by Susan Hoffman
Earlier this year, Pennsylvania Equestrian ran an article about artist Karen Brenner and her project, "Beautiful Horses of Pennsylvania." Her request for nominations resulted in more than 90 horse owners submitting essays about their horse(s), describing why they thought their equines are beautiful. Karen selected 50 horses for her project. After touring throughout the state in June, Karen is now using the photos taken on her travels to create oil paintings that capture, in her words, "beautiful moments in the lives of horses." The series of paintings focuses on each horse's most striking feature, be it a handsomely curved neck, a glistening coat or mane and tail flying in the wind. All of the paintings are being posted on the artist's web site—three down, 47 to go—and owners will get first dibs on purchasing their horse's painting after the entire series is exhibited sometime in 2010.
The Pennsylvania paintings are the fourth in the "Beautiful Horses" series, with Texas, Ohio and Michigan paintings already completed. Karen's inspiration for this multi-state project was motivated by her desire to move to Texas. She says, "I live in Ohio and had this dream about moving to a warmer climate. I visited a few horse farms in Texas, but I felt like I was imposing on people's privacy. A year or two later it occurred to me to invent a contest so that horse owners would invite me to see their farms and their horses. I sent out press releases to the equine media and breed organizations, and 27 people entered. I focused on those who were the most passionate about their horses and who wanted their horses photographed for the project." The artist repeated this concept in her home state of Ohio in 2006, nearby Michigan in 2008 (where she wanted to see a specific Andalusian) and Pennsylvania this year, she says, "Because my sister lives in Erie." The horses are painted in the order in which they are photographed. The next state may be Colorado, but Karen won't make that decision until after the Pennsylvania series is complete.
Not surprisingly, many of the Pennsylvania horses are in the southeastern part of our state. Karen says, "I was fascinated by the number of nominations located in this one region. It made it fairly easy to see a lot of farms and horses in a short amount of time. Once I got on the road, I was surprised and delighted to discover that Pennsylvania is so pretty. I loved the scenic back roads, the old stone barns and the historic homes."
Karen uses layers of translucent, brilliant color to create her paintings. She explains, "I tried different styles and liked this one the best. I took a horse painting class at Kentucky Horse Park ten years ago, which helped me explore different options including water colors. I like the vibrant results I can achieve using oil as my medium." In addition to hosting art shows and eventually selling the paintings, the artist invites horse lovers to vote for their favorite painting. She explains, "When the Pennsylvania paintings are completed, I'll send an e-newsletter to people registered on my web site, but anyone can vote for the horse they think is the most beautiful." The painting that receives the most votes will be added to the Café Press print-on-demand web site where anyone can order T-shirts, note cards and other equine-themed gift items.
You can see the artist's progress on the Pennsylvania series of paintings by visiting www.karenbrenner.com.