Two Portraits for One Special Horse – Legend of Fire

June 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Portrait of Legend of Fire and Darylene Rascati

Second Portrait of Legend of Fire and Darylene Rascati (for Darylene’s sister, Alice)

This rainy afternoon, I met my friend Daryleen Rascati at the barn where she boards her beautiful chestnut gelding, Legend of Fire. Since buying my retired race horse, Bubba, I’ve met an incredible group of horse friends. Friends with a common interest who are gracious with their time, advice, opinions, humor; friends who never hesitate to offer a hand, tack and even trailers all in the interest of our horses. Its a wonderful community.

Among my wonderful horse friends is Daryleen. She helps Bubs and I with her encouragement and enthusiasm and we’ve grown as a team because of her input. So when Daryleen mentioned that she enjoyed my artwork – I was thrilled because now I had a special way to show my gratitude by painting a portrait of her horse, Legend.

Daryleen and her sister Alice actually co-own Legend. They work hard training and planning for shows. Their hard work has paid off last summer when Legend qualified to compete in the National Sport Horse competition in which he did wonderfully. This summer Team Legend has already secured several show championships and set a new personal best dressage score – and its early in the show season – more great things to come.

So on this rainy Georgia Sunday, I enjoyed driving out to meet Daryleen and Legend. As she brushed him, the barn swallows swept past and the 20 year old barn cat rubbed against my legs. Legend stood quietly enjoying the attention – and brushing. I’m not sure that he was very impressed with my artistic interpretation but Daryleen was all smiles.

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Celebrating 40 Years of Marriage

May 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Celebrating 40 years of Marriage!

Friend Laura Crawley and her sister, Stephanie Leonard, recently commissioned a portrait of their parents to celebrate the momentous occasion of their 40th wedding anniversary. The direction was simple, feature the parents but incorporate their 4 grandchildren, their love of quilting, music, reading, religion and the great state of Texas!

When Laura suggested using a quilt in the background – the wedding ring patterns – I immediately pictured the composition. I painted the grandchildren, very simply, sleeping under the quilt. The grandparent’s arms are entwined like the pattern of the quilt. In the foreground I wanted a simple pattern – yellow rose of Texas and I added a few blue birds for interest.

When I met Laura to deliver the painting, I explained how I had approached the painting and use of color. When I mentioned the bluebirds she smiled and said “I don’t remember telling you about bluebirds, did I?” I said “No, I just thought they would add quiet interest to the roses.” Unbeknownst to me, Laura’s mother has a much cherished collection of bluebird figurines that were HER mother’s passion. We both got goosebumps – strange coincidences often occur when I work on these portraits.

I really enjoy working on these portraits! So thank you Laura and Stephanie for your commission!




A Plethera of Portraits!

May 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

2012 will be the year of commissioned portraits! I am currently working on 5 different portraits – and I’m happy as can be! Each portrait is unique and challenging – show horses, fuzzy dogs, sisters, parents, grandkids…. Its so fun to collaborate and work the details into a composition.

Just approved, this sketch for a parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. Most of my figurative work is simplified to an almost abstract form, with a portrait, i have to characterize the figures so they actually look a little like the real person. If I didn’t, then it wouldn’t be a portrait. I don’t use facial features in my regular work, but I love to paint eyes and I enjoy that little detail a great deal.

For this piece I incorporated grandchildren, a wedding ring quilt pattern, the Texas Univerisity long horn steer mascot, a love of books and music within a universal “we are Texans!” theme. All good stuff! I’ll post a complete story when this piece is finished.

Portrait sketch

A Fun Family Portrait for Family!

April 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Portrait of Wayne Smith by Melanie Eberhardt. Commissioned by Julie Heminger.

A few months ago, my cousin Julie emailed and asked if I would do a portrait of my Uncle Wayne and his favorite hunting companion, Maxi, the beagle. My reply – “you betcha!”

Uncle Wayne and Maxi love to go rabbit hunting. They trek through pastures, along woodlines and train tracks in pursuit of the wascaly wabbits. Hunting has been a part of my Uncles entire life. My mom and Uncles (Wayne and Ed) grew up during WW2 in northwest Ohio. This part of Ohio is flat farmland and as children, everyone was dirt poor. Hunting was a mainstay for food. My grandpa taught Uncle Wayne to hunt at a very early age. Often, the family ate what they were able to shoot – rabbits, squirrels, deer and sometimes a turkey. Uncle Wayne didn’t grow up hunting for sport. Hunting was a necessity to survival.
Now a grandpa himself, its great to enjoy a lifetime of tradition as sport. I was very happy to delve into this special portrait. Julie carefully described Uncle Wayne’s hunting gear and set a bunch of great reference photos of Maxi. I don’t usually paint settings or landscapes but it seemed an important element for this portrait. The background is my grandparent’s home which was situated about 50 feet from a train track. The town is Melbern, Ohio.
The perspective is one I remember well from my childhood playing on the train tracks about 1/4 mile down the track from grandma’s house. The tracks were slightly raised and you could see for miles over the flat fields.
I chose to paint a wintery scene inspired by an old hand colored family photo. My grandpa and his brother, Russell pose for Uncle Wayne’s “first hunt”. I love the soft, wintery colors and tried to emulate them in the portrait.

