menu +
Just so you all know.  I am gearing up a campaign for getting comments on my blog and will be sending out a newsletter to everyone on my mailing list to comment on my blog entries so far and send out word about this blog to everyone they know.

I hope all my friends on facebook will do this too (hint-hint).

Whoever comments the most in the next 3 months will receive an original oil painting – painted in my own unique style…that I would even have a painting style at this point is questionable…but I digress. 

Of all the paintings I paint in the next 3 months (and my goal is to paint one a week) who ever has made the most comments on my blog during this period of time will get to choose one of those paintings. 

Here’s an example.  I painted it today.  It is of a few of our chickens, Sally, Matilda, and Mickie.  The chickens stand on our back porch several times a day and petition for bread.  I convinced them to put down their little “Give Us Bread NOW” signs so I could photograph them and bribed them with bread to pose off and on during the day.

These paintings won’t be masterpieces since, hey – I’m a professional sculptor…and I paint for fun.  And these won’t be large (no bigger than an ipad) but they will be original and you, most frequent blog commenter, will get to choose!  How fun is that?

I will post photos of what I paint as I go forward with future posts. 
And, yes, whatever you pick will be framed.

I am doing this to thank whoever comments the most often because comments are so important to the successful readership of a blog. 

This also keeps my sculpting brain working well…cause, you see.  When painting I am taking the 3d world (aided with photos sometimes) and recreating it in 2d (a creation that hopefully looks 3d in 2d) and when I sculpt, I sculpt primarily from photos…which is the reverse – so I take a 2d representation of a 3d object that I am recreating a 3d object from that.  This maybe makes no sense unless you are an artist (and it maybe makes no sense if you are an artist)…but somehow it keeps me more creative…maybe it balances my brain :).

MMmmmm.  Balanced brain….

Of course I’m doing this too to generate more and more interest in my sculpture and in me as an artist over time.  There is that

Artists can sit in their studio and create…but that doesn’t do anything to share their work with the rest of the world.  I want to share what I do with all of you.  I want this blog to be one way of doing that.

Sorry about the evening writing of this today…I’ll have more in the morning and a newsletter out tomorrow for my newsletter readership.  If anyone reading this would like a newsletter, please go to my website and sign up or drop me a note in FB or in email and I’ll put you on my mailing list. 

Thanks for reading.


My husband and I just purchased an artwork this last weekend that we liked – and we love that we know the artist.  However – we (as in I) aren’t wild about the frame around it.  Mark’s response to me saying that we would need to get a different frame was “But that would make it different from what the artist wanted it to be.”

Hmmm.  I don’t know how much I agree with that.  If someone took one of my sculptures and put it on a different base I would have zero problem with that. 

When it comes to basing my work – it is thought out, sure.  But my intent is to try to make it as undistracting (new word) from the sculpture as possible. 

But once someone owns one of my sculptures if they have another thought that, to them, might improve the piece in the context of it’s new setting, it certainly doesn’t affect the value of the sculpture itself to change that aspect of it…as the base (in the case of my sculpture anyway) is not part of the composition of the piece.

But what if a frame on a painting is distracting and not complimentary to the piece?  (IMHO of course).  Check out this frame around this painting of a monkey.  (No, this is not what we bought last weekend and this is not a piece of art we own).

there are no words…..

Artists?  If someone buys one of your framed paintings and wants a different frame or re-frames it themselves, how to you feel about that?

I have been reading a digital copy of Birge Harrison’s book “Landscape Painting” (a wonderful little book by the way) and in it he has a section “On Framing Pictures” and I thought I would share an excerpt from that chapter today.

“…And I re-discovered that fact, which the old masters had discovered so many centuries ago, that there was no material in the whole range of nature so admirably fitted for the surface of a frame as gold or metal leaf.  Next to the mirror, it presents the most elusive of all surfaces.  Semi-reflecting, semi-solid, it is just the thing that fills all the requirements…in a study of the best forms and the best tones of metal leaf to be employed…it soon became apparent that the law of complementaries reigned supreme.  A picture whose dominant note was pink demanded a greenish gold frame, a blue picture called for a tone of pure yellow or orange gold, while a picture whose dominant tone was golden yellow could only be well clothed in silver.  Fortunately, the dominant note of most landscapes is found in the blue or blue-gray sky, and thus the pure gold frame is its ideal casing.”

He goes on to say that generally complex and complicated pictures benefit from a more simply styled frame while a simple picture “…built up with a few broad and powerful masses, will frequently appear best in a rich and ornamental frame.”

But rich and ornamental he cautions, should not be too over the top…

 (I’m paraphrasing of course since the book was published in 1910 and “over the top” probably was not a figure of speech back then).  He maybe had something like the frame above in mind…which is for a mirror..  Seems like the most ornate frames I have ever seen were for mirrors, come to think of it.

Oh gosh.  Here’s a deep thought.  Is the reflection of reality so uninteresting that framing it as fancy as possible is necessary?

I would love to hear from other artists how you frame your work.  Do you make your own frames or do you have a supplier?  If you make your own, how did you learn? and do you have any instruction out on the web that we can check out?  And if you have a supplier, who is it?

Hello art collectors!  What are your frame preferences?

That’s all I have for today. 
Thanks for reading.

I’m off to continue do my best to create a beautiful day.
…and I hope you create – in your own beautiful way –
 your own beautiful day.  🙂

Every day that I sculpt I have accidents that happen.  Occasionally a sculpture will leap off my worktable and break into several pieces and – since I’m working with clay that is made out of paper and dries in the air – things happen to the sculpture all during the creating process.   For instance, once the sculpture is started and I add clay to a certain area, that new wet clay is placed onto the existing dry clay and while it is drying,  moves portions of the sculpture around.

