Horse and Rider

April 30, 2012 · 6 comments

My Rick is a painter.

He’s also a poet, a cartoonist, and a lover of the “wild west” of his imagination. He’s read every Larry McMurtrey novel ever written. Ditto for every Elmore Leonard western. Double-ditto for Cormac McCarthy.

Half a ditto for A. B. Guthrie, Jr.

Maybe that vein of wild-west yeehaw! is merely resonating with his artist/philosopher/cartoonist self.

Nobody else paints like this.

In one horse’s head, you can see just a handful of the many Ricks that live in those curly white locks.

There’s Rick, the grade-school daydream doodler… sketcher of form.

There’s Rick, the confident manipulator of texture and stroke and chroma, whose seemingly effortless precision with a flick of white highlight captures the soft orb of a horse’s eye with such gentleness and love… That one is where Rick, the student of art for five decades, meets Rick, the complete mushpot lover of animals.

And who uses the color and contour of the underpainting to craft a believable shading of a horse’s neck?

Never seen that one before.

That seems to be one of his own personal magic tricks: knowing when leaving something out—a “helpful” comment, a glance at my ridiculous morning hair, paint—can make a moment more, not less.

Like choosing to leave the strong “earth brown” horizontal stroke of the underpainting to anchor and nourish the bold uprights of mountain sage green—and yellow, and robins egg blue. And just in case the brown needed a little help, let’s lay in some brilliant violet to add some color weight to the blue of that shirt…

There’s Rick, the cartoonist, who believes people can be trusted to fill in the lines for themselves.

It takes a man confident in his inner ‘toonist to pull off a painting technique that allows a galloping horse to escape gravity.

Good guys wear white… unless it’s just a smarty-pants perfect highlighting of the dang hat, and using the tumultuous underpainting stroke direction to indicate both believable arm muscle flex and cloth folds, accurate at a gallop.

I used to ask him if he did things like that on purpose. (That, and outrageously insightful puns, and intelligent questions that jump you directly to the end of the conversation, where the Big Questions of Life live.) He’d humbly answer, “I don’t know how come I come up with these things, honey… I just do.”

I’ve stopped asking, because I believe it now.

Like, he just knew how to encourage the horse’s tail to use pressure against the perpendicular angle energy of the underpainting to help with lift off…

… and how six apparently random skinny white lines above his signature that looks like part of the painting would move the whole thing to “the wild west” in my imagination.

Thanks Rick.

Liv April 30, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Hi Rick,

That is one beautiful painting. Thanks for sharing it with me.
Thanks Kathy for your insights and for showing us that every
segment of this painting is a painting unto itself. I love it
when that happens.

I miss you guys and often think of the times we shared on your
back porch. Love,


rickandkathy May 1, 2012 at 11:31 am

Hey Liv! So nice to see you here. I’ve tried to send you a couple of emails but they bounce back… would love to catch up! I’ll try again.

Sue April 30, 2012 at 9:08 am

What a beautiful visual to wake up to…..Thank you!
Watch out Frederic Remington is riding up behind you!

rickandkathy May 1, 2012 at 11:31 am

Thanks, Sue. Can’t wait to see you guys!

Nancy Renzullo April 30, 2012 at 7:36 am

Lovely work. I’d add Zane Grey and Willa Cather to the reading list… Verbal painters of the West but at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of visual quality. Remember the schmaltzy black-and-white TV westerns of the early 60s? Based on Zane Grey… And Willa: her classic prose captures New Mexico in the 1800s “like none other”… She’s a favorite of mine. Love you guys, nancy

rickandkathy May 1, 2012 at 11:33 am

Nancy! Thanks for your sweet comment and recommendations. Will definitely look into Willa!

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