(left to right): my grandpa, Elgie Smith, my uncle Wayne and my great uncle Russell. the caption written on the back of this old family photo "Wayne First Fox Hunt."

This was indeed a very special portrait to paint. I’m so glad my cousin Julie asked me to do it.

NickerDoodles Gains New Audiences

April 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

I started creating NickerDoodles, horse inspired cartoons, for Bits & Bytes Farm this summer. I have so much fun going to the barn, spending time with Bubba and my horse friends. We laugh and cut up about our horses and ourselves.

Its been fun to find additional avenues of sharing NickerDoodles. NickerDoodles are now also regularly published in the Georgia Dressage and Combined Training Association magazine, “Collected Remarks”. And most recently I’m a regular content provided to a new “cheeky” horsey website,

I’ve also launched a separate blog just to post all published NickerDoodles – check it out and check back frequently! See what happens when you put a sweet gelding in the pasture with your bossy mare…


The Commissioned Portrait and the Long Kept Secret

March 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

I must be a really good keeper of secrets. When friend, Linda Ross, commissioned me to do a portrait gift ¬†for mutual friends, Elizabeth Wood and Barry Zuber, I knew it was going to be hard to keep the secret . You see, I board my horse, Bubba, at Elizabeth and Barry’s Farm. I’m at Bits & Bytes Farm several times a week. And they’re encouraging fans of my work and often inquire about the pieces I’m working on. How many times, during a casual conversation did I almost let slip that I’m working on a commission for them? About a zillion times.

Finally this weekend, Linda, Elizabeth and Barry had a chance to get together and Linda presented her holiday gift, a portrait of Saint Lawrence.

I love to work on this type of portrait because its much more than a painting of an individual. Linda and I collaborated to create a time capsule of last summer when Saint Lawrence came to live at Bits & Bytes. The painting incorporates the buildings, riding ring and all the four legged critters. It was hard for me to edit and define a stopping point while sketching. I’m there to watch Barry pull the weeds out of the spring garden, to plant tomatoes and spices, to watch them flourish and grow and in the fall to enjoy the harvest. I had so much experience and visual memories of the farm that determine what NOT to put in the painting became the challenge!

I think this type of portrait is particularly meaningful because, as a time capsule, its a visual memory of a point in ones life. My hope is that it brings a smile to someone’s face tomorrow, the next day and on and on and on….

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Seemingly Simple – Very Difficult Portrait – Zoey the Cat

February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Zoey the cat. One tough portrait!

Today I finished a challenging portrait of Zoey the cat. This is the third portrait commissioned by the Lodosio Family. I’ve previously painted their daughter, Lia, and her horse, Marcus, as well as the family dog, Abbey. Each had challenges as every portrait does, but Zoey was a particularly tough project.


Grey. Zoey is a grey and white tuxedo cat with incredible eyes. The eyes are easy. Its the grey that is daunting. Nothing is really grey. I’ve painted “grey” horses, but they’re really white and horses are big and muscular and angular. I can use their physic to simplify shapes and play with color to achieve a “grey” horse.

But a grey cat isn’t muscular and doesn’t have an obvious physic. Grey cats are soft and fuzzy. This is the first time I had to think about how to achieve soft, fuzzy form in my particular style of painting.

So when I get stuck on a problem, I find it helpful to spend some time mulling. I printed out my reference photos of Zoey and tacked them to my living room wall. I studied them in different light, in the morning drinking coffee, at night from the glow of the tv. How do I show soft shapes in a colorless color – grey? I looked at this photos for weeks.

Eventually I devised an approach by using very small amounts of black, white, flesh and sepia to piece together a recognizable structure, painted very subtly. I always enjoy doing portraits because the finished piece has to look like the subject. Otherwise, I’ve just painted for instance, any old grey cat. But it was especially fun being forced to really think about paint and mixing color for this kitty portrait – Zoey!


Upon delivery, Zoey inspects her portrait

Zoey herself inspected her finished portrait. Mom, Laura, writes that she was however, more interested in the box! Everyone’s a critic! Thanks for sending photos Laura, it makes this post much more fun!

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