|These are my cousin’s Black Angus, on his farm in Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. This photo actually took first place in a county fair art contest, so I can legitimately say I’m an international award-winning artist.|
Yesterday I was looking at paintings by friends on Facebook. When I’m just “browsing the catalogue” in this way, the art that interests me is often aspirational. For example, last week, I found myself lingering over paintings with a hint of spring color. It’s been a brutally long winter and I long to see the shrubs and trees leaf out.
Of course, one man’s banality is another man’s inspiration. There was a time when I was fascinated by the glacial eskers and bogs in the landscape here. After twenty years spent living on the hip of a glacial moraine, I have to admit they no longer fascinate me so much.
|Black Angus painted through a fence somewhere in New Jersey. You've got just a few minutes to get cow to canvas; don't fret about the details and keep on crooning. (By little ol' me.)|
So what am I finding inspirational this spring? Oddly enough, it’s cows.
They say there are horse people and there are cow people. I think that’s nonsense; I’ve kept both, and both have their place. But it’s easier to paint a cow than a horse, because it’s easier to sucker a cow than a horse. If you stand at a fence crooning, cows will almost always walk up to try to figure you out. And they’ll spend enough time doing it that you can quickly splash a few dots of paint down and capture the essence of their cowness.
|These fellows are on Sweets Corners Road in Penfield.|
In contrast, you’d better bring a sketchbook and pencil if you want to try the same trick with horses. Oh, they’ll be interested in you, but horses are wilier. Either my song repertoire needs work or they have more sophisticated taste than cows. They’ll come to the fence and crop grass, but they’ll never relax, and they’ll never stay in one place long enough to get paint on the canvas. But you can get decent drawings of horses this way, if you move fast.
When I was a youngster, Western New York was dotted with dairy farms; sadly, most of them are now gone, and the ones that remain keep their cows inside. The best place to see dairy cows now is in the barns at the New York State Fair. There’s not enough room for an easel, but you can bring your sketchbook. A resting dairy cow, carefully groomed and loved by her teenage 4-H keeper, is as beautiful as an odalisque, and probably a better conversationalist.
Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Belfast, Maine in August, 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!