Regardless of whether I am observing another artist's work or making compositional decisions about my own, I often am most drawn to images that tell a story. The story may not be obvious, but rather implied -- through the visual narrative, gestures, or the look in a subject's eyes --causing me to derive meaning and subsequently emotion, from an image. That may be the primary reason I feel compelled to draw people; I seek to convey a feeling, a story.
For me, my current work-in-progress is a compelling story. It is an image chosen from literally hundreds taken of wild horses in both South Dakota and Wyoming. There was simply something about these two particular wild horses that grabbed me, and continued to grab me -- as I have returned to their photo images many times over the past couple of years, only to put them away again and begin work on something else.
According to some sources there are approximately 38,000 wild horses in the United States that live on the range. Another 30,000 are cared for in corrals and pastures funded by the government following their capture by the Bureau of Land Management. The stated reasons for these wild horse round-ups includes the fact that there is not enough viable range land to sustain herds (a fact disputed by many), and competition by large livestock ranchers for the resources of food and water. Wild horse proponents assert that the BLM has regularly removed horses from the range at the urging of cattle ranchers, and without adequate land studies. And the round-ups themselves are another source of tremendous controversy. Frequently conducted using helicopters to drive the horses, many are injured or killed during the process, and foals too young to sustain themselves are separated from their mothers. Though some of those in captivity are adopted out through the BLM program, many go to meat-buyers and slaughterhouses. Over time the BLM has acquired so many wild horses and burros in captivity, they may engage in mass euthanasia to deal with the numbers and subsequent cost. Admittedly, I do not know enough about this issue to have developed an opinion about what specifically should be done -- but arguments against the BLM's practices are extremely compelling, and seek to place the welfare of wild horse herds as a top priority. I have been fortunate enough to have walked among wild horses and photographed them in their natural habitat -- and the experience was like no other.
With that as a backdrop, I return to my work-in-progress. It is one of my larger pencil pieces to date, being approximately 22" x 30". It portrays two wild horses that had been captured by the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming, freeze-branded, tagged, and placed in holding pens. The dark horse (partially completed above) stares right at the viewer; the pale horse, whose rendering is not yet begun, has his head hung and face buried tiredly and sadly into the neck of the dark horse. Their recent struggle is evidenced by the blood and grass stains on the coat of the lighter horse. It is an evocative image that truly tells a story, and I wonder at this moment -- whatever happened to those two horses?