Is creating art your day job?
Yes, creating art is my day job, although I have to add that I am studying to be a licensed Yoga teacher. Not to change professions, but it simply interested me.
What is your story? How did you become an artist? How long have you been a professional
Like many artists would tell you – I believe you just are. The desire to draw and paint appears early and then it really is about stickability. Most parents aren’t exactly thrilled when they hear that their child wants to be a professional artist I would guess, and neither were my parents. I did go the traditional route, going to college and studying Architecture as well as American Cultural History.
During my time in college and living in Munich, a friend of my grandfather’s introduced me to people at the local harness racetrack. I was hooked immediately and for many years I went there in the mornings to clean stalls, get the horses ready for training and eventually work these horses with some of the best trainers in the country. Naturally I also was there on race days getting horses ready and helping in the barn until every horse was fed, bandaged, blanketed – whatever needed to be done, I did. And I learned from some of the toughest ‘old-school’ trainers. This was serious business and a time I will always treasure. I will never forget my first time to hop on a bicycle and lead one of the horses out to the adjacent paddocks. I had seen the guys do this, but me?! Going full speed on a bicycle with a trotting horse beside you? No was never an answer anyone there would accept, so I just did it. I also got in major trouble one time because I had dropped a glove and got off the sulky to pick it up- on the way to the track. Things that could cause a dangerous situation, but I was only 22. And new, so what did I know?
Those were great times. And it was actually before our horses got picked up to go out of town for the races that day, that I was sitting in front of the barn, waiting for the horse van, working on a painting of a horse named Reado to make time go by. The president of the amateur drivers of the harness track saw me and loved the painting. This was the first time ever, that I started thinking about doing this for a living. Soon thereafter our vet heard about my work and asked me to do a drawing of his dog ‘Joy’, a Magyar Vizsla. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship with this vet. He told me last year that he gets on his exercise bike every morning and looks at Joy’s portrait. 23 years later! That’s what it’s all about. I could go on and on about my time at the harness racetrack, but that’s a story in itself!!! I have been a professional artist since around 2007 I would say, but it started much sooner than that.
Do you have any artists that have really inspired your work?
Oh yes. One of the biggest inspirations of my life was and still is Robert Shufelt. I have loved his work for as long as I can remember. I used to add Richard Stone Reeves to the artists, and yes, I still have to add him. His life story is more than an inspiration. I admire artists of all kind: Robert Bateman, Georgia O’Keeffe, Franz Marc, Gabriele Muenter, August Macke, and I have to mention Robert Clark, if I had to add another equine artist. His story is fascinating and you have to see his work in person. Incredible. The list is long, but these artists always have played a big role in my career.
What is your favorite medium to work with and why?
My absolute favorite medium is graphite. Graphite tells it as it is. It is black and white. Color doesn’t distract from what you are trying to bring across. And I like the fact that pretty much anyone has picked up a pencil in the past and knows how this medium works.
How did the horse become one of your primary subjects?
I was just like many other girls- in love with animals and especially the horses. My family back home in Germany breeds Haflingers and horses have always been in my life. It just seemed natural, and then of course the time at the racetrack in Munich played a role in my future.
How did you develop your current style?
I used to paint with pastels – mostly because I loved that there was no drying time. Back when I started using pastels in 1997, it was not easy to find the variety offered today. It simply was not very popular back then – and since the Impressionists had given it so much attention. I created many paintings with pastels and was adamant about convincing everyone that it is a beautiful medium. I have always had a thing for detail and worked on it hard. This did lead into my current realistic style which is realism. I am trying to back off, but it is hard to unsee what I have trained myself to see for so long!
How do you get inspired?
My subjects inspire me. Sometimes they come out of nowhere! It does not have to be the most famous horse or most beautiful horse. It simply is stirring my soul, with this growing urge to just draw this particular subject. And other people’s work inspires me. It makes me work harder and become better. I believe in art there is no perfection. You always evolve. I believe if one day I would look at my work and say ‘there is nothing more for me to learn’ then that would be a very sad day for me and my profession. We never stop learning.
What is your history with horses? Tell me a little bit about the most important horses in your
My history with horses started early, thanks to my extended family breeding Haflingers. I started riding lessons at age 8, then my grandfather bought my first horse for me when I was ten: an Icelandic Horse. We knew nothing about Icelandic Horses and their five gaits and anything else you needed to know. It was then that I started reading books about them and came across Ursula Bruns and Linda Tellington-Jones. Linda is actually in my husband’s and my life now as a very important person- again another story in itself.
