LEFT FILL Horses in Art Magazine

Capturing the Moment

by Sandy Cathcart

Lookin’ Smart – Pencil by Kim Ragsdale

Kim Ragsdale loves horses and people and looks for any opportunity to draw them or talk with them. Her art portrays her love for her subjects, and though she most often works from photographs, she captures something in the faces that doesn’t show in the photo. There’s an inner spiritual quality that comes through.

Sometimes she uses five different photos to capture that inner quality in one drawing. She says it’s like having Photoshop in your brain. “My job is to make the drawing better than the photo,” Kim says, “so I have to put in the personality. If I don’t know the animal or the people enough to see their inner quality, I don’t draw them. It’s as simple as that. I pray over every single drawing and that makes a huge difference.”

Prayer is coupled with good old-fashioned hard work. Kim doesn’t sit at a table or easel; instead she stands for long hours as she meticulously applies each line. She finds it easier to step back and assess where the lights and darks should go if she’s not sitting down. She also burns up lots of pencil sharpeners to keep her nineteen different pencils ready for use. They vary in degrees from hard to soft and are her secret in turning out incredibly realistic work. Starting out with light sketches, she then layers and pushes the darks until she captures the moment in stunning clarity. When asked, she’s quick to say she belongs to, “the no blenders club.” Every nuance of shading is placed on the paper by the stroke of a pencil. That makes for a lot of strokes. It took 210 hours for her to finish Pieces of Summer, a drawing depicting her son and granddaughter working on a puzzle of themselves. “I just about croaked when I added that up,” she says. “Now, let’s see . . . what is that in an hourly wage?”

Sneaking up on subjects is another of Kim’s secrets. At a recent cow dog show she followed a man and his dog around the fields. Then at the end of the day she approached the man saying, “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve been taking pictures of your dog and I have some really good ones.”

Kim has been drawing for forty-one years. When she turned twenty-one, she participated in two different art shows where she sold every one of her drawings. Then she took a long hiatus to have a family, resorting to only doing commissioned work or drawings for friends. Two years ago, she came back strong, turning her love into a business without giving up the joy in the process. “This work is like a vacation to me,” she says, but she’s quick to point out that being able to make money with her drawings is a big factor in allowing her the time needed to do so.

This year Kim entered the poster competition for the St. Paul Rodeo Wild West Art Show. She not only competed against other pencil artists, but also against every other medium, such as watercolor, oil and pastel. Kim was excited to learn that this was the first year a black-and-white art piece has won. Her artwork will be there for all to see on the 2006 Poster.

When I look at her rendering of Ready, I see more than a mute horse. Intelligence and regality are the first two words that come to mind. This horse demands respect and love, so much so, that I now have it hanging in my living room. Every time I look at it, I feel as if I’m in the moment just before the big competition when anything can happen. I can almost smell the horse sweat, hear the cheers of the waiting crowd, and feel the horse trembling beneath my body as it waits excitedly for the go-ahead call. Without Kim’s drawing I would never be able to share in such a moment, picturing myself atop that regal horse. What a delight to see Kim Ragsdale capturing the moments to never be forgotten. Sandy Cathcart is a freelance writer and artist living in the forests of Southern Oregon. She and her husband work for 4E Guide and Supply as guide and cook, and often ride horses into the wilderness.

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