When I first started working with this material, I tried to correct these “accidental” rearrangements of my sculpture but now I will consider these accidents to see if they actually help the design or make it unique in some way.  I have decided that the accidents are sometimes a form of unique guidance and serendipity and welcome many of those accidents as part of my creative process.

Many artists today and throughout history knew accidents were often a good component in helping them create their works.  Of course some accidents will just feel like a catastrophe!

me with the finished sculpture,
Okaga, the South Wind.  Later that same
day while working on smoothing out
the last few areas, this sculpture fell
off the back of this table and all its
legs broke; some in two places!

What do you think?  Do you believe that art doesn’t “just happen” because of perfect planning and perfect control – it also happens by seemingly random accidents sprinkled in?

Check out the quotes below (thanks to from artists regarding accidents in their work.  Which is your favorite?

It’s time for me to get to work.  I hope your (and my) art accidents are all good ones today.


All painting is an accident. But it’s also not an accident, because one must select what part of the accident one chooses to preserve. (Francis Bacon)

It’s the nasty and the accident that form the foundation for elegance that comes later. (Nick Bantock)

In art, there is one thing which does not receive sufficient attention. The element which is left to the human will is not nearly so large as people think. (Charles Baudelaire)

U2 is sort of song writing by accident really. We don’t really know what we’re doing and when we do, it doesn’t seem to help. (Bono)

Oops! I wonder how that blob of paint turned up in the sky? – that must be how many a bird ‘happened’ in a landscape and how extra leaves were added to overhanging branches. (Jeane Duffey)

Accident is veiled necessity. (Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach)

Accident is design / And design is accident / In a cloud of unknowing. (T. S. Eliot)

There are many accidents that are nothing but accidents – and forget it. But there are some that were brought about only because you are the person you are… you have the wherewithal, intelligence, and energy to recognize it and do something with it. (Helen Frankenthaler)

We try not to have ideas, preferring accidents. To create, you must empty yourself of every thought. (Gilbert George)

It may have been accidental but you knew enough to let this alone. The intelligent painter is always making use of accidents. (Charles Hawthorne)

The most persistent principles in the universe are accident and error. (Frank Herbert)

I have meant what I have done. Or – I have often meant what I have done. Or – I have sometimes meant what I have done. Or – I have tried to mean what I was doing. (Jasper Johns)

A creative train of thought is set off by: the unexpected, the unknown, the accidental, the disorderly, the absurd, the impossible. (Asger Jorn)

We never learned how to solve problems, create effects, get concrete results. So we hope for, and rely on fortuitous accidents. What we do by accident we call ‘creative.’ (Brian Knowles)

You need accidents, otherwise it is fake. (Sotirios Kotoulas)

Experiment by applying a few strokes suggesting the subject and see what happens… develop the piece from interesting accidents. (Jean-Francis Le Saint)

It was accidental before but now it’s become my method. (Hui Lin Liu)

At first laying down, as a fact fundamental, / That nothing with God can be accidental. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

I throw down the gauntlet to chance. For example, I prepare the ground for a picture by cleaning my brush over the canvas. Spilling a little turpentine can also be helpful. (Joan Miro)

Surprises are the joy of living. Surprises directly touch the soul. Good surprises energize and bad surprises teach. (Alev Oguz)

Accidents, try to change them – it’s impossible. The accidental reveals man. (Pablo Picasso)

When a person is prepared to receive something, a series of accidents takes place. (Irving Sandler)

Every brushstroke has a certain tension, a certain nervousness. Every brushstroke is, in a sense, some kind of accident. (Raphael Soyer)

As soon as you accept the accidental effects, they are no longer accidents. They are necessity – the part of yourself that you could not expect or design beforehand. Thus the realm of your creativity grows wider. (Kazuaki Tanahashi)

The unforseen event, the ‘accident,’ the unexpected all play a very large part in my creative play. I prefer to let the materials suggest the direction of a work. (Burnell Yow!)

June 23, 2014

It’s Monday, June 23 and I have dedicated myself to writing a blog entry every day.

I do not consider my life to be what anyone would describe as exciting so this could be the most incredibly boring blog ever if I just talked about my life.  What I think is important is to connect with other artists. 


Maybe other artists are also feeling that their life is also not incredibly interesting but they are nevertheless also developing their art career and are also learning more about how professional artists structure their days from day to day.


I don’t want this blog to be just a one way dialogue and want to hear from other artists (and any creative business person/entrepreneur) too so we all can learn from one another. 


What works in your life?  You are always learning how to manage life and create the best art you can…just like me.  It isn’t easy.


So that is what I will talk about – each day what I do to create art and make what I do better and the other adventures into art that I embark on and the other things that just happen that enhance or interfere with that.


I have been refreshing my art education since the beginning of the year.  I spend a portion of the beginning and/or end of the day learning something about art and artists through history.  This must come up (art history) just with the every day sketching I have been doing…I have been involved in the study of values and perspective, for instance – and how can the study of value and perspective not lead me to learning more about da Vinci?   


I have been trying to shore up the holes in my art education in other ways – for example, I have been learning more about oil painting.  You can’t paint well if you can’t draw well…I think. 


I want to paint some scenes from around our property to frame and hang in the living room which is currently being remodeled a bit to make it more of a gallery space for my sculpture.  So I have been on Stapleton Kearns blog and he is fantastically educational not just about painting but about art history.


These things and more (to be shared in future posts) have been important inroads to keeping me motivated to sculpt more and to always think of myself and my work as truly a professional endeavor. 


I hope to hear from anyone out there, all of you artist/entrepreneurs.  What do you do every day?  Do you try to continually educate yourself about art and what is it you do to keep your work it’s best and to keep your muse alive?

10 Paradoxical Traits Of Creative People

Creative people are humble and proud. Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted. Creative people are rebellious and conservative. How creative are you?

I frequently find myself thinking about whether I am an artist or an entrepreneur.

