Life of the Artist

"Why Horses?"

People often ask... "why horses?". I smile back, summarizing it in a simple response: "Horses were my life before art" - fully knowing that my simple response is very much an understatement.

I grew up riding horses from the age of 5, and over the years they became my life. While other kids went to summer camp, I immersed myself in the equestrian world; training, riding, competing and eventually working as a groom to help cover my expenses. While friends had sleepovers, I spent my evenings at the barn. Throughout university I commuted from Ottawa to Montreal for training five or six days per week, while also juggling studies & competition.

Over the years I taught myself how to braid the manes and tails of show horses, a nocturnal and physically demanding task involving standing on a stepladder an average of 10 hours per night. My body ached and my hands blistered but the money I earned enabled me to spend my days doing what I loved most. During the daytime, when I was sitting on the back of a horse, it all felt worth it.

At the age of 22, I decided to make horses my career and start my own business specializing in pony sales. Lucky for me I was small enough for the job of developing ponies, which required staying on their backs while I slowly integrated children into each pony's training program. Once the time was put in and the ponies were polished off, I would bring them down to the more lucrative US market to sell.
 

(2014) Braiding "Sugar Ray", one of the leading show horses in both Canada and the US. Swollen fingers aside, it was thanks to this job that I was both able to sustain a life with with horses and go on to fund my first art exhibitions.

(2014) Braiding "Sugar Ray", one of the leading show horses in both Canada and the US. Swollen fingers aside, it was thanks to this job that I was both able to sustain a life with with horses and go on to fund my first art exhibitions.

While devoting my time and energy to the endeavour I branded "Neverland Farm", I worked alongside my good friend Kelly Tellier. Our business endeavour was a huge success with our Neverland ponies going on to lead the country in standings, some of them mounted with the most well known child riders. One day I received an email from a little girl named Eve, saying she had done some online searching to discover where her pony had come from. She attached a few photos of her and "First Snow" and signed off Eve Jobs - as in Steve Jobs' daughter! She kept in touch with me over the course of the time she had him, sending me updates on their progress and saying how much she loved him. Every day working with horses was a rewarding day full of meaning and passion, but the day I opened my email and read that first message from Eve made me realize how far my work could go.
 

First Snow (2010)

First Snow (2010)

It was around that same time that I crossed paths with someone who's friendship would ultimate change my life. Thanks to this incredible exchange I discovered a new outlet and ultimately a new life of powerful solitude - art. While traveling with the horses in the US, I began exploring this new avenue by attending galleries and art museums, and sketching and experimenting in ink and watercolours. When I could find downtime from the horses, I used quaint coffee shops and charming parks as my art studio. I immersed myself in different communities taking the time to discover a new hand and way of expression. Over these years I was influenced and encourage by new and existing friends, finding value in even the most simple exchanges and discovering passion from every new experience.

I began to realize that the consuming responsibility of the horses was beginning to stifle my ability to grow. While my passion for the horses was still very much present, my desire to travel and develop as an artist was feeling far too compromised. After much thought, I decided to pursue my life an an artist, and spent the next couple of years travelling and creating, this time with horses taking second seat. 

Some love after a night of braiding (2014)

Some love after a night of braiding (2014)

I realized quite quickly that balancing a career in riding and art would not be feasible. But how would I choose between my two passions? That question would ultimately be answered for me on a fateful day when I took a bad fall resulting in several surgeries over the course of a year. 

I took this rare opportunity of time, and with a positive attitude I threw myself completely into my art. Hard work does pay off, and within a few months my work was exposed in the well known Montreal boutique. With a stroke of luck, a representative for the celebrated equestrian themed production "Cavalia" walked by the boutique's window and fell in love with my work. To my amazement, they asked if they could represent me on their world tour, exposing and selling my equine works alongside other great artists, including Elise Genest who I had idolized over the years. 

"Hero" exposed at Mimi & Coco on Laurier Avenue (2014), where Cavalia first discovered my work.

"Hero" exposed at Mimi & Coco on Laurier Avenue (2014), where Cavalia first discovered my work.

It was through Cavalia that my first major gallery found me. Peter Bright of Brights Gallery in Blue Mountain, ON, had attended a show in Toronto and then contacted me after seeing my work exposed. He is to this day one of my most valuable players - offering me sound advice and connecting me with other players in the art industry in order to expand my career.

Since then, my team has grown. I am supported by an incredible network of people including galleries, suppliers, framers, mentors, friends and family. But somehow it always comes back to my connection with the equestrian world. Now instead of buying horses, I am creating them. My clientele, while not limited to horse lovers, includes some of the most talented trainers and riders in the world. It has truly come full circle.

That is the true explanation to the "Why horses?" question.

Kamel of Hachem framing & supplies - one of my MVPs. I couldn't do what I do without the help of him and his crew.

Kamel of Hachem framing & supplies - one of my MVPs. I couldn't do what I do without the help of him and his crew.

What next? 

A homeless man once looked at me saying that he could "see the universe" in me. While I questioned the state of his mind, I felt in that moment a sense of satisfaction and validation in his words. With the universe in me, I can do anything that my heart stands behind. I have fully embraced this new path and am committed to nourishing and developing different avenues of my art. I believe in surrounding myself with positive energy and living what feels right. By doing this, I know that positivity and inspiration will always be projected into my pieces and in turn be felt by the people experiencing them.

The meaning of my work has always been about the value of an exchange: the exchanges I have experience throughout my life; the exchange of someone experiencing my work; and the unique experiences that my clients share with me.

Looking forward to what lies ahead..