Watercolour: first negative space painting

Yesterday I gave a try to the negative space technique, and this is the result:

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I picked Horsepower by Chad Hanson on FlickrΒ and drew the minimum amount of lines needed to reproduce the scene. I then put one layer of watercolour after the other. I suspect that the paper had to be prepared before painting, because it bent a lot and made a strange effect on the left side. Maybe I used too much water. As a first result, it is not so bad! For sure I need practice in painting uniform surfaces (not like the darkest layer, where you see all brush strokes πŸ™‚ ) but this painting encourages me a lot.

Thanks my fellow bloggers for your inspiring posts about watercolour, and I hope that some of my readers feel like trying watercolour as well!

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Jumping: the landing

One more post about the show jumping event I attended a while ago (previous ones: jumps and take-offs): landings. After the flight phase, the horse and rider have to prepare the landing. The difficulty for the rider lies in keeping balance, while allowing the horse to use its front legs in a way that the combined weight doesn’t damage its front limbs. In the fourth picture you can see the angle of the pastern, absorbing the impact – it is the less blurred part of the picture, so the stillest one. Furthermore, horses have no collar bones, so the impact of landing is received by muscles and tendons, instead of more breakable joints.

The rider changes position, from staying close to the horse’s neck during the flight phase to leaning slightly backwards, ideally on a vertical line. The rider in the fifth picture is leaning forward, maybe the horse made a big jump that was hard to follow? It sure takes a lot of practice to properly ride your horse on such jumps (thanks Scottish Rider for sharing your experiences during training!), so I prefer to celebrate the moments of good coordination πŸ™‚

 

 

 

Jumping: pictures of take-offs

I wish to write several posts about aspects of horse jumping that I observed at last Friday’s competition. Today I write about the initial phase of the jump, the take-off. It is less often portrayed in photography, and in my case it was mainly the result of inaccurate timing than a conscious decision – still, I caught on film a bunch of interesting moments.

Horse jumping looks really crazy when you realise it involves galloping full speed towards the obstacle. Notice also how the rider changes the body position during the take-off (see Wikipedia for further info on jumping techniques)

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This pair is jumping willingly…

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… while this pair looks concerned…

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… and this horse refused to jump:

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and these two pictures caught the moment when the horse has both front feet below the body, right before the jump, and look unnaturally still:

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Stay tuned for further posts about this event!

Photography: my first steps

I have admiration for great photography, but I am a beginner. Unfortunately, I was so afraid of bad results that I haven’t properly tried out the nice camera I have at home since a couple years, a Fujifilm FinePix. However, yesterday I attended the first day of the Longines Global Champions Show in Berlin, and I brought the camera to snap a few pics.

I ended up taking pictures the whole day, and piled up one thousand of them! Thank you, digital cameras and large SD cards! I can’t imagine myself daring so much, if I had to spend money on film and development. And thanks to the camera for letting me snap great pictures, without requiring me neither a good eyesight nor photography background. In fact, all pictures in this post are done with fixed zoom and the default camera preset.

Time for the pictures! I want to share my thoughts about taking pictures to a horse show jumping competition. The first ones that come to mind are portraying the flying moment over the jump, and I managed to snap 4 pictures with an acceptable timing and focus, here are two of the best:

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A few pictures were correctly timed but out of focus – I decided to keep them, and I find them somewhat artistic:

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The important point is that for every of these good(ish) pictures, I took tens of pictures with no horse, or a nose, or a tail:

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I think the picture with the best focus AND with a horse in it is this one:

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… while this is the blurriest (that I like nevertheless):

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I took many pictures of the riders and horses negotiating turns, the rider with the eye and attention on the next obstacle (in the second picture, the horse is not turning yet):

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I managed to get a single picture of a horse hitting a pole (poles are held in place by small, almost flat supports that allow the pole to wiggle but stay in place if it is lightly touched, but fall down at moderate to hard impacts. There is no danger that the horse remains trapped in them), also because it happened quite rarely:

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There are many other pictures that I find interesting, in their unprofessionality; but I am afraid to make this post too long, so I want to end with this nicely timed picture of the suspension phase of the gallop:

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Time for final considerations and to-dos for myself:

  • I enjoyed taking pictures, especially after I decided to focus on something else than getting the standard jump pic;
  • … therefore I saw many more aspects of the riding competition, and collected a lot of impressions along the day;
  • I was OK with making an awful lot of pictures, but only 1% that I could be proud of, and show to others;
  • I realised that I need to learn more about photography principles, if I want to access the potential of this camera;
  • I enjoyed the fact that the camera compensated most of my mistakes, thus motivated me to improve – it is otherwise hard to see if bad results come from my skills or from the equipment.

Stay tuned for more pictures from this event in some future post, and let me know your feedback in the comments! Thanks in advance πŸ™‚

 

Respect and communication without pressure: a horse’s owner perspective

I was discussing with a friend of mine over this post from Beautiful Mustang’s blog.We both understood that:

  • this horse reacts badly to pressure: putting even more pressure creates dangerous situations
  • lowering the communication down to whispers allows an efficient information flow

This makes me think of some non-Newtonian fluids, that react to pressure in a similar way: they are liquid and flowing at low pressures, but become solid when pressure rises. If you need them to flow, you have no alternative other than keep pressure low.

The parallel stops here, because fluids are inanimate and lack decision making processes – it is clear that the person that is using them for a given task has complete control over the situation. With a living creature there can be a divergence of goals and opinions, that create pressure from both sides. I absolutely refuse to increase the pressure until the other side surrenders; it’s a strategy that breaks objects, and scars animals and people for a very long time. I embrace the idea of perceiving when my pressure is creating resistance on the other side, and I aim to make the conscious decision to lower the pressure in order to let the other side come back to a flowing, more relaxed state.