It is safe to say that more and more entrepreneurs are artists, and artists of all kinds are entrepreneurs. And the trend is only on the rise as all things (art, science, technology, business, culture, spirituality) are increasingly converging.

Creativity is the common theme that drives both entrepreneurs and artists alike. But creative people are often also paradoxical.

Over this past Labor Day weekend, I found myself reading excerpts from distinguished professor of psychology and management Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s (pronounced me-HIGH chick-sent-me-HIGH-ee) seminal book Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People (HarperCollins, 1996).

He writes:

“I have devoted 30 years of research to how creative people live and work, to make more understandable the mysterious process by which they come up with new ideas and new things. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it’s complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an individual, each of them is a multitude.”

Mihaly describes ten traits often contradictory in nature, that are frequently present in creative people.  In Creativity, Mihaly outlines these:

1.  Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they’re also often quiet and at rest

They work long hours, with great concentration, while projecting an aura of freshness and enthusiasm.

2.  Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time.

“It involves fluency, or the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas; flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas. These are the dimensions of thinking that most creativity tests measure and that most workshops try to enhance.”

3. Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.

But this playfulness doesn’t go very far without its antithesis, a quality of doggedness, endurance, and perseverance.

“Despite the carefree air that many creative people affect, most of them work late into the night and persist when less driven individuals would not. Vasari wrote in 1550 that when Renaissance painter Paolo Uccello was working out the laws of visual perspective, he would walk back and forth all night, muttering to himself: “What a beautiful thing is this perspective!” while his wife called him back to bed with no success.”

4.  Creative people alternate between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality.

Great art and great science involve a leap of imagination into a world that is different from the present.

5. Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted.

We’re usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.

6. Creative people are humble and proud at the same time.

It is remarkable to meet a famous person who you expect to be arrogant or supercilious, only to encounter self-deprecation and shyness instead.

7. Creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping.

When tests of masculinity and femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.

8. Creative people are both rebellious and conservative.

It is impossible to be creative without having first internalized an area of culture. So it’s difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the same time rebellious and iconoclastic.

9.Most creative people are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well.

Without the passion, we soon lose interest in a difficult task. Yet without being objective about it, our work is not very good and lacks credibility. Here is how the historian Natalie Davis puts it:

“I think it is very important to find a way to be detached from what you write, so that you can’t be so identified with your work that you can’t accept criticism and response, and that is the danger of having as much affect as I do. But I am aware of that and of when I think it is particularly important to detach oneself from the work, and that is something where age really does help.”

10. Creative people’s openness and sensitivity often exposes them to suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment.

“Perhaps the most important quality, the one that is most consistently present in all creative individuals, is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake. Without this trait, poets would give up striving for perfection and would write commercial jingles, economists would work for banks where they would earn at least twice as much as they do at universities, and physicists would stop doing basic research and join industrial laboratories where the conditions are better and the expectations more predictable.”

Paradoxical or not, what I have learned most is that there is no formula for individual creation. As Mihay says, “creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals.”  So, more than anything else, what it takes to be creative is resourcefulness and the courage not to give up.

The boring stuff:


The material I use to sculpt with is made by Padico in Japan and there is only one distributor of it in the US.  It is typically sold in craft stores – although we purchase it in bulk directly from the supplier.  It is made from paper pulp, talc, water, and some binders and whatever else it is – is a mystery- the formula for it is proprietary.


Most sculptors sculpt with chavant like clays – the kind that never dries.  When I started sculpting I used the same.  I hated it.  Sculpting something that is permanently attached by a pipe to a board is frustrating to me, partly because of my eyesight, partly because of my temperament.


The material I use has it’s own unique characteristics and challenges but sculpting with it adds a unique element that makes the sculpture I do look different in bronze than all the sculpture originally made with non-drying clay.   It has a bit of a life and will of it’s own.


I am very nearsighted so I wear glasses or contacts to correct that.  For me it is a very good thing though – for sculpting – because it means that (even though I am of an age where most people need reading glasses to see close up) my close up vision is really really clear at about 9″ from my face.


If a sculpture is attached to a board I cannot see parts of it well.  So I have to be able to hold a sculpture in my hands for most of the time to work on it – this cannot be done with non-hardening clay – as I would just end up burying my fingers in the very thing I am trying to create.


Non-hardening clay is also very heavy and the paper clay I use is extremely light so the long legs of the horses are not too weighed down by their bodies.


The esoteric stuff:


The reason many sculptures are being done at one time is because rather than image just one horse, I imagine them in groups.  I saw the house horse series (look, relax, itchy, leap, watch, and step high) all in one day and made their wire armature forms that same day before I could forget how they were to be.


They were imagined in 2010 and the last one has just been finished.  It seems to take FOREVER to make them this way.  I know galleries enjoy prolific artists – I guess I would not be that – but consider that “prolific” and the annihilation of creativity very often walk together.


I work on them until they are how they are supposed to be and that can take time, most certainly takes inspiration and an uncluttered undistracted mind.  For example, I can re-carve a face 3 or 4 times until I know that is the face that sculpture is supposed to have.


I once was very determined to be a rich and famous artist.  But I have been learning that’s just common ego – doesn’t most everyone in their head think that being a rich and famous this or that is what they must be to be seen and respected in the world as “somebody”?


But polluting what happens in the only time I know I have because I am “working” to get to a place that may never be – also gets in the way of creativity (and happiness)…and is something that could cause the work of any creative endeavor to become stagnant, uninspired, and derivative.


I am asked what is the style of my sculpture.  I respond with – what do you see?  Do you see an “-ism” there?  Impression-ism?  Expression-ism? a school of this or that?  Art is it’s own language;  to describe art with another, different language – is an act of reductionism.  Translate a Haiku written in Japanese into English and you invalidate its beauty.


