Personal stories and experiences are like golden nuggets to artists. It’s where we go to for inspiration and meaning – adding stories to our paintings and ceramic work.
So it is that loosing my special horse Big Al has finally started to show up in my painting on canvas and weaving its way into my clay sculpture.
It took 30 years before I could finally own a horse to call ‘my own’. In hindsight, it was more than worth the wait… !
I can remember that day like it was yesterday. “What is that “! Exclaimed stable owner Darryn Thompson as the large horse squeezed its way out of the horse box. His ears were enormous with large feet and knees to match…. But those eyes and face were completely and utterly beautiful. Only once before had I been so love struck.. (I was young; we were up close.. and in all honesty, he looked like a prophet ).
Because it was to be my first horse to ‘own for life’, and I was at the ripe age of 30, I had envisioned something a little more glamorous looking.. And not so… well, ordinarily brown. But when the large Brown thoroughbred stumbled backwards off the ramp, I knew instantly that he was the one!. Like most animals, I’ve learnt, horses have a way of choosing you…. of knowing exactly what you need despite you thinking otherwise. So it was that Big Al stepped completely into my life and went on to become my best teacher.
Horses make the best friends..
I tried him at dressage. We both failed miserably. So we tried jumping. We loved that.. But it was to be exploring the great outdoors with daily adventures that hooked us both. Together we cut a single figure through the forests of Hilton, galloping across fields of long grass and easing smoothly into cool muddy dams. Together with him I sang songs with words I mostly made up.. Usually completely out of tune. His listening ears got me through dark days and showed me how warm the sun could be. He became my rock, my go-to, my cure for many things. Without a doubt, Big Al became my life coach with a non-subtle, loveable approach to everything.. He was clumsy, fiercely independent, a healthy big eater, with the kindest way you could ever wish for in a friend. He was always there for me.. Until he wasn’t.
He was always there for me.. Until he wasn’t.”
Big Al’s death was tragic. He had neurological complications; that despite all our efforts, ultimately took him from me. I know in my heart he waited until I was too far to return home in time to see him go. And even in his death he gathered my truest friends around him to help him on his way.
Turning grief into art ..
Five years on and I’ve only just started the process of mourning the loss of my beloved horse along with all that he meant to me. Its taken time I guess because I never knew a way that was befitting of the emptiness he had left behind. But I think I’ve found some of it in painting. With colour, layering of paint, scratching and wiping over, I can somehow connect to the story with all my body, mind and spirit. As creatives we search for this kind of thing …. Artists need to connect to their ‘WHY’ in order to give their work meaning. We mostly have this urge to tell stories. I think it’s the authenticity of having something you created, honestly stare back at you that ultimately gives satisfaction.
After years of designing for others, I’ve now arrived at a place where I can make very personal work again, that is not dictated to by fashion, trend or design. In exploring my latest painting theme, all the memories, stories of my life with my beloved horse partner are feeding me creatively. The journey with Big Al sits in my head and my heart right now. But it’s really as if he were here right beside me, encouraging me to enjoy the ride.