This is the first collaborative painting I have done with Metro where we actually split the painting in half. Metro did the top half and I did the bottom half.
To start of with, I toned the canvas red and applied black liquid acrylic about halfway up. Tilting the canvas, I allowed the black paint run down in streams to form the limbs and tree trunks. Doing it this way gives you a more organic random look to the trunks and limbs.
After it was dry, it was time to take it to the barn and let Metro have his way with it. Metro’s half took a couple of days to complete, letting him work with bigger brushes the first day, to cover the area, and smaller brushes the second to add some interest to the trees.
Once Metro was done, I cut around the the tree trunks with light reds and oranges to make them pop out.
Two new paintings to talk about this week. One is a portrait of California Chrome, but we will start off with a little abstract flower painting Metro and I did.
It didn’t start out as a flower painting. It started out as an abstract using only Metro’s strokes. But I have always wanted to collaborate with Metro on something a little more abstract. I have collaborated with Metro before, but they have always turned out to be paintings of horses, trees, even bears. But we had never collaborated on an abstract before. Metro already has a successful career as an abstract painter, what does he need me for? But Metro isn’t much for composition and structure, he is all about laying down the brush strokes.
Believe it or not, abstract paintings have structure and composition too, using the same rules that apply to landscapes and photography. For this painting I chose a “Golden Section” composition, or “Rule of Thirds”. If you were to draw a tic tac toe pattern on the canvas your center of interest would go where two of these lines crossed each other. You can even use more than one focal point, but one should be more dominant than the others.
So using yellows mixed with white, I began carving a composition out of the blue and green strokes that Metro had already laid down on the canvas. By the time i was finished, it reminded me of freshly cut flowers in a vase. So we titled this one “Freshly Cut”.
For the second painting of California Chrome, I had every intention of working with Metro on it, but got carried away and ended up painting the whole thing without Metro’s help. I signed it and looked at it for a couple of weeks, and discovered I wasn’t happy with it. It was missing something, and that was Metro’s input. I thought my version looked a little stiff with too many hard edges. It needed Metro’s touch to soften it up and take away some of the hardness. If you want to loosen up your paintings, paint with a horse. He is about as loose as you can get. My big concern was Metro painting over my image of Chrome. Metro doesn’t care much for staying inside the lines. I just wanted him to paint on the background and foreground and leave the image intact, so I had to keep watch and take the brush away if he was starting to get carried away.
In the end Metro’s soft wispy brushstrokes add a delicate touch to the painting that I couldn’t have added on my own. My version is on the left, and on the right is a much better version after Metro added his touches.
This first one is a collaboration we titled “Two on the Eleven”. We used Metro as the model for this one. It started out with Metro painting his abstract strokes, using limited colors of red, black and white. I then added my touches, trying to blend in with the strokes that Metro had already laid down. Using the same red, black and white color scheme, I painted an image of Metro and his jockey onto Metro’s work. Hopefully we did a nice job of blending our two styles together. 16×20″ acrylic, on 1.5″ deep gallery wrapped canvas. $400 at Gallery 30. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Blue Vase Blues”. This one was a blast to paint, because I worked with Metro to create this image together. Trading off brush strokes, Metro supplied the abstract strokes, and I carved a vase and flowers out of it. Another unique thing about this painting, is that we captured the whole thing on video, from start to finish. 18×24″ acrylic on 1.5″ deep gallery wrapped canvas. $500. Contact Gallery 30 at email@example.com to have this painting shipped to your home.
“Life Beneath the Ice” $500. 20×20″ acrylic on 1.5″ deep canvas. This is not a new painting, but has not been offered fro sale for the last year and a half. This is actually one of my favorite paintings by Metro. I liked it so much that I kept it for myself, but am now willing to part with it. Usually we will work on different colors on different days, so they have a chance to to dry, and Metro doesn’t smear them together. But sometimes a little smearing can be a good thing, as Metro demonstrates by blending the oranges and blues to make some beautiful gray tones. Available at Gallery 30. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be happy to ship it to you.
Horses are prey animals. In the wild, they are dinner for big cats. A horse’s biggest fear is that lions and tigers are going to grab them by the legs, or jump on their backs and start chewing away on them. So what do we do? We jump on their backs and make them carry us around, and just to make it more uncomfortable for them, throw a saddle on them made from the hides of other dead animals. No wonder they try to buck us off. To give them a fighting chance in the wild, Mother Nature has given them eyes on the side of their heads. This gives them the ability to watch for predators approaching with a nearly 360 degree view. But it also gives them 2 blind spots where they can’t see. One is directly behind him. That’s why you are always told to not walk behind a horse. You might get kicked. Not because the horse has a mean streak, he doesn’t know what is behind him. He is just kicking out in defense at the unknown. For all he knows, you may be a mountain lion trying to sneak up on him.
Another blind spot is directly in front of his face. He can see in front of him very well, just not right in front of him. I am not sure how far that bling spot projects out, but I know it is there. They can actually see better in front of them, because they can see out of both eyes at the same time, giving them better depth perception. They just can’t see right in front of their nose.
So when Metro paints, holding the brush in his mouth, I am not sure he can even see what he is painting. He may be able to see the canvas, though he has never shared this with me. But he knows where to stand, and how far to reach out so the brush makes contact with the canvas. He has a routine, and I try not to mess with that. So I try to keep the brushes the same length, as not to throw off that routine. There were times when I would give him a longer brush than he was used to, and it would be a struggle for him to make a good brush stroke. So we try to keep them the same size, usually 7-8 inches. That is the length he likes, and Metro gets what Metro wants.
