When I unwrapped the painting at Christmas I knew immediately it was a portrait of Rosie. What other sheep could it be! Greg’s comment was pointed. If I could now identify our sheep by name, and in their own portraits, I had been on the farm too long.
Actually, the painting was a wonderful gift from my mother. She had seen it at an art show in Vermont, 3000 miles away, and immediately thought of me. See how that goes? I have been transformed in the minds of family and friends from urbanite to farmer in no more than six years. Guests to our house can now expect to see our Judy Dater and Mark Klett photographs, and our large George Segal print, intermixed with a portrait of a sheep! I might call this our rural eclectic period. I have also added a print of a large tree just for good measure!
To think an artist took the time to paint her sheep is rather endearing. In fact, this painting is not intended to be a portrait of Rosie but rather another favorite ewe named Stella, most probably a resident on painter Caryn King’s Vermont farm. See, there are others out there who name their sheep! Where I write stories about our farm animals, Caryn paints the personalities with a liveliness that makes others say, “My, that is Rosie…or Lily, or Lammie, or whomever”. Her sheep come alive as they peer through fence rails or face the viewer straight on. Caryn also paints pigs and chickens and rabbits, even posters for the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair, a fair I attended 40 years ago as a kid with my spotted pony Perky. Small world or what!
Why would anyone paint or write about their sheep? There is this odd thing that happens, I suspect mostly with small-scale sheep owners. When lambing season is upon us (usually springtime when the first daffodils are blooming), the barn and pastures become playgrounds for bouncing, playful babies. It’s hard not to think lambs are the cutest things on earth. They jump spontaneously in the air. They have small pink noses and long legs. They are soft and wooly.
Certain lambs sometimes stand out. They have more personality, a bold way of being around humans that gives them license to be special. Rosie had this boldness as a lamb. She had freckles on her nose and none of the wildness some of our other lambs exhibited. Ruled by her stomach, Rosie let me hold her as a demonstration sheep for our guests and didn’t mind if the dogs ran and played around her as long as she could be in the barn for exta hand-outs.
Then she grew up! Now at 150 lbs. she can no longer be described as “cute” when she pushes past me heading through the barn door looking for extra feed. Rosie is a bit of a sneak here. She has figured out how to slide the door just wide enough to squeeze through when I am down closing the paddock gates. Getting her back out of the barn is always a game between the dogs and Rosie and me. They bark and run around. Rosie darts from bale to bale grabbing mouthfuls of hay. And I yell at all of them at once.
The portrait of Lola shows an intelligent, kind face. The photo of Rosie shows something similar with a little added curiosity (the tipped head). Don’t be fooled. These girls look best as pictures on the wall, their inner-lambness long gone but captured in a pose.
Photo: (top) Rosie’s portrait; (bottom) Rosie as a yearling lamb
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2009 Scottie Jones