There is freedom that comes with the belief that the sculpture I create does not belong to me – that it belongs to the world.  I believe all art that is made public belongs to the world and is meant to enhance everyone’s experience of being…here.   That means the world will decide what happens to it until the day it becomes a part of the history of art…long after I am gone.


I consider what I create to be a collaboration and that is the reason why I will occasionally ask collectors, gallery owners, and consider unsolicited comments about my sculpture.  It isn’t that I am insecure that what I have created is good bad or uninteresting.  I only saw what I saw – and made it and there it is.  Where did it really come from?  The absolute truth of that cannot be known.  But maybe I can get closer to it if  I consider and leave myself open to other relative ideas and possibilities…

(this post is a reprint of a post made on my blog dated October 10th, 2012)

All the Missing Horses: What Happened to the Wild Horses Tom Davis Bought From the Gov’t?

A lone mustang who escaped the helicopters watches a Bureau of Land Management roundup in the Stone Cabin Valley in Nevada during the winter of 2012. (Dave Philipps)

by Dave Philipps, Special to ProPublica Sept. 28, 2012, 5:13 p.m.

The agency protects and manages herds of wild horses that still roam the American West, rounding up thousands of them each year to keep populations stable.

But by March, government pens and pastures were nearly full. Efforts to find new storage space had fallen flat. So had most attempts to persuade members of the public to adopt horses. Without a way to relieve the pressure, the agency faced a gridlock that would invite lawsuits and potentially cause long-term damage to the range.

So the BLM did something it has done increasingly over the last few years. It turned to a little-known Colorado livestock hauler named Tom Davis who was willing to buy hundreds of horses at a time, sight unseen, for $10 a head.

The BLM has sold Davis at least 1,700 wild horses and burros since 2009, agency records show [1] — 70 percent of the animals purchased through its sale program.

Like all buyers, Davis signs contracts promising that animals bought from the program will not be slaughtered and insists he finds them good homes.

But Davis is a longtime advocate of horse slaughter. By his own account, he has ducked Colorado law to move animals across state lines and will not say where they end up. He continues to buy wild horses for slaughter from Indian reservations, which are not protected by the same laws. And since 2010, he has been seeking investors for a slaughterhouse of his own.

“Hell, some of the finest meat you will ever eat is a fat yearling colt,” he said. “What is wrong with taking all those BLM horses they got all fat and shiny and setting up a kill plant?”

Animal welfare advocates fear that horses bought by Davis are being sent to the killing floor.

“The BLM says it protects wild horses,” said Laura Leigh, founder of the Nevada-based advocacy group Wild Horse Education, “but when they are selling to a guy like this you have to wonder.”

BLM officials say they carefully screen buyers and are adamant that no wild horses ever go to slaughter.

“We don’t feel compelled to sell to anybody we don’t feel good about,” agency spokesman Tom Gorey said. “We want the horses to be protected.”

Sally Spencer, who runs the wild horse sales program [2], said the agency has had no indication of problems with Davis and it would be unfair for the BLM to look more closely at him based on the volume of his purchases.

“It is no good to just stir up rumors,” she said. “We have never heard of him not being able to find homes. So people are innocent until proven guilty in the United States.”

Some BLM employees say privately that wild horse program officials may not want to look too closely at Davis. The agency has more wild horses than it knows what to do with, they say, and Davis has become a relief valve for a federal program plagued by conflict and cost over-runs.

“They are under a lot of pressure in Washington to make numbers,” said a BLM corral manager who did not want his name used because he feared retribution from the agency’s national office. “Maybe that is what this is about. They probably don’t want to look too careful at this guy.”


Wild horses embody the mythic West: Painted Indian war ponies and the cavalry mounts that chased them, pony express runners and the tough partners of cowboys.

At the turn of the 20th Century, they numbered in the millions, but most were rounded up, slaughtered, and used for pet food or fertilizer, until by 1970, there were only 17,000 left.

In 1971, Congress stepped in to save the remaining herds, passing a law [3] that declared wild horses “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West” and made it a crime for anyone to harass or kill wild horses on most federal land. The law tasked the departments of Interior and Agriculture with protecting the animals still roaming the range.

In a sense, the Bureau of Land Management — the part of the Interior Department assigned to oversee the wild horse program — succeeded in this a bit too well. Protected horses naturally began to reproduce and by 1983 there were an estimated 65,000 horses and burros on the range, competing for resources with cattle and native wildlife.

In the name of maintaining a sustainable balance, the BLM began removing horses from the wild. It now rounds up about 9,400 horses a year, which has kept the wild population at around 35,000.

The captured horses are put up for adoption. Almost anyone can have one for as little as $125 as long as they sign a contract promising not to sell it to slaughter.

Adoptions kept pace with round ups until investigations in the late 1980s and 1990s showed that many adopters, including several BLM employees, had turned a quick profit by selling the horses to slaughterhouses. To discourage such re-sales, the BLM began holding the title of sale for a year. Today the agency says it visits almost every adopter for a “compliance check” within six months to make sure horses are well cared for.

The restrictions protected horses, but discouraged adoptions, a trend compounded more recently by a bad economy and soaring hay prices.

Today, only one in three captured horses finds a home. The rest go into a warren of tax payer-funded corrals, feed lots and pastures collectively known as “the holding system.” Since horses often live 20 years after being captured, the holding population has grown steadily for decades from 1,600 in 1989 to more than 47,000. There are now more wild horses living in captivity than in the wild.

For decades, government auditors [4] and wild horse welfare advocates have warned that the policy of capturing and storing horses is unsustainable and have pushed for the BLM to use fertility controls, introduce predators or expand wild horse territories, but the agency has made little progress toward these goals. In the first half of this year, for example, it treated fewer than half as many wild horses with a birth control drug than was planned.

