Saturday, January 30, 2010

Today's Equine Art - The Color Horse

He started out as a Friesian, but just became more and more colorful the longer I worked on him. Now he resembles a sculpture or carousel horse.

Pastel on black charcoal paper, approx 11 x 15".

Ebay Link

The Horse Who Signs His Own Biography

Clifford cracks me up. He and Trudy came running in for dinner this afternoon. I had this proof copy of the new book, "Clifford's Bay", which I decided to put up on eBay today. I told Clifford I had peppermints. I set the book on the barn aisle floor, propping it open with horseshoes as usual while he watched from his stall. I had a sponge all ready with color on it and laid it on the open facing page.

I slid his stall door open and he walked out and went directly to the book, and began pushing the sponge around. "Good boy!" I said. I gave him a peppermint, and then he started painting again. He earned two more peppermints and then I decided that was enough. I said, "Come on," and I went back toward his stall. He turned around as if to follow me, but when he saw where I was going, he just stopped and stood there looking at me.

"Come on," I said. "Come in here. Don't you want another mint?"

I even showed him the mint, and he actually turned around and went back to the book and started painting again! He wanted to keep working!

Forsaking candy for the creative endeavor? I guess he really is a true artist. I wish I had more books for him to sign.

Ebay link.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Today's Equine Art - Colors

Here is something a little different - a Friesian on black. I like the life and flow in this piece, with the soft mix of colors. On black charcoal paper, approx. 9 x 12"

Ebay Link

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Today's Dog Art - Newfoundland

I still love painting Newfs after having lived with one for 11 years. From a distance this appears to be a black dog on black, but up close you can see that there are primary colors used for highlights and shading. This is approx. 9 x 12" on black charcoal paper.

This piece is on eBay for one day only.

Ms. Rip Update

Several people thought that after our episode yesterday, Ms. Rip would want to stay away from the horses. Not so! Today she was eager to be back at work, keeping an eye on them as always. I did, however, leave Trudy penned up and Clifford was the only one to come out. He will roll a dog with his nose, but he never kicks at them.

Ms. Rip appears to be none the worse for wear, although I am keeping an eye on her and watching for any signs of seizure. So far so good. I think we got lucky.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ms. Rip

It was a traumatic evening for Ms. Rip and me. I had let the horses out on the lawn while I cleaned stalls. The snow is almost gone due to the past four days of rain, and they were eager to take advantage of the winter smorgasboard. Rip as always was keeping close watch on both of them. The temp had dropped, and Trudy was feeling a little frisky. She kicked up her heels -- and connected with the side of Rip's skull. I heard a "klunk" and looked up to see Rip lying in an unnatural position, belly-up. She lay there and started to bark. She was at the top of the hill, a bit of distance from me. Clifford and Trudy were quite surprised at her condition, standing side by side, stretching their necks out, sniffing at her as she lay there barking.

"Rip!" I said, and at the sound of my voice, she jumped up. She ran in a large circle, once, twice around the back yard, and then disappeared in front of the house.

I called her again and she came running, scooting up to me. I looked her over and couldn't see anything wrong.

"Boy, are you ever lucky!" I said.

I finished the stalls and put the horses away. Rip followed me into the house and I went to the cookie jar to get her a biscuit. When I looked down, I noticed sometihng strange about her eyes. In the dim indoor light, only one was dialated.

Off we went to Kern Road Veterinary Hospital. Rip's pupils, though not matching, were reactive, and Dr. Surch thought that was a good sign. She gave her an IV anti inflammatory and antibiotic. Rippy is home now so I can keep her under close watch for the night, in case she seizes again. Her eyes are looking better all the time, so I am optimistic.

The sweetest part of this story involves something that happened in the waiting room, before we were called in for the exam. I was sitting on the bench talking to the receptionist, and Rip was lying at my feet. A man came out of one of the exam rooms. He was carrying a rolled-up blanket under one arm. He didn't look at us or say anything, but Rip jumped up and tried to run to him. She wasn't on a leash, and I had to grab her and physically restrain her from going to this man. Rip is friendly, but this insistent behavior was completely out of character for her. Even after I had a hold of her collar, she still kept lunging and trying to get to him.

Intuitively, I knew exactly why, and Dr. Surch later confirmed this.

