Tag Archives: art

Coloring with Metro

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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.

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California Chrome and Abstract Flowers

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”.

Freshly Cut Painting
“Freshley Cut” by Ron & Metro. Available at Gallery 30.

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.

To see all of Metro’s available paintings please visit www.PaintedbyMetro.com

California Chrome painting
My version on the left, with Metro’s touches on the right. The Ron and Metro version is available at Gallery 30.

Does a painting horse really like to paint?

Does Metro like to paint?

Metro Painting
Photo by Wendy Wooley

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.

Metro doing a little Plein Air Painting
Metro doing a little Plein Air Painting

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?

My answer is “yes”.

Click here to see Wendy Wooley’s video of Metro painting outside for his photoshoot.

Bob Ross meets Painting Horse

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.Bob-Ross-2

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.Blue Vase Blues

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.

To see all of Metro’s available paintings please visit www.paintedbymetro.com.

Metro and large canvases

I have been reluctant to work on large canvases with Metro, even though his painting style is more suited to a large format, he doesn’t always know his own strength. Besides breaking a lot of brushes, he has also been known to tear a canvas or two with his powerful brushstroke. This can be really frustrating when we’ve been working on one for 3 days, and Metro decides to tear a hole in it. And I was not really keen on investing $70 into a large canvas just to have Metro rip it to shreds.

So I decided to make the switch to cradled hardboard. It still looks like gallery wrapped canvas when painted, but instead of a tearable surface, the surface is made of 1/8″ hardboard. This means Metro is free to attack the painting in any way he chooses.

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With CCTV America scheduled to come out and film Metro for a segment that will air on CCTV and PBS, I thought it was the perfect time to introduce him to the large painting. It would look better on camera. Metro could make more brush strokes on a bigger surface without going off the edge. Horses have a blind spot directly in front of their face, so I don’t know how much of the canvas Metro can actually see while he is painting. I really think he just paints by feel. When I call him to the canvas, he knows exactly where to stand and the correct position to be in. As long as his paintbrush is of proper length, he is fine. If I give him a paint brush that is a little longer than he is used to, it really throws him off. So I really think he is painting blind.

Working small also means he will eventually fall off the edge of the painting, and not find his way back on. The large format allows him to make more brush strokes with out finding the edge. Not always great for the painting, because after the first couple of strokes, all the paint on the brush has been applied. Any stroke after two, means he is just smearing paint around. But it is great for TV, because he is just making lots of strokes and just going to town. We can always finish up the painting with better strokes later.

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The filming with CCTV went great, even though they were here for 5 hours. Usually with the news stories we have been filming, they are in and out in an hour. But this filming was different. This wasn’t going to be a 2 minute piece on the local news. This was going to be a 10 minute mini documentary that is going to air on a new show called Full Frame. It will air sometime in May on CCTV and PBS.

You can’t spend 5 hours with Metro, without getting a little of that “Metro Attitude”. And Metro showed the cameras every side he had to offer. He was great painting, but some of the other shots, he was quite nippy, restless, and just downright cranky. This will probably be the first segment that will show the temperamental side of Metro.

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Here is the finished painting that Metro worked on for the filming. He was basically just smearing paint around and making a mess of it while he was getting filmed, but in subsequent sessions, we were able to make a nice painting out of it. We decided to call it “Wild Horses” because everybody was seeing  figures of horses in the painting. It is amazing what kind of images you can find in one of Metro’s paintings, if you stare at it long enough.

Wild Horses

“Wild Horses” by Metro  $1100

36″x24″ Acrylic on 2″ deep cradled hardboard.

Available at Gallery 30. Will ship. Contact gallery30gettysburg@yahoo.com

Cue the Painting Horse in 3…2…1

Metro is a seasoned veteran in front of the cameras now. Many a camera crew has left the barn saying, “I swear that horse knows when the camera is on.” He never fails to give a film crew all the footage they want and more. But I had a lot of anxiety the first few times Metro was on TV. I didn’t know what to expect, or how he would react to a camera in his face, or tripods holding hot lights crowding the stall he paints in.

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Cameraman Brandon Mowrey getting up close with Metro.

So a year ago when Fox TV in Baltimore wanted to come out and put Metro on their live morning show, I was a little worried. He would be painting “live”, there would be no do-overs. No editing out the bad footage. No waiting if he wasn’t in the mood. So many things could go wrong, and it would all be caught live.

It was the second day into the new year, and it was very cold at 4:30 in the morning when the news crew showed up at the barn. And they weren’t in the best off spirits having to drive out into the back woods of Maryland. They quickly set up their live truck and wanted to get some footage of Metro painting, before our first live segment. The plan was to cut to Metro painting live, every hour or half-hour, for the next 4 hours. Even though we were all a little bit grumpy that early in the morning, everything changed the minute Metro put his first stroke on canvas. There is always an audible gasp when a film crew first sees Metro paint. They know they are there to see a painting horse, but it is like they really don’t believe it until Metro starts doing his thing. Then the reporters are pulling out the cell phones and getting personal video to show their kids. To show them that they saw a painting horse. Before they head home, they always stop to get their photo taken with Metro. And on more than one occasion they have commented on this “being the funnest story they have ever covered.” You get a lot of joy seeing Metro paint in person.

Greta Kreuz
WJLA reporter, Greta Kruez, getting her photo taken on Metro.

The day went well, and Metro painted on cue every time we went live. But around the 4th or 5th time, Metro had had enough. His buddies were all getting turned out in the pasture and all he wanted was to be with them. He planted his feet in front of the painting stall and went “on strike”. He thought he was on his way to the pasture, and we were asking him to go into his studio and paint… again. Luckily he is a sucker for peppermints, and the sound of a peppermint being unwrapped coaxed him to his easel as the cameraman was counting down to go live. But he still let me know this was his last “take” when he used his strong head to push me into the wall, 3 feet away, while I was being interviewed live. He likes to paint, but we found that he has his limits.

You can help find homes and second careers for retired racehorses at New Vocations by purchasing Metro designed products at www.DreamGreenUSA.com.

Here’s behind the scenes video from the morning Metro painted live on Fox News.