“I think they are caught in an old way of doing things,” said John Turner, an endocrinologist at University of Toledo who specializes in wild horse fertility control. “Once they round up the horses, I don’t think they like to treat and release. They would rather remove them.”

Driven by the cost of caring for unwanted wild horses, the annual price tag of the program has ballooned from $16 million in 1989 to $76 million today.

Cost pressures prompted Congress to pass a last-minute rider to a 2004 law directing the BLM to sell thousands of old or unadoptable wild horses for $10 a head without restrictions — even for slaughter — but the agency has not done so, fearing public outrage.


Instead, since then, the BLM has been selling horses, but requiring buyers to sign contracts [5] saying they will “not knowingly sell or transfer ownership of any listed wild horse and or burro to any person or organization with an intention to resell, trade, or give away the animal for processing into commercial products.” Violating the agreement is a felony, but there are no compliance checks similar to those done when horses are adopted.

Even when priced at less than a few bales of hay, these horses had little appeal: Sales dropped [6] from 1,468 in 2005 to 351 in 2008.

To explore other options for reducing the number of horses in holding, top BLM officials gathered for weekly closed-door meetings from July to October 2008. According to meeting minutes obtained by the Conquistador Equine Rescue & Advocacy Program, they considered selling thousands of animals for slaughter and even large-scale euthanasia, but concluded such actions would enrage animal-welfare activists to the point they might “threaten the safety of our facilities and our employees.”

No clear plan emerged.

As the wild horse program’s situation grew increasingly dire, a new option came knocking: Tom Davis.


Davis, 64, a plain-spoken man with a sun-beaten brow, makes his living hauling livestock, but says reselling wild horses now accounts for a substantial part of his income.

By his own account, he has worked around horses all his life — on racetracks, on ranches, and even rounding up wild horses for slaughter before the 1971 law put a stop to the practice.

For most of that time, he has lived in the tiny town of La Jara, in Colorado’s mountain-ringed San Luis Valley, just down the road from Ken Salazar, the former U.S. Senator who now heads the Department of the Interior.

“When my dad was alive we farmed their land,” Davis said of the Salazar family. “I like them. I do business with them. I do quite a bit of trucking for Ken.”

(Salazar did not respond to repeated interview requests for this story.)

On a warm morning in May, Davis gave a rambling two-hour interview on the 13-acre spread of corrals and truck lots where he lives.

Leaning against the fence of a muddy corral where a half dozen horses nibbled hay, wearing dusty overalls, Davis gave a simple reason for becoming the BLM’s main buyer.

“I love wild horses to death,” he said. “It’s like an addiction. For some it’s drugs, for me it’s horses.”

Tom Davis at his corrals in La Jara, Colo. (Dave Philipps)

According to BLM records, Davis first contacted the program in January 2008. Documents obtained from the agency show he filled out the application [7] to become a buyer over the phone, aided by Spencer, the BLM’s sales director, who wrote in his answers to questions on the form. (A BLM spokesman said in an email that agency employees often did this in the program’s early days, but no longer do.)

Under a question concerning Davis’ intended use of the animals, Spencer wrote “use for movies.” He later told other BLM employees he sold the horses to Mexican movie companies to use on film shoots.

Under a question about what type of horses Davis preferred, the application noted he would take males or females, so long as they were big.

At the bottom of the application, Spencer wrote that she and Davis had “Discussed goal of providing a good home and making sure none of the horses end up at slaughter plants.” A few weeks later, the BLM sent Davis 36 wild horses from its Cañon City, Colo., holding corral.

That was the only load the BLM sent Davis in 2008, records show. But in 2009 — a few months after the meetings about the holding crisis and two weeks after Salazar became head of the Interior Department — the agency started sending him truckload after truckload, from all over the West. Soon he was by far their biggest customer.

Davis bought 560 horses in 2009, another 332 animals in 2010, 599 more in 2011, and 239 in the first four months of 2012, agency records show. While most BLM buyers purchase one or two horses at a time, Davis averages 35 per purchase and has bought up to 240 at a time.

The animals came from the mountains of California and Wyoming, the mesas of Colorado and Utah, and the deserts of Nevada and Oregon. Many had lived for decades in the wild: Mature band stallions and resilient mares of every color descended from the first American horses.

Davis has paid the BLM a total of $17,630 for the animals, far less than BLM has expended to provide them – the agency estimates it costs $1,000 to roundup a wild horse and records show it has paid as much as $5,000 per truckload to ship them to Davis. Similar horses that are not acquired from the BLM and can legally be sold for slaughter fetch $300,000 to $600,000 on the open market, according to sales prices from regional livestock auctions.

Some BLM corral managers said in interviews they felt uneasy shipping so many horses to a single buyer, and one they knew so little about, but said such decisions weren’t up to them.

“That all happens in Washington,” one said, echoing the comments of many. “We are just peons. We do what we are told.”

Davis said BLM employees occasionally asked where his horses ended up, but said he tells them it’s “none of your damn business.”

“They never question me too hard. It makes ’em look good if they’re movin’ these horses, see?” he said. “Every horse I take from them saves them a lot of money. I’m doing them a favor. I’m doing the American people a favor.”


So what happened to the wild horses Davis purchased from the BLM?

The agency can’t say for sure. It does not hold onto the titles of wild horses acquired through its sale program as it does with horses that are adopted. Officials also have no process for following up to make sure buyers use animals as they claim they will in applications.

In the interview at the ranch, Davis said he had found most of the mustangs “good homes” on properties mostly in the southeastern states. Asked if he would provide records of these sales, he responded, “Ain’t no way in hell.”

A helicopter rounds up horses in the Stone Cabin Valley of Nevada in the winter of 2012. (Dave Philipps)

Other people who find homes for rescue horses in the region say they rely heavily on advertising and web sites to connect with buyers. Davis does not appear to do so.

