One would think that with Disney’s The Jungle Book being a
big part of my childhood, I might like tigers less. Shere Khan was only one of
the most scary villains—though, simultaneously one of the most…noble? Not that hunting
a child is noble, but his motivation was less self-serving than say, Scar’s. Actually,
come to think of it…big cats are these terrifying, massively dangerous wild
beasts…but it’s just hard not to like them.
Especially when big cats apparently have the same inability
to resist cardboard boxes that their domestic cousins have and they are also
openly fond of basking in the sun.
When I was a kid, I had this little plastic tiger cub who
was classically named—Stripe. My brother had the same tiger, except white, and
named Ghost Tiger—but we called him GT for short. Very creative names!
Tigers are very hard to paint, incidentally. I’ve really
struggled to capture their bone structure. For some reason the leopard comes
easier—perhaps because the leopard is more sleek?
I don’t have any childhood leopard memories, I think I might
have had a plastic leopard at one point, but it was not as important a toy as
I want to paint a series of big cats, glamourous big cats
like these—and also more comedic big cats. Big Cats in Little Boxes, sounds fun
I have a hard time cartooning from scratch—but I’m trying to learn. I spent so much of my life wishing I could draw photo-realistic things that it’s been a huge mindset shift to accept that my strength lies elsewhere. It’s not that I can’t be photo-realistic, but the pieces that really shine with emotion and are fun to look at aren’t those. I’m better at whimsy, and better at evocative. And I’m finding that I like artwork that looks like art. Especially with so many amazing photographers out there, I don’t feel the need to duplicate their work, I’ll make it something new.
Both of these cats are done in colored pencil, over a watercolor background and inked blacks. They are both up in Redbubble, I haven’t put them in my Etsy shop yet, though. Do you think I should?
We had a few good weeks of steady progress in May. I had,
this spring, but some focus on mounting block etiquette, expanding previous
training to include “mounting from anything that might work” out and about.
Last winter was rough on the trees, so there are a number of little wood piles
here and there about the property, and I’ve been using those as training
opportunities. The first time I asked Midas to walk up to one he gave it, and
me, VERY dubious looks and was extremely reluctant to partake in this venture.
It took several tries to get him to come to the right spot so I could scratch
his back and praise him from where I stood on the wood pile (and that was after
circumventing it on foot to make sure it was a wood pile and not a wolf pack or
As an aside, here: There was a day after our first or second
exploration of the woodpiles that Midas was just really distracted. He kept
staring at something in that portion of the woods, no matter where we were in
the ring, and was skittish going down the driveway—which at this point in the
spring we’d been down several times in the recent past (including extensive
sessions standing still in the middle of the driveway waiting patiently.)
FINALLY I figured out that there was a new woodpile. So, I rode him directly to
it, he came peacefully but on HIGH ALERT ready to evacuate just in case it was
an evil woodpile. We got within 10 feet and stopped to observe.
He finally noticed the big stand of grass next to the pile.
I pointed to the grass (from his back, mind you, so just in his peripheral) and
said, “you can eat that, if you want” and he decided it was not an evil
woodpile if it had grass next to it.
The grass was destroyed. We searched the rest of the pile
and it was deemed safe. He was perfectly calm and mannerly the rest of the
I’ve been trying to teach him to come to the mounting block.
Monty Roberts teaches horses this, and I love it. It’s so useful. Endo the
Blind, this eye-less Appaloosa, does it and he
can’t even see. Midas should be able to learn. The idea is that the rider
goes and stands on the mounting block, then calls the horse, who comes and
positions himself so the rider can mount easily.
You might not remember this, but we used to go rounds with
Midas to get him to stand at the mounting block long enough for someone to get
on. (Way back at the beginning). This is such a common problem with horses in
general that there are comics about it. Horses seem to wait for you to
position, them, then when you climb onto the mounting block or fence, they
sidle out of reach.
I’ve been working on Midas off and on for years about mounting
block manners, and he is actually quite good about the mounting block. (For me,
anyway. When one of the littles leads him up, all bets are off these days). This
spring I decided that there was no excuse, he should come up and present
himself even if I don’t lead him up to it before I climb up. I’ve also found
that teaching him something new really helps with mounted work.
Midas already knows how to be sent and called in from a
circle, so that’s where I’d started in the past. I’d stand on the mounting block
and work him on the line, sending, circling, coming back. Mostly without tack, sometimes
ending with a little bareback riding.
I refreshed him on that, and then practiced parking him a
bit away, telling him to stay, then walking to the mounting block and summoning
him. I did this with tack and without, but always with the 14’ rope.
He’d come, and I was frankly surprised at how readily he
marched to the right spot with a proud look on his face. I’d shower him with
praise and scratch his neck, withers, and back.
He even did it without the rope to reinforce if he pretended
to not know what I was asking.
This spring I also started going out in the big field again—it’d
been a while since we’d been out there working in hand (used to with the inlaws).
We marched around the field and did some basic groundwork in hand, and he was
good. Then I’d go do something else entirely with him.
Then, last week I tacked him up and we marched into the
field in hand. I didn’t have a full plan, just wanted to do something
different. I had the rope and stick with me, but started with just asking him
to follow me this way and that without the rope or me touching the reins. He
was only so-so on that, so I attached the rope to the bitless bridle. Ended up
at the farthest edge, climbing up onto the little coop and asking him to
present himself so I could mount.
And he did.
Came right up, cuddled close so I could easily swing aboard.
I was so surprised. It took a bit of doing to unclip the long rope from his
bitless bridle, and then I rode for a while in the field one-handed because the
other was occupied with my stick and my 14’ rope. But you know what? It went
great. He was relaxed and easy, and I was relaxed and easy.
All the work I’ve been putting into riding with seat and
legs, for both our sakes, paid off. We calmly looped around the field, this way
and that, at walk and trot. It was amazing.
The next time I rode, I asked him to come to the big wooden
mounting block the kids use. He sidled right up. I rode him up and down the driveway
before the littles arrived and we gave them pony rides in the woods, then I
asked him up to a woodpile so I could get back on. He came.
I am so pleased that he seems to have really learned and understood
and embraced this little thing.