The man had just had his dog euthanized. Rip, even with what must have been a slamming headache, was moved to do the job she was born for. She is the "Sympathy Dog," acquired for the sake of comforting Cajun and me after Scorch died. She was so driven to attend to this man that it was all I could do to hold her back.

I was so touched by her generosity, as well as her single-mindedness. Rip truly has a magnificent heart.

Today's Project - Barn Owl

The "monkey face" is the most glamorous of owls, and always interesting subject matter. This piece is 9 x 12" on charcoal paper, in pastel and conte. I like this one and hate selling it, but duty calls.

Ebay link

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Today's Project - Barn Swallows

My friend Vickie photographed this group of baby barn swallows last spring, and she kindly gave me permission to paint them. This is pastel and oil pencil, about 8 x 12".

This piece is on eBay.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How to Immortalize Your Horse

I currently have 2 openings for February commissioned portraits, and I am trying to get them filled today. If you can pay today, I can offer you a hefty 50% off these commissions.

Normal prices are:

Size approx 9 x 12" - $200.00

Size approx 11 x 15" - $350.00

This would put you at $100 for 9 x 12" and $175 for 11 x 15". Sorry, this offer is good for immediate Paypal payments only.

Feel free to contact me at with questions.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chapter One - Clifford's Bay

For today only, I am offering a $2.00 discount on the new Clifford book: "Clifford's Bay - An Island, a Dog, and a Morgan Horse". Click this link to the page. When you order, use discount code RHNFTP66.

Following is Chapter One. Enjoy!

“Scorch! What a great name! How did he get it?” The young veterinary technician smiled, directing her gaze to the dog sitting at my feet.

I shrugged and grinned. “Well, just look at him!”

He was a mutt. He was half Australian shepherd, half mystery dog. He was sitting on the scrubbed tile floor, his reddish brown paws pointing carefully straight ahead so he didn’t start to slip. His coat was mostly black, streaked with a mixture of ashy burnt splotches here and there. His ears were up and they tipped over in an alert flop, and his brown eyes snapped with intelligence. He was, as always, watching my face. With every word I spoke, his head tilted this way and that. He had greeted the tech politely, but now ignored her as if she did not exist. He knew we were in the vet clinic. He didn’t mind seeing the vet. He had walked in through the lobby, off leash, and hopped on the scale without bidding. He weighed 40 lbs. He’d had a cough for a couple of days and was not acting right. I was thinking maybe he needed antibiotics.

The tech was standing with a clipboard. “Okay, if you want to just wait here in the exam room, Dr. Woody will be right in.”

She left the room. I noticed a canister of semi-moist liver treats on the counter, and pulled off the lid. Scorch’s eyes brightened and he stood up and started panting happily.

“Give me a big smile,” I whispered. His nose wrinkled, lips peeling back to reveal rows of bright teeth, baring a huge ugly grin. I tossed him a treat, which he caught deftly.

Everyone asked me why he was called Scorch. But from the first time I saw him in 1996, with his black coat and sooty grey markings, I knew his name. For nine years, he had shadowed me, always watchful. If I glanced down he was generally just a few feet away, and usually staring at me. I often wondered what it was about me that he found so interesting. But it was perhaps this vigilance that has created our effective communication. I might speak a few soft words, and he would go and immediately do as I asked. “Lie down.” “Get your Kong.” “Go tell Cajun it’s time to go.”

He did silly things to make me laugh. The more sophisticated the humor, the harder I laughed. He liked it that I got the joke, and he was constantly trying to upstage himself. He could pull my socks off, gently nibbling around my toes to grasp an edge, and then he pulled. If they were knee socks, or the especially clingy type, he braced himself and tugged full force. He never damaged the sock. When it finally peeled off my foot, he would carry it over and present it to me. He loved pulling socks off so much that sometimes he had to be dissuaded from doing it to others.

He humored his “brother”, my German shepherd, Cajun. He was no match for the big dog’s power and stamina, but took pleasure in tormenting him. We played a game I called, “Ball off the deck,” in which I threw a ball from the deck and it bounced across the lawn. The dogs loved to run down the deck steps to chase the ball. They would take turns if necessary, but I often sent them together.

