Life Goes On, Part 18…Works In Progress And Roses!

“Almost There”, gouache on paper, color study

I was busy in the studio last week doing the second and third steps in preparing three new paintings to hit the canvas. I’ve been wanting to start using the Mongol horse race reference I’ve gathered over my twelve trips there since 2005 and the time has come.
Above is a color study, below is the previous step, the value study, in which all the darks, lights, and mid-range tones are worked out separate from color. It’s an important roadmap for coloring mixing since how dark or light is settled and the artist then can focus on hue and color temperature (how warm or cool).

“Almost There”, graphite on paper, value study

Here’s the value and color studies for “Patient”.

And, finally, for “After the Race, Scraping Sweat”

I have not determined the final sizes yet but they’re not going to be too big.

In other art news, Inktober52 rolls on with me doing my weekly pen and in drawing to go with whatever the “Prompt” is. I post all of them on Instagram, the “official” social media platform for the event. You can see everything I’ve done so far here. I’ve also created a Board for them on Pinterest here. I generally post new pieces on Tuesday.

Last week’s Inktober52 piece. The Prompt was “Fragile”

And, if you haven’t done so, here’s the link to my Fox Studio Etsy shop. I offer coloring pages created from animals I’ve photographed in my travels and original drawings and small oil paintings. Coming soon will be my hand-picked selection of dip pen nibs for artists.

Live events, as everyone knows, are either postponed or cancelled this year. For artists it means no live exhibitions or shows, galleries closed and workshops going virtual. However, I recently found out about and signed up for a new marketing effort just for artists...Artists Sunday, which will be on November 29. The idea, like the other themed shopping days after Thanksgiving, is to establish one just for artists/craftspeople. There will be national multimedia marketing campaign to encourage people to patronize the participants when shopping for gifts. I’m excited about the possibilities and am really looking forward to it. Look for new items in my Etsy shop and here on my website.

Rose ‘The Fairy’

Starting last Saturday, we had almost a week of smoke, so no gardening/fall clean-up got done. It’s a gorgeous sunny day today and it looks like we’re going to have a “heat wave” over the next week with highs in the mid/high 70s, quite warm for here on the coast and since our acre is in a sheltered area at the end of our street it will hit 80 in the shade.
In the meantime some of the roses aren’t done yet, some still blooming like The Fairy (above) and some getting in a last repeat bloom like the David Austin Rose ‘Charles Rennie Macintosh’ below.

The Jackson Perkins ‘Happy Chappy’ ground cover rose hasn’t stopped blooming since spring. I love the warm colors.

There used to be a fabulous old rose nursery in Sebastopol, about four hours south of us, called Vintage Gardens. The sales part was closed when the fad for old roses died down, but the collection the owner amassed is still there and being maintained by The Friends of Vintage Roses. There was a blow-out final sale in which a few hundred old roses, many of them floribundas from the 50s-70s were under $10, a type that is not in fashion anymore. I bought over a dozen of them just to preserve them for the future, but also looked like they’d be great in the garden. And they are! And how could anyone resist a rose called “Lily Marlene? It’s one of the best reds I’ve seen. It’s also bullet proof and sturdy.

And, speaking of names, I HAD to have ‘Leaping Salmon’ given where I live on the north coast of California. This rose is a SPECTACULAR salmon pink in color and quite the climber, with huge long-lasting flowers.

And finally, last year for the first time I participated in the creation of a coloring book, part of a series showing the wildlife and plants in various ecosystems of the US. The next one is under way and the theme this time is Pollinators. Without insects and other animals to pollinate plants our plant-based food supply would be in great, most likely fatal, danger. Bees are probably the best know pollinators and they’ll be well represented in the book. I did some research, though, and found that the white-lined sphinx moth I photographed in our garden years ago is a pollinator! I’ve used three of my photos to show the moth in action. This is where I start….with a pencil drawing that sets the composition. I’ll tweak it a bit more and it will be ready for inking on heavy vellum, which I’ll lay over the top of the drawing. I used photos of penstemon, also from our garden as the “target plant”. I’ll also be doing a second page with two Hawaiian honeycreepers and will show that one next week.

On the Covid-19 front, we had a post 4th of July spike in cases, mostly driven by large gatherings of locals and their guests. We seem to have gotten past the Labor Day weekend ok. Last Friday there were no new cases the previous day, the first time that’s happened in awhile. So unless something dramatic happens this will be the last “Life Goes On…” post because that’s how it is day to day now with following our regular routines, able to get haircuts, massages, etc. and do our regular shopping with no drama.

WildArt Mongolia Expedition News!

Arburd Sands ger camp with a summer storm coming in

As I noted in my previous post, in Mongolia flexibility is important. So when I got back from my weekend at Arburd Sands ger camp and found that the other artist had cancelled due to a family emergency, I had to get flexible and fast.

The WildArt Mongolia Expedition is now postponed until September of 2013. I will be traveling in the countryside to other locations between now and when I head for home. I’ll post about them when I can.

