This little sketch is pastel over wash.  It is 8″ X 10″ and beautifully framed.  I love the relationships between the exercise riders and the  details in their dress that mark their particular style. 

www.noelhoffmann.com

The month of August brings some of the finest thoroughbred bloodstock to this little upstate New York town.  If you love the magic of the thoroughbred breed then Saratoga is the place you want to be for these six weeks of racing immersion.  The training barns are shaded under the canopy of oak groves and the morning light that filters through the trees and onto the open space of the tracks and grandstand areas can be breathtaking.

The horse has fascinated artists throughout history.  The natural serpentine lines of the horse and their mythological mystique make them a favorite among collectors.  There are only a handful of galleries in the country that specialize in art depicting the horse in sport and most of them establish a presence in Saratoga for the six weeks of the racing season.  For thirty years Beresford Gallery has taken up residence during the racing season  in a Victorian house right on Union Ave., directly across from the famous Reading Room and the entrance to the main track.  Founded by Kathleen Beer in the 1970s  the gallery is now in its second generation under the directorship of Kathleen’s daughter Elizabeth Beer.

Elizabeth grew up with horses, starting out with her first pony Bumble.  It’s been a non stop rodeo ever since.  She plays polo, she hunts regularly and hob nobs with the thoroughbred elite.  Her combination of horsewoman and gallery owner makes her uniquely qualified to represent some of the finest artists working in the genre today.  I am proud to have joined the ranks of her talented artists including Juli Kirk, Beverley Wende and Karen Davies to name just a few.     www.beresfordgallery.com

From left to right:  Elizabeth Beer, Noel Hoffmann, Beverley Wend and Karen Davies.

 

Now, with everything going on in the world,  like war, environmental disasters, and economic doom and destruction…isn’t it nice to know that thoroughbred racing is alive and well.  This horse sold for $ 550,000.00.  The first colt sold for 1.2 million!  And I was there!

“High Life”.

July 12, 2010

Small work on panel.  10 X 8, pastel and charcoal over acrylic.

Saratoga Sketch.

July 7, 2010

“One Fine Day” Pastel, gouache,india ink on paper.  8″  X 10″.

www.noelhoffmann.com

I have a great respect for the AKC and the excellent work they have done over the years to protect dogs and to advance the breeding of dogs.  But somewhere along the line things have gone a-stray.   Many of the breeds that we see in the conformation ring today are a shadow of the original dog, and in some cases they have become useless for working purposes.  None has suffered more than the German Shepherd.  In my opinion the GSDs that one sees today in the show ring are cripples, incapable of performing the intense physical tasks that they were originally bred for.  Temperament has gone out the window and the breed has the reputation of being dangerous (which can be true) and aggressive toward other dogs.

Working dog lines are now split down the center in many cases.  There are lines for working purposes and lines for the show ring (I don’t know why this has been allowed to flourish but…it has).  Finding a great working GSD is difficult these days but they are out there.  Watching one of these dogs doing what it was bred to do (guard and hold) is breathtaking.  I hope the remaining breeders of great working GSDs will continue to work to save this wonderful dog.  www.noelhoffmann.com

"In Drive." The German Shepherd Dog. 18" X 36" Acrylic glaze on panel.

Overcoming stress is a subject that advanced trainers are constantly struggling with.  A dog can do a series of exercises perfectly over and over again under optimal conditions and then fall apart under the slightest pressure.  Some dogs handle pressure much better than others but we all come up against this wall eventually.

I would never take my dog into the ring unless I knew he was prepared.  I don’t leave it up to luck or chance to qualify.  I train to win and that’s my mind-set when I go into the ring.

If I’ve done my job correctly, my dog knows the exercises very well and I have proofed them carefully against pressure.  Even so, the one thing that will guarantee failure in the ring is your on lack of belief in yourself and your dog.  People won’t follow weak leaders, and neither will dogs.

From the moment my dog comes out of the car at a trail to the moment we walk into the ring I move with confidence and belief that my dog has what it takes to get the job done and we’ll do it together.  He has never let me down.  Seize the day!

16" X 20" Acrylic Glaze on panel.

www.noelhoffmann.com

New Drawings.

January 26, 2010

 

"Meadow Sweet". Graphite drawing for painting.

 

"Red Top". Hedge Hog Hill. Graphite drawing for painting.

 

 

 

 

 

www.noelhoffmann.com

When I announced to my father that I wanted to go to art school and not a good liberal arts college he consented.  He followed his consent by telling me that he thought it was a mistake but perhaps I would be saved by my love of reading!  Yes, art school would be my undoing.  I was doomed.

I did go to art school and everything turned out quite well after all.  I still read copiously and I love reading about other artists.  I buy oversized books of art plates, often on Ebay or when I can find them at a reasonable price.  I don’t just study the plates, I actually read the entire book.

I had lunch with a friend last week who also paints animals.  The conversation came around to a book on George Stubbs that I am currently reading.  It is published by the Tate Gallery and contains color plates of every piece in the Stubbs exhibition of 1984 and a surprising amount of information surrounding the origins of the paintings. 

In eighteenth century England painting was more than aesthetic expression.  When a painter like George Stubbs received a commission from an important patron he faced a far greater challenge than simply creating a portrait of a horse or a dog.  The principle subject was expected to be spectacular and accurate in conformation.  In addition, all the attending figures and the landscape was expected to be politically and socially in line with the patron’s position in English society.  I can only imagaine the delicacy of the task!

The famous painting of the horse “Whistlejacket” was originally intended to have a rider and a fully developed landscape.  The plan was to have Stubbs paint the horse, another artist paint the rider (King George the 3rd) and another painter would paint the landscape.  The thinking at the time was that each artist was the best in their particular area of expertise and that combining the three would result in a great painting (somehow I don’t think the concept would hold up today). 

Fortunately for Stubbs and the rest of the world, the patron had a political falling out with the king and neither the figure of the king or the landscape was ever added.  And that leaves us with this remarkably contemporary figure, alone and perfect all by itself, a horse so magnificent that it takes my breath away every time I see it.  And all because of a falling out.

It’s hard to imagine the pressure George Stubbs and other painters of the time were under, having to keep their own identity as a painter and also satisfy a society that was obsessed with politics, station and appearances.  I’ll remember that the next time I have a particularly demanding client.   www.noelhoffmann.com