Behind the Paint: ROSES IN MAY and KITTEN’S JOY
One of the great comedies of all time is “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, which could be a great line for the travels in painting Roses In May. Our story begins more than 10 years ago. Before I painted Roses In May winning the Dubai World Cup, I had painted him in the post parade for the 2004 Breeders’ Cup. It was a pretty good painting and I was asked to a put a piece in a show in Louisville during the 2005 Kentucky Derby. So, the painting of Roses In May in the post parade was the one I entered.
The Friday before the derby as the crowds filled the restaurants in the Louisville area, it just so happened that I ended up sitting next to Ken Ramsey as we waited for our tables. Striking up a conversation with Ken is like falling off a log and in no time we were talking horses. I told him about the painting of Roses In May in the show and he quickly mentioned he had seen it and liked it. In a few more minutes we had a gentleman’s agreement that he would buy it. I assured him it would be there when he went in the next morning . . . When I asked the people running the show, they informed me that one of Mr. Ramsey’s family members had bought it; so I had to keep it a secret. Well, I few months passed and I never heard from the Ramseys, so I finally gave into curiosity and called; only to learn that Mr. Ramsey was never given the painting and had gone by the show again to buy it, but was told it was sold. I was now a “liar” and obviously not a gentleman! In the world where an artist struggles to sell their art, I had sold mine twice and that one piece was the only original sold at the show! I to this day have never learned who bought the painting and it maybe the only original oil painting I have done that I do not know where it is and they don’t put missing artwork on the side of milk cartons.
Convincing Ken Ramsey that I was a man of my word was not going to be easy, but persistence and ten years can move mountains. It just wasn’t the direct route . . . as luck and the universe would have it, I was commissioned by Danzel Brendemuehl to paint Roses In May. She had owned him as a yearling. Even this had it’s turns and adventures. I met Mr. Okada whose Big Red Farm in Japan stands Roses In May while I was working on the painting live and he wanted to see the finished painting of Roses In May. So, I emailed him a photo and was very quickly asked if he could buy it. “No, this was a commission; painted for someone else.” After he asked again, I said I would talk with Danzel. She was happy to allow Mr. Okada to buy the original; they offered her to come visit their farm and I gave Danzel a print of the painting. Everybody was happy . . . the irony was not lost on me as I thought, “maybe Ken Ramsey is right, I’m a scoundrel!”
For those of you keeping track at home, I have now painted Roses In May twice and sold the paintings four times! And Ken Ramsey still had neither of them. Over time either Ken forgot that I was a liar, or he started to let it slide . . . trust me, Ken Ramsey is a one of the smartest people you’ll meet: I’m pretty sure he never forgets!
Almost two years ago the thought of doing the book, “A Brush With Greatness” started to come together. I had so many wonderful horses that I’ve painted that were the foundation to the book, but there were some horses that just needed to be in the group. I told Ken about the book and asked if we could use Kitten’s Joy and count on him for a quote for the book on both Kitten’s Joy and Roses In May. He was the perfect gentleman and when I told him that I’d be making a donation to Old Friends with 10% of the proceeds of the Kitten’s Joy painting – finally, I had removed that label of “liar” from my name!
The Ramsey family has been great to the sport and I wish them continued success and many more litters of fast kittens.