I’ve had a number of new paintings in progress for quite awhile now. Last week I finally, really got back to the easel and finished up what amounts to a new body of work. They are all part of an idea that I have been thinking about for the past few years and what I’ve been calling to myself my “New Direction” in which I focus on the animals as design elements, adding historic decorative symbols, motifs and patterns that are used in Mongolia. The very special element is “bichig”, the Mongolian vertical script that Chinggis Khan adapted from the alphabet of the Uighur people who allied with the Mongols rather than fighting them (which would have ended badly for them as they had seen for themselves).
I introduced my “New Direction” in a previous post in regard to doing repaints of older work, using “Friends” as an example, in which I added a border around what had been a plain background.
One of the ideas that has had me excited about this new work is to go through my reference and find images that, properly cropped, had a strong design. So this one of an otherwise fairly non-descript brown horse became much more interesting. And it was fun to paint!
For this one I used the Mongolian word for “scratching” written out in bichig as the additional design element. I didn’t want it to detract from the horse, so kept the value contrast low while using a color that was related to the color of the horse.
One of the things I wanted to get away from was putting animals in a realistic full landscape. My solution with “Two Takhi” was to use a traditional symbolic cloud motif for the sky and a simple color field of overlapping marks of warm and cool greens for “the ground”. I kept the value contrast fairly low except for the horse’s heads. The vertical format let me focus on what was interesting in the reference…the shapes of the overlapping heads and forequarters of the two horses, takhi/Przwalski’s horses that I saw at Hustai National Park.
This one was another that never quite made it after I originally “finished” it in 2012 and then set it aside . I added the longevity symbols to the plain background and now it works. I did a pretty thorough repaint on the horses, too. One of the things l love about working in oil is the ability to pull out an older piece, look at it, say “hey, I know how to fix that” and then do it. These horses were part of a good-sized herd I saw as we headed south towards the Gobi from Hustai in 2010. The flies were pretty bad so they kept moving around as one after another tried to get its head and body into the middle of the group. The painting above, “Friends”, came out of that same encounter and there will be more to come. The morning light was wonderful.