|A silk scarf in process on my work table.|
I don't have a horse in my own life right now but they're in my blood and therefore they surface regularly in my art. Looking back on my own history with horses, I recall there were always ponies or horses around our small farm during my childhood in Langley, BC. Many passed through our gates (my dad bought and sold livestock) but there were only four that I considered to be "mine".
The first, when I was four or five, was a cute-as-a-button Shetland pony named Tony who had the nasty habit of stopping suddenly and lowering his head in an effort to unseat me. If all went according to his plan, I'd tumble off and land in front of him so he could step on me (I can clearly recall having a Shetland-sized hoof print on my arm). It wasn't a love story between us but I was undeterred and Tony was followed by Dixie, a plump Welsh-x pony on whom I really learned to ride - or at least to stay in the saddle and steer effectively. There were no formal lessons, only a second-hand saddle and mis-matched bridle, a will to learn, and a good-natured pony who was gracious enough, most of the time, to put up with me. After a time and only a few mishaps that left me in the dust, the spunky little mare lost favour in our family by bolting out the front gate and leading us a merry chase down a nearby highway, my dad and I in hot pursuit in our Volkswagen Beetle. Thankfully she came to a stop unharmed on the lawn of a home that housed a very large family, and all the children of various ages and sizes were ushered out to form a human corral and capture her.
Duke and I covered a lot of territory together. During the 1970s you could have seen us heading out in various directions in the Aldergrove area: north to the vast acreage owned by the Department of National Defence and which in those days was open to riders, south to the trails of Aldergrove Lake Park (the man-made lake has since been drained and filled in, so it's now called Aldergrove Park), or making the long trek west to the equestrian heaven of Campbell Valley Park with its fine facilities and trails tailored to horseback riders. When I left home and the family farm was sold, Duke lived at other farms and stables in various parts of the Lower Mainland as I gypsied from place to place. In the 1980s, you might have seen us galloping around Mud Bay near Crescent Beach, or ambling around the Queensborough area that's now totally developed into housing and highways (in those days a horse and rider was an anomaly in an increasingly urbanized area, and we attracted lots of gawkers) or racing down the horse trail between Highway 1 and Burnaby Lake. In the 90s we both ended up back in Langley, and it was there Duke eventually ended his days at a small family-run stable just a stone's throw from our favourite place, Campbell Valley Park, which was where you'd have been most likely to have seen us during those last years. I remember our first ride in the park after moving back to Langley - Duke's joy was tangible (as was mine) as we returned to the stomping ground we'd left behind so many years earlier. There's now a plaque in the park's Spirit of the Horse Garden celebrating his memory.
So while I'm horseless these days, much of my past was spent in the saddle and I have the bad knees to prove it! Not to mention a couple of old saddles and a trunk full of tack gathering dust. Life has taken me in different directions and my art has followed suit, but the hours spent grooming, riding and observing horses are indelibly imprinted on me and I'm certain that even blindfolded I could make a fair stab at accurately drawing a horse. Pretty well the first thing I ever drew was a horse, and it may well be my last. My deep seated love for horses and for making art are forever intertwined.
|"Friendly Faces" - my most recent equine artwork.|