The great news is that I am working with a young Mongolian man, Byambakhuu Darinchuluun, who lives in New York and who has contacts all over the United States with the various Mongol-American communities and also here in Mongolia. We will be publicizing the Expedition while I’m here in the country, explaining this special, first-time collaboration between Mongol and American artists I’ve planned that will also support conservation. And we’ll have time to extend and refine this important initiative.

To that end I will be the focus of a special event, “American Artist Susan Fox- the WildArt Mongolia Expedition”, on September 22 at ArtiCore Gallery Company, which is right in the middle of Ulaanbaatar, across from Sukhbaatar Square. I’ll be meeting local Mongol artists, talking about the Expedition, giving a presentation on my work and demonstrating my fast sketching technique.

I’ve created a Facebook event here.

I had a wonderful time at Arburd Sands ger camp last weekend, which was hosting their first naadam for visitors. I got to see the horse race from the beginning through the middle and end and took around 700 photos plus video. There will be more on that later, but here’s a few photos that I particularly liked, including a couple of Mongol bokh, or wrestling.

I got to ride in the car which paralleled the horses.

The ones taken through the windshield communicate the excitement quite well.

This is the winning horse, quite a beauty and he won by quite a bit.

Some of the wrestlers are big guys.

Doing the Eagle Dance before a bout.

Mongolia Monday: 5 Proverbs About Life

Mongol bokh (wrestling), Baga Gazriin Chuluu, July 2009

By experiencing hardship
You will become experienced

There are thousands of owners for something done right
There is one owner for something done wrong

Chinggis Khan statue, July 2009

If a person tries hard
Destiny will try hard

From a little bit of laziness
Much laziness will come

Young jockeys finish 7km race for 2 year old horses, August 2010

Talk little
Do much

It’s Naadam Weekend In Mongolia!

This is the biggest holiday in Mongolia. Ulaanbaatar pretty much shuts down for a few days while everyone celebrates and attends competitions in the Three Manly Sports: horse racing, wrestling and archery.

I got to see all of it, including a local celebration, in 2009. Here’s some photos, ending with a wonderful music video by one of the most famous singing groups in Mongolia, Nomin Talst. The group is no longer together and this video was made some years ago, but it still gets played on the music video channel around this time of year. And it’s one of the things that hooked me on Mongolia. I had to find out more about the kind of people who are shown in it and who clearly know how to have a good time today, while preserving their ancient traditions and sports.

The horsetail standards are brought out of the Parliament Building

Soldiers on matched palomino Mongol horses ready to take the standards to the Naadam Stadium; one of the Best Government Buildings Ever, which includes a big statue of Chinggis Khan

Ladies who had been in a traditional clothing fashion show watched from the sidelines

The horse tail standards are set in place for the duration of Naadam

The President of Mongolia addresses the crowd

There was a parade of famous athletes and celebrities; I was told this man is a very famous wrestler

Where else but Mongolia? In comes the Mongol Queen and her warrior entourage

A display of the national flag; on horseback, naturally

Then it out to the valley for the horse race; almost to the finish line

I was told that close to half the population of the country was in and around this valley that day; judging from the traffic we hit getting there, I can believe it

Back in UB, a mom starts her little one off right

The winner of the archery competition, a Buriat man, accompanied by his wife, both looking great!

Then it was my turn. For about a dollar, I got to shoot a real Mongol bow and arrow and got a pretty good distance

Mongol wrestling (Bokh) is pretty simple- first wrestler to have a body part touch the ground other than the feet loses- but within that simplicity are endless subtle complexities; I'm definitely a fan

Going down....

And now….Nomin Talst singing “Minii Mongol Naadam” (My Mongol Naadam):

New Painting! After the Race; Scraping Sweat

When traveling in Mongolia, one often sees the herders out taking care of their animals. Often they’re wearing western clothes, but a lot of them wear del, the traditional long garment. It’s very practical and makes them look very dashing. What isn’t quite so dashing are the ubiquitous baseball caps, however inexpensive and practical they are. So when I was at a mountain blessing ceremony at Bag Gazriin Chuluu and was walking around after the horse race, this gentleman really stood out with his red and yellow hat. I have no idea who he was, but he was scraping sweat off one of the horses with a special blunt, flat blade. I believe the sweat from a winning horse is considered to have the strength of that horse in it and so is very auspicious. The blue scarf is a khadak, which is used for offerings.

Here’s the step-by-step for “After the Race; Scraping Sweat:

Brush drawing with pencil preliminary

First pass of all-over color, plus shadow shapes; notice background goes in opposite direction of horse

Next color pass; starting to define the drapery of the del

Needed another element in background, so I added the rocks in mid-ground on the left to anchor horse and man

One of the two main pieces of reference on the iMac; I like his gesture in this one but needed another for the horse's head; there was a third reference shot for the background

All elements in place; everything is staged for the final push; spent yesterday finishing the background and making lots of tweaks and corrections to the horse; notice that the background has now been divided into two planes for more visual interest

After the Race; Scraping Sweat 22x28" oil on canvasboard

New Painting! “After The Race; Baga Gazriin Chuluu”

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.

Horse race with spectators, Baga Gazriin Chuluu, July 2009

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 background:Put them together and….

After The Race, Baga Gazriin Chuluu 16x20" oil on canvasboard

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.