Monday, November 26, 2007

A Tribute to Dandy

Dandy by Lori Levin "Dandy"
oil study on canvas

A little over two years ago I set up my easel in a pasture where my handsome Dandy was grazing. It was my first time painting en plein air in well over a decade. What made me think I could capture this moving animal with my brush that hadn't been out of the safety of the studio? Sometimes I laugh at how I create nearly impossible situations for myself and wonder why I struggle. None the less, I did slap together this oil painting of my horse on a lovely day near the old tree that always interested me. I remember the day like it was yesterday. If I close my eyes I can still smell his warm breath on me when he came to check out what I was doing, only to quickly leave as there were no cookies in my hand for him. Dandy was all about a good cookie as any good horse is.

Soon after that day I found him a new home at Raise Your Dreams Farm. He became a therapy horse for all types of people in need of some equine inspiration. It was a hard decision for me because horses had been my life for so long and this horse owned my heart. However, I knew it was time for Dandy to move on and I couldn't be selfish.

Even though he now lived only 15 minutes from me I did not visit often as it was too painful. Dandy represented so many things to me, I just felt as I had to fully let go and could only do that by staying away. There wasn't a day that went by that I didn't wonder what my boy was doing. Each time I saw his mug on my profile picture I longed for him. Every horse catalogue that came in the mail was like a knife thrust into a healing wound. I watched my riding boots collect dust and my heart ached. Riding through the woods on Dandy's back made me feel like Pocahontus in a Disney flick. Yet, I knew I had to give him the opportunity to enjoy his senior years and that he was happy to have a new purpose in life. As a therapy horse he was needed and loved. He had a new life that he loved.

On Thanksgiving morning Dandy had to be put down. Though he was only in his early twenties he had a pretty interesting life. He was not one of those horses that just sat in someone's backyard as a lawn ornament. Dandy would have none of that as he didn't like to be bored and would find trouble if there was no work to be done. He served humans the best way he could nearly to the very end. We all should feel so needed and loved in our lives.

I thought I would share with you a little of his legacy. Jill, Dandy's adopted mother, sent me a lovely email about what he meant to her and her farm. Here's a piece of what she wrote:

"I miss his gentle spirit and his quiet reassurance. There were so many times that he saved me or my students. I cannot even begin to tell you how much he meant to me. Self-assured, gentle and a presence that left all in awe. I will never forget his legacy and his memories. Amanda letting go of the reins and flying!!!!! The alcoholic woman that felt there was no hope UNTIL she met Dandy!!!! The neglected and abused chunky woman that had legs shorter than her arms wanting to ride more than anything else. I knew Dandy would take care of her and he did. He took her on a gentle trail and she said, "I have never felt so free." Or the time the student slipped while getting on and landed underneath him. HE NEVER MOVED!!! How about the time when he got mad at me when he couldn't be ridden? He would pace back and forth and paw at the fence. The day he could be ridden he drug my student to the ring. Most recently, when he was in pain my students would stand in the field and feed him carrots (his favorite food in the whole world!!) they would walk away and he would try to follow, even though it was painful.

I don't know how I will tell Amanda that her beloved Dandy has gone to heaven. There will be a mourning like no other. She was the peanut butter and he was the jelly. They just went together like peas in a pod. I am sounding corny, but through my tears I can laugh, because he was the sweetest, most gentle and kindest horse ever and he made a gawky autistic girl fly. I am comforted in the fact that he is carting around the kids in heaven. He is flying around on hooves of gold with wings of thunder. "

If horses go to heaven (or people for that matter) I doubt they are prepared for the personality that is Dandy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Neptune - A Dog Portrait

DOG PORTRAIT by Lori Levin
This is Neptune. He's a loving companion and loves to go hiking. The dog portrait is a gift to his "mom" Jeanette. I started this oil painting in washes of burnt sienna and burnt umber. This is purely just the foundation and a way for me to work out any drawing issues and to understand the form. I'm enjoying this piece very much because Neptune's expression is so joyous. All of the photos provided show this dog smiling.

It is Thanksgiving again. I can't believe 365 days ago I was wearing a scarf and wondering if I would be able to sit through the entire meal. Today I am working and getting ready to prepare some items for tomorrow's feast. Last year I considered wearing pajamas to dinner. This year I will wish I had pajamas for their elastic waist because I plan to eat everything in sight. Tomorrow I will relax and enjoy my family and friends like I never have before. There are plenty of things to be thankful for without a doubt. I wonder if a holiday will ever go by again without me feeling extra blessed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Salem County Resident #4

cow by lori levin
First Impressions Gallery
Salem County Resident #4
8 x 8
oil on canvas

Last year I did three little paintings of some local bovines here in Salem County. I had a fourth started and then I became ill and did not finish it. Now that I am working again I am taking great pleasure in finishing things I started and cleaning up old business. The three cow paintings are now for sale at First Impressions Art Gallery. (Yes, that's me in the group photo of all the artists showing at the gallery.) The fourth, as seen above, is about to be framed to match the other three and is available for sale from my studio. Each is framed and is $125.00. My plan is to create small gift items like coasters and such from the images for my booth at next year's CPL Cow Bingo. I'm planning way ahead!

I'm getting very excited about CPL's Wine auction on December 1st. Janie, a wonderful volunteer for CPL was kind enough to come out to the studio and pick up "Ripening Fruits" for the special night. Gracie, Soulful Studios official greeter, was so happy to have visitors and took full advantage of the opportunity. We also decided to have some signed prints available at the auction as well. I think that is a great idea. $20 of the proceeds will go to CPL. It is a black tie affair however; everyone is supposed to spice up their attire with a fanciful dog collar. I have to get on the ball and make something special for the occasion. Gosh, I need a dress too. That may be my only piece of clothing without oil paint on it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

First Impressions Reception

First Impressions
First Impressions

It was a success without a doubt. Mary Wolfe, the owner of "First Impressions Art Gallery and Working Studio", really did a great job of creating an evening about art and community. The little old town of Salem never seemed so alive on a Friday night as it did on November 2nd. There was live music, food, wine and poetry reading. There was quite a crowd enjoying themselves and buying art as well. Some very special people showed up to support me and my art and I thank them. Also, quite a few pieces found a new home. Yes, those are red stickers that you see beside my art and those are a very good thing.

Now I am gearing up now for 2 new commissions I am starting. I'll post pictures of the dog portrait soon. Also, if you live in Salem County keep your eyes open as you might catch a glimpse of me sketching in town. I am going to start working on some pieces about Salem. I have great hopes for its revitalization as there are so many great folks putting hard work into bringing back its glory.

Just a quick note about November 2nd, the day of the gallery reception. This was the 1 year anniversary of my first chemotherapy treatment. It amazed me that in 365 days I not only beat cancer but I have a strong vision of great new things happening in my life. Sure there will be battles ahead but if I can do all that in 365 days, I can do anything.