We further reflected on the fact that this one can be a case of respecting an introverted being. I think it is even more: it is a case of respecting another opinion. Not just introverts deserve less pressure than others; everyone would benefit from being treated in a non-coercive way.

To finish with a picture, here is Leah, the whispering horse:

Source: Beautiful Mustang’s blog

Drawing Sunday: step-by-step pencil drawing

Hello all! Today, for my Sunday’s art post, I wish to retrace the steps of the drawing of the leaping horse I prepared for the final assignment of Natural History Illustration 101 eCourse. I hope it encourages you to draw more!

So, first I chose a picture that I wanted to copy, and after a long search, I fell for this one and printed it out:

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English Thoroughbred, by buba_noi (Source: Flickr)

I have been drawing horses since a while, so I am already a bit familiar with their anatomy and proportions. Still, I worked on a preparatory study that shows the main inner structures (not really the bones, but straight lines that are a simplification of the bones):

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In the preparatory study I traced the main structure lines with a pink pencil, to let them stand out more, then I added more lines with a graphite pencil. While doing this study I realised that I made the belly and hind legs too small, so I erased them completely and re-drew them by measuring relative proportions with the other parts of the body that I already drew. The study helped me in the next stages of the drawing, by making me notice proportions, symetries and relations between the different parts of the body of the horse.

Then I took a new piece of paper, went to the window to use it as a tracing table (a transparent surface with a back light, that enables you to overlay two sheets of paper and trace on the top one by following the contours of the picture on the lower one). I have no picture of it, but it was simply the outline and a few more inner lines.

I moved back to my desk with the new sheet and used a 6B pencil to draw the basic tones:

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Sorry for the blurred picture, the camera didn’t get enough light to focus properly. I started with the head and right front leg, then proceeded from left to right (so that I didn’t smear the drawing with my hand). I chose to change how dark to make an area only by looking at neighbouring areas, so when I finished the drawing I noticed that the right hind leg was the darkest area, when on the picture it was not; maybe I should have regularly compared which areas of the whole picture had the same shade.

Then I proceeded with harder pencils (first 3B, then B) and made more definite, crisp, and dark shadows, with care not to cover the very light areas. Again I proceeded from left to right, but in addition I put a piece of paper below my hand, to avoid smearing. I had to catch up with the dark areas of the head, neck and front legs, while comparatively making less tonal adjustements on the back legs.

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The final touch was the rendering of the hair. This horse, and its breed, has very short hair that I could hardly represent in the picture, because I hadn’t any pencil sharp enough to create that texture. So I thought of using my mechanical pencil with HB mines of 0.5mm and made some hatches on the shadows. I refined the shadows of the mane and tail, but am not really happy with them:

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The important things that I learned while making this drawing are:

  • Make breaks when you feel that your concentration level is getting low. You can come back after a few hours or the day after.
  • Get a full mental image of the main tones, so that you have it as a reference when you make shades.
  • Allow yourself to draw a bit and to erase what you don’t like. This is the big advantage of pencils!
  • Make the preparatory study, so that you have the anatomy of your animal in mind, you can guess its three-dimensional shape and consequently lights and shadows. It is also an excellent time to get the outlines right, with as many attempts as you want, before copying them on a fresh sheet of paper.

I hope this explanation encourages you to try drawing your favourite animal! Do also browse the Internet for material and videos about drawing techniques. There are some amazing teachers out there!

On managing focus in everyday life

I have been challenged to productively plan my own days since I left my last employee job. It has been hard at the beginning, because I had no experience in integrating sudden inspirations into a structured day program. I had also little conscious feedback about how much to structure the day: meals at fixed times? Timeboxes or do an activity until the planned result is achieved?

After quite a long test phase I settled for a simple planning system, based on a weekly cycle. At the beginning of each week I plan the 4 or 5 goals I want to reach. I pick these goals from a bucket list that I occasionally update. Every day I select maximum 3 activities I want to do and decide a rough outline of the day. I usually don’t put exact times, as I prefer to finish a given activity rather than switch when it is not yet done. If an activity is not completed or not done at all, I shift it to the next available day, or think of which problems are preventing me to complete it.

I find that this loose planning helps me focusing on each activity, because I know that I planned for it, I decided it was important; I can forget other activities and deadlines, because I am confident that each of them has been marked in the planning and will get a dedicated timeslot. It also gives me clear feedback on how productive my week was.

That made me think about the focus of attention of a rider in an obstacle course (it applies in other disciplines and riding moments, but the obstacle course makes it especially clear). The rider has the whole sequence of jumps in mind (that’s my guess!), but not in the immediate focus of attention. Approaching a jump, the focus narrows solely on that obstacle. Right after the obstacle, the attention turns to the next obstacle – and the body faces it too, as a physical message for the horse. Between jumps there are some moments where the focus of attention can embrace a wider part of the jumping course, but they are (should be) usually brief, because the next obstacle approaches fast.

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ABS Horse – from MazetMan on Flickr — I like how rider and horse look straight to the obstacle, even if their bodies are in an unstable, dynamic equilibrium

My difficulty was in finding a good way of planning, that is efficient and not too demanding in terms of time and attention. I felt I was alternatively being the rider, the horse and the instructor. Sometimes I would have loved to be only the rider, or only the horse, but it was never an option (or at least not a good one). I found a lot of inspiration from friends and the wider Internet, who suggested me planning tools, tips and tricks – but the ultimate feedback came from myself. Quite a hard lesson for my obedient side, which prefers to take pride in completing an assigned task, rather than taking responsibility on choosing one task among many.