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Forest Fire

  Forest Fire. Oil on canvas. 2013. 11x14

I was thinking about the painting of three horses I'd done a year or two before, and how much I liked it.  In that previous painting, I liked the companionship between the horses, and the sense of power I imagined to be behind them, as well as all the different stories I could weave around them. So I wanted to do another painting in that same vein of mysterious and powerful elemental horses.

I'll be upfront: I was painting my own story. I was painting another chapter in my own personal little world and as such I have an unreasonable amount of love for this painting. It hangs in my room; none of my other paintings ever have. It feels very personal to me and I find myself holding it close. I don't think anyone could love it as much as I do, which is a weird feeling I don't normally have about my own paintings. Normally I rather hate the things I make, or regard them with a wary sort of kindness, a love held at arm's length. I can't really say why this is so different. It just is. It is everything I love about my other horse painting, but it is closer and more personal. There is a distance to the other one--it is a portrait of three grand figures. But with this duo, the idea from the very start was that these two horses, while still powerful, were not so grand. These two horses worked on a smaller scale. They are children, perhaps, related somehow to the others. They are friends, these two, although they are not really supposed to be. I feel like this painting portrays a relationship. Some sort of very strong and intimate bond. I have no clue if anyone else sees that or feels it, but I do. A relationship of contrast, and I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love contrast. I love the idea that opposites attract.

They didn't have manes originally, and I wasn't sure if I wanted them to have manes. I let it sit for awhile, and I decided they'd probably look better with manes, so I went for it.

I went deep into this painting. I chose to feel it. When I was painting the red horse I was thinking hard about the crackle of flames. About burning black coal, smouldering ashes, red hot heat. Muscle and bone and heat and burning, glowing hot gorgeous flame. That's how I paint, usually; I try to feel it. I try to feel something. It's kind of the whole point.

My original idea was that the horse who wasn't red should be blue fire. I tried it, and found that it just wasn't working. It wasn't looking the way I wanted it to. I tried green, and I liked it. It turned into a forest horse. Grass and shadows, leaves and vines, red flowers, and a stream running through it all---thus the mane made of water. I like to think that mane is an eternal waterfall, constantly dripping down the horse's face and neck to splash around the horse's hooves. The green horse is not quite so bold as the red one, but I do hope that they seem like they could be equals. Because I think they are equals.

Fire destroys forests but forests need fire. I like to think their friendship is very complicated. That's probably why I love this painting so much. It's not just that I can see a story behind it: I can see a story with a lot of contrasts and complications. It's fascinating to me. It's hard to notice, but the green horse has actually caught on fire at the very tip of the right ear. It looks too much like one of the red flowers - it's hard to tell that I intended it to be flame. I wanted to convey that this is a relationship that could be dangerous. Literally playing with fire. I feel like both horses have a challenge in their eyes, and I love that. I think my imagination really runs away with me when I look at this painting, and I love that too, although it also makes me feel a little uncomfortable and helpless, because I don't think anyone else will ever see what I see in it. When I look at it I know that I get carried away with the story in my head, which really has little to do with the painting itself. Trying to look at the painting, just as a painting...I can see that it's quite simple, really. That I could have done a better job actually conveying flame, conveying water. So on and so forth. But at the same time: The angles they're at. The way I feel like they're looking at me, with haunting, alien eyes. It speaks to me, somehow.