Fortunately, Metro is the best sales person around. Everybody wants to meet him, touch him, get their photo taken with him. But he doesn’t make public appearances. Metro’s is not a performing horse, we don’t take him on the road to horse expos, or hire him out to Birthday Parties or Bat Mitzvahs. He is a painter, he paints a couple hours a weeks, and the rest of his time is devoted to a life of leisure.
He has made one personal appearance a few years ago at Penn National Racetrack, but since then, he has been living the life of seclusion.
Well it’s time for Metro to get out and meet his fans again. Gallery 30 in Gettysburg will be hosting a book launch party for Metro and his new book. Metro has been busy signing books in preparation for this, 500 of them.
The book party is scheduled for April 16th from 1-4:30PM at Gallery 30. Hope to see you there.
I have always been a watercolor painter, other then some small diversions into acrylics. Most of my acrylic painting has been with Metro. But I have always wanted to try oil painting. Something about the look of an oil painting has always appealed to me.
So I signed up for an online course with Dreama Tolle Perry and dove in. I found out that I really like working with oils. I think the slow drying times has always been what was keeping me away. Know that a finished oil painting would still take months before it is completely dry. I am all about instant gratification. Having that finished painting up on the wall or on Ebay within a day has been my life for the last 10 years. With oils, you just have to wait a little longer.
My first oil painting.
And my second one.
Though my paintings with Metro will stay in acrylics, oils are too toxic for a painting horse, I think I might pick up some techniques that will carry over into my paintings with Metro.
We had just completed writing the book, Painting with Metro, with Susy Flory and suddenly without anything to do, Susy suggested that I do a coloring book about Metro. I thought this was a great idea, but Metro would have to be involved in the creation of it. When you have a horse that can paint and draw, you might as well let him get involved.
I didn’t want it to be abstract, I wanted it to represent Metro and his life. So I started drawing pictures of Metro on canvas, and then handed Metro the paint pen. We don’t do a a lot of work with paint pens, but Metro enjoys holding one in his mouth and scribbling on a canvas. Soon we were doing pictures of all of Metro’s barn buddies. Pork Chop, Lamont the donkey and Stubby the blind and deaf barn cat are all represented.
Now this isn’t one of those boring color in the spaces type of coloring books, you actually have to put some thought into creating artwork with Metro. But I do it every day, making sense out of Metro’s brush strokes, now you can too. There is art on those pages, you just need to bring it to life.
Coloring with Metro is available now on Amazon.com.
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.
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.
Since we moved Pork Chop and Metro to a new barn back in December, they have become a little too attached to each other for our liking. There is nothing wrong with them being best buddies, they have been together for the last 5 ½ years, but their dependency was getting to the point that one of them was going to hurt themselves.
It’s called “Buddy Sour”. When one horse is removed for a short time, and the other goes through extreme separation anxiety. Just to give you an example: when Wendy takes Pork Chop out of his stall to ride him in the arena, Metro will begin rearing, bucking and spinning circles in his stall. Pork Chop fares no better during his riding session, all the time keeping one eye on the door of the arena, and continuously calling to Metro, with his brain concentrated on when is Metro going to come join him. It is dangerous for the horses when they act this way. They have been separated before, they have been turned out in pastures with other horses, and had no problems. But since we moved to the new barn, they didn’t have any friends, they just had each other. They were two kids in a new school who only had each other to rely on. So we have been at the new barn for 4 months now, it was best to start introducing them to new horses, and give them some time apart. Metro being what he is with his bad knees, would not function as well as Pork Chop being introduced to a large group of horses. It is survival of the fittest in a herd, and Metro with his health issues, usually gets picked on in a big group. Pork Chop can hold his own, and can be introduced to the herd right away. Metro requires a little bit of planning. Kate our barn owner figured that “Vegas” would be a good companion for Metro. Vegas didn’t function well in the herd either. He was picked on and beaten up to the point that they had to separate him, and turn him out alone in his own pasture for the last six months, for his own safety. Vegas and Metro immediately hit it off immediately, running and playing, and dining from the same hay pile. It was a match made in heaven. Eventually, more horses will be introduced to this new little group, as they build up each other’s confidence.
Metro and Pork Chop still see each other on a daily basis, as their stalls are right next to one another, and will probably be reunited again to share a pasture in the future, but for now it is best that they make new friends and enjoy a little time away. Be sure to vista Metro’s website, www.PaintedbyMetro.com.