Oil on linen – 30 x 34 – Collection of Lara Ames
Matoi was a multi-champion driving and Park horse Arabian stallion and sire of many other fine performance horses. He was also much loved by the Ames family, particularly Lara who had ridden him to some of his wins. When he passed at age 30, Dick Ames called to commission a portrait of his daughter on Matoi as a surprise gift for her at Christmas. Starting with an excellent reference photo by photographer Howard Schatzberg, I made only a few small changes to make sure Matoi looked his best and to change Lara’s coat lining to gold from its original distracting white (gold is one of the farm colors). But the original photo had been taken outside in an arena with a high, solid wood fence. I showed Dick several little oil sketches with different settings I imagined or adapted from photos of the Ames’ beautiful Minnesota river valley farm, Cedar Ridge Arabians. The idea using the road between the ponds with Matoi reflected in the water was the easy winner. Our next choice was to place the scene in autumn. Most daring, I will freely admit, was my decision to move the sun from behind the figures around to the front. I wanted more of Lara’s face in sunlight and more detail and shine on Matoi. My thanks to Dick Ames for entrusting me to paint his daughter and this remarkable little stallion.