I am happy to share one of my favorite equine painters with you: Katie Upton. Based in Santa Barbara California, her larger than life works are fresh and yet classic. Her color choices and compositions are dynamic and a joy to see. You may have seen her work around (Secretariat.com sells a poster of her painting of Secretariat) and I am sure you’ve seen several artists emulating her style. The one and only Katie Upton offers her work at various price points for any budget (which is awesome). I dream of owning one of her large scale paintings one day.
What is your favorite medium?
I don’t really have a preferred medium. I have always used drawing as my foundation. Sometimes it becomes a painting and sometimes it works better as a drawing. I consider drawing a fundamental language that is a direct and fast expression of what I need to say. Maybe it is an idea or a form I remember and that starts the process. I make a fast gesture drawing and then work it into a painting or I leave it as a drawing.
How long have you been creating art?
I have been drawing and painting since I was very young. I have been a professional artist for 25 years. My first solo exhibition was in 1989.
How did you become an artist?
I have always been an artist, but I decided to study art in the late 70s after a trip to Italy and observing some of the old masters…most especially Michelangelo.
How did the horse become one of your primary subjects?
I have always been a horse crazy girl. I drew horses from a very early age, but it wasn’t until graduate school that I returned to horse imagery. My first body of horse work was larger than life charcoal drawings on paper.
What is your creative process?
Most all the paintings I do are imaginary. I draw from memory. I think of my work as a collective of all the observation and knowledge that I have stored in my head since I was a child. The horses that are born from my paintings are the result of years of study and knowing many horses. My paintings are also the result of a lot that I cannot explain and don’t claim to understand. It just happens. The only paintings that are real horses are commissions of specific horses which I do a lot of and are really fun. I get to meet many lovely horses and their people either in person or via photographs. I don’t copy photographs, but I use them to refer to for information. I also have some models grazing in the backyard who I refer to a lot!
Tell us a little bit about the most important horses in your life.
I have had many horses in my life. I got my first pony Sugar when I was 4 and she was my best friend for nearly thirty years. Her spirit is in every painting I do. Chico, a lovely Arab gelding, was my first trail horse and I had him for almost 20 years. We were very close and I miss having that kind of bond that seems to be once in a lifetime. Those two stand out for me the most. But then there was also Jimmy, my daughter’s pony who was such a wonderful caretaker. I loved him dearly too. And then there is Lady and Nicky and Boo and Maxine and Luke…to name a few. I loved them all