Horses · Portraits

Working Meditation

“The essential thing is to work in a state of mind that approaches prayer.” Matisse

I am taking a break from adding details to a commissioned piece of a beautiful black and white Tennessee Walker horse. Shades of brown and gray make up the landscape as the sun is just past the peak of noon on a late autumn day. Snoopy, the horse, has been gone for around five years now, but his presence is still felt daily. He has become a muse, of sorts, for my customer, and I have the beautiful opportunity to capture the wisdom and love of Snoopy. As I critique my progress, I am convinced that more is needed even though a well meaning friend says, “Awww, it’s perfect just the way it is!” I smile, and think to myself, “not yet.” Even though I do not know what is “missing,” I know that my muse will!

Isn’t that the way with artists of every kind? Whether our canvas is a baker’s pan, a block of stone, a ball of yarn, or an actual stretched canvas, we know that inspiration will come. Like Henri Matisse noted, creating art is a meditation, a prayer, in motion. When I look at a blank canvas, my immediate reaction is probably best described as panic. Panic is then quickly followed by doubt as thoughts of “who do I think I am” rumble around in my mind. But, and it is a big BUT, as soon as the paintbrush hits the palette and finally the canvas, something magical happens. Stroke after stroke, blend after blend, shade before shade. . .what once was just a reference is now a finished piece. I stand back and stare. When did this happen? Wow!

And so it goes, working in gratitude. . .that prayer, that meditation–and I am fortunate enough to live this life. I think that each time I complete a piece I find it easier to begin the next. Instead of comparing my work to others, I celebrate the talent that streams through me and rejoice in sharing it with the world. I’m always surprised when a piece sells right away, or two people are wanting the same original, or I get accepted into a juried show. But should I be surprised? Probably not, because when anyone works from a place of love, of meditation, of truth. . .how can the result be anything but joyful? So many times we as a society look at work as drudgery; we complain of long hours, ungrateful customers, and low wages. What if, and it is another big one, WHAT IF we all changed our approach to our work, maybe even call “work” something else? Would everyone benefit from the love, truth, and joy that went into every cup of coffee served, every product shipped or rung up at a local cash register, every green bean picked and consumed? Ahhhh, therein lies the rub. . .as for me, my art will be created in meditation. . .and really, studio time is not work, is it? –Nicki

Horses · Inspired

Stars in the Eyes of Gemini

Like most young children, I asked for a horse every birthday, Christmas, and special occasion in between. And. . .like most young children, my wish remained unfulfilled. Unless….that is….you count the number of Breyer horse figurines I received as gifts or even more exciting, the number of horses whose manes I braided with daisies on my walks home from the school bus stop in rural Okeechobee. I can only imagine the looks of surprise from my parents when I tried to ride my tiny plastic horse, Palomino Mare–even as a two year old, these Sears Wishbook beauties were not meant for galloping. Or even more surprising would be my unsuspecting neighbors coming home from work to feed their horses only to find the manes beautifully braided and filled with wildflowers. Finally, at the age of 13, my brave dad got me my first horse. Even though Darlin’ was one of the meanest little ponies to trot on the earth, I loved her dearly. Later I got Taco, who ended up being the kindest, most gentle gelding one could ever hope to have even though he definitely had that thoroughbred mixed with quarterhorse blood running through his veins. We developed a love, a trust and no doubt taught each other more than I recount even today.

Gemini was on display at the Leesburg Center for the Arts member exhibit in February, 2020. I was honored to receive the Merit Award for this painting.

So it is with this love of horses that I come to the canvas. With every stroke, every paint blend, every eye sparkle it almost feels like I can touch a live horse. I know the curve of a shoulder, the solid weight of a leg in my hands as I pick a hoof, and the warm steam of breath on my neck. When I am “running with the horses,” time passes quickly. When I am with the horses, it is not only they who run freely, but also my thoughts and emotions as well. I recall memories that bring smiles, tears, and all out laughter. . .but more than anything, I confirm my love for these beautiful animals and am grateful for their presence in my life and the gifts they once and continue to give to me. “Gemini” is a special painting. . .those two boys. . .filled with love, hope, and wisdom. . .their eyes tell the whole story, and I am blessed. —Nicki