I am happy to present painter Janet Crawford. I absolutely adore her classic portrait style, great composition and color palette selections. She does a beautiful job playing with light and color and I think she is one of the most talented equine artists working currently. She also does some beautiful work with dogs I wouldn’t mind having in my home. I am excited to be receiving an artist proof of her portrait of California Chrome. I was lucky enough to win it on Equestrian Culture’s big photo contest. Thank you Equestrian Culture and Janet Crawford!
What is your favorite medium?
I work in oil.
How long have you been creating art?
I have been drawing and painting since early childhood. As far back as I can remember. I started lessons at ten.
How did you become an artist?
My parents always encouraged the artwork, signing me up for art lessons and classes. In high school I was in an art program and then studied painting for my BFA at Rhode Island College.
How did the horse become one of your primary subjects?
The horse has always been my subject. We had horses and ponies growing up and I was always fascinated by them.
How do you describe your artwork?
My work is generally realistic in nature. I tend to focus on dramatic light and shadow, and love work devoted to a horse’s coat. The common theme of my work is the behind the scenes focus. The paddock at the track, the warm up ring at a show, the gathering of hounds before the hunt…I love the build up rather than the action. As far as portraiture, I try to capture the expression of an animal, either horse or dog. The eyes and facial expressions are key to a successful likeness.
What is your creative process?
I am constantly taking reference photos, as we travel the shows with the ponies, or at the race track. We live in an area rich in equestrian sport, so at any given time I am at a hunt, a race, or a horse show. Of course, I can always walk across the street to the farm that we keep the ponies at, for inspiration. Again, I look for the quiet moments. The light hitting a shoulder of a hunter, waiting to compete, or the glistening silks in the saddling enclosure. I love taking the photos that will become paintings and pouring over them after a day of shooting. I may take hundreds to get one that I will use, but it all is part of the process. I have done full landscapes at times, but I also like to focus on the animal close up. The play of light on a horse’s side is a beautiful inspiration.
Do you have any artists that have really inspired your work?
Alfred Munnings is my favorite sporting painter. I love the canine work of Maud Earl and her brother, Percy Earl’s horses. Classic English portraiture is what I admire. Stubbs, Munnings, Ferneley, Emms… there are so many to learn from.
Tell us a little bit about the most important horses in your life.
The most important horses in my life have all been ponies. From my first pet ponies to the pony that I just won a World Championship with, I am an avid pony fan. I am married to a Hackney pony trainer, Rodney Hicks, and with our son, Danny, we travel the US and Canada showing. My first show pony, Main Performance, hooked me on the Hackney breed/ He was an old hand, with perfect manners and taught me the basics of showing in harness. Later, we raised my partner, Miss Excellence. “Ruthie” and I won the championship at Devon four years in a row and many other titles all over the Northeast. She was completely spoiled and loved to aggravate my husband, yet was a perfect angel for me. Of course, I loved that. She is retired now and lives at the farm, with the broodmares.
Jackie O was my show mare, until we sold my son’s pony and he needed a new pony for the roadster division. Jackie really lit the fire to show in Danny and I love her for it. They have had two successful years in the junior exhibitor ranks. It’s great seeing him enjoy showing her as much as I did.
That brings me to my current favorite, Four Point 0. We had the stallion that “Smarty” is by, Valedictorian, and a friend owned a wonderful broodmare. The cross resulted in one of the most charismatic ponies I have ever met. He is very cool and he knows it, which is exactly what makes a great show pony. I was lucky enough to take the three year old to Louisville for the World Championship and make my first victory pass on the green shavings. It was an amazing moment and I couldn’t have been prouder of the chestnut dynamo. He has been sold to a client, so I now get to enjoy him at home.
The ponies have great personality and athleticism. Hackneys are a breed like no other, and once you drive one, you are hooked for life.
Where can we find your work?
My work has been represented by VanderMoore designs on the A circuit for twenty years and by The Equestrian Collection in Connecticut.
Spa Fine Art Gallery represents my work in Saratoga Springs, NY. I hope to do more Thoroughbred work in the future and the gallery is a beautiful space. Saratoga offers so much for the horse lover. Of course, I am a huge Chrome fan. California Chrome and I were both born on February 18. I hope he comes back strong for the Breeder’s Cup, but if not, I’ll still love him. He is a great horse.