Kay Smith Artist
In the 1980s, I was able to gain unprecedented access to America's greatest racehorses. The Hall of Fame Press commissioned me to paint these champions for its American Sports Book. I was allowed into their paddocks and stalls, proximity that would never be permitted today. I became closely acquainted with Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and others as I traveled to the elite horse farms.
Secretariat was the first horse I painted and my favorite. I sat in his stall, sketching gesture drawings. As a host he was quite comical, dropping hay on me, nosing my paint tray out of reach, then he would ignore me. But the next day, there I was again sitting on his hay bale. He leaned over and took a bite of my straw hat- while it was still on my head! He thought this was a great joke.
From then on, I wanted to know each horse, not just its build or coloring, but its personality. Some artists paint from photographs, but that would never give you the whole animal. The camera can distort color and proportions. Spectacular Bid is seen as gray in photos, but actually some of his hair is brown and white. It’s his distinctive marking. Secretariat is often seen as chestnut brown, but in person that horse was as copper red as a new penny.
Temperament is a factor in understanding a horse, too. Some of my subjects were more cooperative than others. Kelso, who was named Horse of the Year five times, had a mutt companion he couldn't be without. Every time the groom tried to move the dog out of my view, Kelso would have a fit. Finally, I gave up. Kelso got his way, and I just painted the dog out of the picture.
I spent days getting to know these horses and months at my drawing board finishing the watercolor paintings. Overall, it was a five-year labor of love that has lasted the rest of my life."
For inquiries, contact Kay by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by text 773-709-2690.