Tag Archives: Santa Anita Park

Tribute to a Beauty!

This is a small oil painting of ‘Beholder’, a famous American race horse. She is retired now, but during her career she earned more than $6 Million.
The picture was taken at Santa Anita race track. She was warming up for her last race before retirement in 2016. Usually, I am not a big fan of horse racing but I am a big fan of horses! Over the years I visited Santa Anita race track multiple times to sketch, take the tour of the stables and just look at the magnificent horses. They are athletes and just amazing to look at.
Beholder had initially quite the reputation: she was known to be very temperamental and hard to control. That changed as she aged thanks to her trainer with whom she developed a bond and depth of communication that made all the difference.
Before races, her trainer would use ear plugs and a hood with ear coverings to help her calm down. She also didn’t like travel therefore she raced most of her career in home state of California.
When asked what it’s like to ride Beholder, her jockey Gary Stevens said: It’s like I’m driving a Mack truck with the speed of a Porsche and the brain of a rocket scientist.”
Definitely a horse that deserves to be painted!

As for process, I don’t do any sort of underpainting in oil. As I do with watercolor I do a pencil sketch and work ‘alla prima’, as far as I am able to. What that means is, I try to judge value and color, mix the appropriate paints and put it on. Done. No going back (if at all possible, doesn’t work all the time). While this may be a harder approach it is also more gratifying because the energy of the brush strokes is completely preserved. No fiddling, over blending etc. etc. Unlike in watercolor, the brush strokes in oil painting is everything… actually, it’s the same in watercolor..never mind!

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!