When I threw the ball, Cajun would shriek and leap after it, but Scorch stood and watched where it fell before running down the steps. Because of this, Scorch usually would be first to find the ball. He had learned that Cajun would bully him if he tried to carry it anywhere, so he didn’t try to bring the ball back. He would pick it up and stand there, holding it while Cajun ran around the yard looking for it. Finally, Cajun would notice, and he’d pounce. Scorch would drop the ball, and when Cajun grabbed it, Scorch would quickly mount him from behind and start humping him ferociously.

Cajun had his mouth full, and he’d stand there snarling and growling. He couldn’t bring the ball back, because then he’d be running away from Scorch, and not “man enough” to face up to this humiliation. He’d have liked to turn around and bite Scorch, but to do that, he’d have to drop the ball. He was not about to drop the ball. Cajun was stuck. Scorch knew this. So he locked on while Cajun snarled guttural, useless threats through his mouthful, just blissfully humping away.

Scorch especially loved doing this when we had company. When this happened in front of an audience, people were mortified. They immediately started yelling at Scorch, “Stop it! What’s he DOING? Isn’t he NEUTERED?”

I would be leaning on the deck rail, gasping for air, wiping away the tears. It killed me every time. “Yes!” I’d gasp, “He’s neutered, he’s been neutered for eight years.” I realized that my hysterical laughter was only egging Scorch on, but I couldn’t help it.

Scorch liked agility class, but he was not a jock. He liked to learn new stuff, but usually in the form of tricks or some type of problem that engaged his mind. He loved Kong toys and Buster Cubes. He was the master of the Kong, the hollow rubber toy that I filled with cheese and bits of liver. I would cram the Kong with biscuits and then pack every nook with smaller bits of bacon or jerky. Scorch could extricate any treat from the Kong, no matter how tightly it fit. If Cajun eventually gave up and left something rattling around in his Kong, Scorch would furtively steal it and clean it out. He was a problem solver.

He didn’t want to fraternize with other dogs. He scorned them, always looking to me instead, to see what our next project might be.

“He’s not like any other dog,” our agility instructor told me, time and again. “Scorch is just not like any other dog.”

Now he sat in the veterinarian’s exam room, enthusiastically grimacing, baring his teeth, sneezing, waving his paw and going through various other acts in his attempt to prompt me to toss him another treat.

The door opened and Dr. Woody came in. She was a serious-faced kid, her red hair pulled back in a no-nonsense pony tail. But when she saw Scorch, she smiled and bent down to pet him. “Hello there.”

“He’s been coughing,” I explained. It was our first time at Kern Road Clinic, which is just a few miles from our house. I didn’t think it was anything serious, and Scorch didn’t like to ride in the car, so I didn’t haul him all the way back to Ann Arbor. It’s an hour from the farm.

“He sure is tuned in to you,” Dr. Woody said.

“I’m thinking about getting a T shirt that says, ‘Scorch TV’,” I quipped.

She laughed.

She ran her hands over Scorch’s throat, and immediately her face became very serious. “I don’t like this. His lymph nodes are swelling.”

She stood up. “I want to do some bloodwork on him. But this isn’t good. I can tell you right now that he has cancer.”

The words came at me like a hammer. I stood there silently, while Dr. Woody explained that they would schedule surgery to remove one of the swollen nodes and confirm the diagnosis. It was a flood of confusing information: Lymphoma. Biopsy. Surgery. Alternatives. Chemotherapy. Life expectancy. Scorch watched me carefully. As I nodded my head while Dr. Woody spoke, Scorch nodded his head too, so vigorously that his ears flipped.

“I’ll take him in back and we’ll do an X ray.” Dr. Woody took a leash that hung on the wall and draped it around his neck. Scorch continued to watch me.

“Go ahead,” I told him. He turned immediately and followed Dr. Woody out of the exam room.

As soon as he was gone, I felt myself beginning to panic. I was breathing hard. I grasped the cold metal edge of the exam table and stood there, hyperventilating. This news was totally unexpected. If he saw me like this, he would feel it too. I had to get this under control. I walked out of the exam room into the main lobby. It was large, sterile and empty, except for one receptionist behind the desk around the corner. There was a basket of dog toys by the window, and some benches lining the wall, and a movie playing on the TV.

I saw that the movie was "Babe", the sheep-herding pig story. It was one of my favorites, so I decided it would be a good idea to distract myself by watching for a moment.

