teens-succumbing to the bad experience. Thirty years would pass by, before I met a woman that would re-kindle my admiration for the horse…the Morgan horse to be exact. This is that story…
An accomplished horse-woman in her own right, my mother often shared her passion with stories of the famous Lipizzan Stallions and her dream of standing in The Great Hall of the Spanish Riding School, in Vienna. I spent many hours drawing the horses that I feared to ride, as a child, but it wasn’t until I found myself on 5-23-94 standing in The Great Hall with the Lipizzans below me…that her dream shared was realized. I remember saying outloud, “God had a good day, when he created the horse.” When I saw the perfectly trained stallion leap into the air and at the highest point, extend his hindlegs out behind him..I knew it was time to bring the horse back to the easel. I finished ‘Capriole, Vienna’, original watercolor in 1995, however, it wouldn’t be until June of 2003 that the Limited Edition print of ‘Capriole’ would introduce me to Wendy LeGate and the Morgan Horse.
Wendy LeGate is owner of OGO, Old Growth Oak Morgans, in San Jose, California, where she breeds the purest lines of the Morgan. She purchased many pieces from me, before she approached with the proposal of painting something that she could use as a logo for her Morgan horse ranch. It was a real pleasure working with a patron whose passion for what she does with Morgan horses matched my passion for what I do with paint. In fact, she sent me so many reference photos of these absolutely beautiful animals she works with, that it took quite a few composite sketches just to decide which beautiful horse and interesting oak to choose for the final painting.
The first of my processes is to create ‘thumbnail’ sketches of the images I have in my head from the conversations with the client. I may have already put up to 80 hours talking, researching and studying photos from the client at this point. Some of these are small 3″x5″ studies, but I have gone as large as 18″x24″. I am not interested in any detail…only to quickly sketch out the image in my mind and the composition. OGO is in San Jose, California area and we wanted to incorporate the magnificent oak trees that make up the landscape and decorate her property.
The next stage is to more fully develop the image to work out the kinks in the composition. Here are the compositional studies that I sent to Wendy for her input. Once again, I am not interested in including a lot of detail-or even refined accuracy at this point in the drawings. I am still concentrating on the feel, emotional response, message, eye travel and viewer’s interest in the final painting. Each composition may make a good painting in their own right, however-with this project, it was important to capture Wendy’s vision of her passion. Oak & Morgan Stance is as much a portrait of Wendy, as it is of a Morgan horse and oak tree. I work this out, before paint touches the canvas.
Finally, it is time for the sketches to go to canvas. Using charcoal, I careful draw out the larger shapes directly onto the canvas. I don’t bother with any of the details, as the oil will cover them up with the first layers of paint. I check and re-check all of the components of the drawing for accuracy using a mirror. This image is taken from my mirror, as seeing the drawing in reverse, serves up fresh eyes for critiquing.
There are many other processes to completion of my paintings, but it was the initial stages…the planning, learning and sharing that ignited our passions. This painting was a one year process-almost to date, from conception to completion with progress photos being emailed to Wendy all along the way. I must compliment her on her trust, as many of the photos probably did not make sense to her, because of the painting style and technique, in which I work. Many transparent layers are laid over and over again. Each layer must be allowed to completely dry, before the next wash of color is applied. Often times, the initial colors are not what a viewer would associate with the subject or item being painted. On top of it, you have the technical aspect of portraying perspective and saving the final details for last. This is often when my paintings ‘come alive’.
During the research phase of this piece, I learned about the Morgan horse, it’s history and it’s legacy. During the painting process, I learned of its strength, beauty and endurance. Most enlightening to me, however, was the lesson I learned during the collaboration process with Wendy. Perhaps-only in the art world, have I ever seen such passion! As an outsider to the Morgan horse life looking in, my very first and sustained impression was that of loyalty, love and extreme passion for these magnificent animals. Each and every one had wrapped their life around the great Morgan horse and taught me that “God had a good day”…not just in creating the horse, but also in the spirit of those that care for them. That passion merged with mine to create Oak & Morgan Stance.
Bj. de Castro, one of the pioneering artists on the Internet, has many art-related affiliations, a membership of the former National Association of Fine Artists and is listed in the International Art Market Directory of Artprice in Paris, in the 58th edition of Who’s Who in America and the 22nd edition of Who’s Who in the World. Her paintings are in private and corporate collections throughout the World, exhibited Internationally, and published in a book of Modern Day Masters. This award winning California artist is based in Simi Valley, and represented by many galleries. You can contact the artist with any inquiries and view her work at (email) firstname.lastname@example.org (website) http://bjdecastro.com