The cheap bristle brushes you get from Home Depot are his brush of choice, but lately I have been introducing him to smaller artist brushes that us human artists use. These usually run long, sometimes with 1 to 2 foot handles, but I will saw those off to keep them within Metro’s comfort zone.
Does he break brushes? Oh Yeah! Sometimes we only get one or two strokes out of a brush before he breaks it. The big boy doesn’t know his own strength. I just toss the broken brush into a five gallon bucket we keep below his easel, grab another and press on.
I duct tape all the handle up for Metro. Not that he needs the tape for grip, I just don’t want the handle to splinter in his mouth when he breaks one.
Now that I know Metro will paint with anything, as long as it is the correct length, I will be spending my time looking for new brushes that will add variety and texture to Metro’s paintings.
When I am collaborating on an abstract painting with Metro, there are 3 different approaches. I can do my painting at home, and bring it to the barn to have Metro finish it off. This doesn’t always work well because Metro doesn’t paint inside the lines and will probably paint over all of my work. We can do a painting together at the barn from start to finish. This is enjoyable, working side by side with Metro. But Metro isn’t the best about sharing the workload, and will usually be pushing me out of the way with his big head as he tries to get the paintbrush out of my hands. He likes to do it all himself. It is all about Metro when he is painting. The third way, and the way we went with this painting, is to let Metro do a whole abstract painting, then I will bring it home and add my touches over the top of his.
I knew I wanted to do a racehorse painting and wanted to stay with the same colors that Metro had already laid down, red,white and black. I thought of doing one of Seabiscuit, because his colors would work perfectly, but had already done one not to long ago. So I figured I would do one of Metro. There was no red in his jockey silks, his colors were white and orange, but since it was predominantly white, I could make the orange work.
My first step was to sketch out the overall figure in black paint stick. I should be sketching in something a little less permanent like charcoal, but I believe in commitment.
Then I began painting in the white, red/orange, and black. For the black, I used fluid acrylic, drawing straight from the bottle onto the canvas. This gave the black paint a fluid appearance that I was able to move around with my fingers.
After it dried, I had a look at it. I was pleased, but thought the black was a little too bold, and made Metro’s neck look a little “thick”. So working with the other colors, a softened the black and gave the neck a little more streamlined appearance. I also added some black above the jockey, to make him stand out a little more.
Overall, I am pretty happy with the finished painting which we title “Two on the Eleven“. The original will eventually go to Gallery 30, but prints are available now at Fine Art America.
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I have never gotten into the mind of my painting horse, and what he is thinking when he creates his art and abstract paintings. Nor has he ever told me. He is not much of a conversationalist. All I know is his actions tell me he likes it. He likes it a lot. Metro will choose to painting above all else. There is never a rope on him when he paints, he is free to walk away whenever he likes. I can set his easel up in the pasture, and he will stop grazing on grass and walk over to the easel and wait for me to hand him a brush.
I don’t know what pleasure he gets from it. Sure, I have a pocket full of horse treats, but how does that compare to acres of lush spring grass?
You can make a horse do a lot of things that he doesn’t want to. You can put a bridle on his head, a bit in his mouth, and make him turn left or right. You can crack a whip behind him, and make him run. But you can’t make a horse paint. He has to want to paint.
For Metro, I think it is the oral sensation he gets from stroking a brush across a canvas. He always has his mouth on something, whether it’s licking the bars of his stall or pulling on my jacket with his teeth. I think the pleasure he gets is from the feeling in his mouth.
All I know is he has never refused to paint, other than when he made his personal appearance at Penn National. He had no interest in painting there. But I can’t fault him for that. He was not in the comforts of his own studio. He was back at the track with a full view of horses galloping at full speed right in front of him. His mind was elsewhere, perhaps re-living the glory days of his youth.
But when he is home, in his own comfort zone, he wants to paint. When he sees me setting up his paints and canvases in his studio, he begins excitedly bobbing his head up and down, ready to be let out of his stall to get that brush in his mouth.
He has painted outside with no fence or rope to hold him back, he has painted in a 180’ arena. He will paint whenever I ask him, for as long as I ask him. I don’t know what his time limit is, because I always punch the clock long before he is ready to give up.
So does a painting horse like to paint? Does he like to create his abstract paintings?
I remember channel surfing years ago, landing on PBS, and become hypnotized by the soothing voice of Bob Ross. He would talk in the most calming of voice, while he painted “Happy Little Trees” on his show called “The Joy of Painting”.
Not that I was a fan of his painting, or his style, I found that I just couldn’t turn the channel. He had me hooked and I was captivated. I don’t know what it was about him, but I found myself watching whenever his image crossed my TV screen. I may have watched the same episode over and over, because all his paintings looked the same to me, and I didn’t know if I was watching a new episode, or something 10 years old.
But I just found comfort in his voice and watching him apply paint to canvas.
Recently I thought what it would be like if Metro had his own painting show. I know no one is interested in giving Metro is own show, and if Metro could talk, I am sure his voice wouldn’t be as soothing as Bob’s. Metro’s dialog would be filled with 4-letter words and stories about mares he knows.
But maybe we could film a painting from start to finish, and I can talk about the thought process that goes into creating a painting with Metro. I thought one of our collaborative paintings would be nice, and a vase of flowers would be something we could do in one sitting. Anything more complicated than that would take several days, and drying times between sessions.
We would upload it to YouTube and call it “Painting with Metro”.
It wasn’t the best video, we only had one camera, even though a brought two, I forgot to turn one on. The lighting wasn’t the greatest, and it ran a little long.
If there is any interest in seeing more, I would probably put a little more thought into production, and edit it down to 5 minutes.
But here is our first attempt. You can view it here.