Rednex Ranch Blog

The Story Behind the Art
May 17, 2017

The detail I strive to achieve in my art requires working from photographs, because let’s face it – Molly Moo Cow won’t stand still that long to be a live model! Consequently, I’m always collecting reference material as I go about the daily business around here.

JSK 39DI was drawn to the inquisitive nature of this calf. Sometimes calves like this become your best friend, and other times, they always stay just out of reach. He’s been in the back of my mind for awhile now, begging me to draw him; but I hadn’t decided on the rest of the details – would it be wintertime? or would he be out to pasture and green grass? a portrait? or a landscape with pasture buddies?

The idea was born while checking cows during this past calving season. We were blessed with mild weather in January and February, and many of our calves could enjoy their straw bedding outside for weeks before becoming acquainted with the shed. When the calendar flipped to March, winter truly began with more snow than we’d had all winter.

calves in shed

The rancHER was reminded what a relief it is to find the calves snug and dry in the shed when the temperatures drop and the snow doesn’t know when to quit. On this particular day, the sun was shining and the youngsters were enjoying their sunbathing. The artist was attracted to the light and shadows, and various textures of the wood grain, straw and haircoats  – so  I decided to round up a couple of buddies for my Curious George and “All Tucked In” began. The irony of creating this art at this time is 2017 will be remembered as the year winter forgot to stop and spring was a long time coming. It was the end of March before I thought it was safe to pick up my pencil for some uninterrupted studio time.


Normally I start a picture with the top left and work across and down. I did things a little differently this time. Confident in my ability to do the calves, I started with the parts that would challenge me – the wood and the straw – if I didn’t get those right, the rest wouldn’t really matter.

in progressBuilding straw is tedious business, and progress is measured in inches. The calendar says it is April 7 and the snow just won’t quit. Temperatures warmed enough to put us into full blown mud season. With mud up to the tops of our boots and beyond, even the simplest chore became a CHORE! The ruts just kept getting deeper, and I had to forego filling my shed on the drawing board with filling the sheds outside.

all tucked inWith the end in site, Mother Nature decided to cooperate and the weather outside became more spring -like. Warmer temperatures and dry days meant more time indoors at the drawing board. There was one more hurdle to overcome – creating a shadow for my main character. I spent a number of sunny mornings checking the cattle to find just the “right” shadow – going out at first light when the sun was still low to mimic February sunshine as close as I could. I put my pencils down and walked away from the drawing board for a couple of weeks. There were a few things that didn’t agree with my artist’s eye.

20170509_112206-1Finally, spring arrived for real! With fresh eyes and pencil in hand, I adjusted here and there, and declared it done – “All Tucked In” – graphite, 9.5″x6.5″all tucked in

Staying in Shape, Artistically Speaking
February 10, 2016

Our year starts with a flurry of activity called calving season and at this time of year, it’s a 24/7 kind of job. While it’s exciting to see the results of a carefully planned breeding program, it’s tricky finding time to make art. Just like your physical fitness is maintained with exercise, artistic talents need regular practice too.

Over the years I have learned a few things that work and don’t work for staying artistically in shape during calving season. As far as the do-nots go, I put away the brushes and paints until spring. It’s time consuming to set out the palette of paints and brushes, and it can be disastrous to get pulled away from a painting to help out a cow, and come back hours later to dried paint and ruined brushes. A much more forgiving media is pencil work – graphite, colored pencils and watercolor pencils. The only tools involved are pencils and paper, and I can safely lay down a pencil and walk away for hours with no harmful side effects.


It’s pretty easy to have pen, pencil and paper lying around wherever I am. There are multiple sketchbooks around the house and I even found one small enough to fit in the pocket of my chore coat – happy days! But any scrap of paper will do – even the latest pile of mail is fair game for doodling. There is no shortage of things to draw, although some are more interesting than others – it’s just the act of picking up a pen and drawing what’s in front of me – my hand, the dishes on the table, the cat on the fence or the cow in the barn. The point is to stay in practice to record what I see, and not what my left brain is telling me.

colored pencils

The other thing I do differently at this time of year is work on small pieces – usually no bigger than 5″ x 7″ . It’s not my intention to complete finished pieces – although sometimes it works out that way – but rather to experiment. My focus is to try out new tools, techniques, color combinations or compositions to see what works, and repeat the goodness later on in bigger pieces. My current experiment is learning to work with colored pencils, and that is a test of my patience (more about that later).

So even if I am sleep deprived and my brain is addled, I still keep my creative muse happy and in shape!

You Must Look At Cows Differently ?
December 7, 2015

“You must look at cows differently?” I heard this question for the first time a few years ago, from another Hereford breeder. At the time I laughed and replied, “I don’t think so. When I’m at a sale, everyone wants the same ones I do.”

More recently, I have heard the comment repeated and it caused me to reflect that I do see cows in a different light, and it depends whether I’m using my rancher eyes or artist eyes.

A walk out to the pasture can reveal many things. The rancher sees the cow with the nice udder and growthy calf that reflects her milk quality. The artist sees that cow licking her calf and is mentally choosing the best composition for that picture. The rancher sees a thick hair coat designed to withstand the Alberta climate, while the artist sees soft texture, highlights and shadows, and  a multitude of colors. The rancher sees the older cow that may only be productive in the herd for another year or two. The artist sees that same cow and the depth of wisdom in her eyes – the granma cow who looks after everybody.

When I’m the rancher, I may be thinking of adjectives like deep-sided, square topped, structurally correct; while the artist thinks in terms of texture, color and light, composition and personality. The next time you see me viewing cattle, ask me what I see – and you may be surprised by the answer.