One of my favorite parts of running Decidedly Equestrian is having the honor of featuring equestrian artists and sharing their art with you. As a former art consultant, this particular part of Decidedly Equestrian is dear to my heart and I have seen a LOT of art in my life. The artists we feature are some of the most talented in the business and have the ability to somehow take our emotions about the Horse and turn it into something tangible. C Tanner Jensen is one of those excellent few that can turn that feeling into something beautiful. Please enjoy our feature on Tanner Jensen Fine Art.
“One of the things I love about being an artist and brings meaning to my life is being able to create something that connects someone else to their passion. Someone I probably don’t know. A painting that allows them to get lost in their own inner world and reconnect with their joy.”
– C Tanner Jensen
Is creating art your day job?
It is. I have worked a variety of horse jobs in the past – wrangler, riding instructor, groom, and stable manager. I worked as floral designer for years. I have taught art lessons to people from 4 to 84 – for Parks & Recs, Art Centers, Community Colleges, and Universities. I love teaching workshops and plan on teaching more this year. Teaching is so rewarding on so many levels.
What is your background?
I knew when I was three years old that all I wanted to do was draw and be around horses. My parents always supplied me with paper, crayons, pencils and paints. When I was 8 my father built me a desk and shelves and told that this was my studio. It may have been in the garage, but it was mine and made me feel like an artist. No one in my family was horsey in the least. I would receive books and prints of horses, but little to no contact with them until I was 15 and got my first horse. I look back at that time and know it was one of the minor miracles of my life.
I went back to University at 30 and got my BFA in painting, followed by an MFA in painting from East Carolina University where I really started to learn to paint.
What is your favorite medium to work in and why?
Different media requires different approaches. Different ideas require different media. I am continuously search for a different effect that will portray a different feeling, another way to paint and draw and combine the two. I like media that lends itself to layering. I like to create images that show how they have evolved, whether or not it’s on canvas, panel, paper or what ever held still long enough for me to make a mark on it. What ever I am using in the moment is my favorite.
There is a common saying “form should follow function.” When I paint the feeling I am searching to express will inform the media I choose to use.
Do you prefer to work large or small or somewhere in the middle?
Size! Small works draw you in and large works fill your field of vision. A lot of times what I am trying to communicate dictates the size I will be working on.
I do not approach a small painting in the same way I do a large one. I find that I am much more likely to work tighter with small work, larger paintings generally have horses so big they are spilling out over the edges. Working on a variety of sizes and surfaces challenges me and helps me to grow as an artist. It also satisfies my mercurial nature.
How did the horse become one of your primary subjects?
I love them!
When I was a child I drew them to give an image to what my heart desired. I stopped drawing them as a teenager. Peer Pressure. I turned my attention to “serious” subject matter. Still Lifes and Portraits of anyone who would sit still for me.
One of the people on my BFA committee saw a painting I did of a horse and commented, “Why aren’t you painting horses? This one radiates your love for them.” It was the first time someone I respected in art world encouraged me to paint horses. I ran with it!
How did you develop into your current style? I know all artists have phases until they find their style and I’m curious how you ended up where you are.
I knew I didn’t want to paint horses being ridden or with people. I wanted it to be about the horse.
When I was in grad school I was earning my living teaching riding lessons, mucking stalls, and clipping horses. One day when I was turning a very solid hunter back out into the field his pasture mate called to him. Toby picked picked up a canter and when he reached his buddy performed a half a canter pirouette. I thought, “there it is!” I remember being told that all dressage movements are natural to the horse and performed by them when they are at liberty.
So there I had it.
Do you remember those moments when you were a child and you would see a horse? Those feelings that took your breath away and filled you with sheer joy? I believe every equestrian has experienced them. It is that feeling that I am trying to capture with my art.
How do you get inspired? How do you decide what to paint?
Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes it’s a color, a shadow, a line or an arrangement of objects. Sometimes a phrase or word, a piece of music or a smell. Inspiration is like memory for me. Anything can trigger it and where it leads sometimes feels very random and disconnected.
I don’t plan out my painting. I have a vague general idea of where I want to go. I start working and see where it leads. It’s an adventure of sorts. The hardest part is knowing when to stop.
What is your creative process?
Because I work on multiple pieces simultaneously I usually start by looking at what I have. There is usually something that compels me to start working on it. Something needs another mark or color or value. That leads to moving around the studio and working on and hopefully finishing something.
Describe a typical day.
I only paint by natural light. If the day is dark I either clean and organize or I stretch canvas and gesso.
If I have good light I will spend 10 minutes or more sitting and looking at an unfinished work. At some point I see what I where I am going to start and do.
I typically spend 6 hours a day in the studio.
What is your history with horses?
It was love at first sight. I cannot recall a time when I wasn’t mad about horses.
I remember watching “National Velvet” for the first time when I was nine. That was it. I wanted to ride in the Grand National. Reality slowly settled in so I evented – only to Training Level – but I did get to school the water at Ledyard and school a few Preliminary fences at Flying Horse, both courses now long gone.
I switched my riding focus long ago to Dressage and have been fortunate enough to have ridden and worked some very nice horses.
When I was young, equine opportunities were plentiful. I had lessons with some of the equestrian greats. I worked for Olympic athletes and I loved it. Unfortunately I was young and didn’t realize what a gift it was until I was much older.
I currently am without a horse, but hope springs eternal. I hope this year I will looking for my next horse.
Tell me a little bit about the most important horses in your life.
I had a 16.3 chestnut gelding TB named Alex that was the love of my life. When I purchased him he was very under weight. I spent 6 months feeding him, turning him out, free schooling and longing him. That spring when I started to ride him he was fit and hot! Every time I asked him for the canter he bucked wildly, and I would bring him back to trot. Luckily I knew a good instructor who yelled at me to go forward. That was it, no more bucking.
I had him for almost 8 years when I had to have euthanized because of neurological disorder.
I will always love that horse.
Do you have any plans for any upcoming shows or competitions readers can see your work in person?
My painting L’air du Temps was chosen as artwork for the promotion of the Equus Film Festival Camden Stop, Feb 21st -25th, so I will be there for the festivities.
I will have a booth at the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day in Lexington Ky. April 26th-29th. This will be my first time at this event.
I am planning on the Event at Rebecca Farm, Kalispell, Montana July 18th-22nd. It’s a favorite of mine.
I keeping my fingers crossed for WEG. They haven’t opened applications up yet for small vendors. At any rate I will be there.