Granddad says ranching is one of those things that brings a person closer to God. One of his favorite examples is watching our heifers (cows that have never calved) out in the pasture. They are frisky little things, running around like they don’t have a care in the world. Then they calve, and immediately their first thought is to protect their baby. They get their baby up, they clean it, make sure it nurses, and they keep it safe. Nobody tells them to do this; they just know. It is an instinct they are born with. It is ingrained into their very being to care for their calves.
This is not to say that a few first-time mothers don’t need an extra hand figuring things out. It is common for cows to go find a protected spot in the trees off by themselves to calve. But we once had a heifer who missed the point: she calved up in the front of the pasture then went and hid in the trees by herself, leaving the calf in the front! We found a slimy, hungry baby all alone. We got the cow up and penned her with the baby so she would bond with it. When we reunited them she was thrilled to see her baby and she licked him enthusiastically! She had the right idea to hide and calve, but got a little mixed up in the order of things! This happens with first-time mothers sometimes, but most of our heifers have been great mothers from the get-go. When these first-time mothers calve, we usually can tell when they are close and we trade off checking on them every few hours during the night to make sure everything is going all right. I love having a cow-calf operation and seeing the new life. Watching the babies frolic in the sunshine is one of my favorite things! This is one of the reasons I paint cattle. I love this way of life! This is another one of Circle C’s cows and she looks like she is going to have her baby any minute. I’m sure she will have a strong maternal instinct, caring for and protecting her calf.
I thought it would be fun to show the progression of one of my paintings. Sometimes I have a plan and I know what colors I want to use and how I basically want it to turn out. Other times, like in this instance, I just go with it. I started out blocking all of the darkest dark areas. Black is too flat and one dimensional for me; I don’t use black. I just use dark colors that I mix. For the darks in this painting I used a mix of violet and raw umber (really dark brown) Next I began filling in the rest of the space with greens and turquoises. I like that these colors cover up the canvas so I wont have any white spots showing through my painting. I also like letting the bottom layer of color show through a little on the next layer. I really like using warm and cool colors together, so I thought I could use bluish -greens, on the bottom and use oranges and corals on the top.
So, in the next layer I started adding warm colors. I added oranges to the areas that were highlighted and in some of the midrange areas. I mentioned in one of my previous posts that I like to use color, but I have found that sticking to a few colors that repeat themselves throughout the painting works better for me. If I try to use too many colors at once I usually end up with a clown cow instead of a unified piece. I like a lot of variation within a color and that is why I mix a lot of my own colors – or like in this painting, I used a cadmium orange and added reds, white, and yellow to it to give it some life.
I decided to exaggerate the cow’s natural grey color. I used a sea-foam color for her body, but it looked a little blah with the oranges, and I ended up toning them down with a cool magenta. I also used magenta in my shadows to lighten some of them up. If you were wondering what the Na is doing written in the corner of the painting, it is just hanging out. Sometimes when I am trying to decide what to do next I start painting random words in the background. There are all kinds of things written into my paintings!
The last thing I did was add the highlights. A lot of times I do not use straight white for the highlights; I’ll add a hint of yellow or something. But I decided I liked how the white looked on this one. The last thing I did was decide on a background color. After much deliberation I went with the greens that you could see showing underneath the cow from my base layer. I thought this painting was a fun one to talk about because it went through a big transformation from the beginning to the end.
Gracie is my horse. I got her when I graduated high school and she is the best horse ever! I got her from Champion Ranch. The owner of the ranch, Richard Walrath, donates several $10,000 scholarships to 4-H and FFA. I was fortunate enough to be awarded one. I wrote Mr. Walrath a thank you and he liked it so much that he told me to come and pick out a horse. He had two fillies that had been started and the minute I saw Gracie I knew she was the one I wanted. She looked like she could move. I grew up riding pleasure horses and had decided I wanted to try something different, so I traded for a mare that had been shown in working cow and reining. She got hurt and we had to put her down just a few months before I got Gracie. I was thrilled to get another little cow-horse. She is pretty good about not letting a cow by in the pens and it doesn’t matter how big of a fit a colt throws when you pony it: she will hold it. Everything I have learned and all of the new things I wanted to try she has been up for and has met the challenge. I have been able to take her with me to college and everywhere we have moved. Her personality suits me. My Granddad says that a person is lucky in life to have found one good woman, a good dog and a good horse. He always said everything he had was for sale at the right price except for my grandma, his dog Rosie and his horse Corky–that tells you how much he valued those things. I think Gracie is that special horse for me.
The banana horned cow was my sister’s cow. Granddad got each of us girls a cow when we were young and every time those cows calved he sold the calves and put the money into a savings account for each of us to help pay for college. Tanessa’s cow actually got struck by lightning, but before she died she had her one and only heifer. So that calf, which grew up to be the banana horned cow (we just referred to her as Banana Horn), replaced her mother for Tanessa’s college fund. She was a really good mother; she loved her babies, always weaning heavy calves. We hoped before she got too old she would have a heifer to replace her, but year after year she had bull calves. That was great for Tanessa’s college fund, but not so good for her commercial herd to grow. Tanessa is about to graduate college with a degree in English literature and thanks to Banana Horn, she was able to do a study abroad in Oxford, England, for a semester.
We are so fortunate to have such a generous grandfather. It’s neat to see the results of his planning!