I traveled across the state with my art supplies, a milk crate full of art books and my black lab, Heidi, to private cottage accommodations on a remote ranch nestled at the base of the Big Horn mountains. For me, the most luxurious element was no internet, TV or phone service. I was officially off-the-grid!
Wanting to take full advantage of this experience, I made a plan for how I was going to use my time. I created some tight parameters for myself, because this can foster creativity. Since this part of Wyoming has a deserved reputation for its beautiful horses, my plan was to focus on improving my drawing skills of the equine. Each day, all day, for two weeks, my plan was to draw horses from life. My goal was not finished drawings, but rather heightened perception and more critical observation of my subject matter. These practices included contour drawings of the bones and skulls of horses, careful study of their skeletal system and muscularity and quick notations of horses as they moved about. My hope was that after doing literally hundreds of sketches of horses in motion, my gestural lines would capture a distilled essence. I hoped to gain a more implicit understanding of horse anatomy and mechanics as well their behavior, habits and spirit.
For days it seemed that I was just scribbling nonsensically, wasting paper. This time was about process, about study not a finished product. As someone who tends to be outcome-oriented, I let go of that expectation in hopes that the practice was valuable in and of itself, laying more subtle groundwork that fertilized the soil for future seeds to sprout and flourish.
Eventually, my drawings started making more sense and included more of the elegance of my subjects.
This practice made way to doing similar studies with paint. The challenge of painting horses from life is a real because they rarely stop moving, but one that yields great benefits! I grew a great deal in the process and am incredibly grateful to the Brinton Museum for giving me this opportunity to focus.
I hope that in these turbulent times, you are finding time to settle into the present moment and experience the beautiful stillness there.