horse paintings by artist Karen Baker Thumm

 THE PROFESSIONAL HORSE ARTIST

ATTRIBUTES AND SKILLS OF PROFESSIONAL EQUINE (EQUESTRIAN) ARTISTS

Learn what it takes to become a successful horse artist. What attributes, skills and knowledge do you need to develop?

 

From amateur horse artist to...

to professional horse artist
 

WANT TO BECOME A PROFESSIONAL EQUINE ARTIST? THIS PAGE IS FOR YOU!

 ATTRIBUTES OF PROFESSIONAL HORSE ARTISTS

  • ARTISTIC SKILL
  • DESIRE
  • COMMITMENT
  • DETERMINATION
  • BUSINESS SENSE
  • TRUE GRIT
  • NATURAL TALENT
LET'S EXAMINE THESE ONE BY ONE

ARTISTIC SKILL. Develop your artistic skills in any way you can: college art courses, workshops, study with a professional artist, study works of artists you admire and how-to books. Study art history and above all, Practice, Practice, Practice!

DESIRE. You wil need a burning desire to be an artist; to make art your life's work. For some of us, making art is a need as basic as eating and breathing. For others, we have to work harder to keep the flames of creativity burning.

COMMITMENT. You have to be willing to commit yourself to creating artwork on a regular basis and to make it your life's work. It will have to be at the top of your list of priorities on a daily basis; not just when you can fit it into a busy schedule.

DETERMINATION. There are many obstacles to overcome. Competition is tough because horse artists are numerous in the marketplace. Furthermore, horses are not considered a "legitimate" subject by the art establishment, so finding galleries and being accepted into general art competitions is difficult. On top of these obstacles, equine art has a limited market. Be aware of these obstacles before you make the plunge; success is not as simple as displaying your art and being found by the public.

BUSINESS SENSE. It's a myth that all artists are temperamental, sensitive souls who can't or won't engage in business activities because it taints their creative spirits. If this is your view, you need to get over it or it will hold you back. Almost every successful artist has had to learn about marketing, recordkeeping, research, social networking, publicity and public relations. You will spend at least half of your time in these activities.

TRUE GRIT. You will make mistakes, and you will be rejected. You will fail sometimes and in doing so waste money and time. You will create lousy art sometimes (as all artists do). And, at times you will become totally discouraged and want to give up your art. But, you will pull yourself up, dust yourself off, learn from these experiences and try, try again.

NATURAL TALENT. Notice that I placed this last, as it's probably the least important attribute of successful equine artists. Chances are that you've been drawing since early childhood. If you had some natural talent, you enjoyed the process and the praise you received. That's all you need. The "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" books have shown that almost anyone can develop their natural artistic talents. Talent is one thing; skill is another. Few of us are born with the artistic skills needed to succeed. These have to be developed over many years of study and practice.

 

WHAT ARTISTIC SKILLS DO EQUINE ARTISTS NEED?

I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH THAT YOU NEED TO BE AN ARTIST FIRST AND A HORSE ARTIST SECOND

Amateur equine artists often can draw horses very well from photographs but can't draw much of anything else or can't come close to an accurate drawing without any references. Their paintings and drawings show horses with no backgrounds. They avoid drawing people. But, horses don't exist in a void. Learn to draw people and buildings (barns) and landscapes too. Put dogs and cats in your paintings. What barn is complete without a resident cat or dog?

STUDY THESE BASICS OF GOOD ART:

DRAFTSMANSHIP (drawing skills)

DESIGN AND COMPOSITION (arrangement of shapes and objects in the picture plane)

TONAL VALUES (balancing lights and darks)

VOLUME (creating the illusion of 3 dimensions on a 2 dimensional surface)

COLOR THEORY (selecting and balancing colors)

MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES IN THE MEDIA OF YOUR CHOICE (watercolor, oils, pastels, pen and ink, etc.)