“I’ve never heard of him,” said David Hesse, who runs Mustang and Wild Horse Rescue of Georgia [8]. “If he said he is finding homes for that many old, untamed mustangs, I’m skeptical. The market is deader than dead. I have trouble finding homes for even the ones that are saddle-broken. Wild ones? No way.”

On some sales applications, Davis has said he sells horses to graze on land used for oil and gas drilling in Texas, but oil industry experts contacted for this story said they had never heard of such a practice.

According to brand inspection documents [9] required by Colorado when livestock is sold or shipped more than 75 miles, Davis and his wife say they have sent 765 animals with BLM wild horse brands to a sparsely populated stretch of arid brush country along the Mexico border in Kinney County, Texas. (The records do not give specific addresses where animals were sent, but identify small towns, such as Spofford, as their destination.)

It’s impossible to confirm that the horses actually arrived there or to know where they might have gone next, however, because Texas is one of the few Western states that do not require brand inspections when horses are moved or sold.

Just south of Kinney County is Eagle Pass, a border town that isthe only crossing for horses going to slaughter in Mexico for hundreds of miles.

There have been no horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. since 2007, when Congress barred funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture horse meat inspectors. Since then horse slaughter has been outsourced. A 2011 report by the General Accountability Office [10] found the export of horses for slaughter to Mexico shot up 660 percent after the ban.

In Eagle Pass, as at other crossings, slaughter horses are checked by USDA veterinarians. A USDA spokeswoman refused to make veterinarians available for interviews, but confirmed that vets sometimes see wild horses bearing the BLM brand in slaughter export pens.

Brand documents leave almost 1,000 of Davis’s wild horses unaccounted for. That means they should still be within 75 miles of his residence — if he has complied with state law.

Asked if this was the case, Davis first said the horses were still on 160 acres of land he leases from the state of Colorado. Then he said some had been shipped out of state without brand inspections, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“Since when is anything in this country done legal?” Davis said in a phone interview.


Had BLM officials inquired further about Davis, they might have found reason to question his plans for wild horses.

Davis is a vocal proponent of slaughtering wild horses in the holding system, which he considers a waste of resources. During the interview at his home, he said he would purchase far more horses if the BLM allowed him to resell them to so-called “kill buyers.”

“They are selling me mere hundreds now,” he said. “If they sold me 50,000, I guarantee I could do something with them. I would go to Canada. I would go to Mexico.”

Davis has close friends who export horses for slaughter, including Dennis Chavez, whose family runs one of largest export businesses in the southwest. In 1984, when Davis authored “Be Tough or be Gone [11],” a self-published book about a horseback ride he took from Mexico to Alaska, he dedicated it to Chavez’s father, Sonny Chavez.

Also, despite the obstacles that impede U.S. horse slaughterhouses, Davis said he has been trying to drum up investors to open a slaughter plant in Colorado.

He said he had approached pet food companies to buy the meat and asked Ken Salazar’s brother, John Salazar, who is the head of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, to help him get a grant to finance the business. John Salazar declined to help Davis, and so far the slaughterhouse venture has not gone forward.

“How can the BLM say with a straight face they are protecting wild horses when they deal with this guy?” said Leigh, of Wild Horse Education.

Animal welfare advocates have raised concerns about Davis’ purchases, but they say federal officials paid little attention.

In late 2010, the BLM rounded up 255 horses in the Adobe Town wild horse area [12] in Wyoming. A local loose knit group of advocates had been photographing the herd for years. After the round-up, group members called BLM officials, looking to adopt a few of the animals, particularly an old stallion they had named Grey Beard [13].

They were told that the horses had been claimed by an anonymous buyer who planned to resell them to large landowners looking for agricultural tax exemptions. The advocates tried to learn more about the buyer, but Spencer refused to give his name, citing privacy policies.

According to interviews and agency emails, group members told Spencer that anyone buying that many horses at once had to be a kill buyer.

Sandra Longley, one of the advocates, said in an email to another advocate that Spencer had assured her that the buyer in question had a long relationship with the BLM and was “above reproach.”

A BLM spokesman said Spencer did not recall the conversation.

According to BLM records, most of the horses were sold to Davis.

Warnings from advocates about Davis do not appear to have prompted the BLM to reconsider selling to him.In fact, internal agency email shows that officials actively turned to Davis to absorb freshly rounded-up horses so they wouldn’t end up in the overloaded holding system.

In January, the manager of the agency’s corral in Burns, Ore., emailed superiors in Washington, D.C., to ask what to do with 29 mares, almost all of which were pregnant. Spencer replied that Davis would take them.

In March, a corral manager emailed Spencer to say he had 92 “nice horses” just rounded up in High Rock, Calif., and to ask if Davis could take some of the geldings.


Freshly captured horses in the Stone Cabin Valley of Nevada wait in a BLM corral to be trucked to the holding system. (Dave Philipps)

A day later Spencer replied, “Davis told me that if the geldings are in good shape he will be able to place them into good homes.”

“How many would Mr. Davis want to buy?” the corral manager asked Spencer. “And are there any specifics that he is looking for?”

“He said he’d be interested in all of them, no specifics,” Spencer replied.

Spencer said in an interview she is under no pressure to approve buyers with questionable backgrounds and feels confident that “we do not sell to people we feel are going to do bad things to the horses.”

When asked about Davis, she said he had been thoroughly checked out and she had confidence in him. More generally, she said that if there were problems with a buyer, she would know.

“People watch where our horses go and the brands are very distinctive,” she said. “If things were going on, we would get a call.”

Davis’ most recent purchase was in April, when he bought 106 animals. Since then, the agency may have opened an inquiry into what he has done with horses bought from the BLM. In June, an agency investigator contacted this reporter seeking information about him. This month, however, the BLM assistant special investigator in Santa Fe (the contact supplied by the agency on this matter) said he was “unable to confirm or deny” that the BLM is investigating Davis.

