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Maple Heights, United States

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The Journey of the Horse Series

It was really born out of desperation.

A slight aside – I was doing a number of purebred dog pieces for a company starting in late 2004, and they were getting done way to quickly. I mentioned something about horses, and the then owner loved the idea. Told me to work something up and he’d be more than willing to take a look.

So, there I was with absolutely no idea of what I was going to do or which breeds I should do (with the dogs, just go to the American Kennel Club and you‘ll find all the breeds in order of popularity – not so with horses).. enter the Internet. I started doing searches of different breeds (because there was no all encompassing site – each breed had it‘s own following – bad for me, great for them) – if there was a ton of pictures and information, I assumed that meant this was a popular breed and wrote that one down. The series ended up with around 30 breeds, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Because the “company” was interested in doing coffee mugs, I had to work up a design that would work on mugs and t-shirts. Up to this point, I had been working exclusively in colored pencil… doing a lot of collages (4 to 6 images for each design) and was actually getting pretty tired of that particular layout.

Oddly enough, I have some of my BEST ideas either just before I fall asleep at night or as I’m taking my morning shower.. this epiphany started at night and followed me around the next day.

Because I love doing portraits of animals – that would just have to be in there.. facing right (because a majority of people are right handed – and they would pick up the mug with their right hand.. and the head would be looking at them).. but it needed more than that. What oh what would work.. EPIPHANY!! Why not use a foal in the foreground with the adult head in the background. That would work.. right??

The first breed I worked on was the Hanoverian. Wonderful looking animal… and here is where it gets a little weird. As I’m working on the layout.. nothing I’m doing is right. Everything just seemed all wrong! There’s a feel I wanted for the background that you just can’t get from colored pencils.. and the coloring on the horse wasn’t strong enough… and there sat my cousin’s watercolors.

At this point, I think I need to tell you something. Although I had done watercolors in the past, I hadn’t used them for over 40 years.. and the reason I had my cousin’s watercolors, all her brushes and all the paper she had was because she had passed away the year before (April 2004 at 54) from congestive heart failure.

So I gingerly started using some of the watercolors on that first piece very sparingly… because I remembered all the horror stories of how easy it is to make watercolor get muddy.. and how unforgiving the medium is.. it had me a little nervous and very tentative as to how much and where!!

Brought that first one in and they fell in love with it! I told them that I was thinking of doing at least 30 breeds and I got the go-ahead right then and there. So.. just imagine my joy.. working on the “gallery” layouts for the dogs.. now the horses and I still have some other odd ideas rambling around in my head. If there’s one thing I’ve learned after being an artist for over 40 years it’s that inspiration comes when it wants to without any input from you!! And so the horses began to take shape.

What was really amazing was the “washes”. At first, I would put a very light wash of the horse’s color but then I realized that it wasn’t enough. I added colored pencil for the detailing and realized that THAT wasn’t enough.. so I would layer the watercolor.. then the colored pencil .. then repeat… until I got the color and effect I was looking for.

The first couple of layouts had the foals with the “adult” head but then I started thinking that this could get really boring. I mean, what do foals do? Eat-sleep-and run?? So the idea of adding a full, adult body – doing SOMETHING – entered. And it didn’t seem to matter whether they were looking at “me” or looking anywhere in particular. It just seemed that – as long as they were facing away from the head – it worked. I discovered that working 2 of them simultaneously was a good way of keeping my “vision” fresh too. So, 35 pieces later, I have a series!!!!


  • CMCphotoart
    CMCphotoartover 6 years ago

    Congratulations, Barb. Your portfolio is extraordinarily beautiful. The Haflinger Pony is close to my heart as he is one of my friends in real life.

  • Mundy Hackett
    Mundy Hackettover 6 years ago

    Fabulous Barb, so well written and a joy to read about the creative process! Thank you for adding it to the WANDERINGS GROUP!

  • Brian Towers
    Brian Towersover 6 years ago

    A joy to read Barb. The story of how small ideas come and develop into a major part of your life. I recognised the bit about ideas coming in the twilight hours, as if the mind needed to be only part conscious. Having ten naps a day didn’t work that well for me, but it was an excuse not to have to face blank paper. I find you and your work very inspriational – it can still come in my old age – and would give the rest of my teeth to see you at work.

  • When I work.. I see nothing but what I’m working on.. hear nothing but what’s coming through the headphones and only rise to use the bathroom. I wouldn’t be very much fun..

    – BarbBarcikKeith

  • pat oubridge
    pat oubridgeover 6 years ago

    This is outstanding and fascinating Barb…….

  • ECGardner
    ECGardnerover 6 years ago

    What a fabulous piece! It’s so interesting to hear the stories behind the art, and your art is just stunningly beautiful and always leaves me in awe. This was a great way to officially kick off the Wanderings group gallery.

  • Heidi Schwandt Garner
    Heidi Schwandt...over 6 years ago

    Exactly, great to hear the ‘behind the scenes’ story. Thank you for sharing :)

  • Tahnja
    Tahnjaover 6 years ago

    Oh my God, I had no idea that’s how you came about your horse series. You are outta sight Barbara and when I look at how amazing your horses are I just melt and go all the way back to the drawing board realising how far I have yet to go!! LOVE YOUR WORK!!!! Hugs

  • Robert Elliott
    Robert Elliottover 6 years ago

    Congratulations Barb, such an interesting and fascinating piece. Your portfolio is simply wonderful.

  • janpiller
    janpillerover 6 years ago

    Wow Barb – you have done your cousin proud – the water colour is perfect and beautiful – mastered with the coloured pencil – you have created unique and stunning pieces! Wow again!

  • Thank you so much!!

    – BarbBarcikKeith

  • BarbBarcikKeith
    BarbBarcikKeithover 6 years ago

    And to all.. I really appreciate the response.. thanks..