"Horsemanship is a Fine Art..."

This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend a horse clinic run by world class horseman and clinician, Buck Brannaman.  For anybody out there who hasn't heard of Buck, you should get yourself in front of a TV and watch the 2011 documentary made about him.  You don't have to be a horse lover to appreciate it, it's more about being human than anything.  Here's a little taste....

That being said - I'm sure you're wondering - what does this have to do with your artwork? Well, I truly believe that inspiration comes from all sorts of different places and this week my inspiration happens to come from a cowboy and the four legged friends he helps.  I came to the clinic armed with my sketchpad and prismacolors - ready to tackle some animal life drawing and to continue to hone my equine drawing skills (along with absorbing as much horseman knowledge that I could).  I love horses and have been riding for awhile, but I've found that they are one of the more difficult animals to draw from life.  They are so fast and fluid, it's much easier to draw the sleeping polar bears at the zoo!

The four day clinic included a morning session on starting colts (training young horses who have never or hardly been ridden) and the second half was a horsemanship class (like a fine-tuned riding lesson).  They were both fascinating to watch.  It was also a privilege to watch a trainer like Buck do what he does best - ride and work with horses.  I felt like I was watching Michelangelo paint or Rodin sculpt.  Truly a master.
The Horse Whisperer -Buck Brannaman

                                                                                            Reducing colts' fear by getting them used to riding, noises & touch
Horsemanship - Buck demonstrating following another horse and mimicking its moves - back up,  reverse directions, change leads, etc. (as if working cattle)
Roping a colt's hind leg to get it used to shoeing, and perhaps saving it's life if it were to get caught in wire, fence, etc.

Horsemanship - Buck backing up in a perfect semi-circle. 
Getting the colts near the fence and comfortable with the weight of a rider
Working with a feisty colt in the round pen.
Buck giving his colt affection as reward.  Always rubbing them and touching them to let them know that humans are their friends. 

So much of what he says isn't only applicable to horses.  At one point he turned to the riders in the horsemanship session and told them that they seemed to be either in a state of elation or a state of depression. Meaning their egos were either exploding because they did something right, or their self-esteem was shot because they couldn't get something right.  He told them to just take a breath and enjoy the little successes...and move on to the next moment.  What a great life lesson.

"Horsemanship is a meant to be one of the fine arts..." Buck professed near the end of the clinic.  Urging riders and owners to continue to work hard and be dedicated to their craft.  Not everybody will get there, but you'll never get there unless you try.  Isn't this true of any passion?

I was inspired all weekend to get better with my horses, including my personal relationships with them, riding them, and capturing them in my work.  

So here are a few of my "little successes".   (For more Animal Life Drawing check out my FLICKR album.)  



Live in the moment - Deal with what you have 


Brenda Harris said…
An illustrator once said that horses are very difficult to draw. He has gotten very good at illustrating horse scenes and is sought out by publishers whenever a story needs horse illustrations. So, I hope you become an accomplished horse illustrator. Best wishes!
JenKellerArt said…
Thanks for the encouragement! I LOVE horses (almost as much as I love dogs...) So here's hoping I can give this other illustrator some competition soon... thanks!

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