My Icelandic Horse Glanni was my best friend and helped me through some tough times in school growing up…Teenager years can be cruel when you don’t fit in. Horses don’t care and accept who you are and take your mind off these things. So besides my best friend Glanni (I was blessed enough to be by his side when he passed away at age 30), I had a few more horses influencing my life: Quello, an offtrack Quarter Horse who taught me jumping back in 1990 when my family lived in California for two years; Conradi, my first off-track racehorse; Dickkopf, the coolest horse ever (also a standardbred, who was my first own racehorse) and Shared Belief, my first commissioned painting by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. There may be too many to add here by now…
Conradi opened my eyes to the need of re-homing former racehorses and I spent quite some time at the track in Munich retraining the horses to get them accustomed to a new life, after racing. I have to say – I am by no means an expert in this. Standardbreds are very cool horses that helped me with this probably more than I helped them.
What is your favorite part about being an artist? Any part you don’t enjoy quite as much?
My favorite part about being an artist is putting life onto a blank piece of paper. The process of watching something come alive that wasn’t there to begin with. And then of course meeting my models. Canine or equine – it doesn’t matter. It’s the highlight of any piece I start. And I have to mention that I met some of the most incredible people (owners, trainers, photographers, etc.) along the way.
The part I don’t enjoy as much is clearly the marketing side of it all. Social media is really not my thing, but so necessary these days. I am a roller coaster when it comes to this. Sometimes I post a lot, other times nothing for weeks or months… I do need help…
But the least favorite part is having to part with my work. Commissions are a bit easier to say goodbye to. I know from the start that I have to let go. Drawings that I did, because I wanted to are very difficult to let go. And yes, I do cry.
One example: Charismatic’s painting that is in my book The Art of Old Friends. And that painting went to the most perfect home! Still, I spent so much time with each artwork. A part of my heart and soul went into each one. Of course it is difficult to let go. Otherwise I did not do my job. Oh and one more thing: shipping art. Terrible! I
don’t sleep until it arrives and I received a message that it got there in great shape. Letting go is a difficult task.
Can you tell me a little bit about your Old Friends project and how you got involved with them?
Here is a quote from the About the Artist section in my first book: “ When I started working as a professional artist I always had this strong devotion to donating as much of my work to aid in animal welfare as possible (…). in the beginning, I didn’t make much money, so instead of donating dollars, I donated art. I think this may have paved the path towards this project long before I even knew it.”
The first time I visited Old Friends was in 2009. I was in Kentucky visiting a few friends, and two of my friends were volunteers at Old Friends at the time. Things were much less busy there back then and we spent a couple of days riding a golf cart that they had donated, feeding the horse with carrots. Good times! The very first farm that I ever visited that gave retired racehorses a new home, however, was Tranquility Farm in Tehachapi.
I was determined to help, whichever way I could. And here came the art. Originally I wanted to work on a book depicting the famous thoroughbred farms in the Bluegrass, inspired by a book I had found in Newmarket in 2010. Several more visits to the Bluegrass changed that thought and for the next 7 years I worked on paintings and drawings for my very first book depicting the retirees of Old Friends. Honestly? I don’t believe many people thought I would pull it off. My family in Germany, as well as my husband Joe, and the incredibly brilliant Jay Hovdey and Julie Krone kept me going. You don’t need many people believing in you, but you do need the right people – including yourself.
Summer of 2018: the publishing date of my first book, with the first book signing held at the Hall of Fame Museum in Saratoga Springs and a book tour across the country following. It truly was worth all the work and tears. And 100% of all proceeds went to the horses at Old Friends. I just heard a great quote the other day: “We are all self-made, but only the successful will admit it.”- Earl Nightingale
My next goal is to encourage other artists to never give up on their dreams. I would love to give tutorials and share my technique with people.
I would define myself as successful for as long as I love and am passionate about what I’m doing.
How can our readers purchase your work?
My work is available through my website as well as through the Damselfly Gallery in Midway, Kentucky. Anyone wanting to skip the website and contact me directly, send me an email at [email protected] or call/text at 626-999-6213.
I do accept commissions again and have a number of very limited edition prints available of current drawings. I’d be happy to email a price list for commissions to anyone interested. I currently only work in pencil and charcoal.