Friday, March 31, 2017

Thoughts on NaMoPaiMo

This post is about NaMoPaiMo and its inspiratrix, but it's illustrated with horses I've created, past and present.  Because of what Jennifer did, I'm showing off models I haven't thought about in decades...  photos buried in boxes and scrapbooks for close on to 40 years.  I honestly thought I did not need to paint a horse, but the desire to show off is irresistable.
Black and white I could do.  The stockings & muzzle were tough
In a bare 3 years one person has inpacted my hobby far more than I ever thought possible.  This, from a platform I sometimes think a majority has dismissed as outmoded and old fashioned!  Blogging -- how slow, how hard to keep up with.  Yet Jennifer Buxton has made blogging nothing less than her kingdom.  Over the years she's shared dam' near everything with us, far more than most of us would dream of sharing: from family matters to dogs' deaths to model showing and collecting triumphs, to tackmaking and live horse riding and the births of foals, she's shared it all.  Somehow that 'daily dose' habit has stuck with her, and I, never a newspaper reader, find myself as irrevocably hooked as the most addicted news fan.  Writers, reporters and journalists the world over are paid to do less.

Tiger Lily, sold somewhere in CO  circa 1980
We are immeasureably enriched by what she has chosen to share -- and I haven't even gotten to the 3 years.

Her first bravura feat was the Winter Photo Challenge, in January of 2015.  Remember that?  It lasted for a month and nothing like it had been tried before.  She set up a fairly simple framework of rules and expected somewhat less than 50 entrants.  She got 200.  It blew up wildly and became so popular that it risked completely burning her out.  I shudder sometimes to think how close we came to doing that.  Through no fault of her own, the thing became so much bigger than she'd forecast:  she became Den Mother to all of us, a public symbol, almost mythological, like a goddess.  Her vote of approval became the most desperately needed accolade.  The demands on her time and attention were immense, and reached well beyond what any one human being could answer.
Taken in a hotel at a show, Phoenix, AZ in 1982
The end result was a kind of fantastic Yellow Pages, a Directory of most of the online hobby who blogged at all.  Everyone who cared to enter had a place within this edifice.  I still visit the Winter Photo Challenge today when I want to look up some half-familiar artist.  It was incredible fun.  It put names and faces to so many stable names, nicknames and monikers I'd seen, and it opened my mind to the existence of other amazingly skilled and promising tackmakers out there....  for starters.

You would think Jennifer would rest on her laurels after that.  But no.  She was just getting started.

What happened in 2016?  The  Jennifer Show, that's what -- a show like no other.  I was unable to attend, so I can't personally report on it, but I was sufficiently moved (or inspired) to send one of my last 2 copies of my book as a donation prize.  The level of trust here was very high.
Fake fur mane and tail, painted-leather silver
Speaking purely personally (and a good deal emotionally), I cry:  that show was everything NAN should have been.  There went a great deal of resources and much political will.  By its success I cannot help drawing the bitter conclusion that Namhsa was unable to retain its high position, and had much of the available spirit drawn off into a fresh new start further West.  Would my hobby thus re-invent itself every 20 years or so??  Is it simply too thin on the ground to maintain a permanent show framework?  Must it evolve constantly, wherever it can, as new centers emerge?  We have not been thick enough on the ground to maintain a permanent museum:  the dispersal of Black Horse Ranch (Karen Grimm) shows that.
Etched in 1983 to go with the Overo Paint
 Jennifer could have rested on her laurels again after that second stroke of great power.  (It also showed she could play duets, as we musicians say:  She could work as part of a team to put on a larger performance.)  Did she rest?  Well... four months later came the third Masterstroke.

Once again it took a month and had a simple framework of rules.  Once again she was expecting about 100 participants, but drew more than 600.  Once again the thing got completely out of hand, went viral, went international and wound up in a great symbolic act.  An edifice was built wherein everyone had a place.  National Model Painting Month!!  Once again, to be able to receive her accolade, though but a few words, was worth all the fuss and effort.

"And there was a place for them within." -- Alan Tempko, author of Notre Dame

Etched in 2003
This goes beyond hobby.  This is how myths begin, legends are born and religions founded.  What words can I find?  She has been more than a tackmaker, a blogger, a teacher, a collector or a shower.  She's more even than an enabler, which is my word for good administration (in my family administrators are automatically bad).  She has earned my trust, and I shall be safe, within these parameters so carefully and so skillfully bounded, yet boundless in imagination.  'Spirit mother' comes to mind.  'Enabler' is a word I have reflected on before.  I used enabler to refer to an especially admired supporter of shows, who has since passed on.  It seems clear to me that were he to return today, he would be quite pleased with his protege.  Yes, Jenn, I believe you have channeled the spirit of Jim West.
Etched in 2005, with a pattern developed by Gerhardt
 When triumphs are larger than life, it is true there are no words.  Leave her alone for a while.  Let her catch her breath.  A sabbatical is called for.  I tell you I have a truly terrible fear we might indeed burn her out.
 Were she to do no more -- not another post or show or sharing - I should still be so deeply awestruck by what she has accomplished.  I use and refer to her work in some fashion nearly every day.  Braymere has admittedly changed my life.  I can only wait and see what might happen next.
Long live the power of the Braymere!!


  1. What a beautiful tribute and very well said. She is a remarkable woman.

  2. An amazing post about an amazing woman, written by another amazing woman :)

  3. Very well written and very well deserved tribute to Jennifer! NaMoPaiMo has been a boon to my own creativity. I echo your sentiments, thank you Jennifer for all you've done for the hobby.