Tag Archives: horse stables

At Santa Anita Park

the hotwalkers, by frankeber 2013

the hotwalkers, by frankeber 2013

Last week I got up at the crack of dawn to visit Clockers’s corner at the Santa Anita Race track in Arcadia.

From 5am to 10am every morning, the trainers take their horses out on the track for an early morning workout routine. I was teaching in the area and my hotel was literally right across from it.
I managed to get up at 5:30am (with great difficulty, I might add!) and met a few fellow artists for a bit of early morning sketching of horses. While I am not exactly a horse race fan, I tried to stay open minded and see what this outing brings. I do love horses, so that was reason enough to go!

It is quite the spectacle to see them come out! Santa Anita is a very picturesque race track, with swaying palm trees and the San Gabriel mountains serving as the perfect backdrop in the rising sun. So we all tried to capture some rider and horse positions with more or less success. Well, they don’t pose much, let’s just say…

I couldn’t help but be impressed. The jockeys are tiny people, but they are kings when on horseback! It is absolutely amazing what they can do! Since it was Saturday, we went on the tram to do the barn/ stable tour as well. That was when I got really excited! For me, there was just something magical to see the goings-on behind the scenes! The horse handlers, the stable buildings in the rising sun, the magnificient race horses and the enormous logistical machine with hundreds of people hard at work. There is simply no better subject matter!

the hotwalkers, detail

the hotwalkers, detail

The only problem is: you can’t paint there! There is absolutely no way to get into the stables, other than the official tram ride. Authorized personnel only. I was quite disappointed at first, but come to think of it: there are horses in there that may be worth a few million dollars, so they can’t just have anybody walking freely about!
I was content to take loads of pictures and work from those for now. One of my artist’s friends knows someone who works in there, so we might have a shot at plein air painting when the season starts again this fall. What a treat that would be!!

Subject for this painting are the ‘hot walkers’. These are the guys and gals who walk the horse around in a circle after a morning workout. The horse needs to cool down and they walk it for about twice the time of the actual run. I saw some horses close up right after a run and it was absolutely dripping with sweat and panting heavily, so this is an important job!

horses, dressage

early morning dressage, by frankeber 2012     total concentration, by frankeber 2012

A new subject matter for me, but I am really getting into it. A horse is such a magnificent creature and dressage is a hard discipline that takes enormous focus on the part of both rider and horse.

As an artist, I am fascinated by the movement and elegance as well as the artistic side of this sport.

As a painter, I am focusing on the feel of the scene, i.e. the early morning workout, the manege, the vapor, the light situation  etc. The horse and the rider are just part of a bigger scene, part of something special…to capture all that would be quite an accomplishment!

I am less interested in doing horse and rider portraits. In fact, the goal for me is to paint it in ways that the viewer sees all parts without ever really painting them!

A word on painting process: I very much believe in subtractive watercolour techniques, so I try to stay away from white paint as much as possible. It must be stressed that this is a personal decision, I am not about to lecture anyone or play ethics police. If you want to use white paint, go for it.
I just think there is no substitute for the brilliant white of the paper and it cannot be brought back with chinese white or gouache. Enough said.

The second painting was done ‘alla prima’, all single washes, adjusted while still wet or damp. The only ‘underpainting’ I did was the arena’s light areas. I did not bother putting blue for the sky, it does not need it.

The riders on the track is a different story, but even in this piece, there are no more than two or occasionally three washes layered. I like to see the white of the paper coming through at all times.

I have a friend who is a dressage rider, so I will have the pleasure of watching her and work onsite in the near future! Stay tuned.