Animal welfare advocates say the agency’s reliance on Davis is just another indication of how the wild horse program and its overburdened holding system have been mismanaged.

“He is just a symptom of the train wreck that is the Wild Horse and Burro program,” said Ginger Kathrens, director of the horse advocacy group The Cloud Foundation, based in Colorado Springs. “They just warehouse more and more horses and create their own crisis. Then, after they run the program into the ground, they have to find ways out of it. It is a whole unnatural ridiculous system run amok. And who pays the ultimate price? Wild horses.”

To contact Dave Philipps about this story, email him at

(this is a reprint from my blog dated October 5th, 2012)

I check in on the Sylvia White Gallery blog from time to time and I just had to share this (thanks Sylvia) – for anyone who knows and loves an artist – this is for you 🙂

12 Step Recovery Program for Artists

Sylvia WhiteSeptember 19, 2012
1.  Admit that you are powerless over your ARTmaking, and it is the only thing that makes your life manageable.

Many artists describe the feelings they get from making art as an almost spiritual or sexual experience, feeling a complete and total sense of happiness and being at one with the world. Much like the feeling an athlete gets from hitting the ball in the sweet spot. But, instead of it being a fleeting moment, it is a lasting sense of satisfaction and contentment. It is what keeps them the sane, wonderful people we love.

2. Believe that ART is a Power, greater than yourself, and can restore you to sanity. 

Making art is the way artists create order out of chaos. It is a personal order, that allows them to navigate their way through life. The most positive addiction. When you find yourself cranky or irritable, is it really just because you haven’t allowed yourself quiet time to work?

3.  Made a decision to turn yourself and your life over to ART.

The term “frustrated artist” didn’t come out of nowhere. Societal pressures, parental pressures, and sometimes our own need to succeed or fear of failure, keeps a lot of artists from ever realizing their dream. You can’t escape from it forever…eventually, the need to create will overpower whatever rational reasons you have developed to keep yourself from finding the time to make art. The sooner you accept it, the better.

4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of your ART skills.

There is nothing wrong with being a self taught artist. But, in the same way your vocabulary skills can improve communication skills, so can developing your technique as an artist. The beauty of creativity is it’s never ending quality. Making sure that you are constantly looking, learning and improving your skills as an artist (and that includes keeping up to date with technology) will ensure you are working up to your potential

5.  Admit to yourself and one other human being, the importance of ART in your life.

Artists are not capable of “controlling” their work hours. When you are “in the zone” your friends and family accuse you of being preoccupied and/or distant. But, it’s like a switch you can’t turn off. It creeps up on you when you least expect it, and never, ever when you summon it. You need to communicate this to the people in your life that are important to you so they can understand the importance of ART in your life and not take it personally when you are not “present.”

6.  Were entirely ready to allow ART to be an important part of your life, but not your entire life.

You may not always have the luxury to work on your art when you want to. Responsibilities of real life get in the way for most artists. But, you can learn to come up with tricks to ease back into a work schedule, when it is absolutely necessary. For example, working on 3-4 things simultaneously. When you get stuck on one, you can easily move into another. Other artists have described the technique of only leaving the studio for the day only when you know exactly what you next move on a particular painting will be when you comes back…something easy, that has already been planned and you won’t have to think about.

7.  Humbly promise never to ask anyone “What do you think of my work?”

Admit it. If you’re an artist, there is ALWAYS one question on your mind that you are dying to ask people…”what do you think of my work?” There is no doubt, that as an artist, getting feedback is important. If you’ve read my article Art is a Verb, not a Noun, you already know that I don’t believe any object an artist makes can be called ART until it is out in the real world and has real eyeballs looking at it. A painting that is stored in your garage or under your bed isn’t art until it has the experience of being seen. It is only logical then, to assume that once the work is out there, you want to know how people are reacting to it. But, artists need to be extremely careful how and when they submit to that urge of asking people about their work. Before you even contemplate asking the question, let’s take a moment to think about 3 things: Why are you asking this question? Of whom are you asking this question? How will the answer change your relationship to this person and/or your work?

8.  Made a list of all persons affected by your ARTmaking, and be willing to make amends to them.

There is no doubt that artists are wired differently than the rest of us. At times, living with an artist can be difficult. Learning to identify the strategies that will help you move seamlessly in and out of your “normal” life will benefit not only you, but all those around you. Send my article “If you are addicted…” to everyone you love.

9.  Made direct amends to such people, whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

It is true, that to some artists, their work is the most important thing in their life…more important than parents, spouse or even kids. It’s not a crime, or something you should feel guilty about. It is a part of who you are as a person…would you ever feel guilty about having blue eyes? But, remember, the rest of the world doesn’t work that way. If you find this is true for you (and not ALL artists do) you must come to grips with that reality yourself, but never admit it to your significant others.

10.  Continue to take personal inventory and realize you and your ART are not the only important things in the world.

Artists sometimes need to be forced to step outside their reality. Make sure you are able to separate the art making part of your life and the responsibilities of real life. As much as you may hate it, admit that you need a job, relationships, money, housing and the discipline to manage your art career so you can accomplish those things.

11. Sought through private time in your studio to improve your work, and devote the time necessary to just “look.”

The impulse that fuels creativity is nourished by stillness, time alone. That’s why so many artists find their most productive hours are in the wee hours, when everyone else is asleep. The lack of distractions, is a must for artists to be productive. Resting, thinking, meditating, looking…this is when the creative juices are most actively percolating. And, this is one of the most difficult aspects for non artists to understand.

12.  Having accomplished all of the above, tried to carry this message to other artists and those who love them.
Already April !!

