Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Bryn Marw Hound Show

The Bryn Mawr Hound Show is fast approaching and I'm busily putting together an outdoor exhibition for the event. The weather is very predictable this time of year. It's either blazingly hot or raining. Last year it was like an oven. This year, considering the wet spring we've had, it may be the latter.
I love outdoor venues for exhibiting. You get to see a lot of the action, take photos and meet a lot of the competitors and spectators. It's a wonderful combination. Of course, there's a downside too.  Putting up and taking down an exhibit in one day is very hard work, and it doesn't get any easier the older you get. There's a 10' x 10' tent to pitch, GridWall to assemble, paintings to hang, not to mention packing & unpacking your vehicle for the excursion. Tables, chairs, tools for repairing anything that breaks, painting and photography equipment, PR materials and a hat are just a few of the items on my list. An assistant or helper is also recommended. I usually set up my booth myself, so it's possible to do it alone, but it's always nicer when you have someone helping.

If you've never attended a hound show, I recommend just going to watch the first time. Take a camera and some sketching materials of course, but mostly just observe. I find when I have a camera, I miss a lot because I'm too busy taking photographs. It also doesn't help you to train your memory.

The first thing you should do when you arrive is to purchase a program and acquaint yourself with some of the terms used at a hound show. Terms like "entered" and "unentered", Crossbred, PennMaryDel, couples, dogs, bitches, get and Jr. handlers can have you totally confused in a matter of minutes. Of course, none of this information is necessary to enjoy the colorful pageantry of the show. It will help you understand what's going on however, which will certainly enhance your experience. Don't be afraid to ask questions. I find that most people at hound shows have some knowledge of hounds and hunting, lots of enthusiasm and are quite happy to explain what's going on in any ring at any given time. It's usually not a good idea, however, to ask anyone who looks like they're about to enter the show ring!
First and foremost, there are the hounds. Splendidly colored in patches and splashes of white, black and brown, made even more interesting by the play of sunlight filtering through the trees onto their coats, one could spend a lifetime trying to capture the dazzling effect. Handlers run hither and yon in white kennel coats and black hats, sometimes leading three or four hounds at a time. The excitement is electrifying. Dapper judges stand in the middle of each ring, consulting their programs and making notes, while hounds circle the ring or stand attentively anticipating the appearance of a biscuit out of a handler's pocket! The eye is definitely quicker than the hand!

Spectators' fashions run the gamut from jeans and muckers to Seersucker suits, fanciful Kentucky Derby hats and dressy dresses. Hats are"de rigueur" for ladies. Even a baseball cap with a little black dress is better than no hat at all. My rule of thumb is to take everything from a winter parka to a bathing suit. That way you're sure to be ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at you. I did say earlier that Bryn Mawr's weather is either unbearably hot or raining, but I've been in storms with gale force winds trying to keep my tent and artwork from being lifted off the ground!

I have tried sketching at hound shows with pen and sketchbook, but it's extremely difficult as everything and everyone is in a constant state of flux. The temporary kennels set up for the hounds, on the other hand, is a perfect spot to catch hounds napping or relaxing. They don't move much when they're not in the ring, and there are lots of terrific subjects to sketch or photograph. I take photographs in case I want to work up a sketch into a painting later on. A good digital camera with autofocus and at least two lenses is imperative: a close distance lens (18 - 70mm), an optional medium distance lens (105mm) and a zoom (75mm - 300mm) are my lenses of choice.

The show program will help to identify hounds and their corresponding hunt clubs, which is especially helpful. The handlers have numbers on the upper left sleeve, identifying each entry, so it's a snap to check names, hunt clubs, huntsman, etc., when you're back in the studio working up paintings. An important aspect of painting sporting pictures is knowing who the movers and shakers are, both the two- and four-footed types.
One of the best features of a hound show is you can get very close to the action. Each ring has a fence around it, and spectators are permitted to stand anywhere they like. It's a wonderfully informal atmosphere, which adds to its appeal.
I love doing pen & ink sketches of the action once I'm back in the studio. I work from photos for this. I don't have the ability to draw from memory as well as I'd like, so I rely on photos to capture the action. My favorite classes are the Junior Handlers and the Pack Class. I've heard it said that judges for the junior handlers class leave their cars running in the parking lot! The classes feature children of various ages, from tiny toddlers to teenagers, showing hounds in their respective age divisions. This is the only class where the handlers, not the hounds, are judged, so it doesn't matter if they have an older hound who doesn't have perfect conformation. In fact, an old veterans is often preferable for this class, since they know the drill!

The youngest children are the most fun to watch, as they're often being dragged around by hounds much bigger and stronger than themselves. The older kids have more experience and have figured out how to avoid some of the pitfalls. The full spectrum of human emotions is evident in the junior handler class. It's a gold mine of subject matter. The obvious delight on the face of the winner, contrasted with a small boy's skeptical inspection of a fourth place ribbon, or a young girl looking lovingly into the eyes of her hound after not placing are all there for the observant artist to capture.

The pack classes at the end of the day feature five couple of hounds (10) with the huntsman and whipper-in showing off their pack. The pageantry of the hunting field is quite evident here, complete with scarlet hunt coats, black caps and white breeches. The judges are looking for a pack that hunts together and obeys the huntsman. The lighting is always wonderful at this time of day, when the setting sun's light is very warm and the shadows are long and cool.

The Championship is awarded at the end of the day and the winning hound is presented with all sorts of ribbons and trophies, as good as any they hand out at Westminster.
When it's all over and the Champion Hound has been selected, you have a bunch of dust covered paintings, a car to pack up and a long drive home. But it's always a day of fun and if you're an animal painter and you've never seen a hound show, you really need to add it to your list of things to do at least once.

If you go:
Arrive early so you can get acquainted with where the action will take place and when each class is scheduled to begin. You won't want to miss the Junior Handlers classes or the Championship at the end of the day. In addition to the items mentioned earlier, bring plenty of water, rain gear, a folding chair, a hat and snacks. You'll be glad you did!
For more information go to: http://www.bmhoundshow.org/home.htm

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