There’s this saying about combat flying- hours of boredom interspersed with moments of stark terror. At a far less dramatic level, painting seems to have a similar rhythm sometimes. We spend days or weeks working on paintings and, suddenly, some get finished, signatures go on, photos are taken and, ta da. we’re ready to move on. I finished this painting a couple of days after the one I posted last Friday.
This piece is a scene from the mountain blessing ceremony that I had the good fortune to attend at Baga Gazriin Chuluu. There had already been an anklebone shooting competition, but the horse race was the event that everyone dropped what they were doing for. The Buddhist monks who had been sitting in a tent, chanting, came out and joined their families and friends. For at least a hour before the race, the kids had been warming up the horses by walking them in a big circle, sometimes singing as they rode round and round.
The horses were two-year olds, all stallions. As it turns out the Mongol word for horse, “mor” includes the fact that the horse in an ungelded male. That’s the default. Then there are geldings and mares. Being young colts, the race was a short distance- 7km. (The main national Naadam race for fully adult horses is 56km.) As with all Mongol horse races, after warm-ups the jockeys rode their mounts out to the starting line at a walk or trot, followed by a few vehicles which I assume included the starter and some of the trainers.
Everyone went out of sight behind a large rock formation. We all waited at the finish line, a small pile of rocks which held up a pole that had a colorful red scarf flying from it like a flag.
Pretty soon the crowd stirred and, looking out, we could see the dust from the horses. In just another minute or two they started to reach the finish line. I got as many pictures as I could.
The trainers checked the horses over and some scrapped the sweat off them, although none were lathered up or even looked particularly tired. Then the jockeys spent most of the next hour circling the wrestling competition, cooling down their mounts. That’s when I got the image I used in this painting.
I’ve also included the reference photos since I think too many animal artists just use whatever setting the animal is in when the picture was taken and don’t consider other options. In this case, the background was pretty boring. But, a short distance away were these really great rock formations.
The young rider:
The rocks were deliberately placed so that the boy would be against the large shadow area. I kept things on a diagonal so that the background would be at a different angle from the main subject and keep the composition from being too static. After going 14km, the rider was still having to pull firmly to keep his mount at a walk. I wanted all the elements of the painting to support that pent-up energy.