(this post is a reprint from my blog dated April 26th, 2012)

Incredibly, it’s April 26th.  Not generally, a good day for me – my little brother’s birthday was today…and since he has passed away, I can no longer wish him happy birthday.  Life is more fragile than we think about most of the time.

I have not written in my blog for very many Wednesdays now.  I have not been sculpting (until just two days ago) either.  I have been concentrating on getting my portfolio made, reproduced, and sent out to art galleries.  I have also been entering shows.

I go into all the whys for this in my newsletter and if you are curious and don’t get my newsletter – send me a note in Facebook or through my contact sheet on my website and I will add you as a subscriber.  The newsletters have lots of boring information about what I’ve been up to – but also, information about what I learn about making art my career and I share the resources I have found that help (or hurt) me along the way.

Artists are still not taken very seriously in terms of the fact that they are an important aspect of society in all the ways any other wage earner is – except artists must be intrepid enough to embrace that their art must fit into a – for lack of a better explanation – business model of some kind.  We work much harder than many, I think.  We think about what inspires us all the time.  We create, we also must sell, and market and book- keep and promote and correspond.  What we create is so personal and close to us, that to have it scrutinized by people we don’t even know can be too hard.  It takes an astronomical amount of psychic energy to remain determined and focused.

Artists have a responsibility, truly.  We interpret the world in a unique way just like everyone, but we are given the ability to manifest our unique interpretation into something that can be shared with a vast amount of people and enrich the lives of those people.  Something that can be seen visually-be that a book or painting or film, something that can be touched as well, (an element sculpture adds) – or something that can be heard such as music.  Combinations of these things – written words, lyrics added to music.  Taste – an amazing meal, a fabulous glass of wine.

Think of all the people in the world who have some incredible book they have written, one that would enlighten and inspire countless others.  But the book is never published.  A thousand reasons why, very good reasons perhaps.  But that person was given that story – and it was not meant to be kept a secret, was it?

Now.  I “see” these horses I sculpt.  How important to whom could a collection of horse sculpture possibly be?  I do not think that it is for me to say.  For me that destination is not important.  What I keep in my mind and my heart is that it is something I am supposed to do.  That feeling, the I AM SUPPOSED TO DO THIS, burns me up inside sometimes.  The “because” is not for me to know, and I very nearly do not care.  I may never know in my life.  I have an ego that says that fame and fortune might be fun – but living one day at I time I think that this is the day I will have and I must do what I have been directed to do.  Make the horses and share them in every way I can think of to do that.

Leap Day!

(this is a reprint of a post written on my blog dated February 29th, 2012)

Hey!  It’s the 29th of February – Leap day – a bonus day in 2012.  I have a newsletter to write today (although I’m waiting on photos and won’t post it until tomorrow) and no time to do both. (Sorry)  But did find an interesting article for my artist friends out there who are selling their own creations.  TAX info about a new form.  This is a reprint from another blog I saw it on, and they reprinted it from somewhere else.  Check it out!  Very good information.

Clearing Up Confusion On Tax Form 1099-K

This guest post is brought to you by, the easiest way to manage your business finances online.

In an earlier post, we briefly covered the brand new tax form 1099-K. Basically, we told you that it exists, and could be a headache for ecommerce sellers around the world.

But the more we cover the 1099-K, we notice we still get a ton of comments and emails from Outright users who have just heard of it.  Furthermore, they seem really confused about what precisely is on the thing and how to use the information on the 1099-K when filing their taxes!

So, we’re back to settle the score with the 1099-K. Hopefully after reading this post you’ll have a better understanding of this mysterious document and whether it will really affect your business.

What Exactly is Reported on the 1099-K?

The purpose of 1099-K is simply to report to the government income earned by U.S. Citizens via electronic means (i.e. PayPal, Amazon, eBay, credit cards, etc.).  But, income is literally all that it tracks.

If you’re wondering if the form tracks business expenses – it doesn’t. Or PayPal fees – nope, none of those. What about refunds and returns? Uh-uh. The figure found on your 1099-K simply reports how much in income you made through PayPal (or whatever electronic payment processor issued you the form).

Because of this, the amount reported on your 1099-K might seem a little higher than you expected. But that’s okay. If you have kept track of all of your business expenses – fees, refunds, cost of goods sold, office supplies, advertising, etc. – then you won’t be hit with a huge tax bill. Just remember that it’s your job to show the government your expenses when filing your taxes.

Where do I Report the Amount from my 1099-K when doing My Taxes?

Another source of confusion is where to enter the figure found on the 1099-K into your taxes.  For self-employed people and LLC’s, there is a specific form, the Schedule C, that’s used to report to the IRS. But the wording on this year’s Schedule C has some people thrown off.

You do indeed use Schedule C for entering the information. And this year, there’s a dedicated line for the 1099-K…line 1a. But wait! The instructions next to it say to enter “0” for 2011 no matter what. So what gives, pal?

The reasons are mysterious, and may serve just to get people ready for the 1099-K’s prolonged existence. But whatever the case, go ahead and mark down that “0” on line 1a. The line you want this year is line 1d, which lets you give total gross receipts for stuff like credit card transactions. But one caution: the IRS still receives your 1099-K this year. If the 1099-K shows you made $50,000 while you report a mere $20,000 in income, you are going to hear from the IRS with some very pointed questions. Once again, that’s why it’s so important to include ALL of your income on Schedule C line 1d but to then track your expenses.

That’s really about it! But one more time, make sure you remember to track and record your own business expenses and deductions, as again the 1099-K doesn’t take ANY of that into account. But hopefully the mystery has been taken out of the process and you can put your taxes behind you soon and concentrate on selling once again.

If you have any more questions or concerns, head over to our Tax Resource Center!

Worried about that Schedule C? Create a free account today and make tax time less taxing!

Posted by: Outright, Inc.