What initially inspired you to begin painting horses and later to evolve your work to such a finely tuned aesthetic?
What is it about the horse that is so appealing and attractive to mankind? It’s age old questions like these that I like to address and explore in my work. As a young child I caught the “horse bug” and I never recovered from it. As one of my professors at SCAD put it politely “…we all know that Julie has this, horse tendency, in her work.”
Art and horses have always been my most loved passions and favorite pastimes since I was young and as a junior in high school I decided that I wanted to pursue the journey of being an equestrian artist. My style and perspective as an artist has changed over the past 9 years however my muse stayed the same.
My initial inspiration came from my love of riding, and just of the horse in general. Over the years, my experience with the horse through consistent riding, interaction, and observation, as well as studying by book, have brought me to the place where I am now, painting the horse in such a way that invites the viewer to see the horse from a different perspective, and ultimately in a new way that evokes a range of emotions and responses. One of the vessels of my expression is my style of painting, or artistic thumbprint if you will, which is a mixture of contemporary realism and impressionism combined with numerous other art principles, painted with the finest brands of professional grade oils such as Williamsburg and Sennelier which capture the richness of my subject well. I intentionally paint my horses on a white background with some texture to add variation because I feel this is the best way to keep my subject the main focus without distractions.
Your paintings are very precise in terms of musculature and anatomy. Working from a live model when your subject is a horse must be challenging--would you tell us a bit about your process and any particular challenges the subject matter poses?
To help train my eye, I do agree that direct observation from life is most important and I will create sketches and really study the horse’s musculature and anatomy each time I am around them, or riding. Another thing that plays an important role in my work is lighting, and the reflections captured sometimes in just a quick moment from a photograph can really enhance a portrait, so there is an advantage to working from photos even though it has it’s disadvantages. Getting the best images from a pre-painting photo shoot can still be very difficult because some horses just don’t want to pose the way I need them to and visualize them being painted. It is much more difficult than you think to get all their legs in the right place with the angle of the body, neck, and head just right, and the perfect expression that captures their personality. Besides those challenges that are a given there is the weather also to work around, and has definitely caused problems for me in the past when I have scheduled a photoshoot.
Historically horses were often included in paintings, but rarely as the main subject. Do you see a connection in your work to this art historical tradition?
I love gathering inspiration of the old masters and studying the horse in art, as it has been depicted for thousands of years. It is so interesting to observe that the horse was typically included in a painting to either add status to a person, or to simply exist because it was so integrated into society and apart of daily life in sport, war, commerce, and transportation, much like cars are to us today. I wouldn’t say there is a definite correlation between the commonly found historical use of horses’ role in art, however there were several painters in the last three hundred years that really took to horses and use them as a main subject in some of their work. Some of the well known ones being George Stubbs, Rosa Bonheur, Theodore Gericault, Alfred Munnings, and Eugene Delacroix. George Stubbs was seems to be the first artist to actually use the horse as a truly central and glorified subject, especially in his painting Whistlejacket, rather than a tool to enhance a painting or add importance to a patron’s portrait. I would definitely say that part of my inspiration comes from the richness of their history and how connected their history is with our own over the centuries as societies were built and kingdoms won and lost power.
Can you tell us about the scale of the work and how that impacts its physical presence? What can viewers expect to see at the show at the Grand Bohemian Gallery?
Scale is a key element in my work and I find myself often asking the question “what could make this piece better?” Usually, one of the answers is, if it was painted on a larger scale. Horses are larger than life animals, in their personality and everything about them so I think this is why I feel that they should be painted on a grand scale. When they are painted life size or larger than life the viewer really experiences them in a better way, they almost feel that it is more alive, more real to them and that is something that I want my viewer to think when they experience my work.
The pieces at the Grand Bohemian Gallery range in size, from medium to large and I think each piece will impact its viewers because of its composition as well as its size. One of my pieces is quite large, and it is of giant hooves. I decided to paint these hooves way larger than life because the hoof, to a horse, is so so important. The care and upkeep of a horses’s hooves is necessary to keep the horse healthy and ridable. There is a saying that says “no hoof, no horse” and it is true because if a horse has developed major problems such as lameness or laminitis it can result in the loss of ride-ability and in the most severe cases, life. There is so much that happens in a hoof, physiologically, as the horse moves and works, it is quite fascinating.
Your work takes on a very photographic look. Aside from the photo-realistic detail, you place the horses against high-key backgrounds and include a reflection reminiscent of shooting on Plexi in a photographic studio. Can you talk a bit about what inspired this aesthetic?
The idea of reflection and use of it in my work comes from my own personal draw to the idea. I find the act of reflecting something important on a daily basis to think about. Reflecting on things can challenge and grow you in a positive way and sometimes in this busy world we forget to take a moment just to think. So to me, the reflections of my horses convey a message of thinking in general, and when it comes to the horse, to think about the things they symbolize such as power, grace, strength, beauty, friendship, innocence, and many more positive characteristics. They truly are noble creatures and I want people to take a second and think about them in this way and appreciate what they represent.