It’s the ‘walk-over’ at the 137th Kentucky Derby, my Kentucky Derby. Hopes and dreams hang in the balance, and Archarcharch is leading the way. My Thoroughbred breeder/friends in Kentucky had told me just days before about Jinks Fires, a well-respected Kentucky trainer who had tried his entire life to have one of his horses run in the Kentucky Derby. A man who had shown so much kindness to everyone he met, and was admired by people from all walks of life at Churchill Downs and beyond.
Standing beside me as I watched the great black horse approach was “Big Un”, my young friend who Jinks had raised, and who could not contain the tears at watching, at long last, this great horse step up and ‘into the arena’ for his grandfather. He had my bet.
Archarcharch and his team did not win the Kentucky Derby, but getting this far was a pinnacle achievement in itself. As any Thoroughbred owner, trainer, breeder or jockey will tell you, just to have a horse in ‘the Derby’ takes a valiant effort; A fierce resolve to keep showing up again, and again…..How many of us are afraid to step up and into the dirt, the fear of losing the competition or losing face preventing us from even showing up? I have yet to meet anyone who aspires to the horse business, or the art business that doesn’t battle these same fears, and yet steps up to the plate anyway, no matter what.
Demo : Yielding to the feeling/the passion, rather than slavishly copy the image
During my Aiken, South Carolina workshop for the American Academy of Equine Art in April 2013, I decided to show the class what a “yeild” was like, using the above photograph and quote, which I love.
May 8th, 2011 – a very special day for me as the official 137th Kentucky Derby artist. There I was, camera in hand, stood with the owners of the 137th Kentucky Derby horses; mydeep love of horses, the sport, and all things Kentucky flowering within my chest. I was savoring my life, my love, my moment. I could not lose. I was in the arena. I wished to produce a painting that felt like that sort of happiness.
Someone photographed the progress; here it is:
Last, but not least, is another of my heroes. Anna Rose Napravnik. She entered the arena of a sport dominated by men (in every sense of the word). Here she is at 2011 Kentucky Derby, all ‘pinked-out’ riding (the appropriately named…) ‘Pants On Fire’. Rose came second in the Kentucky Oaks race the day before riding St. John’s River, closing fast. I’m happy to report that she became the first female jockey in history to win The Kentucky Oaks the following year, 2012 on (again, the appropriately named) Believe You Can. According to an article, a Mr. Robinson was quoted as saying : “Napravnik earned her fellow jockeys’ respect by never exploiting or apologizing for her gender.” How awesome is that!
I’d like for you all to have a go at painting Rose. She rode in front of me (almost too close) as the Kentucky Derby Anthem began to play “The Sun Shines Bright In My Old Kentucky Home…..” It’s a lovely photo in many ways. Enjoy the arena!
For Rosie: I know you’ll win someday.
For those who are ‘man enough’ to give her a great horse : You’re already a winner in my book!
For the ladies: Gender modified… “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong woman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the woman who is in the arena, who’s face is marred by sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short, again and again; because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotion; who spends her life in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if she fails, at least she fails while daring greatly. So that her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat. ” (President Theodore Roosevelt…)
PAY IT FORWARD
My life is a living testament to the old statement “What comes around, goes around”’; or “What you do for others in an act of generosity, comes back tenfold”. In honor of this code, I began writing down everything I know in these lessons in 2011 and began to offer them out, for free…. But it’s very valuable information. The lessons constitute a lifetime of learning, and are lent to you as an act of generosity to help you on your artistic journey. If you find this material helpful, continue to ‘pay it forward’ by sharing this website with others so that they too can be inspired with Art through "Lessons With Lesley."
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