Hello friends! I am so incredibly excited to share today’s post with you, so much so that I put it together on Sunday night, which is something I never do LOL. When I was boarding at a barn in Dallas a few years ago, I had the good fortune to meet one of the most talented artists I have ever known, Joanna Zeller Quentin. Not only does she have more talent in her little finger then most have in their whole body- she is incredibly kind, funny, and an excellent horsewoman. I am beyond excited to share this Q&A with all of you, as her work is truly awe-inspiring and I have admired it for many years now. Enjoy!
Oh, they all spring to life like Athena fully formed from the head of Zeus. NO! I’m totally kidding. There are some paintings that get started and will never – EVER – see the light of day, for a variety of reasons. I’m actually working on a very important commission right now that’s taken me a lot longer to complete than I ever dreamed, but it’s a challenging non equine piece that’s very special to me and the client and so “there is no time limit on such things”, per my understanding patron.
Other than that, I usually tend to get to about the 85% complete point on a painting (what I jokingly refer to as “the dental hygienist” stage, as in “Why didn’t I become a dental hygienist instead?”) where nothing in the painting is working- it’s crap, I’m crap, why did I ever think I could do this art thing and how have I not been found out yet that I don’t know what I’m doing and what am I going to DO?! – and the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that I’m almost done with the bloody thing and once I stop crying and move forward, it will all fall into place and turn into a very nice piece of art!
There are a very few that seem to paint themselves, but it doesn’t usually happen that way. Strangely, scratchboards are almost a total opposite, in that they are very zen-like and I can sit on the couch and zone out and have a lovely piece of artwork at the end. The paintings are a very different process.
I usually work only from my own photo reference. I’ll take thousands of photos and sift through them, looking for something – ANYTHING- to catch my eye, whether it’s the tilt of an ear, or the fluidity of motion in an extended trot, or the color of a horse against a jump combination, or some other “something” that makes me stop and linger over the image. A lot of times, the paintings come off that spark of inspiration. The titles usually come to me very quickly, and I like titles that are a play on words or have some twist to them. If I can’t come up with a title for a piece while in the initial planning stages, it will likely be a lot harder to complete or will never get off the ground.
I’ve got future paintings lined up ready to go for years from the photo reference I’ve taken. Hunter/jumper shows, grand prix, breed shows, rodeos, racetracks, polo, dressage, reining… you name it, I’ve got photos from it. Having said that – I’m always looking for inspiration, so if you know of any cool equine events, let me know! Obviously, if I’m working on a commission, I’m usually using client supplied images, especially if the subject of the painting is no longer alive.
I became a first time horse owner in my 30s, and, when I’m not scraping mud off his mane or bemoaning the fact that he just destroyed another blanket (that was today, btw), he’s still one of the most gorgeous horses I’ve ever seen. He’s just a plain bay OTTB, 17.2, built like a warmblood with legs like telephone poles, a long arching neck, and the most beautiful eyes, and I’m always filled with wonder at his inherent power and grace and oversized personality.
I tend to create art that speaks of the energy and power in the equine form, and so I guess a lot of it is inspired by him. The only piece I’ve ever actually done of him will be featured in downtown Los Angeles this summer as part of a large scale mural project. That’s right – Frankie’s going to Hollywood! The original was a small painting done quickly in palette knife and sold almost immediately.
There is no greater honor than being asked to create a piece of artwork for a client. I work from pictures, and try to get as much information about the subject as possible. Is this a backyard pet? A champion? A school horse? I discuss with each client what they are trying to express about the animal. Do they want something that shows their horse’s athleticism? His gentle demeanor? His impeccable breeding? All of those things go into creating a successful portrait. We also discuss where the painting will likely be hung for space consideration and possible color combinations. There’s also the opportunity to talk about which medium will be best to express what the client wants to capture.
Some pictures just naturally work better in one medium or another. I usually offer work in oils, watercolor/ gouache, graphite, or scratchboard, and can work in either a tighter, realistic direction or a more expressionist, looser style. I have clients who request size and styles all over the board, and I do my best to accommodate their request. Portraits generally start at $500 and can go up to $3500+, and I offer all kinds of creative financing, because no one should ever have to miss out on a piece of artwork that speaks to them because they don’t have the money immediately available. Depending on my schedule, I can usually deliver most artwork within 3-6 months. (I also offer gift certificates, which is a great option if you’d like to present someone with a portrait but don’t have the photo reference or aren’t exactly sure what they’d like.)