 

WHAT ELSE DO EQUESTRIAN ARTISTS NEED?

Knowledge of horse behavior and movement

Knowledge of equine anatomy

Knowledge of any sport you wish to portray

Knowledge of breed characteristics

Knowledge of tack and equipment

Knowledge of safe and healthy horse care

 

WHY? BECAUSE TRUE HORSE PEOPLE ARE VERY PICKY AND WILL REJECT YOUR ARTWORK IF THEY SEE ANYTHING WRONG IN IT.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE FOR MOST EQUINE ARTISTS

A good 35mm camera (add a zoom lens and a motor drive for action shots)

Artist quality art supplies - not student grade

Art equipment such as easels, drawing tables, tracing boxes

Membership in local and national arts organizations

Membership in an equestrian art organization

A supportive spouse or parent or Significant Other (optional, but extremely helpful)

 

COMMON PITFALLS OF BEGINNING HORSE ARTISTS

Trying to paint every breed and sport. Establish a niche for yourself by painting only what you know and love or your work is likely to be uneven in quality.

Not knowing your place in the marketplace. Assess your skill level compared to other equine artists and recognize that you are still an unknown. Don't price your artwork either too high or too low, and research galleries or shows before you apply to them.

Copying photographs exactly. Be aware that photographs often contain distortions in proportions, values and colors that must be compensated for.

Depending too much on photographs. Tracing directly from photographs. Draw from life or memory instead and build your skills in hand-eye coordination. Use photographs only for a starting point and ideas.

Copying from books, magazines and other artists's works without permission to do so and then presenting your copies as your own original work. It's okay to copy to learn but not to display or sell the resulting works. In fact, it's against the law! 

 

IMPORTANT WORDS ABOUT COPYRIGHT!

Every piece of artwork and every photograph is protected by copyright from the moment it's created, including your own. It is a violation of copyright laws to copy without permission, even from works you find on the internet.

Let me clarify, though. It IS okay to copy in the process of learning as long as you never display or sell what you've produced.

It IS okay to copy from photographs or an artist's work IF you get permission from the artist, photographer or other copyright holder. Make sure you have that permission in writing, and be prepared to pay a fee for "usage" or "reproduction rights".

Don't think you can copy a part of a photograph or artwork and be safe. There is no allowable percentage that can be copied legally. In a court of law, the rule says that if an ordinary citizen can tell that you copied a portion of a photo or painting, it is a copyright violation.

Get into the habit of registering your works with the copyright office as soon as you begin marketing. Registering your works gives you added protection in court and allows you to collect far more in damages. It's only a matter of time before someone appropriates one of your images and uses it for their own gain. Trust me on this.

Educate yourself on copyright law in order to protect your artwork and to protect yourself from being sued. Read the information available on the Library of Congress Copyright Office website.

 

PROFESSIONAL EQUESTRIAN ARTISTS ORGANIZATIONS

INTERNATIONAL EQUINE ARTISTS An oganization of equine artists whose purpose is to share information, sponsor member shows and generally promote member artists. Members are juried in.

AMERICAN ACADEMY OF EQUINE ART Members are juried in, but the Academy sponsors an annual show each fall that is open to all artists. Members are the best of the best among equestrian artists.

SOCIETY OF EQUESTRIAN ARTISTS Based in the UK, it is international in scope.

There may also be a more local equine art group that you could join. Wisconsin, New Jersey and Virginia are three that I know of.  

PERIODICALS FOR EQUINE ARTISTS

The Artist's Magazine

Professional Artist

Art Business News

and many others

 

 BOOKS ON THE BUSINESS OF BEING AN ARTIST

"Legal Guide for the Visual Artist" by Tad Crawford

"Business and Legal Forms for Fine Artists" by Tad Crawford

"Art Marketing 101"  

 

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PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS

These horse paintings have been registered with the Copyright Office and may not be reproduced, copied, displayed or otherwise appropriated without the consent of the artist.