I look back on the pieces in this story with nostalgia. I was in my early 20’s, just a few years into my career as an equine artist. I had never owned a horse, and the only access I had to them locally was at riding stables. Most of the stables weren’t very inspiring however, because the horses either stood around in their stalls or small dirt paddocks, or were being worked by riders. But then I met Saradel Parker, and she invited me to her idyllic farm. Saradel was a horse breeder who owned Parker Arabians on Bainbridge Island. She also taught riding lessons at her farm. I loved to visit her farm and photograph and sketch her horses as they grazed in lovely hillside pastures surrounded by tall trees.
Her sweet country farmhouse was perched on top of a hillside overlooking green pastures and a cozy barn. I would sit in the pastures with her horses and dream of what it would be like to live with them in such peaceful surroundings.
Through Saradel’s kindness and openness in sharing her horses with me, I experienced some of the most special experiences with horses that I had ever had, and these experiences led to the creation of some of my most memorable pieces.
One day I was standing on a hillside with this beautiful mare, and I was inspired by the sunset light sparkling on her face. That vision became the inspiration for a style of using Iridescent gold, silver, and copper metallic pastels on black paper that I still continue to create today
“Alight” Iridescent Pastel by Kim McElroy Prints and Posters Available at www.spiritofhorse.com Click Art to go directly to Spirit of Horse Gallery page
Not only were the horses inspiring, but the setting of her hillside pastures was often in and of itself a dynamic for inspiration. “Long Shadows” was sketched from the shadow created on the hillside by the low setting sun.
“Long Shadows” Pastel by Kim McElroy Prints and Posters available at www.spiritofhorse.com Click Art to go directly to Spirit of Horse Gallery page
“In the miracle of birth He unfolded from the mare Compact as a wet butterfly emerging from its cocoon. His first instinctive thought, to stand! ~Kim McElroy
“Promise” Pastel by Kim McElroy Prints and Posters Available at www.spiritofhorse.com Click Art to go directly to Spirit of Horse Gallery page
At 11 pm one night in the Spring of 1988, Saradel called. I had been expecting her call, and now she was breathless on the phone as she said quickly, “If you want to watch, she just laid down. You might catch it if you get over here quick.” Fifteen minutes later, I pulled into their driveway and trotted over to the quiet barn shining like a lighthouse in the darkness. Within, I found Saradel and her husband, Bud, watching their chestnut Arabian mare beginning to give birth.
Just as I arrived, the foal’s legs began to emerge. I readied my camera and watched with great anticipation. I was witnessing my first birth. The mare groaned softly and continued to push, and with each push the legs emerged a little further. As the knees appeared, Saradel said, “Look at all that white, how high do those socks go?” Then a nose emerged, also white, pressed against the knees. Finally a dark brown head, and ears, neck and shoulders. Then the rest of the foal slipped out in one amazing rush. Saradel and Bud moved forward gently to assist, and I let out the breath I had been unaware I was holding. It had all happened so fast.
The foal’s ears swiveled as he struggled to interpret his new, unfamiliar surroundings and strange physical sensations. Instinctively, he began trying to stand. First he struck out into midair with one long front leg, then the other. He crossed them repeatedly in a parody of Bambi. The deep hay might as well have been ice for the purchase he was able to attain with his wobbly legs. I winced at the thought of him standing on his soft baby hooves, which looked fragile and sensitive, not like the familiar hard horn. Saradel explained that they would harden in a matter of hours. He finally stood, and as I joined in the effort to help him balance, I touched his wet, slippery coat for a few magical moments, and the miracle of his solid body, curly wet hair, and tenacious energy filled my awareness. Saradel checked and confirmed he was a colt. He nursed as we watched, and his mother cleaned him thoroughly. We all looked at each other in shared awareness of the magical moment, and were thankful that it had all gone well.
The next day I went to visit him again. By now, of course, he was soft, dry, and frisky, whisking his fluffy tail and tottering around the stall. Nursing and balancing were taken in stride. He acted as confident as a big horse in a small body. After our reintroduction, he welcomed my scratches and groomed me in return.
When I painted “Promise” I chose a composition that conveyed the newness of the foal, his wetness and confusion being comforted by the first greeting of his gentle mother – the purple night surrounding them in the colors of insight and healing. When I look at the painting, I relive that moment of touching his warm, wet body, and witnessing his energetic awakening into a new life.
Saradel allowed me to be around horses in their most perfect setting, a home where they were loved, and her inspirations live on in my art and in my life on my own farm.
Thank you, Saradel
“It is delightful to watch foals discover their complicated bodies. They stand, balance and walk within moments of birth, yet I think some aspects of the body they are in still surprises them at first.”
“Little Angel” Iridescent Pastel by Kim McElroy Prints and Posters Available at www.spiritofhorse.com Click Art to go directly to Spirit of Horse Gallery page