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Why I Paint Horses, Dogs, and Cats

Why I Paint Horses, Dogs, and Cats

by animal artist Sue Steiner

Part I

I have also loved animals.  I have always felt a connection with animals.  I love nature, wildlife, pets, and horses.  I also love faces.  I love expression and emotion and color.  I began painting and drawing animals, pets, and horses in particular as a child.  I wanted a horse or pony of my own SO badly but grew up in a home where we never even owned a dog, so a horse was completely out of the realm of possibilities.  My sister and I laugh now that when we begged and begged our parents for a pet we were finally allowed a couple goldfish which we were only allowed to keep in the garage.  Needless to say, since I live in Ohio, they did not survive long. 😦  Finally, as a teen, we had a couple grey tabby cats, Nathan and Jesse who we all loved.

My first dogs came to me not long after I moved out of the family home.  I had a couple poodles that I dearly loved.  Once I married, my husband bought me my first horse.  I had scrapped together babysitting money as a teen for riding lessons to feed my horse fascination but to have my very own horse was truly a dream come true.  I have owned horses now for 26 years.  I was diagnosed, much to my horror, of being allergic to horses last winter but just cannot imagine life without them.  I also have 3 dogs, a Schipperke named Toby, a Golden Retriever named Molly.   My 4 horses include Abbey, a 25 yrs old. An Arabian mare I have had since birth, and my Tennesse Walkers, Cimarron a 16.1 hand gorgeous liver roan sabino gelding, Porsche, a sturdy 15.2 hand sweetheart grey mare, and Willow, my newest horse, a pretty, petite black sabino 14 ish hand mare.  I am hoping Willow will be my grandkids trail horse once they learn to ride on Abbey.

So how did I come about painting?  The short answer is, I just tried it one day!   I had been drawing with colored pencils after not doing any art for the majority of my adult life, and just picked it up as a stress reliever.  I reconnected with my love of drawing and art in my early 40’s.  I have to say, it is a shame that art is often dropped from school curriculums because my last official art class was in middle school!  I quickly moved from simple colored pencil drawings to horses (of course) and people portraits, which I also love.  I started in acrylics, moved on to watercolor and them a bit later found oils, which are my favorite medium.  I still work in watercolors and added pastels but only tolerate acrylics now as underpaintings to my oils.  I occasionally use them for abstract horse paintings and ‘poured paintings’ but love the richness of the oils too much to not stay with them.

I became a professional artist in 2005 ish when Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio hired me to paint life-sized farm animal and horse murals in their then new store!  It was an exciting opportunity and one I threw myself into whole-heartedly!  In fact, I accepted the job never having painted that large before!  With a beginner’s naivete, I went from small, detailed floral and animal watercolors to large, life-sized outdoor murals- with a tight deadline, no less!!  My biggest achievement there is the life-sized indoor mural of a pair of draft horses at a hitching post in Lehman’s Buggy Barn room.  I hand drew that mural, not even able to see the complete image while drawing with chalk on the wall,  by a series of dots I drew from a graph I made based on my photo reference.  I just came up with this method once I was faced with – how in the world do I draw something I can’t even see the whole image of?  Some I place dots at reference points and drew in the specific body part I could see and stepped back several feet to be able to see how it all fit in.

Me painting Bess at Lehman’s. 

Lehman’s Buggy Barn murals work in progress by Sue Steiner.

Some older links to my murals and time at Lehman’s. 

Lehman’s Hitching Post mural by Sue Steiner, completed. 

My horse, Ricco, got to be a permanent part of the Buggy Barn mural. 

Donkey and Friends farm animal mural at Lehman’s by Sue Steiner.

I went on to do another mural at the Wooster Children’s Services family visiting room.

Mural by Sue Steiner

As I began to paint more with oils, my alla prima style began to emerge using thick paint and visible brushstrokes.  This is still a favorite way for me to paint.

One of my early pet portraits in oils.  By Sue Steiner.

Custom Pet Portrait in Oils, expressive style! 

‘Go Fetch’ starring Toby!  I love painting dogs! 

close up of an alla prima style pet painting with thick paint by Sue Steiner, animal artist. 

Another outdoor farm animal mural by Sue Steiner.

Sue at the easel in Canton Arts District. 

see Part II here.

If you, are anyone you know, are interested in a pet portrait or painting of your horse, please take a look at my artwork and website. I would love to talk about what you have in mind. I specialize in dogs, cats, horses, horse and rider, pet and owner, farm animal and wildlife paintings. I work from small custom stall signs to Life-Sized!

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