That was a big mistake.

It was near the end, where the farmer and pig are finishing up the sheep herding trial and Babe goes and sits by his side. The farmer has that understated little grin, and soft praise, "That'll do, Pig. That'll do." And the look passes between them.

I was nearing total meltdown. I ran out to the truck, where Cajun waited, and let him out. I brought him into the clinic so he could wait with me.

All my anxiety transferred to him instantly. I was much calmer, but he whimpered and whined, sniffing Scorch all over when they brought him back. And then, when they took Scorch out again for yet more x rays, Cajun lay with his nose by the bottom of the door and started to wail.

"He's coming back," I said calmly. Cajun looked up at me, and then he relaxed.

And so did I. I had a few more emotional breakdowns over the next few days, but never in front of Scorch. The week that followed was all about Cancer. I couldn't think about anything else, and I am sure anyone who tried to talk to me was getting a vacant response, if any. By this time, I’d been divorced for four years. It was just me and the critters. Scorch had many friends, mostly through the internet, thanks to the relative notoriety of his “brother”, Clifford the Morgan horse. I appreciated their support and empathetic comments about the diagnosis.

Scorch tested positive for lymphoma at Michigan State University the following Wednesday and had his first chemotherapy treatment. They kept him overnight for observation, just to be sure he wasn't going to have a bad reaction.

I opted for an aggressive form of treatment and he would be receiving chemotherapy over the next five months. Statistically there is a 95% success rate of remission. The tricky part is, they can’t predict how long the remission will last.

The treatment was horrendously expensive, but I decided early on that money was not going to be an object. Scorch was nine years old, and that is way too young to lose a dog, especially a mixed breed dog that is supposed to have hybrid vigor. I began thinking about how to raise funds for his treatment. I opened an online store in Scorch’s name, with products featuring my art work, thinking it might help.

I once had a friend tell me that for someone who has so much bad luck, I have really good luck. And in this case, it was true. Scorch came through his chemo with flying colors and was back home again the next day. He ate a big dinner. He was only too happy to come out and help me feed the horses. It was dark and the snow was falling softly. Scorch gobbled up huge bites of snow, just like always, and Cajun looked for sticks.

It was so good to have him back, behaving like his old self! My friend Debi Boies had suggested that I give him lots of encouraging pats and praise, just to show him I was okay with everything. I agreed with her, and I took it a step further. I threw my hands up in the air and started jumping up and down, shouting, "We did it! WE DID IT! We're ALIVE!! YAAAYYY!!!!" and the dogs jumped around too and bark excitedly. We all spent a few minutes together that evening, dancing and cavorting in the snow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The New Clifford Book is Live!

Presenting Book 3 in the Clifford series, Clifford's Bay!

Four years in the making and beautifully illustrated by the author, the adventures of Clifford continue. It begins when Nancy's trick dog Scorch is diagnosed with lymphoma. Her Morgan horses Clifford and Trudy carry her through the days that follow, as she faces crisis after another. This is an inspiring look at how animals can help us on our life's journey, providing spiritual guidance, and even making us laugh along the way.

I am offering a $3.00 discount to those who contact me directly, and can paypal me the funds for a signed copy today. As a special offer for our first day, Clifford will sign copies for $20.00, plus $6.00 shipping.

Here is a link to order:

Here is a link to a preview:

Thank you for all your support!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Clifford Signs His Own Book

Well, this may be a first in the horse world. Clifford is signing his own life's story, in watercolor.

I was asked to donate something to the Michgan Morgan Futurity Gala in February, so I thought maybe a signed Clifford book might be just the thing. Or, even better if he signed it himself.

I weighed the book down in the barn aisle with a couple of horse shoes so it would stay open while he worked. I put a little color on the sponge and laid it on the title page.

He's so seasoned now with the sponge, that the minute he saw it he didn't even hesitate. He walked right over and started shoving it around with his nose.

This one is up on eBay. I am thinking this might be nice for upcoming events where he can be present and sign his own books for people.

Next he has to learn to type, and then he can write them, too.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Today's Project - Book Illustration

Here is a colored pencil drawing of Cajun and Scorch, which is the illustration for Chapter 1 of my new book, "Clifford's Bay." This will be Book 3 of my Clifford Horse Stories.