Monday, October 19, 2009

Telling a Story

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?

For more information (on both sides of the controversy) visit the Bureau of Land Management website at or the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.


  1. Once again you write a very interesting blog post. I am moved by the plight of these wild horses as you describe it, and plan to check out more at links listed.
    Your piece is looking very interesting. I love the feeling of the horses' muzzle (correct word?), and look forward to seeing the drawing's development.

  2. Wonderful post Lynda. I appreciate hearing the story behind the piece. No matter how one spins it (on either side), the bottom line is that when wild animals and humans collide, the animal loses.
    Your work is incredible and I am sure it looks even more awesome in person (I am trying to imagine the size of it).
    Oh and great new photo of yourself!! Very nice.

  3. Thanks Debbi, and yes; that is the horse's muzzle, you horsewoman you! It is really the only part that is fully developed in the drawing, or very close to it. Do check out the video search I sent you also, in addition to the links -- it is very good.

    What you say is so true, Teresa: regardless of how well-meaning a course of action may seem, animals are always at the disadvantage and are second to many human concerns and desires.......You like my "glamour shots"? Hahahahaha; thats what my teenager called them. I think I will keep this one up for a number of years, so that I can feel like I am not aging when I look at my blog! Thanks for your comments.

  4. Hi Lynda, Oh goody, a WIP! A touching background story, gives weight to the image as it emerges for us to see. A little glimps of your inspiration.

    I too, find I prefer a story behind my images. I think perhaps that's why I don't do many still lifes or landscapes? It's the slight gestures, eyes, expressions, body language, a gaze but mostly mood and emotion that challenge me. People or animals all encompass these qualities, to tell a story.

    I think you know exactly what I mean, it's nice to know someone else with those same goals.

    .. is it update time yet? lol.

  5. Thankyou for your thoughtful comment, Toni. Yes, I can see the same qualities in your work.......that seek to capture that moment in time, so to speak.

    (Incidentally, I attempted to buy your auction piece of the cowboy on the horse - was that in Seattle? - but some of those gals are absolutely brutal! Hahahahaha!)

  6. You were in Seattle too? Darn, I didn't see you there. I saw your cowboy in New Mexico I think.. and yes, I noticed the story behind the eyes... a similarity so to speak. Ha.a.a. yes, those women are brutal!