“A Horse with Many Stories”

"A Horse with Many Stories"“A Horse with Many Stories”,
by Robert Leedy, 2009
watercolor on Arches 300 lb. Hot Press paper,
30″ x 22.75″
Collection of Jim & Melissa Kumpe

A few weeks ago, I was asked by The Strand Theater (where I have an ongoing show thru October) to paint on site during Marietta’s First Friday Art Walk.  I agreed and thought it might be interesting to paint from a still life which I had not seen any of the past First Friday artists do before. And since it was for The Strand Theater, I figured a still life revolving around 1930’s, 1940’s & 1950’s pop culture and entertainment might be a good theme.

I approached Jim & Melissa, the owners of Antiques On the Square which is an antique dealer directly across Marietta Square from The Strand; they agreed to lend me dozens of valuable antiques to create my still life. I walked out of their shop with a potpourri of interesting objects in all sizes, shapes and colors.

One of my selected objects, a rocking horse in wonderfully rich, primary and secondary colors was actually too large for my collective still life but I thought it would make  a wonderful painting in its own right.  I set the rocking horse aside and tried to get as many objects on my 36″ x 36″ table.  The still life was interesting yet very busy. Perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew. I forged ahead anyway and got an interesting drawing going before the First Friday Art Walk crowds arrived.

I began laying in washes of color as the first few people shuffled in.  Turnout for October’s Art Walk that night was low but the people who did show up were very interested in what I was doing. I had the still life dramatically lit and I was there with my plein air painting gear painting away with the scene before me. I think many of the people observing my painting were having fun identifying all of the emerging objects in my watercolor.  I fielded questions and worked at a pretty brisk pace.  The people were not so distracting and I was having a good time…

At the close of the evening, I hauled all of the antiques home with me and felt bad that I wasn’t able to paint the rocking horse which had caught my eye in a hidden cranny in the antique shop. I had an early flight the next morning for a funeral in Virginia and I wasn’t going to be back until late Sunday night but since the antique shop owners were closed on Monday, I would have all day to paint the rocking horse before I returned it and the rest of the cache of antiquities on Tuesday.

I really liked the rocking horse for its simple lines and multi-colored planes. It was a work of art on its own. It was hand built and painted with a rich patina acquired with age. It was begging to be painted and I finally obliged.

The painting was a lot of fun. My only stumbling block was the fact that it was a diagonal composition and though I originally wanted it surrounded by simple, white paper, the diagonals proved troublesome and I needed a counter balance which I solved with a subtle, light wash running through the painting to counteract the diagonal.

Melissa & Jim are very nice folks and since they were so generous to loan me the props for my still life, I figured they would enjoy the painting as a gift in return…

The rocking horse is back in its little cranny in the shop; there’s no telling what its history is but I am sure it has plenty of stories to tell. It will eventually sell to someone whose eye is caught by its elegant simplicity – as mine was – and I feel lucky to have put it down on paper.

For posterity…

About this entry