Equine Painters Paint the Canine
by Sarah Crampton
Your favorite horse artist might also turn out to be your favorite animal artist. Artists who portray the horse are often quite adept at painting other subjects, including landscapes, still life, and other animals. Horse people love their horses, but they also love their dogs. It’s difficult to find a horse owner who doesn’t own a dog or two, perhaps four or five. Horse shows are often awash with Corgis, Jack Russells, Australian shepherds, cattle dogs, and other breeds. It’s not too far of a stretch for the horse painter to be interested in portraying man’s best friend.
Helen Howerton, a member of Women Artists of the West, is an excellent example of a horse and dog painter. In fact, Howerton specializes in canine portraiture and is a member of the prestigious Artists Registry of the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog in St. Louis, Missouri.
When beginning an animal painting Howerton remarks, “The reference photos are studied for detail. This stage allows me to fall in love with the animal, its beauty in shape and color. I personally cannot imagine life without at least one canine best friend.
“Basically, I start with a composition idea and do multiple drawings of the dogs. The best composite drawing that captures the personality and unique qualities of the anatomy will be transferred to canvas. Now the real fun begins. General shapes using a color-sculpting concept with various values are applied. Then complementary background colors are included. Finally, the life is added with more detail to the portrait. The real punch is in the eyes.”
Howerton is continually supplied with unlimited inspirations from nature. Quick animal sketches can be finished anywhere. She comments, “Animals are nature’s gifts to all of us…what a boring world without them! They automatically become the focal point in a composition. The creative process is amazing in itself. It’s a journey from beginning to end. An artist chooses the best composition and begins an adventure with color, shape and subject. It can be all encompassing.”
Kathleen Keil Hill is also an animal painter. She started drawing horses and her horizons broadened into dogs and then cats. In order to learn more about color, she started painting birds.
Hill comments, “It is the animal itself, especially the expression in its face, that I am most drawn to. I am most interested in an almost freeze-frame situation where you can explore the eyes, how the feathers or hair grow, the little details.
“Anyone who is around animals knows what grounding, calming influence they have on people,” Hill continues. “People are so busy they never see the beautiful hawk on the fence post or the cattle grazing peacefully. I want to create paintings they can take home and partake in that serenity. I want them to realize how significant that tiny sparrow is in the scheme of life. Sounds idealistic, but isn’t that part of what art is all about?”
Known for her appealing horse paintings teeming with color, Elin Pendleton’s array of subjects is as varied as her interests. She a member of the American Academy of Equine Art and also the Women Artists of the West, and paints in oils and acrylics on canvas with a liberal use of paint with an impressionistic flair. She is especially fond of dogs, and is creating a series of paintings of the canines found at her local animal shelter. One painting titled OTI refers to owner turned in, a common notation on many dogs’ intake cards at the shelter.
Elin remarks, “I truly enjoy painting the subjects and capturing their essence and also pleasing the collector, as their level of response is a measure of my success with extrinsic rewards. However within myself, I need to satisfy the level of excellence I’ve set as my own. That’s the intrinsic response, and is constantly changing upwards as my abilities and goals change.”
More than just a work of rich impressionistic brush strokes, Elin’s paintings are an expression of the mind and heart.